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Monday, August 31, 2009

Six lbs Of Mashed Potatoes

I miss cooking.
We have been renovating the kitchen for a while now and we are getting to the point where we can see the light at the end of the fridge, er, tunnel.
As August comes to an end I am already thinking about pulling the sweaters out and not running the air conditioning. Of course, being in Texas I'm a little premature in thinking this way. We may not be breaking 100 anymore but we still have a month, at least, of summer. But we've had a particularly hot one this year and I am so over it. I'm ready for the chilly nights and rainy days.
And I'm ready for some good old fashioned autumn cooking!
Since returning from Europe, Jason has done most of the cooking, and can he cook! He has made some incredibly delicious dinners and as much as I appreciate the fact that he does this so that I have more of my evening to myself (I commute an hour each way, he commutes 5 minutes), I can not wait to witness the power of our fully armed and operational battle
The Kitchen Aid stand mixer will be put through trials, not just mashed potatoes. I'm talking home made pasta, hearty vegetable stews, squash soup, every kind of bread imaginable, home made cheese, cakes, cookies...
I suppose I'll have to start exercising again, won't I?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Creve, The Back Issues

I'd like to draw your attention to this comment-less post. Not that it's fabulous or anything, but I was actually curious to see how many of you recognized how many of the fictitious cities I listed.
I enjoy creating silly little games and I'd like to do more, but only if they are enjoyable.
Who knows, if this ever gets terribly popular maybe I'll even give out fabulous prizes...

So what's up? Should I keep the games or keep taking pictures of spicy sprouts on my bathroom sink vanity?

That's right, I said bathroom...I love home renovation!

Awkward Stoplight Moment

You know what I'm talking about. You pull up to the red light wait patiently for it to change, notice that the opposite light has changed to yellow, now red, and you start to drive for a millisecond before you realize that your light is still red, only the left turn arrow has turned green.
You stomp the brake and try to look all casual, like your foot just slipped, or you were jockeying for position, hoping no one noticed.
I totally noticed.
And yeah, I totally just did that too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Anniversary Part 2

Today was the day that I had planned on surprising the husband with an early anniversary celebration. As I mentioned previously, he beat me to the punch on that one, but I went ahead with my plan anyway.
I got up and went to work, as I usually do, but instead of my usual 8 to 5 I worked 8 to 11, which gave me most of the day to run around and gather the necessities for my plan.
Considering the theme of cotton, and considering that we have 3 dogs who often do not listen to the "off the bed" command, I felt that a new sheet set was in order. I strongly suggest Home Goods for all your bedding needs. Everything is so inexpensive and not "irregular" like Ross.
A few hours shopping and one delicious bagel later I headed home and set my trap. Here are the pictures, which tell the story better than I could:
This is about 2 yards of white cotton, tacked to my ceiling on one side, and gathered with a ribbon on the other. The ribbon is tied to a small hook with a simple bow. As you can see, one end of the ribbon hangs down...

This instruction card is attached to the ribbon at eye level. In the background you can see the Kitchen Aid mixer, Jason's gift to me. It makes six pounds of mashed potatoes. Six lbs! I can not wait to try that. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, "Please pull ribbon." Why? Well...

Here is a view of what lurks up top. 800 cotton balls! Do you see where I am going with this?

Of course it wasn't just a plain white sheet, that would be boring. Of course, in hindsight, I should have written on it before hanging as to avoid the ransom note look.

Eight hundred cotton balls is not as much as I imagined it would be.

And in case you are wondering, I got Jason a manly gift from Lowes as well. (insert Tim Allen noises here).
Jason got me something else, it's a surprise, but I will definitely be blogging about it in the future. You will be jealous!

Oh yes, and thanks to Milo for finding this hysterically appropriate youtube video:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tis the Season

September is almost here which means I am about to be extra busy. September through February is not only my busiest season at work, but it's also the time of year that encompasses every family member's birthday, our anniversary, my parents anniversary, plus 4 major holidays. On top of all that we are planning another trip overseas, this time London and Amsterdam.
On top of all that, I promised my husband that I would start writing again. He has a bit more confidence in my abilities than I do since he seems to think I'm going to write the next Harry Potter or something.
If this sounds like I'm trying to make excuses, well, I am. I'm not abandoning this blog by any means, but my posts will likely be shorter for a while.
I'm still going to try to post a blog a day on Your Blog Is Awesome, as long as I can keep finding awesome blogs.
Stay in touch! I promise some especially good posts, especially after the holidays when I can post all of my failed attempts at home made gifts!

Even Penny Can't Resist The Pull Of The Internet

I get up to check on the kitty and I lose my spot! Hey Frigglesnitz, I think she's checking Gonzo out! Go Penny the Cougar dog!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Epic Husband Is Epic

My husband and I's 2 year anniversary is coming up soon, September 7th to be exact.
I had a plan...
You see, birthdays, anniversaries and other celebratory moments are made ever more special with Jason around. He does everything big. And he has the element of surprise. I would love to post the picture of the Valentine's day where he rented a giant heart costume and jumped out at me when I came home from work, but he has other ideas about what should and should not be posted on the internet.
Instead, here's a couple of pictures from our first anniversary:

The first anniversary is paper. The entire livingroom was gift wrapped and that is 24 rolls of toilet paper that our dogs are enjoying.

