Bag a Box

Balikbayan Box CoverAs Dede & I were gearing up for our return trip to Moscow, Russia, we struggled to find a way to pack a large box of provisions that would still be well-sealed even after security inspection.   I was concerned that the TSA officials might not be especially thorough about re-taping the box seams which could lead to the box tearing open in transit and spilling out much-needed cargo.   Clems came to the rescue with a simple, but incredibly effective solution — the Balikbayan Box Cover.

The Balikbayan Box Cover is a heavy-duty canvas bag with reinforced seams, industrial-strength zipper, & side handles that’s designed specifically to fit a 20″ x 20″ x 20″ cardboard box (commonly available at paper goods companies and/or office supply shops).   At 60 linear inches, this conforms to major airline luggage size restrictions, although I discovered that you do have to be pretty creative to keep the weight within the 50 lb. limit in such a large box.   The beauty of the box cover is that after TSA officials inspect and reseal your box, they can zip the top flap on the bag closed and your box is further protected from re-opening.   The bag also helps guard your box (and its contents) from rough airline baggage handling.
 

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Moscow stampMaybe it’s a generational thing, but even though I was only 5 years old when it originally debuted, I can’t get The Beatles’ Back in the U.S.S.R. outta my head.   Why?   Well, we are.   Sorta.   Okay, technically, the "U.S.S.R." hasn’t existed in many years (extra history class bonus points to anyone who can name the year that it dissolved — without using Google!) but we’re back in Russia, so that’s close enough!

We had a nice, impromptu sendoff at the airport from our pal Rhonda L., who just happened to be also be jetting out early Friday morning.

As before — but even moreso now — there’s no way to thank you all enough for the tremendous outpouring of love, support, & prayers.   We’re truly blessed to have had so many of you rallying for us during the long journey to our adoption!

Keep an eye on our Russian Adoption Journal over the next 3 weeks for updates from Moscow.
 

More Travel Tips

Vagabondish logo
Not long after I posted my January Blogtipping article dedicated to travel blogs, I discovered Mike Richard’s excellent Vagabondish weblog.   Although relatively new, this group blog offers some awesome and very practical travel tips & techniques for nearly every kind of traveler.   Just a few of the standout articles I’ve come across on the site are:

January ’08 Blogtripping

Blogtipping iconInspired by our upcoming return trip to Moscow, I chose "travel" as the focal point of January’s Blogtipping post.   While it’s certainly exciting, travel can also sometimes be quite stressful.   But here are just a handful of great travel blogs that can help get you organized, ease some of your worries, and help prep for your next big trip:

Jauntly is a very new blog by Ilana Smith that’s dedicated to frugal, practical travel.   I’m keeping my eye on this blog because:

  1. Unlike some blogs that assume travel means cargo shorts & hiking boots, Jauntly has an "everyman" perspective — y’know, travel for the rest of us.
  2. Very practical packing tips!
  3. Clean site design!
  • Tip: It’s a new blog, so it just needs more posts.

TravelGearBlog from the BootsnAll Travel Network staff covers the world of travel gear & gadgets.   It’s worth a look because:

  1. Previews & reviews of loads of products for travellers.
  2. "How to" articles to make the most of your gadgets on the go.
  3. I really like those Weekly Gear Guides!
  • Tip: There’s lots of info on the gear, but not much yet on what to carry your stuff in — I’d like to see more bags & luggage reviewed.

Travelhacker is another fairly new resource for all types of globetrotters, from business travelers to vacation travelers on a shoestring budget that offers tips on bookings, vacation spots, and perks.   There’s lots to like about this blog:

  1. Tons of useful& very practical tips for travelers.
  2. Posts include a wide variety of tourism & travel topics.
  3. Frequent posts means there’s always fresh and interesting stuff to read on this blog!
  • Tip: The content is great, but could also benefit from a few photos here & there.

As a bonus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Travel category of Michael Davis’ excellent FamilyHack blog.   Michael & gang offer some great practical and (especially for us) very timely advice on traveling with kids.

luggage iconAlso be sure to check out Doug Dyment’s OneBag (formerly "The Compleat Carryon Traveller").   While this is more of a reference site rather than a blog, there’s a wealth of travel packing insights to be found there.   Even if you can’t quite commit to Doug’s philosophy to only ever travel with a single carry-on bag, you’re sure to find tons of useful information that you can use when preparing for your next excursion.

