Monday, December 28, 2009
Jenni and I have been looking for a place for a mid-winter ski getaway with our family. There are going to be 11 of us. I'd blogged earlier about how much we like renting homes. Here's a good site to help in your travel planning.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Consumed - The Cult of Mexican Coca-Cola - NYTimes.com
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Do some homework too, and see when the actual low season is; we found the low season for Stockholm was actually August. Europeans are not doing a lot of work in August, they too are on vacation, so the hotels in the capital cities such as Stockholm, Paris, etc, had great deals. Bermuda was a great deal last November. It was breezy and chilly, but it was still a lot milder than central Illinois. Keep in mind that it's the off season for a reason. You might find it great that there's nobody else at the museum, or that you have the beach to yourself, but that also might mean you're going to loose some of the extra service you might be expecting. Many attractions have different operating during the low season and some may be closed entirely.
Kiplinger's had a good article on off peak travel. I was reading it this morning while I was waiting for the scones to cook.
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Friday, November 27, 2009
I was reading about this on CNN's website this morning.
Giving back while you travel - CNN.com
Volunteer Vacations & Work Travel: The Ritz-Carlton, Give Back Getaw
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Our apartment in Ireland was a converted stable. We had three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Downstairs was the living room, kitchen, and half bath. All the pots and pans, plates, blankets, etc were provided. I would walk down the local grocery and buy our food, and we had a family meals in the kitchen just like at home.
The apartment we had in the Cotswolds was one of the nicest places I think we've stayed. We didn't have the kids with us on that trip, but our apartment was cheaper than the hotels and B&B's around us. Broadway Cottage had two bedrooms and bath upstairs, with a large living room and kitchen downstairs. We also had laundry facilities to share with the cottage next door. The luggage was lost during this trip and we used the laundry constantly. Since we were out in the country you could hear the sheep in the fields and the air was full of nice country smells. I always remember the smell of the rosemary they planted around the building. Jenni and I would walk across a field and take a little bridge over the brook to get to the grocery store in Broadway. We'd meet people coming and going and we'd stop and say hello to them.
Just another thing to think about when you're planning your trip. It can be very economical if you're bringing a large group of people with you. And it can certainly make your stay feel more like home. You give up the luxury of people waiting on you and cleaning your room, but you also don't have to eat in restaurants or feel cramped up in a tiny hotel room. It's becoming more of a popular trend, so do a little homework when you're selecting your next destination. You might find this to be the way to go.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
|Eating vegetarian in pubs can seem tricky, but we've done alright over the years. The vegetarian items are marked with a little v, for vegetarian, even out in the countryside. Pubs are great. I love them. They're supposed to be like an extension of the family home. And many felt that way, with their little nooks and crannies, fireplaces and low ceilings. When you're in the UK, you owe it to yourself to drop in. We've had some of our best meals in little out of the way pubs, where you wouldn't expect the food to be so delicious.|
I'm not a big fan of canned soups. They're generally not vegetarian and they usually taste like can. But we've been on the go a lot this past week with the boy's birthday party and whatnot. So, I needed some quick, nutritious things to throw together. So, in a pinch, here are my recommendations.
Wild Harvest Organic is making some terrific Vegan friendly, organic soups. They have black bean, lentil, tomato, and vegetable. I picked up the black bean and the vegetable soups this week.
Wild Harvest® Organic - Black Bean Soup
Another soup I'd recommend is Wolfgang Puck's brand. They've been carrying them at our local grocers lately. They're exceptionally good soups. I particularly liked the corn chowder and old fashioned potato.
I still watch Globe Trekker, which is available on our PBS affiliate, as is Rick Steves and Rudy Maxa. The shows are very well done. I watch them as much for entertainment as anything. They have some good tips, but it's doubtful I'll ever stay in a Yurt in Mongolia and have to eat goat eyeballs for dinner. It could happen, but it's probably unlikely.
You follow a host, or traveler, like Ian, Justine or Megan as they journey through a destination, meeting locals, shopping, dining on the 'typical' food that's available. The traveler narrates and provides context to what you're seeing. They usually try some exotic dish or participate in a local activity, like scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, or Bungee jumping off a bridge. There's sometimes a little too much acting, but the show provides you with more locations than you've probably ever thought of.