I decided that this year, our cotton anniversary, I was going to get him. I scheduled a day off of work without telling him and I was going to decorate proper.
He beat me to the punch AGAIN!

As I was leaving work, I received a text message from Jason, asking me to pick up a t-shirt from a local printer. Apparently this was supposed to be a new shirt for his band (which is called Raised By Tigers, yes this is the link) but he was stuck at work and could not get it. He tells me that the shop would be closed but that they would leave it outside for me.
Now, to a normal person this would sound suspicious, but the town we live in is very laid back and I wouldn't put it past a local shop to do this. Now to get to the shop, I had to deviate from my normal way home and drive past Frenchy's Lawn Service, which is something of a Denton icon. Frenchy has a fleet of bright orange trucks which are parked all over town and are often used as billboards to promote local businesses, support the troops, and often times they are simply "happy ads", announcements and well wishes and the like.
Can you see where this is going?
As I past the Frenchy trucks something caught my eye, it was my name. This is what I saw:

I kept my cool, didn't drive off the side of the road or anything, picked up the shirt (which was folded up and sitting next to the door), and drove home. Needless to say, my husband's car was in the driveway, he was not, as he claimed, stuck at work.
There was a white cotton cloth stuck to the door. This was a sign that there was more to come. This is what I saw when I opened the door:
The entire living room was covered in cotton sheets and t-shirts.
There is a story about the t-shirts that I should probably not share with the world but I will. You see my husband, being the smart one, thought it was best for us to take our relationship slow in the beginning. I was extremely impatient and wanted to spend all of our time together attached at the face. There was one such evening when I went over to his house expecting some serious snuggle time, but he had other plans. He was sorting his t-shirts to put some into storage. I spent the evening listening to him tell the story of each shirt.
After that night I hated t-shirts.
He claims the t-shirts were to stop him as much as me.
I still got him in the end, and I'm lucky I did. I have the best husband ever.
And I will get him back, maybe not for the anniversary, but there's Christmas, Valentine's day, his birthday....
And of course I'll blog about it when I do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Travel Agent Humor

I spend eight hours of my day sending business professionals from a certain global corporation all over the world. I'm not complaining, I got into travel because I like to travel, have traveled a wee bit and feel I can offer something extra to the weary Blackberry Jockeys of the world.
In the course of a typical workday I generally come across something that amuses me, such as a funny name, or National Car Rental's slogan; Go Like A Pro. Another source of amusement is the interesting juxtaposition of certain airport codes.
Like I mentioned in the last post, there are some three letter airport codes that are funny all by themselves, however, there are some that require a little help from their friends.
For example, LAX, the code for Los Angeles, does not seem very funny by itself, but if you were to book a direct flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, your ticket would show: MEXLAX.
Some of the funniest, unfortunately, never appear as there are no direct flights. Here's a few examples:
Marmul, Oman to Nomad River, Papua New Guinea: OMMNOM
Derby Field, NV to Cat Island, Bahamas: LOLCAT
Omega Airport, Nambia to Derby Field,NV: OMGLOL
Hot Springs, AR to Sembach, Germany: HOTSEX
Sembach to Burtonwood, UK: BUTSEX
Dumai, Indonesia to Burtonwood: DUMBUT

And yes, it gets more childish than that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Snack That Bites Back

No one ever heeds the warning until it is too late:

Oddball Vacations: The List

In an effort to not spend too much more time on this silly trend, I'm going to list a slew of places that you should visit in list form.
For some reason inspiration hit me on the way home from work today and I have 3 separate and very different topics to blog about and I need to get to them before I forget about them.

Moving along, here is the list:

Walla Walla, WA: Do I have to explain? Is there a cooler name? Well, yes, keep reading.

Darwin, Minnesota or Cawker City, Kansas : Both lay claim to the World's Biggest Ball of Twine.

Sioux City, IA
: Rather, Sioux Gateway Airport, which has the 3 letter code SUX. Be sure to buy some SUX merch while you are there.

Oxford, NS: The Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada. Also home to this Blueberry Man statue that looks like the love child of Kool-Aid Man and a Smurf. Somewhere I have a picture of one of my friends sitting next to him but it hasn't been digitized yet.

Fukuoka, Japan: The only Airport code better than SUX is FUK

Iceland: It's good enough for Bjork! Ok, maybe it's not so weird, but Bjork is so Iceland makes the list.