Now it’s your turn!   Have a favorite travel-related blog site you’d like to share?   Post a comment and let us in on it!
 

SeatGuru to the Rescue

As we gear up to head back home from Moscow — and what a whirlwind trip this was been — it dawned on me that I’d be a total slacker if I didn’t take a moment to give some props to Soum for referring me to one of my new favorite websites…

SeatGuru logoWhen shopping for airline tickets, it’s well worth taking a few minutes to get a little info about the seats on the flight.   Once you know your airline & the make of the aircraft (which you can get from the airline’s website when you’re searching for reservations), SeatGuru offers detailed seat & aircraft information for over 30 airlines, including good seats, seats to be aware of, exit locations, galleys, & lavatories.   In-flight amenities, such as audio, video, & AC power ports, are also shown via a graphic diagram of each plane.
 

We’re Moscow Bound

Moscow stampA mere 8 hours before we were due to jet out, we got our passports back from New York with the Russian Visa stamps.   So, we’re finally on our way to Moscow to meet our new child.   (You can’t imagine how wonderfully weird that sounds to say.)

There’s no way to thank you all enough for the tremendous outpouring of support & prayers.   It’s an incredible feeling to have so many people pulling for us!     Keep an eye on our Russian Adoption Journal this week for updates.
 

A Weekend of Fun

Top 5 TrophyIt was another fun year at the 8th annual Roswell R2k New Beetle Car Show this past weekend.   We met up with some of our old friends from past years and made some new ones.   It was great seeing everyone again and checking out all the bugs that entered in the show.

There was a group of Volkswagen New Beetles that started in Chicago and did a Route 66 caravan to the show and are continuing on this week to end the route in California.   Thanks to Antoine, I got a copy of all the photos the crew had taken from Chicago to Roswell and it looks like to have been a great trip.   I wished we could’ve taken time off to join in on the fun!

Top 5 trophies for each New Beetle car class were given out at the show and Caliente scored Top 5 in the Convertible class.   Yeah!   There were 2 New Beetles that I hadn’t seen before that quickly became my favorites of this year’s show.   One was The Great Pumpkin and the other was Fastball, the Cracker Jack Baseball car.   The Parade down Main Street followed the awards ceremony and, as always, we had fun throwing out candy to the kids along the street.

Click here to see all the pictures from the Roswell R2kv8 New Beetle Car Show.

Smooth Moves

As Dede mentioned in her previous post, we were in Kansas City over the weekend to see Bryan "Tato" P. graduate from Truman High School.   The ceremony was nice and the grad was a great sport about posing for the endless barrage of photos.   Hey, these things only come around once, y’know…   Congrats, Tato!

Also while there, (thanks to Dede!) I finally had a chance to try something that’s been on my "to do" list for quite awhile – to ride a Segway.   Thanks to Segway Experience of Kansas City, and guides Melissa & Cassie, I toured some of KC’s many fountains, ornate sculptures, & Spanish-inspired architecture in the Plaza area.   Riding the Segway was truly a kick!   And I learned enough about KC to know that we need to go back to see lots more of the downtown areas – one weekend is just not enough…

Tato the Grad!   Rob riding a Segway

DD in KC

We’re in Kansas City right now for our little Tato’s graduation.   So far, we’ve relived the first 6 Tato years via DVD;   he wasn’t too much into it but we really enjoyed it!   Seems there’s nothing quite like seeing a naked 2 year-old version of yourself to dampen a 17 (almost 18) year-old boy’s spirits.   He did finally break free from his Socom game to have a meal with us at Chili’s.   Here’s me & my little Tato:

Tato and Dede at Chili’s

Joan Jett at Joe’s?

We went to our favorite store, Ikea, in Round Rock (near Austin) on Good Friday.   We went shopping for shelving for our upcoming bathroom remodel and for the living room.   We were excited to be visiting a newly opened Ikea and were pleasantly surprised at how much easier it was to get to than the other Ikea locations we’ve been to.

Amberly (a.k.a. “Joan Jett”) came along and provided the road tunes. It was classic rock all the way there & back!   We accidentally found a Joe’s Crab Shack (another of our favorites) so, of course, we had to stop there for a late lunch & a slushy beverage. Here’s “Joan” enjoying (sorta) her drink.

Amberly sporting her purple haze look at Joe's Crab Shack