Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hostage Situation in Murano

When we were in Venice in 2010, our hotel offered an excursion to the island of Murano. The island is world-renowned for its glass production, and the monopoly on European glass fabrication was held by Murano artisans for centuries. Many of the glassmaking factories on Murano have been in existence for hundreds of years; the one we visited had a family tree hanging in the workshop and the factory itself dated back to the twelfth century.
When our boat docked on Murano, we were led into the factory for a glassmaking demonstration. The proprietor, who wasn’t a member of the family, was an Italian guy named Frank. He had a long, blonde ponytail and was very tan. He looked exactly like the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast after he turns into a human again.

The glass demonstration was really interesting. It was neat to learn that the process has remained the same for hundreds of years and has been passed down from generation to generation. I did wonder though if the artists got annoyed with people watching them all day. I don’t think I could concentrate on my work if there were tourists gawking at me and taking photos. Maybe they’re just used to it though. After the demonstration, we were taken into the gallery where we could peruse (and as they hoped, shop) various forms of glass art. There were statues, vases, drinking glasses, plates, boxes, and chandeliers—basically, anything you could imagine was in that gallery—and ranged in size from miniscule (figures the size of an earring) to massive (glass chandeliers weighing several tons). Our group walked through the gallery and looked at everything, but because of the exorbitant price tags, hardly anyone was seriously considering buying anything. The exception was a group of loud Americans who were buying very ugly clown statues (WHY?). There was also a group of Russians who looked as if they were members of the mafia. They looked loaded. I can’t remember what they were buying.

R and I joked around saying that we should add a set of eight Murano drinking glasses to our wedding registry. At the very inexpensive price of 700 Euros, the glasses were a bargain! Frank, who was hovering around eavesdropping, got wind of our conversation and thought we were serious. He latched on and went into the back and brought out all sorts of glasses in different styles. Although we kept telling him we were students and couldn’t afford such expensive glasses, he persisted and tried to get us “a cheaper price because we were so nice.” As Robin pointed out later, the fact that I had my Louis Vuitton purse didn’t help; Frank was determined to sell us whatever he could and didn’t believe us when we said we weren’t rich.

As Frank kept bringing out products, everyone disappeared, including the clown-buying Americans and the members of the Russian mafia. I was starting to get really uncomfortable because we were in the glass showroom totally alone with Frank, who more than likely worked on commission and seemed hell bent on getting us to buy something. When he finally realized we weren’t buying anything from him, he started telling us a story about people he knew in Texas and how we should meet up with them. What? He then told us about his friend who sold her wedding dress to someone in the United States without receiving payment for the dress first. The friend was distraught and surprised when the money for the dress never arrived. Frank was ranting about people being crooks while we slowly edged our way to the door. After Frank gave us his business card and contact info, and we assured him if we were ever in the market for expensive glassware we would call him, we extricated ourselves and ran from the factory to a little gift shop where the exit was. The whole tour had taken about an hour and a half. 

Occasionally we still talk about Frank and wonder what he's doing. If we ever go back to Murano I think we'll go back to the same glass factory just to see if Frank's still there. I wonder if he'd recognize us?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

In one of my high school honors English classes, we had to read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I'm a very studious person and have always taken academics very seriously. I absolutely could not get into Hemingway's writing style. The book was assigned during spring break and I tried several times throughout that week to read it, but just couldn't. I used SparkNotes to get the basic story line and dreaded going to English class. Turns out I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand Hemingway's style, and we all got in trouble for not reading the book. Because of this, my only experience with Hemingway, I've vehemently avoided his works.

I just finished The Paris Wife by Paula McClain. This is an excellent book and while it is categorized as historical fiction, McClain drew on primary and secondary sources and accurately portrays the turbulent relationship between Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, who narrates the story. The two married young and struggled from the beginning while Hemingway launched his career, jumped between jobs, and the couple moved to Paris. Paris in the 1920s was the playground for anyone who was someone. Painters, writers, and intellects lived, worked, loved, drank and gambled in the City of Light. Many of them produced some of the most famous artwork (Picasso, Matisse, Man Ray, Dali) and literature (Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein, Hemingway) history has seen. Among fellow members of the Lost Generation, Hemingway flourished and his career exploded. He and Hadley had their only child, Bumby. The couple traveled throughout Europe, spending exorbitant amounts of time in Spain, where Hemingway loved watching bullfights and recording what he witnessed. Although they seemed to be very much in love and the best partners among their friends, the couple's marriage deteriorated and the two eventually divorced.