And here's a bonus feature: Places you can't go (because they are fake):

Bedford Falls
Shermer, IL
Liberty City
The City Of Townsville

How many of these do you know?
Post your scores in the comments!
10 points each for a possible 100%

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oddball Vacations 2: Going International

Today's vacation destination is Småland, Sweden.
What's this, you ask?
A province in the south of Sweden known for two things, barren soil and the birthplace of Ikea!
Among other attractions, Småland has 3 national parks and many beautiful traditional farm houses. And Sweden is a nature lovers paradise.
Getting to Småland from most places in Europe is relatively inexpensive thanks to low cost carrier, Ryanair. For the rest of us it may not be as frugal.
For the rest of us, Here is a low cost option: Go to Ikea.
No really, Ikea is like an amusement park for grownups. There's a huge parking lot and you never can find a spot close to the gate, er, entrance. Once inside there are maps and catalogs and pencils and order forms and and and....whew! I'm excited already. Don't forget to get in the long line for the bathrooms before ascending the escalator to the showroom!
Once inside the showroom you are in for hours of thrills. Go ahead, sit on the POÄNG chair and bounce to your hearts content!
Lie on the beds! Assemble a virtual kitchen!
If your hungry you can opt to dine in the restaurant or pick up a treat on the go at the snack bar.
And let's be honest, even if you walk away with an entire new living room set, it's still cheaper than a Disney vacation.*

In writing this I remembered this little gem of a cartoon: Weebl and Bob go to Pikea. Watch it for the funnies! Don't forget to click the "next" link for the exciting conclusion.

*No, I am NOT joking about this

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oddball Vacations

Okay, maybe not terribly oddball, but indeed places you don't often think of in relation to the word vacation.
The first destination of this series is Scranton, PA. A small city in northern Pennsylvania which until recently lived in mild obscurity to anyone who did not live in the area or those who had never played Sam and Max Hit the Road.
Nowadays Scranton's limelight shines as the birthplace of Vice President Joe Biden, and the setting of NBC's The Office.
I admit, I've never seen The Office, at least not the version set in the states, but I did happen upon this Trip Advisor review that didn't make a lot of sense to me until I wiki'd the place and discovered the connection to the show.
So what would make Scranton a great place to visit?
Well, you are asking the wrong person if you want historiinfmous PAcal sites, museums, area attractions and the typical touristy stuff. For that I suggest the Scranton Wiki Page.
As a native of Binghamton, NY, a city 60 miles north of Scranton, I'm going to tell you about the fun that can be had off the radar.
First of all, lets figure out how you are going to get there. If you are flying, you will fly into Scranton Wilkes-Barre airport, which has one of the coolest airport codes I've ever had the pleasure of plugging into a GDS: AVP. Yep, Scranton's got Alien fanboy cred.
If you're driving in, chances are you will get to see some of the more infamous PA town names like Intercourse and Blue Balls. Personally I like the sign on I-81 that says "JIM THORPE EXIT 1 MILE." Poor Jim, he can't go any farther along the interstate.
There was a great sign a while back, but from what I understand, when they renamed the exits they changed it. It was for two towns and read: Shamokin Pottsville. Yes! The internets win again! Someone posted a picture of the sign HERE.
Lodging in Scranton is not 5 star, or even 4 star, but the econo-class hotels tend to run in the $40-100 range so you still get a bargain.
So what do we do now that we're here?
I suggest shopping. Pennsylvania does not have sales tax on clothing, and Scranton has some of the most fabulous Goodwill and Salvation Army stores around.
Ok, so that was my 18 year old self talking. They also have many malls and Carbondale, a suburb, is one giant strip mall.
Scranton is a very Catholic town, much like New Orleans. But Scranton, and many other Pennsylvania cities, like Eerie, has a who different aesthetic. There are crosses everywhere. Think Verona in the 1996 Romeo + Juliet, or Ozzy's living room. Photography enthusiasts will love this.
Scranton is also rife with urban legends. As a former mining town there are ghost stories galore.
What? You thought I would pick a town without supernatural underpinnings?
Just wait, I'm sending you on a road trip now.
Like I said, Binghamton, NY is 60 miles north. Take a drive up to the town that is not only the Carousal Capital, but also The former home of Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling. And say hi to my folks while you are there :)
I suppose I could also tell you that this part of the country has great skiing in the winter, and tons of festivals and farmers markets as well.
But just for kicks, I'll tell you to stop at the Pump and Pantry for gas and hot dogs. Because that's what I do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Your Blog Awesome?

I've started a new blog called Your Blog Is Awesome!
The premise behind this is that it will be a portal of sorts for blogs that are good, but under the radar. Please take a gander and submit your blog, or a blog you think is awesome.
I'll be back to musing here very soon. The next topic is going to be oddball places to vacation.
In the mean time, enjoy this picture of me giving Luke some sage advice:
"See, if you make that face too much it will stick that way...look at me!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Silly Picture Fun

Sorry, I couldn't help myself. I'm pretty sure these are all I've got...

...for now!

Taken at a convenience mart near my home:
So very zen.

I can think of many things to nom, but in my experience walls are a bit dry...
Get it?
Ah contractor humor!

In this tough economy, we all need to pinch our Pennys:
"Please don't pinch me. Have some coupons instead!"