If you can't find the show in your local listings, Globe Trekker has its own website now. I found it a little difficult to use, and I thought it was a drag it wasn't free, but here it is.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Here's another soup I make just about every fall. I've been adding cayenne pepper to it this year, which gave everyone a pleasant shock on Saturday night. Like any soup it's easily customizable. I've used roasted red peppers in this too.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 small red onion chopped
1 or two cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of frozen sweet corn
4 medium russet potatoes peeled and diced
2 cups of vegetable stock
4 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, stock, milk, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Be careful not to let it boil over. Once the potatoes are cooked, puree a couple cups and stir back into the pot. Adjust seasoning and serve with melted cheese on top, or maybe a little extra cayenne.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Lately I've been hearing more and more about house swapping. It's a pretty interesting concept and possibly a big cost saver to your travel budget. Your accommodations end up costing you nothing. To do it: you register with a service, post pictures of your home, and make arrangements with the owners to swap homes with them for a weekend or a couple weeks. I haven't done it myself, but something to consider.
This is a pretty good article from Travel + Leisure where the authors talk about their experience.
Special Report: House Swapping - Articles - Travel + Leisure
The Leading Swap Agencies
Each of these companies is largely Web-based and has listings that cover the world. See the FAQ sections for sample agreement forms that members use to outline the terms of their trade.
Intervac The oldest and best-known house-swap outfit, Intervac was founded in 1953 by Dutch and Swiss teachers' unions to facilitate temporary out-of-town housing for members. Twice a year the company publishes two regional catalogues that go to members for $100 a copy. Average number of listings: 10,000. 800/756-4663; www.intervacus.com; annual fee $70.
Homeexchange.com This site offers the most exhaustive guidance for would-be swappers. Average number of listings: 6,500. 800/877-8723; annual fee $50.
Homelink International Homelink also produces a directory of offerings that members receive two times a year for $45. Average number of listings: 14,000. 800/638-3841; www.homelink.org; annual fee $75.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices of veggie bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup or more buttermilk
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. I use my fingers to get everything blended, but that's up to you. Stir in cheese and bacon. Add buttermilk and 1/4 cup water, stirring just until moist. Drop dough by 2 level tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 400° for 11 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
If you're a diver, or want to become one, check out Bob's website.
Bad Leo's Diving
Long Way Down
The Amazing Race: Watch Episodes and Video and Join the Ultimate Fan Community - CBS.com
Sunday, October 18, 2009
It's that time of year again. The days are getting shorter. The leaves are turning. The air is chilly and damp. Good soup making weather. Everybody has a favorite pumpkin soup recipe. And here's mine. It's an old Rachael Ray recipe that I've been playing around with over the years. It's a quick meal, and as easy as pie.
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 red onion chopped
1 can of vegetable broth
1 can of diced tomatoes in juice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat a deep pot over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When the butter melts, add the onion and saute until tender. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans, and pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir in cream, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and a few pinches of salt. Simmer 5 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
I also picked up:
The Global Soul by Pico Ayer
Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
Kayak is a constantly evolving travel search engine. It was started in 2004 by the co-founders of Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. The site aggregates information from other travel sites, consolidators, airlines, hotel chains and online travel agencies. It's a pretty cool, intuitive site and the search engine does some of the grunt work of sorting through the clutter.
I'd read in Budget Travel magazine that Kayak is going to allow: Search Sharing, where you can share your search results with others who might be traveling with you. Search Snooping, which allows you to enter your home airport and watch as the best fares other searchers are finding from that airport pop up in real time, and Search On The Go, Kayak's iPhone app which allows for searching when you're mobile.
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Sunday, September 27, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
JetwithKids.com - Flying With Kids, Travel Products for Kids and Parents, Airport Security Tips & Rules, US Passport Requirements
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Basic Pizza Dough
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
Roll dough flat on a floured surface, like you're rolling a pizza. On one side of the dough add your filling: cheese, tomatoes, basil, olives, more cheese. You can fill it up, but don't fill it too much. Fold the dough over and pinch the sides together so there is a nice seal. Add a couple holes to vent and pop it in the oven. Mine tend to cook up nicely at 400 degrees in 30-40 minutes.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Jenni read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while we were in Sweden and really enjoyed it. She's just started book two: The Girl Who Played with Fire. I'm onto lighter fare with Long Way Down.