This novel reminded me of Nancy Horan's 2007 book Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright and his affair with his mistress Mamah Borthwick. If you're in the mood for a historical read, I highly recommend both of these novels. Loving Frank has a twist at the end that I still think about--five years after I read the book. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why We'll Never Fly Frontier Airlines Again

We just went to Colorado for Hannah's graduation from Colorado State. This was by far one of the worst travel experiences I've ever had. You name it, it's happened to me, but this was absolutely ridiculous. Out of curiosity, I just looked Frontier up and there are many negative reviews circulating out there. So beware if you decide to book your trip with Frontier.

  • Our seats were assigned throughout the plane and separate from one another. Now, I understand if we had booked our tickets late; however, when you book a couple months in advance, there shouldn't be a problem. My main issue was that Frontier placed my 9-month-old in a seat by herself. In the middle seat. Between two strangers. Oh yeah, great idea. I get that it's probably done electronically. There needs to be someone checking though. When we finally landed and I tweeted Frontier about it (and my tweets continued until after 10PM), I received immediate responses. Seems to me if there's someone monitoring the Twitter feed, it's possible to have a human checking seat assignments as well. Anyway, when we went to the desk at the gate to inquire about changing seats on the plane, the Frontier employee said he'd take care of it. Then HE LEFT. Fortunately for us his fellow employees were understanding and outraged at his behavior, and some very nice fellow passengers moved so R, Z, and I could sit together.
  • Z wasn't a lap baby and had her own seat. That's how we roll because it works better for everyone. During takeoff and landing I nurse her so her ears don't bother her, so she doesn't sit in her seat during those times. We had no problem during takeoff, and although Z was awake and somewhat antsy during the flight (she wanted to get down and crawl around), everything went smoothly. When we started our descent into Denver, I started to nurse Z. The flight attendants came around to check that seat belts were on and tray tables were up. The flight attendant stopped by us and said "You need to put it in its carrier. That's the safest place for it during landing." Um, hold up. HOW did you just refer to my child? As an IT? Even though Z was under my Bebe Au Lait nursing cover, her pink sandaled feet were hanging out. This woman had walked by us throughout the entire flight. And yet, she refers to my kid as an "it." I don't even call dogs or cats "it." How rude! Also, what about lap babies? I guess they aren't safe during landing? Are their parents taking a gamble with their safety? If I want to nurse my daughter I have absolutely every right to do so. Just because there's a vacant car seat sitting next to me doesn't mean I'm endangering my child. I should have gotten that lady's name, but all I did was glare at her when I walked off the plane. (I think Z smiled at her though so that plan failed.)
  • On the way back home, we were flying back with Hannah's cat. Rather than carry our luggage on, we decided to check it and had to go to the check-in counter to get the proper travel documents for the cat. Denver's airport is always really crowded and there have been a few times we've cut our flights close. Since we had to do all this extra stuff and we needed to ensure Z was not in a row by herself again, we got to the airport two hours early. Frontier, once again, failed. The check-in line took over an hour because there weren't enough desk agents working. When we finally got up to the kiosk, there was a young couple next to us. I overheard this conversation and was appalled at the Frontier employee's behavior:
    • Young man: "So our flight leaves in 30 minutes. We're going to miss it because security will take forever. What do we do? Just go home? Can you rebook us?"
    • Agent: "Sure you can go home. Or find somewhere else to complain because here isn't the place to do it. I don't have anything to do with this."
    • Young man: "Seriously? This is ridiculous."
  • The security line and TSA took ages (I know TSA is unaffiliated with Frontier and other airlines. It's its own entity. Got it.) We missed our flight by 3 minutes. No joke. The plane had just rolled out of the gate, and we could still see it sitting there. We went to the desk and my dad said to the agent "We missed our flight." She took our tickets, looked at them, and said "Flight 294 just left." Um, really? Isn't that what we just told you? Or is this some weird game of copycat? "Yeah, no kidding, the plane is pulling out right now," I answered. The agent just looked at us, then said we had to go to customer service to rebook. She didn't offer any sort of greeting, apology, nothing. 
  • Over at the customer service desk, the woman was, as per Frontier's seemingly established protocol, unsympathetic. You'd think a group of visibly harried travelers with a restless infant and a crying cat would elicit some sort of emotion. Nope. The woman typed on her computer for a bit and then informed us it would be 24 HOURS before we could return home. Keep in mind this is on a Sunday afternoon, and we all work Monday. She was too dense to understand why we were upset that no other arrangements could be made. When I asked her about our checked luggage, she was like "Oh, that's on the plane and heading to St. Louis." Great, just great. So we have no luggage and it'll be 24 hours before we can get home? At this point my dad suggested driving home. 12+ hours in a car with a cat and baby was just daunting, so we booked with Southwest and were fortunate enough to fly out only a couple hours after our original departure time. We still made it home in the afternoon and had time to unpack, do laundry, and get ready for the workweek. 
I value competence and professionalism, and I understand that the travel industry can be stressful. When employees are rude, abrasive, and uninterested in the clientele, there's a problem. Now, I'm in no way implying that every Frontier employee is rude or unprofessional. I do realize that because of my frustration with the situation I'm lumping together a whole group of people who are probably excellent at their jobs and care about the public; however, two completely separate days and employees in two different states treated us exactly the same, so to me, that is indicative of a training problem. We are paying good money and keeping Frontier employees employed. We shouldn't feel like we are inconveniencing them. Based on the reviews I just saw online (and all of the people I've talked to about this!), I don't see how Frontier is going to last unless it reviews its customer service policies.  Travel is expensive and stressful enough. Why make people's experiences terrible? There are other carriers to use and that's what we will be doing from here on out. Adios, Frontier. We won't be seeing you again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Terrible Travel Experience: Australia and the Great Barrier Reef