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lost in Translation

First of all I would like to apologize for my weekend absence. We are nearing the finish of some kitchen renovations that have been going on longer than they should and I merrily spent the weekend covered in thin set mortar.

On task!

I have for your viewing pleasure today a collection of photo observations* into the hilarious nature of our everyday. Please enjoy!

This was in the hallway at work on one particularly rainy day:

I Get the reference, but I've actually never seen the movie.

Taken at Starbucks the other day:

I really wanted to ask which one was the whole banana, but alas, of the 4 kids working 3 were young males who might have taken me to be a creepy cougar, which is creepy.

Meanwhile back in Rome:

I figured this to be a John Lennon/Yoko Ono reference or something like that but it turns out to be some lame viral sticker quest.

Taken on the south side of Binghamton NY in November of 2006:
My best guess is that the parents of a teenager will only let him/her drive the car with this warning. Either that or it's a disgruntled buyer who went to Carfax a little too late.

Taken on the highway, yes, we were stopped so no, I wasn't doing anything dangerous:
If you are unable to read it, the truck says "YODA, INC"
Do or do not, there is no drive?

And finally a lil' dose of Engrish found, where else but your friendly neighborhood Dolla' Sto'!

It says: "Blood friend is used come to visit, convenient, clean dust prevention, dispense with escape from shoe vexation."
This is a package of thin plastic sheaths that you put over your shoes to prevent dirt from getting in somewhere. I bought them when we were sanding the hardwood floors.
I'll not expound on what the first statement sounds like it is referring to. I think you can see it too, at least if you are a woman. But clean dust prevention? I'd like to prevent all dust, not just the clean kind!

I've got more of the same so stay tuned. Meanwhile I'm going to go escape my own shoe vexations!

*All photos have been taken by me but I won't complain if any of them turn into some silly meme or anything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Internet Is Still Useful

I'm going to take a break from travel for a moment to get back to the internet. In my previous posts I talked about how the internet helps me waste time. Truth be told, I was planning a semi-rant on how I feel that the internet has dumbed me down. But a completely random and spontaneous moment of silly googling I realized that the internet is still an educational tool.
While powering up the computer I invited our oldest dog, Penny, to sit on the couch with me, telling her that we could look at pictures of puppies. Yes, I talk to the dogs, and I dance with them and make up songs about how much the smell. Anyway...
I told Penny that we would look at puppies that look like her. Penny, you see, can not have puppies, and she was 2 years old when Jason rescued her so we do not know what she would have looked like as a puppy. Incidentally, Jason kind of hates when I do this because it makes him want more dogs. Which is, of course, part of why I do it, I'm mean and being mean via adorable puppies is the best kind of mean ever!
We've thought that Penny is a German shepherd/greyhound mix. She's got the pointy greyhound face but has the shepherd ears and longer hair. I've googled all of our dog's mixes before to see how accurate the assessments have been. Until today I had found a few greyhound/German shepherd mixes that look like penny, but no other white dogs. Today we happened upon the Swiss shepherd. Almost all of the pictures we found look just like Penny, save for some very minute details. Compare this set of images from Google search to the pictures of Penny on my post about her. Almost identical!

See, the internet is still good for finding random information that you didn't even know you were looking for!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Orleans Needs You!

I'm going to preface this post with a bit of shameless self promotion. I don't know exactly how many people are reading this blog and I'm not terribly fussed because I'm not making money on it or anything. However...
The following post is very important to me and I would appreciate anyone who reads this to pass along the URL so that others can read it. No, I do not work for the New Orleans Visitor and Convention Bureau, although that would be my dream job, it just happens to be my favorite city in the world and I'm frightened at what could happen to it if people assume the worst.

There is a lot of misinformation about post-Katrina New Orleans and it needs to stop. New Orleans is not dead yet, but fear and ignorance could kill it pretty quickly.

Yes, it's true, the city has had a centuries long history of being dangerous, full of criminal activity, and has been lauded with the title "murder capital of the world" on more than one occasion. Name a large city that doesn't have problems. Heck, Las Vegas is just as riddled with mob lore, high crime rates and poverty, yet millions flock there all the time. The point is, any place can be dangerous, it's a a matter of using common sense.

Now I am also going to preface this with the fact that the one time of year I would not recommend going to New Orleans is during Mardi Gras. Or, if you do go, stay off of Bourbon St. Nothing, in my opinion, is more of a powder keg waiting to explode than a six block stretch of city street packed beyond capacity with drunken rabble-rousers of all walks of life, many of whom don't care much for each other, and many of whom are likely armed (this IS the south) or just plain dangerous (like the 250 lb college boys too strung out to know their own strength).

There are also several other city wide events, like the Jazz festival, that bring in crowds. These events tend to be a lot more tame, but bear in mind that finding accommodations may be harder and you may spend a lot more than you would have otherwise.

Now that I've scared the bejeebus out of you, let's move on to the myriad of wonderful that is the Crescent City (note: the Big Easy is not a term used by the locals).
If you've never been to New Orleans I can not accurately describe it to you. The best I can come up with is imagine a place as laid back as the Caribbean, as sophisticated as New York, as hospitable as Southen Hospitality is supposed to be, as foreign as Paris, with as much character as the west coast and as warm and welcoming as a Snuggie on a cold night.