Friday, September 18, 2009
If anyone would like some help planning an upcoming trip, please let me know. I can use the practice!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
|You don't often get to say famous and botanist in the same breath. But Carl Linnaeus, the man who gave us the Latin naming taxonomy for plants and animals, is about as famous as they come. Take your Home Sapiens self for a walk through his gardens in Uppsala, and marvel at natures diversity. You might not see Sid viciousi and Johnny rotteni. They were ancient trilobites. But if you're lucky, you might see some mold eating beetles named: Agathidium bushi, A. rumsfeldi and A. cheneyi.|
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
1/4 cup of minced fresh parsley leaves
10 large green olives, pitted and minced
2 tablespoons of minced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed and minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Place parsley, olives, basil, capers, garlic and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Slowly beat in the 1/3 cup of olive oil. Taste and add salt if necessary. Use immediately.
5 oz of mozzarella sliced or chunked
4 large tomatoes sliced
10 basil leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 oz of butter
1 egg yolk
Mix the flour and salt, rub in the butter and egg yolk. Add a tablespoon or so of water, or enough to bind everything. Knead on a floured surface. Wrap and chill for an hour.
Roll the dough out and place into a pie pan. Prick the crust with a fork and bake for 10 minutes until firm. Remove and let the crust cool for a few minutes.
Line the crust with the mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes on top of the mozzarella letting them overlap. Dip the basil leaves in olive oil and arrange them on the tomatoes.
Scatter the garlic on top of the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper.
Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 F. Serve hot.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Having young children, you always have to be aware of the nearest bathroom. Sometimes, there just isn't one available or near enough for emergencies. Enter my favorite invention, the Travel John. This little miracle saved us many an embarrassing moment while traveling - and it's not just for kids!
From their website are the following standard features:
|•||Revolutionary "bag within a bag design"|
|•||Non-toxic, odorless, spill proof gel. It instantly gels after absorption of liquid thus making it leak-proof!|
|•||No closure needed|
|•||Waste disposal safe, simply throw away|
|•||Small and light weight|
|•||Reusable until it is full|
|•||LIQSORB® super absorbent polymer pouch included|
|•||Volume indicator included|
|•||Unisex plastic collar for easy handling|
I highly recommend this product - not only for travel, but also for every day trips. It's awesome!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
For our family trip to Sweden, we chose to stay at Scandic Sergel Plaza in the heart of Stockholm. I had researched Stockholm hotels on the web, looking for something family friendly, and knew I would choose a Scandic. Their Sergel Plaza location was recommended by Frommer's, and Frommer's has never steered me wrong, (except for that time in Monterey, CA many years ago...)
Since we had four in our party, two adults and two children, I booked a family room. This includes what they call a double bed, (which I thought was near the size of a queen bed in the States), a pull out sofa, chair, desk, satellite tv, two armoire type cabinets, a stocked (and wired for purchase) mini-bar, and a full bathroom. Breakfast was included, as well as a special gift for all children on arrival and a play area in the hotel specifically geared for younger children.
After we arrived at Arlanda Airport in Sweden, we took the Arlanda Express train to Stockholm's Central Station, (which I highly recommend.) Since we were half crazed from lack of sleep, (Brad and I can't sleep on planes), we opted for a taxi to the hotel. It was only a couple of blocks away from the station. The check in time was 2pm, and it was around 10:30am when we arrived, so we checked our luggage in their baggage room and went exploring.
First impressions: Great location! This Scandic is not only located in the heart of Stockholm, but it's also in the midst of the shopping district. Across the street is a Gallerian shopping mall with over 80 stores - enormous! H&M, Ahlens and NK are also nearby. Almost everything is within walking distance; a metro station (tunnelbana), Central Station, several ports, City Hall, tons of restaurants, parks, bus lines, the tram line and ferries.
The lobby is large and bright. Near the reception desk, there is coffee available, along with all sorts of snacks, sandwiches, salads and drinks for purchase. They also have what they call a "store", but really it's just small items to purchase on a few shelves. The items for sale are handy though; personal care items like toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo as well as toys for kids and souvenir items. The staff was friendly, efficient and spoke English very well.
Downstairs is the family breakfast area. I have to say, the star of the show was the breakfast they offered each day. What a selection! Here are a few things that were included: several kinds of yogurt, with dried fruit and nuts to add in, fresh fruit, several kinds of fresh bread and rolls, pastry, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, jams, jellies, applesauce and cottage cheese, green salad fixings, cookies and biscuits, and finally Swedish pancakes with cream and lingonberry jam. Yum! Drinks offered include coffee, many types of tea, milk, juices, chocolate milk and the ever-present sparkling water. We couldn't believe that they offered so much for the "included breakfast." And here's some video Brad took on our last day showing some of the offerings...