In 2007 I went to Australia on a trip with my high school. There were a lot of college kids who tagged along and the majority of kids who went were on the swim team since our coach was the one who organized the trip. It was a really cool vacation but I think I'd prefer to travel without a group next time. 

When we were in Cairns, an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef was obviously high on the list of priorities, and there was an entire day dedicated to visiting the reef. I was incredibly naive and assumed you just walk a bit into the ocean and it's there--hmm, not so, you have to take a boat. On the morning of the excursion, we were all eating breakfast at our hotel. The breakfast was amazing and featured an assortment of fresh fruit, pastries, breakfast meats, cereals, juice and coffee. I will never forget that I gorged myself on fruit. Don't worry, it becomes relevant in a bit. At breakfast, our tour guide (I think her name was Shaz or something different like that. I'm pretty sure she DID NOT like any of us.) told us that the boat ride out to the reef could be pretty bumpy so we should all take some Bonine or Dramamine. I only occasionally get motion sickness and it's only if I'm in a car for a long time and am not driving. I ignored the advice and kept stuffing my face with fruit.

When we got on the boat, we sat inside. There were u-shaped benches with tables so we all spread out. The ride was going to take about 20 minutes. The crew of the boat told us that the choppiness of the waves that day were a 5 out of 10, and if we get seasick we should take medicine. I ignored them once again.

We started out fine and spirits were high. How many people get the opportunity to travel to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef? Shortly into the trip, the water started to get a little choppy. It was sort of fun and like being on a little roller coaster. Almost immediately, the waves got big. Like, really big. I started to feel queasy. It was when the crew started handing out barf bags that I knew I was in trouble. I think mentally that sent me over the edge. As the boat started bobbing and we were most definitely experiencing waves from "The Perfect Storm," I lost it. Now, remember that fruit I ate? It was excruciating to, uh, heave. The acidity of the fruit burned my throat. It was really painful. The crew just stood at the end of each u-shaped bench and collected the barf bags. As almost everyone was losing their breakfasts and crying about it (oh yeah, I sobbed. I hate throwing up.) the crew just stood there and chatted like it was a normal occurrence. I guess for them it is, actually. 