The first thing to consider in taking a trip to New Orleans though is when to take the trip. If price is an issue, I highly recommend a summer visit. Flights and Hotels are going to be a fraction of the cost at any other time, and there will be less of a crowd. Do keep in mind though that there is a reason you are getting this deal. Summer in New Orleans is miserable. Temperatures generally hover around 90 degrees with 100% humidity. Considering that the majority of your time will be spent outdoors exploring you may want to rethink this.
*I will note, though, that we went to New Orleans in July of 2007 and spent many a wonderful meal downing fried, greasy, carbohydrate and transfat filled food. I came home 10 lbs lighter than when we left.

Spring and fall can still be warm, but bearable, and winter is usually perfect with temperatures ranging from the 50s to low 70s with the occasional cold day thrown in. You will pay more for a hotel, but you will still find rates to be some of the most reasonable in the world. Also these are great places! I've never had to "settle" for a cheap motel in New Orleans. I recommend Trip Advisor as a great resource for finding hotels. They offer reviews, ranking, pictures and videos all by their members. I tend to take the reviews with a grain of salt. Remember that people will complain 90% more often that they will compliment. I find the pictures to be the most helpful. If the user pictures show something entirely different than the hotel website does, I'm not going to stay there.

As with any trip, research is must. Be prepared to create a complete itinerary prior to the vacation, and then be prepared to detour from the itinerary often. The CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) is a fantastic resource for information, photos and most importantly: discounts and coupons. Arm yourself with coupons for everything, even things that you think you might not be interested in. You never know, you may change your mind once you get there.

The city itself is divided into several districts, as I am sure you are aware. As a visitor, especially a first time visitor, you will want to find lodging within the French Quarter, Garden District, and some sections of the Central Business District. There are also some great properties in the Warehouse District, Arts District and Riverfront, but unless you are familiar with the streetcars and well lit pedestrian areas , or you are the type to turn in early, I would shy away from these. Not that they are dangerous, but they are not as well traveled. The "dangerous" areas are going to be residential neighborhoods, so you have no fear of accidentally booking a hotel in the "bad" part of town, because really, there are no hotels there. There are hotels in the suburbs though, and unless you plan to drive and pay a lot for parking, I would stick with something in the city.
I strongly suggest staying in a French Quarter/CBD hotel near Canal St, but south of Bourbon St. In this area you can find 4 and 5 star properties along side economy class options and you will be in a safe, well lit area close to everything, but far enough away to get some sleep at night.

New Orleans taught me to be a tourist. It's true. I've previously prided myself on going on "non-touristy" vacations and finding something other than what is expected to do. This explains why I have never been to the Statue of Liberty, Empire state building nor did I ever visit the World Trade Center, despite growing up less than 3 hours from the city. I was too cool.
And in the beginning I was too cool for New Orleans as well. I went on a few occasions and simply walked the Quarter, searched for hidden gems like coffee houses and bars, walked the streetcar tracks as far as I could along the river, and other things like that. I had a fabulous time each visit, but I really did miss out on a lot.

My advice: Take the tours.

Especially the tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1. Remember how I said that New Orleans is not dangerous if you know what you are doing? This is the best example. St Louis #1 is not a dangerous place, per se, but the narrow walk ways and large crypts provide pickpockets places to hide out. More likely though, without a guided tour you may be accosted by an opportunist who will offer a guided tour at a discount. Don't do this. I am all for the free market (yeah, yeah, I know that's something of a lie, but that's another rant), but you are not going to get an informative tour and you will likely be encouraged to behave disrespectfully. Not to mention that you will miss out on some very interesting information and some amazingly heart wrenching stories of a more personal nature. I recommend Haunted History or Save Our Cemeteries for the best tour with the most accurate information. Both of these groups are established and dedicated to the preservation of not only the history of New Orleans, but it's continued existence as a safe and fun place to visit.
Please also note that St. Louis #2 is not recommended as there are no tours and it is in a rougher neighborhood and a bit run down though restoration efforts are in the works.
Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District is safe for private exploration, provided that you treat it with the same respect it deserves, though again, a guide is going to provide insight and entertainment that you will not get by merely walking among the graves.
The most beautiful cemetery is in Metairie, which is not accessible without means of transportation, but there are some tours that will take you from the city center out there.

Since I've mentioned Haunted History, I highly recommend their walking tour of the Quarter. I do, however preface this with a warning that haunted history does not necessarily mean strictly ghost stories. The tour gives you the true or speculated to be true stories from which the ghost stories sprang and one of these stories is a truly gruesome tale of a twisted woman and the cruel and unusual torture she inflicted on the slaves in her home. Speaking as someone who spent a great deal of her life as a "goth" and horror enthusiast, this gave me nightmares and creeps me out just thinking about it.