Our room was larger than we expected, and we found it clean and comfortable. This hotel has a lot of "green" initiatives, so we found no toiletries in the bathroom. (Actually this has been the case at most of the European hotels we've stayed at.) There was a hand soap dispenser on the wall near the sink and a "Shampoo/Shower Gel" dispenser on the wall of the shower/bath tub area. I expected this ahead of time and brought our own soap and shampoo/conditioner. One note: For those not used to European hotels, bring your own washcloths from home. They do not provide any. From what I understand, they consider it too personal an item to provide at hotels. I brought some cheap kitchen dish cloths from home. This worked out great because we each had our own color so always knew which was ours.
On arrival, a large platter was brought to our room. It had a mountain of fresh fruit, two bottles of Coke, two small boxes of chocolate truffles and two bags of Swedish candy. I can only assume this was the special gift given to children on arrival. It was a great surprise and we ate every last bit!
Our room was promptly and thoroughly cleaned each day, and the hotel staff was receptive to our request for more pillows and towels. The television had several channels (in Swedish and English) and had children's programming including the Disney channel (which was dubbed in Swedish - but our boys didn't seem to mind) and two Disney movie channels that ran a continuous loop of "Wall-E", "Bolt", and "Ratatouille" - all dubbed in Swedish. The boys were thrilled that they could see some of their favorite movies, didn't care it wasn't in English, and even picked up some Swedish words. :)
We stayed nine nights, in August, and our cost was 11,160 SEK or at today's exchange rate, $1,548.72, which costs out to $172.08 per night. (I booked early from Scandic's website and received the Early Saver rate.) Considering the location, amenities, and especially the free breakfast each day, I think we received a good deal.
Overall, I highly recommend this hotel, especially for families. For more information, please see their website.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Since the bars have vitamins and minerals, whole grains, no artificial ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats, I felt good about the boys eating them. They just thought they were getting a treat.
First of all, the flight crew were nice (shocking!) Everyone we encountered on board was professional, friendly and efficient. We were in Economy class, which usually is the pits, but considering how many people they had jammed in that section, we were made quite comfortable. Each seat had a seat-back screen with Movies, Music, Games and Flight Information. Our boys loved the fact that they could control what they did to pass the time. I think all aspects of the entertainment system were utilized. Each seat was provided with a bottle of water, which was also a nice touch. After take off, a flight attendant came around and gave each child a small toy. We didn't expect this, so the boys were very excited. They both received a Lego vehicle to build.
The drink service was similar to others I've experienced except they allowed Economy class customers to have one alcoholic beverage for free. (Brad took advantage on the way back home and had some red wine, which was very good.) The meal also surprised us... It was edible! Being vegetarians or vegans, you don't expect much from airline meals, but Brad and I both agree that SAS provided the most tasty vegetarian meals we've had on an airplane. We had ordered Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians meals for all four of us. Our entree on the flight to Sweden was roasted asparagus, potatoes and red pepper with a mild tomato sauce. There was fresh fruit, a green salad and two kinds of bread rolls with butter and brie. Brie! Can you believe it?! After dinner, we were offered coffee or tea and they came back for multiple refills. Between meals, they came through with water and a large basket of wrapped candies to choose from. Our snack before landing was a tomato and cucumber sandwich with yogurt and juice. Brad liked the sandwich, but the boys and I preferred the yogurt.
On our return trip, we had a similar experience. The meal was good; an entree of roasted vegetables in a light tomato sauce on a bed of wild rice, fresh pineapple, green salad and two pieces of bread with margarine. The snack before landing was a cheese sandwich and a fruit juice. As a treat, during the long period between the meal and snack, each child was offered an ice cream treat. Nice touch! Considering the flight back to Chicago was 9 hours, (yes, NINE hours), that extra treat perked up the boys considerably.
All in all, we give SAS a big THUMBS UP! Their staff were great, the amenities were plentiful, (even in Economy class), and the food was edible, and dare I say it, tasty.
Our trip to Sweden was wonderful. I hope we go back again some day - and if we do, we're definitely flying SAS.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
|The Kungstradgarden is a great big city park. It was always filled with people eating at the cafes or strolling with their kids in the warm summer sun. We passed it through it every day on our way around the city. The tourist office is right by the park as well. The day before we left there were stages set up for rock concerts as part of the Culture Festival.|