After we got to the reef, we got life jackets, snorkels, and masks. We then got a lecture about littering in the reef. Since it's endangered, littering is illegal and can land you in jail and with a hefty fine. I don't know the state of Australian prisons but I definitely wasn't in the mood to learn about them. You also weren't allowed to touch anything. Once the lecture was over, we all jumped in and started snorkeling. The water was FREEZING and it was cloudy. When it's sunny outside, visibility of the reef is excellent and the colors are vibrant, but that day everything was subdued and gray, which matched my mood. Not only was my throat still burning, I had a headache because my stomach was empty. Also, I was certain that Bruce from Finding Nemo was going to swim up and wreak havoc on us. Was anyone else paranoid that soon our little snorkeling expedition was going to be a scene out of Jaws? The boat crew said nets were in place to keep sharks out. Honestly, hadn't they ever watched Shark Week? What is a net going to do when a shark decides it's hungry? 

As I was snorkeling around, my life jacket, which was too big, was rubbing against my ears. I was looking in the water to make sure I was the first one to spot Jaws when he made his inevitable entrance to our snorkeling party. I suddenly saw something shimmery floating down into a coral. It went right down into one of those long, skinny coral tubes. It looked like a diamond, which was weird. Then it occurred to me: it was my earring. My diamond earring. That had been knocked loose by my too-large lifejacket. Not only had I lost it, but it had floated INTO a coral. This subsequently made me a litterer. I could face jail time. What if the coral died after consuming (?) my diamond earring? This was enough for me. I got out and hung out on the boat for the rest of the day. The crew had all these little wildlife specimens that we could hold, so I hung out with those critters because they didn't have teeth. There was a really nice buffet for lunch but I didn't eat anything because I didn't want to get sick on the way back to land. 

Between freezing, the threat of sharks (even if the threat was only in my mind), my earring, and losing my breakfast, it wasn't a great day. If you ever get the chance to go to the Great Barrier Reef, remember your Bonine, Dramamine, ginger or whatever it takes so you don't get sick. Don't litter. And definitely don't watch any shark-related material before your trip. 

It was sunny when we left the port.

And cloudy when we arrived. Look at those waves!

Freezing. Look at those blue lips!

This Prince Charles look alike was helpful in passing out barf bags.

I don't know what this is.

I did get this nice shot underwater.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Day of Travel Photos: Venice

Here are some of my favorite photos from our trip to Venice. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Product Review: L'Oreal Revitalift Night Cream

I'm a very expressive person and I've been told that I make a lot of faces during conversations. Between that and being tired from having an infant and working and being in graduate school, I've noticed my skin is no longer as radiant (ha ha) as it was in the past. For someone who is obsessive about avoiding sun exposure (I don't want skin cancer!), I sure do have a bunch of little wrinkles all of a sudden. Yikes. 

I thought 25 was too young to start using a night cream, but I figured I'd better start now or I'll look like I'm 40 in a few years. (Now that's a slight exaggeration, I know.). But it would be nice to get rid of some of these little lines that have started popping up under my eyes and between my eyebrows.

Since my skin is so sensitive, I'm an ardent user of Clinique products and have been for over a decade. When I had mini-wrinkle crisis, I didn't have the time to head out to Clinique, so I decided to just get a temporary fix from Target. I picked up L'Oreal Revitalift Night Cream. A few weeks later I was blown away. This stuff really works! I used the lotion every night for a month before I saw results. One morning I noticed that the line between my eyebrows had been reduced. I now feel like I can now furrow my brow without worrying about permanent damage! Not only does the cream work well, it smells great too. It's thick and moisturizes well and doesn't leave any negative effects for those who have sensitive skin. For a $13 jar of night cream, this stuff is amazing. I'm glad I decided to skip the Clinique (and save some cash) for now. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Museum Exhibit: Pompeii at the British Museum

The British Museum has curated an exhibit entitled "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum," and the exhibit is on display until September 29. I've seen many great reviews of the exhibition online and I'm really disappointed that I won't be able to visit the museum while the show is open. Problem (somewhat) solved though: the British Museum created a mobile app of the exhibit that features maps of archaeological sites, the cities, and photographs of the artifacts on display. The app is a very great way to see what people living in Pompeii and Herculaneum valued and what now makes up an exhibit--jewelry, furniture, mosaics, and even bread are displayed. 