Moving away from the macabre, there's a lot more to experience here in the French Quarter including, rather, especially the food. No trip is complete without a bowl of the Gumbo Shop's finest, or a true po'boy. And for the meat eaters there's the muffuletta, which is a sandwich, not a spell that allows you to speak without being overheard ;)
Beignets, the French "doughnut" like pastry are a must and the best are to be found either at Cafe Du Monde or Cafe Beignet. I will warn you though, do not enter either establishment and attempt to eat said pastry while wearing black. They put enough powdered sugar on these to kill a diabetic. You can ask for a plain beignet and add your own sugar. You may get a funny look but they will do this for you.
As a coffee addict I have to of course mention the coffee and chicory blend that is brewed here. It's like nothing else. Order a cafe au lait and add just the slightest bit of sugar if you need to.
A great way to spend a few morning hours is in a class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. Not only do you get to take home some amazing recipes but you get a huge meal, free beer and yet another colorful glimpse into the local culture. Classes are $27 but they offer discount coupons on their website.

Here I have only scratched the surface of what New Orleans has to offer. There is also steamboat tours, architectural tours of the Garden District homes, even tours of the 9th ward and other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina*. I could go on but this blog has gone on longer than planned already.

*Yes, the residents of New Orleans WANT you to take this tour. They want you to see first had what happened, and more importantly what has NOT happened (ie: recovery) in the years since.

At the end of every tour that Haunted History offers, the tour guide takes a moment to solicit the crowd with the following (paraphrased) message:
If you have enjoyed this tour and found the information to be entertaining, please, tell others. Without you we do not exist, and our city suffers.

Though I do not live in New Orleans, nor do I work for the city or its tourism groups, I give you the same message. New Orleans needs you. Get beyond the misinformation and get yourself down to New Orleans. If the tourism shrivels up and dies then I won't have my favorite place in the world to go to ever again.

Thank you for reading, and please pass this along.

A 3 Day Vacation

So I've crunched the numbers on a couple of vacations versus stay-cations and have some very interesting results. Unfortunately, as I started writing this it became a full on travel brochure for New Orleans, so I'm going to skip some of the details and go straight to price. Tomorrow I'll spend some time talking about the millions of reasons why New Orleans is the best place in the world.
For the sake of this experiment let's say that my husband and I are going to take a long weekend beginning on Friday August 21st until Monday August 24th. Our options are to stay in town and entertain ourselves, or take a trip somewhere within reason. We have narrowed our destinations down to Orlando, Savannah and New Orleans.
I figured we would fly out on Friday and return on Monday so we are going to need flights, 3 hotel nights, dining and entertainment for each option.
If we are staying home we are going to need a lot of entertainment, and probably one night in a hotel so that we can feel like we're actually vacationing.
Before we begin I do want to say that yes, there are alternative options like camping to consider. If that is your thing then by all means, do it. I do not camp.

Let's start with New Orleans
Flights: $400 for two adults (going after labor day on Southwest would reduce this to $260 total)
Hotel: $79 per night for the 4star Westin Canal Place.
Transportation to and from the airport and trolley rides to Garden District: $100
Breakfast for 3 days: less than $20 with Cafe Beignet coupons.
Lunch: $40 for two days, one day will be included in an activity.
Dinner: About $50 because dinner is often the overlooked meal on vacation and tends to be lighter than lunch.
Haunted History Tour: $16 with coupons found HERE .
New Orleans Cooking School Classes: $24 with coupon online.
Tour of St. Louis #1 cemetery: $12 on Sundays with Save Our Cemeteries or $16 with Haunted History.
French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral, LaFayette Cemetery, Garden District homes, art galleries and more: Free
Total cost for New Orleans: About $850
(Truth be told, I probably wouldn't do that many paid activities, but I was trying to make this a "typical" vacation.)

Orlando is next, and I've got two vacations lined up, one with the mouse, and one without:
Disney Vacation:
Flights: $350 for two.
Hotel: Motel 6 Kissimmee Main Gate West $25 per night.
3 day Park Hopper pass for two: $542.
Breakfast: included in room rate
Lunch $75
Dinner $100
Disney Total: $1142 Aprox.

Universal Studios Vacation:
Flights: $350
Hotel: Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld $89
1 Week Discounted Universal Park pass: $99 each (same price as a two day pass)
Lunch $100 (likely this will include a trip to downtown Orlando where there are nicer restaurants)
Dinner $100
Universal Total: $1015 Approximate.

Flights to Atlanta: $450 for two (flights to Savannah were about $600 each right now so this is a better deal)
Rental Car: $130 for 4 days plus gas (about $50)
Parking $30
Hotel: Doubletree Hotel Savannah Historic District $109 per night.
Breakfast: $30
Lunch: $100
Dinner: $150 (this will likely include a trip to Paula Dean's The Lady and Sons for some fried goodness)
Haunted Pub Crawl: $10
Trips to Tybee Island, Bonaventure Cemetery and walks around the historic downtown: free
Savannah Total: $1231

Now let's see how the stay-cation adds up:
Now keep in mind, I can't just go to places I would go to every day, that is not a vacation. And in fairness, I am not going to include an estimate of the extra money I would spend shopping with those extra days off
Museums: $10 for DMA , Nasher and Modern. Kimball is free
Parking: $10 near most
Six Flags: $31 each with online special.
Parking $15
One Night at the W Dallas: $299
Dallas Aquarium: $20 each
I would have added a Mavericks game if it was the right season. I tried to check on the prices of Rangers tickets (even though I don't like baseball) and could not get the page to work.

