Back From the Beach

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We just returned from our first official family vacation.   We spent a week of sun-drenched, fun-filled days in San Diego, CA!

Liam did great on the plane ride and loved the water activities. We went to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.   The dolphins & Shamu were a hit but the land animals at the Zoo were not as entertaining for him.   His favorite thing to do was just to splash around at the pool or any body of water.   He fearlessly charged into the ocean waves — the very chilly Pacific water didn’t intimidate him the least bit.

Rob, Dede, and Liam on Pacific Beach
Click above for photos from Liam’s first trip to San Diego.

My friend Karen (a.k.a. Nanny Karen) from Kansas City met up with us in San Diego.   She’d never been there before and it was great to experience S.D. through new eyes.   Also, my friend Gretchen and her daughter who live in California drove down for the day to visit with us.   Liam loved having a new friend to hang out with at the beach.

The trip was also bittersweet for me as I scattered the ashes of my Uncle Whit there who passed away last December.   I had spent many summers out there with him in my high school / college years.   He had moved to Texas 13 years ago but his heart was always at his beach house so I wanted part of him to be back there.

Rob & I used to go out to San Diego once or twice a year (in fact, you can still view photos of our 2005 San Diego - Bakersfield trip on Kodak Gallery) and I’ve gotta say that this trip was quite different!   For those of you who have not vacationed with your new children, be prepared...   things go much slower and you run out of energy much faster!  

I overloaded our itinerary, forgetting that I needed to cater it to the attention-span and dawdling pace of a 3 year old doesn’t move at the same pace we do.   A few travel tips too: take lots of new things to entertain your child in the hotel room (thanks, Nanny Karen!) and be prepared for your child to be very cranky & moody at times since he/she will be way off of the normal routine.   (Being cooped up in a small hotel room where there’s little to do sure doesn’t help.)   Don’t get me wrong - we had a great time and San Diego was wonderful as always.   But vacationing with a toddler was a very different experience and everything happened at a far different pace than I would’ve imagined.
 

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Texas Road Etiquette

Sunday, April 19, 2009

For Texans, there’s a set of unwritten, yet fully understood rules of etiquette that apply when driving on highways.   If you’re the slower-moving vehicle on one of the hundreds (thousands?) of two-lane highways that weave throughout the state and a faster one approaches behind, it’s simply expected that you’ll ease over onto the shoulder and let the faster driver pass without having to occupy the oncoming lane.   And accordingly, if you’re the faster driver who’s just been afforded this courtesy, it’s expected that you’ll give a little wave as you pass and/or after that slower car has moved back into the lane after you’ve gone by.

If you’ve never been a part of this graceful driver’s version of the Texas Two-Step, it may sound a little complicated, but it’s not — it happens so frequently throughout any trip within the Lone Star State, it’s instinctual.

trucks passing on a Texas two-lane highway


Over the Easter holiday, we found ourselves on many of these two-lane roads and noticed how this Texas road courtesy is becoming a thing of the past.   Out of about 6 hours of driving on two-lane roads on that trip, there were very few drivers who would move over and allow us to pass.   Also, I noticed that when I pulled over to let people pass me, not a single person on this trip gave me the customary "wave" to say thank you.

All of this really bothers me a lot.   I’m saddened that people aren’t teaching their children the common driving courtesies that my parent’s did.   It seems that it’s mostly my generation that has done this.   What happened?   Have we become so impatient & self-absorbed that we’ve completely done away with common courtesy?
 

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Where Ya Been?

Monday, January 12, 2009

One of the wizards at Google’s European Engineering office, Douwe Osinga has created a web app that maps the states of the U.S. and countries of the world that you’ve visited.

My coverage of America seemed pretty good, but as much as I felt like I was well-traveled, the worldview map paints a bit less impressive picture...


visited 21 states in America (42%)
Create your own visited map of The United States


visited 7 countries (3.11%)
Create your own visited map of The World

So, how about you? Where ya been?
 

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Bag a Box

Friday, January 25, 2008

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.
 

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Back in the U.S.S.R.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

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.
 

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More Travel Tips

Monday, January 14, 2008

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:

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January ’08 Blogtripping

Monday, January 07, 2008

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!
 

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SeatGuru to the Rescue

Saturday, December 08, 2007

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.
 

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We're Moscow Bound

Saturday, December 01, 2007

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.
 

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A Weekend of Fun

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

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.

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Smooth Moves

Monday, May 21, 2007

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

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DD in KC

Saturday, May 19, 2007

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

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Joan Jett at Joe's?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

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
 

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

We hope everyone had a fun & safe St. Patty’s day celebration. Tis a grand day indeed! While we didn’t do anything special today, there was certainly the wearin’ o’ the green!

And especially on St. Patty’s Day, we’re reminded of our incredible trip to Ireland back in 1999. Click here to view photos from that trip.
 

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Life's a Beach!

Monday, May 31, 2004

Think "beach etiquette" sounds like an oxymoron?   Well, it seems that even the great outdoors has rules, as pointed out in this article on How to Practice Etiquette at the Beach that Steve B. referred us to.

And where better to test out these newfound social skills than in San Diego?   You can usually find $99 each-way tickets to San Diego at Southwest Airlines all through summertime.   Here are a few pictures from our fantastic Memorial Day ’03 with Topper in San Diego.

And if you go, you can’t go wrong if you listen to Local Wally’s San Diego Tourist Guide.   We’ve been to San Diego many times and considered ourselves pretty SD-savvy, but Wally still has plenty of cool places and stuff to do that we’d never heard of before.
 

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Awesome Packing Tip

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

John Walkenbach’s blog is just great – we check it almost daily and usually find the coolest stuff there. Today, he posted a link to a site that features a short Quicktime video that will teach you a revolutionary new way to fold shirts. Like John, we had to watch the video a few times to catch the quick slight of hand that the girl does before we could duplicate her efforts. It’s like pulling a magic trick on yourself because you won’t believe that it works even after you’ve done it yourself.

Also worth checking out is OneBag.com, formerly known as "The Compleat Carry-On Traveler." This site has been around for years (I found it when researching for our Ireland trip in '98) and, while its geared towards very light travellers, there's a wealth of information that's great for anyone looking to travel smarter. They've also got tons of reviews on a wide variety of bags, packs, and other travel stuffs.

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