The piece I can't get out of my mind though? A cradle that was carbonized when Mount Vesuvius erupted. According to the caption attached to its photo, remains of the cradle's tiny occupant and its wool blanket were found when archaeologists started excavating. I keep thinking about this little cradle and the poor baby inside. I can't help but wonder about the baby's life, its parents, and what they experienced during the eruption. It's amazing that 2,000 years later people from all over the world are marveling upon fairly normal objects of daily use that were preserved suddenly because of a catastrophe. Will people be looking at the remains of our jewelry, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and furniture in a couple thousand years? It's odd to think about. 

Mobile apps are becoming more popular in museums. Meant as a means for guided tour or supplemental information, they can appeal to both physical and virtual museum visitors. I'm currently working on designing a mobile app for my museum at work. To me, it's not as interesting as an app about Pompeii and we certainly don't have the resources the British Museum does, but it's kind of cool that we're (sort of) on the same page technologically as one of the most famous museums in the world. Now that's pretty cool. 

Click here to see the British Museum's information about the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Buying Art While Abroad

As a lover of visual arts and travel, I make a priority to buy art while abroad. You don't have to spend a lot to come home with a great piece for your collection, but it doesn't hurt to come up with a tentative budget before you go. I've found that the prints and photographs I've purchased in Egypt, France, and Italy bring me great joy, especially when I'm in the mood to travel or I want to reflect on the cool trips I've taken. When we return home I get them professionally framed and we find someplace to hang them around the house. Being surrounded by mementos from our trips makes me happy and reminds me of what we experienced while on that particular vacation. 

After I graduated in 2010, my in-laws gave us a trip to Venice to celebrate. We were there for a total of four days in July. It was excruciatingly hot and crowded, so I think that detracted from the visit. We still had an enjoyable time but didn't really explore the city as much as we would have liked. Our hotel was right near St. Mark's Square and everyday we walked by a little art gallery that had numerous prints of the city, but it was always closed. Each time we passed it, I'd look inside and see all of these wonderful prints hanging from floor to ceiling around the tiny shop. We'd walk by numerous times a day on the off chance that the shop was open, but it never was. 

On our last morning in Venice we went, once again, to the shop. This time a note on the door said "Went to Lido. Will return at 12." We needed to hop on a water taxi and get to the airport but I really wanted to go in and buy something so we waited around for a while. Finally, the owner showed up (in typical European fashion she arrived well after 12, but that's beside the point). She was a really nice Venetian woman and was passionate about art and the artists she represented. I picked two prints and the woman gave me a discount because I had just graduated with my art history degree. Woot! I got the prints professionally framed when I returned to the U.S. later that summer. Now the prints hang in our bedroom. Every time I look at them I can't help but smile because they're so beautiful and remind me of the really good trip we had in Venice. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Berry Cobbler Recipe

I've seen this recipe floating around the Internet a lot lately so I decided to give it a try. Originally a Weight Watchers recipe, it's a somewhat healthy version of berry cobbler and is very easy to make.


2 bags frozen mixed berries

1 box white cake mix
1 can of ginger ale (have an extra can though, just in case)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour frozen berries into 9x13 glass casserole dish until the bottom is covered, and level the berries out with a spoon.

Pour the white cake mix on top of the berries until evenly coated. Pour ginger ale on top until all of the mix is wet. I used one can of ginger ale and it wasn't enough--there were still dry cake mix patches on the cobbler after it was done baking. Yuck. So make sure everything is covered but do not stir!

Loosely cover the dish in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream if you want. The dessert tasted better a couple of days later because the flavors were better blended. Enjoy!

Note: The original recipe called for a can of diet Sprite, but I didn't have any so I used ginger ale.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Crock Pot Scallops Florentine

I love my Crock Pot and use it as often as I can. It's so nice to just throw everything in, turn it on and have dinner waiting when you get home. This recipe is one you start about two hours before you're ready to eat. I got the original recipe from 300 Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes by Dana Carpender. I've changed some of the ingredients and served the dish with pasta so it's no longer low-carb. It's easy and delicious! Scallops are a little pricey, so I would save this recipe for a special occasion.