And I'm out of fun things to do here in Texas. Total cost: $496. Plus I still need to eat, drive my car to all of those places and use my own air conditioning because it is 100 degrees here now. So let's add an additional $200 to this for a total of $696.
I'm not sure who is going to agree with me, but I'm willing to put in the extra $150 to spend that time in New Orleans. And I am also down with throwing $400 on to that to go to Savannah since I have never been there before.
To me it's just worth it to get away. With a little more time to prepare (remember, I came up with this idea last night), I'll bet I could reduce the cost on all of those trips. I'll go more into detail on how to get the best deal later. Tomorrow I'll start with New Orleans. I'll even have some nice pictures.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Staycation, Schmaycation!

Today NPR started a series on how to take inexpensive vacations. I sighed. I don't even remember the one from this morning but this afternoon there was a guy who was going to take his family on an Alaskan Cruise, but after finding out it would be $4000 he decided to take them tubing in Oregon.
Okay, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that, though really, the reporter was not making it sound fun at all. He sounded like he was scared witless, and not physically up to the challenge either. And he never mentioned how long the cruise was or how long he was planning on tubing in Oregon. Most Alaskan cruises are 7 days minimum. Did he honestly expect his kids to enjoy bumping down the same river for 7 days in a row? Did he do anything else with them? How much did that cost? Did this Pacific Northwest dad bother to check out cheap flights to Anaheim and summer discount tickets at Disneyland? Did he bother to downgrade from a luxury cabin into something more reasonable or ask for any discounts?

About 10 years ago I started taking a minimum of one vacation a year. The only rule was that it was a true vacation. I could go anywhere as long as it was farther than a day trip from my home. I've been a happier person for it.
Admittedly, now that I am in the travel industry this is a lot easier and I do get some deals that are not available to the general public. However, there are deals to be had, and sometimes going the cheap route isn't as cheap as you might think.
In fact, everyone's excuse for not taking a vacation is exactly why you should! That's right, the economy. It sucks, you're broke, I'm broke. But guess what? The travel and tourism industry is broke too! As I type this, there are 3 and 4 star hotel rooms in New York City that are selling for $99. These are rooms that would normally sell for $400 or more.
Okay, $100 too much for you? Have you seen the redesigns that economy line motels like Motel 6 and Econolodge have done? Some of these places look no different than a Marriott or Hilton business class property, yet they maintain rates at about $50, depending on the area.
And hotels are just the tip of the iceberg. There are deals to be had on all manner of attractions at a lot of different types of destinations. You are on the internet right now. This is your best resource for deals, coupons, advice and testimonials.
And then there's me!
I'm going to spend the next couple of days talking about ways to have the vacation of a lifetime without digging yourself deeper into debt. In the process I am going to convince myself that there is absolutely no reason that I should not go to London this fall because I may never have an opportunity like that again.
Tomorrow I am going to start with a cost comparison of a "staycation" in our local area (Dallas/Ft Worth) versus a vacation in New Orleans, Orlando and Savannah so stay tuned.

Come On Shake Your Body Baby Do The Conga!

I know you can't control yourself any longa' !!

Sorry, I was looking through my photos and found this one that I took a few years ago. Anyone got a better caption? Maybe I should feature silly photos and see what captions people come up with. I think I will!

So I do believe I have some answers to some questions I had asked on previous blogs.

Paris or New Orleans which was posted HERE are as follows:
A. New Orleans
B. New Orleans
C. Paris
D. Paris
E. New Orleans
F. Paris (I knew the American flag would stump someone. It's on the Best Western hotel. If you look again there is also a French flag.)

And Last week I posted this guy:He was photographed on a beach on Mustang Island, near Port Aransas, TX.

That's all for now. Stay tuned. I'm not done with the internet yet, but I think I'm going to start a series on vacationing now before the summer is over.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lets Kick It Old School!

The other day I was thinking about how the internet has changed in it's short life span. I thought to myself, "Wow! Back when I was a kid using the internet.." *record scratch noise*
Wait, what was that?
Oh yeah, that's right. I was an ADULT when the internet was ushered in as a tool for the general public.

I feel old right about now(funk soul brotha!).

So um, yes where was I? Ah, yes, the internet early years, 1994 to 2000-ish.

I remember the first time I used the internet. I was in college, fall of 1995 and I remember accompanying some friend or other to our schools computer lab*. My friend sat at a computer and I hovered near by, looking awkward, afraid to sit down lest I be yelled at for wasting prime realestate (I may not have yet known about the internet but I did now a LOT of computer geeks). Even at my most unawkward I tend to stand out, especially when standing in a room full of sitting people (I am tall and back in those days I dressed rather like a homeless bohemian punk vampire). This caused me to catch they eye of one of the lab monitors, who was the spitting image of George Costanza from Seinfeld. In fact, I don't think anyone knew his real name. Everyone called him George.
George told me it was ok to sit, so I did, and proceeded to ask me if I ever used the internet. I had not, as I did not have a computer at the time. He then flipped the switch to turn on the "computer" (it was a monitor, but I didn't know this at the time), and there was the internet, in all it's orange and black monochromatic, text-based glory! I learned how to access my student email and within minutes, another friend, also in the computer lab at the time, emailed me my very first email ever....ready for it?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>remember these?????


Yes, I am not kidding. That was the first email I ever got. And if only it was the last of it's kind....sigh...

As I learned about the wonders of Yahoo and Gopher search engines, looking up articles on all matter of literary academia, I realized this internet thing was PERFECT for an over achieving literature major who was determined to get a PHD in record time.
Then one day our school got a new shipment of shiny new Windows 95 running computers with super sweet VGA monitors and BOOM! The internet had PICTURES!!! and GIFS!!!! I saw the hamster dance**, emoticons that actually turned into smiley faces, and god only knows what else. My IQ was on a slow and steady decline.
Then one day someone showed me IRC, anyone remember that? Internet Relay Chat. Yep, the old chat room, or channel as they used to call it.

Of course I thought it was amazing at first. I could talk to anyone in the world who had a computer. Think of all the amazing things I could learn about different cultures, different places. Heck, I could even ask people about their universities and see if I really wanted to go there.

Sigh, youth.

It went more like this:

Internet stalker: a/s/l?
Me: What?
Internet stalker: age sex and location
ME: 21 female, NY
Internet stalker: r u hot?
Me: no, the computer lab is actually kept quite chilly.
Internet stalker: ur funny lol, want 2 cyber w/me?
Me: wtf?
Internet stalker: i am kissing you seductively
*Me has left #cyberstalker

Yep, chat rooms. I spent a lot of time discussing religious philosophy, getting spammed off channels by bots, and trying to avoid basement dwellers who wanted to test out their smooth keystrokes on me.

Then there was Napster, and the Napster Bad cartoons.
And Troops.

Ugh, remember frames?

Here is a link to some vintage web design.

The next link may actually CAUSE epilepsy! Click at your own risk!!!!!

THIS is the worst website ever.

So tell me, people of the webamatubes, what were you doing in the early days of the 'net?
Any AOL users? Did anyone have WEB-TV?
How many people remember Juno email only service, or NetZero when it was actually free?
Did anyone else use a 14.4 modem? How about a 28.8?
I want to know!

*True story, out school's mascot was the Hornet. The intranet site for class registration was called the HOR-NET. Say it out loud.

**warning, not actually the original hamsterdance, but the closest available incarnation on the web.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Epic Ode to the Internet

Hello my fellow interweb friends!
I've decided that I'm going to spend some time discussing the wonder that is the World Wide Web and how it has affected our daily life.

I am starting a movement. A movement of awesomness. Within the week I will be cobbling together a second blog with the details. Please tell all of your friends, especially friends with well written, yet under served blogs, because they will like my movement.

On to the 'tubes!

My first installment of web-musings is a song. This song is set to "My Favorite Things."

As you read along, feel free to imagine it being sung by Julie Andrews, Diana Ross, or Björk:

Overdubbed cartoons and captions on kitties
Crying transvestites and sweets that aren't pretty
Crosseyed and mulleted pictures of kin
This is why the interweb's made of win
Weird ginger crooners and deco fly swatters
All that you need to know of Harry Potter
Cartoons that charm with a big silly grin
This is why the interweb's made of win
Dead reptile retail and slang definitions
Snark at the office and tragic ambitions
Things that can never be unseen again
This is why the interweb's made of win
Just click on this link at your own risk and this
Is why the web is teh best!

tee hee!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

There Is A Story Inside Me...

But it doesn't appear to want to come out right now.

It's about vampires.

Vampires are very popular right now so it would be in my best interest to write it.
Of course, I started writing my story 5 years ago, and vampires were very popular then as well.

Come to think of it...

vampires were very popular while I was in college...

and high school...

My mom watched Dark Shadows before I was ever born.

Perhaps vampires will remain popular long enough for me to write my book.

In the mean time though I should probably read that sparkly vampire book. If for no other reason that to avoid a possible faux pas, like, for example, giving one of my characters the same name as a sparkling vampire (my character was human, but I'm going to miss that surname that means "young animal").

Ah well, some day, someday.

In the mean time, here is my favorite vampire:

Monday, August 3, 2009

I am sick

I'm sick therefore I am a big baby and I am not blogging today.
Please enjoy this pelican in my absence.

Extra bonus interweb points if you can figure out the location where this pelli was photographed.

Yes, I just said pelli.