What You Need:

1 pound of scallops, either sea or bay
1 box frozen spinach, thawed
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 bag Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (or a little more, to taste)
1 box whole wheat linguine

Put the spinach in a strainer and press all of the excess moisture out with clean hands. Dump it in your Crock Pot. Add the garlic, cream, 1/2 bag of Swiss cheese, and seafood seasoning. Mix well, cover, and set the crock pot to low. Let the mixture cook until it's hot, or about 30-45 minutes.

Lay the scallops on top of the spinach and cheese mixture. Add the rest of the cheese. If the mixture isn't liquid enough, add more cream. Cook for one hour. 10 minutes before you're ready to eat, cook the linguine according to the package instructions. Drain and plate the pasta, and spoon the scallop, spinach, and Swiss cheese mixture on top. Serve with salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Favorite Podcast: A History of the World in 100 Objects

For those history, art, or museum buffs who are looking for a daily dose of the aforementioned, you should check out this podcast. The title of the podcast series is pretty self-explanatory: British Museum director Neil MacGregor highlights the history of the world in 100 objects found at the British Museum.  The series is a few years old but the content is interesting (I'm actually listening to the series for the second time). Each podcast is about 12-14 minutes in length, with MacGregor describing the object, its background and historical context, and what role it plays in the history of the world. I really like listening to MacGregor's description of the object and imagining what it looks like, then viewing the object on the BBC website. Usually the image I've come up with in my head is pretty close to how it actually looks. 

What started as a podcast has expanded into a book with beautiful photographs of the objects. There are also CDs available for purchase. You can download the podcast for free at iTunes or the link below. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

5 Things To Always Take in Your Carry-On Luggage

We have a couple of trips coming up at the end of the month and I'm already thinking about packing. I have a tendency to over-pack, which results in shuffling junk between my checked luggage to avoid the overweight baggage fees. This always happens at the airport, usually in front of a long line of aggravated travelers who more often than not get a glimpse of my undies. The trips we're taking soon won't be long and therefore won't require checked luggage, but fitting the necessities into a carry-on is important.

Here are what I consider to be the main staples of any carry-on and why you should pack them:

1. Extra underwear and socks. You may miss your connecting flight and have your luggage arrive at your destination several days after you do. (This has happened to me.) The airline may lose your luggage (This has happened to me.) Won't you feel better conquering problems if you're wearing clean underoos? I always do. I also pack twice as many pairs of undies and socks than needed because you never know what is going to happen.

2. Plastic grocery or Ziploc bags. You may need somewhere to put trash during a flight. You may get carsick while crossing the French-Swiss border. (This has happened to me.) Or, you may need to wrap fragile souvenirs for the trip home or a place to put a wet swimsuit. Plastic bags come in handy and don't take up much room in your suitcase. If you don't use them, keep them in your suitcase for next time.

3. Snacks. If you're stranded in an airport, bus station, train station or on a plane, you'll need something to eat eventually. Packing your own snacks will prevent you from spending serious cash on overpriced food at gift shops. You can also make friends by sharing snacks. Once I was traveling from Denver to St. Louis after visiting my sister for the weekend. Mid-flight, my seat mate (who was traveling with her teenage daughter) pulled out a pack of crackers and the two started eating. Then she turned to me and offered me some! How nice! I didn't mind that she was hogging the armrest after that.

4. Toiletries. It's nice to have your contact lens solution, toothpaste and toothbrush, moisturizer, etc. with you in case you're separated from your luggage. At least you'll be able to see and have clean teeth for pictures while you're out sightseeing.

5. Baby wipes. Even before we had Z, I'd always pack baby wipes in my carry on. They're handy for wiping your hands or face, cleaning up spills, or preventing stains from setting in. You can "shower" in a pinch if need be. I've used them to wipe Versailles dust off my feet (remember, E?), pyramid dust off my jeans, and I've given them to strangers on planes to clean up sticky messes. Packs of baby wipes are inexpensive, smell good, and are easily transported.

If there's anything you cannot live without for an extended period of time, you better put it in your carry-on so it stays with you at all times. As I said before, you never know what is going to happen. If you can imagine it happening, then there's a chance it will. I think you'll be happier if traveling with clean underwear and socks, too. (Can you tell I'm passionate about clean undergarments?!)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Car Intruder in Fort Collins

In October we went to visit my sister Hannah in Fort Collins, Colorado for Colorado State University's family weekend. This was the first time we traveled after Z was born, and it actually wasn't too difficult to manage. The extra adults, Z's adaptability, and our awesome travel system really made flying and vacation with a two-and-a-half-month-old easy.

On our final morning in Fort Collins, we went to eat breakfast at a restaurant that's famous for its homemade beignets, jams, and biscuits, called Lucile's. The restaurant is located in a small Victorian house and it's quite popular so there's always a wait. Hannah and Tess wanted to get there early to avoid waiting, so we all got up early and got ready. When we arrived there was about a 15-20 minute wait, which wasn't too bad. The only place to wait was outside though so since it was chilly we decided to sit in the SUV, which was parked across the street from the restaurant. My dad and Robin were up front, Hannah, Tess and Z were in the middle, and my mom and I were in the very back.

We were getting really hungry and paranoid that the place was going to give our spot away because they couldn't see us in the car. Hannah kept getting out to check and see how much longer the wait was estimated to be, and she let the hostess know that we were in the white SUV. 

 After we had been waiting for a while, a lady walked up along the right side of the car. None of us thought anything of her until she opened Robin's passenger side door. We all got quiet and stared at her, and she stared back. Robin eventually said "Hi," (In a really creepy voice, I might add.) but the lady kept staring. Was she from Lucile's, coming to tell us our table was ready? Nope. She was just a random stranger who got confused about where she had parked. After a couple seconds she slammed the car door shut and ran to an SUV that was also white and parked a few spots down from ours. She jumped in the passenger seat and somewhat shielded her face from us. Her family was slowly meandering from Lucile's and heading toward the right car, which had Arizona license plates (ours had Colorado license plates). At this point everyone in our car was laughing hysterically (except Z) from lack of food. A short while later, we finally got our table and proceeded to have the best beignets and homemade jam in the world. This incident happened over six months ago and I still think about those darn beignets.

To this day, we still re-enact the Fort Collins car intruder incident whenever we are in a parking lot and someone walks by our car. If you're ever in Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Littleton, or Longmont, go have yourself a beignet. And be sure to lock your car, because there may just be a satiated beignet-eater who gets confused about where she parked.

Here's a link to Lucile's website if you're interested:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We have been watching exorbitant amounts of HGTV lately. I don't know what spawned this sudden trend but now we are hooked and it feels as if we've been watching HGTV forever. The advertising on this channel is home-and garden-oriented (no surprise there!). Lately there have been commercials for, a new website whose tag line is "A zillion things for home." This site is my newest obsession because it literally does have a zillion (okay, maybe not a zillion. That's a big number.) housewares, most of which are affordably priced. You name it, they've got it.

Early last month we redid our living room. The layout was previously very TV-focused and felt like a set up out of a college dorm room. The cats figured out that if they scratched or sat on the TV we would get out their all-time favorite toy, the laser. Every night we waged a battle and eventually succumbed to waving the laser around for a couple of hours until we went to bed. No fun. So, we checked and found a media stand where we could anchor the TV to the wall. I ordered the stand on a Thursday night and the expected delivery date was the following Friday. It showed up on Tuesday! R immediately put it together and it looks great. Our whole living space was transformed for only $125. 

The TV stand is not totally pet-proof and the cats do climb up there occasionally but we have cut down on the laser time drastically. The TV is also now out of reach for Z, which is a lot safer than the previous set up. Side note: Have you ever read stats on how many children are killed or injured annually by TVs falling on them? The number is surprisingly high, especially with the advent of flat screens.

Bottom line: If you're in the market for something home-related or just need to take a break, check out I think there will be something there you'll like. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Day of Travel Photos: France

Because it's Wednesday and shaping up to be a long week, here are some of my favorite photos I've snapped while traveling around France. We could all use a virtual vacation today. Enjoy!