All posts by Cami

Itchin’ for a Vacation

So I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I totally have a good excuse.  Well, I think it’s a pretty good excuse.  We went on a trip to Las Vegas for a few days.  Super fun.  We stayed at Tahiti Village.  Have you been there?  It’s awesome.  It’s at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard by the outlets.  There are two different sizes of condos and they have everything you need.  Lots of activities and a lazy river and a pool that even has sand on one side of it to play in.  It was wonderful and relaxing and so awesome.  They serve drinks by the pool and thought I was totally crazy when I asked for mine virgin. But hey, it was super yummy, and saved me over half the money!

Then we decided that since we were only 4 hours from California, we should totally run down there for a night and go to Universal Studios (hello, these season passes – that I told you about last time – aren’t going to use themselves!) Well, since it was so spur of the moment, we didn’t have a great hotel or anything lined up and wound up staying in a not-so-great place.  Ew…I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about it.  So anyway, we all came home from our wonderful vacation and realized we were covered in a rash….and it wasn’t going away.  Well, I bet you guessed it.  Bed Bugs.  AHHHHHH.  So horrid.  It makes me feel ill just thinking about it.  AND, we brought them home with us.  So we totally had to scrub and clean and sanitize and even call the exterminator to get rid of them.  They did a great job and we’re finally free from those nasty little pests and ready to plan our next vacation….camping on the beach in California.  So excited!!

Have you suffered from these nasty bugs?  What do you do to help prevent them going home with you?  Seriously!  I DON’T want to do that again! Happy travels!

A Trip for the Kiddos

Every year we buy more (pardon my French) CRAP for Christmas than we ever need.  I just get so caught up in the whole feeling of giving and I just want to do stuff for my kids cuz I love those little punks.  So this year, we decided to give them memories instead.  At the moment, they are all way into Harry Potter.  We just finished reading the last book as a family a few months ago.  And since we’re only 6 hours from LA, we decided we would take them to Universal Studios Hollywood as their Christmas gift this year.  That was literally all they got….well that and some socks and underwear and a little spending money.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened less than a year ago, and we really wanted to see it. It didn’t disappoint!

Oh, it was so awesome watching their happy little faces when they opened their tickets.  Our 14 year old literally started to cry because she was so excited.  I love when we manage to find that right gift like that!  We actually wound up buying season’s passes.  They were cheaper than even just going for two days, so it made sense.  And now we can go back a few more times this year.  Where they really get you is in the things you buy there: parking, food, souvenirs, etc.  So with just a little preparation, you can save a some money on some of those things….eat breakfast before you go and pack a lunch and snacks, maybe leave the park for dinner and a little break.  If you know you’re going to want to have a cloak and a wand (or whatever your favorite thing might be…) but you don’t want to shell out $200, buy them on Amazon or make them before you go.  BUT maybe you want to just enjoy every single minute of that place and buy all the awesome souvenir’s and eat all the good food they have.  In that case, I recommend an interactive wand that you can use at a lot of different store fronts (so fun) and definitely eat at the Three Broomsticks. YUM!  That food did not taste like “park food”.  They also had super delicious (and HUGE) donuts in Simpson land.

Universal Studios definitely isn’t for little kids, or people who get super sick on rides (aka, it’s not Disneyland).   It’s crowded and crazy with lots of long lines (unless you want to shell out a bunch of extra moolah for the front of the line passes… we found the single rider lines to work well for us with out the extra cash) but even with those drawbacks, we sure had a blast.  We loved the magic of Harry Potter land (and my son LOVED riding Jurassic Park over and over and over) and we can’t wait to go back….and hopefully make it to Universal Studios Orlando one of these years!

What’s your favorite amusement park?

I’d rather be travelling…

Again with the long absence from this blog! Sorry about that. I wish I could say I’ve been off traveling, but alas, I can not.

But if I could I would want to be in Italy. I just think Italy during Christmas would be the perfect combination of exotic and nostalgic. Exotic because it’s somewhere I’ve never been. Nostalgic because it’s Christmas.

And speaking of nostalgia, I thought I would post some traditions from around the world. Enjoy!

  • In South Africa, they eat deep-fried caterpillars. I think I’ll stick with the cookies and milk, thanks.
  • Krampus – You’ve probably heard of this one thanks to the latest Hollywood horror flick. But if you don’t know, Krampus is the “anti-Claus” in Austria. He comes on Christmas eve and beats naughty children with branches…or worse. Silent night is right! Don’t make a noise or else Krampus will get you!
  • In Norway, they hide and lock up all the brooms so that no evil spirits or witches will get them. No cleaning on Christmas? Let’s celebrate the season all year long!
  •  Mass is pretty traditional right? Well what if you traveled to Mass via rollerskates? If you live in Venezuela you would!
  • Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree and in the morning if you are the first child to find it, you win a prize. Not sure if that is Kosher, but there you have it.
  • In Portugal, they have a special feast on Christmas morning in which they remember their dearly departed loved ones by setting a place for them at the table. Little bit of Halloween…a little bit of Christmas…I like it!
  • Who knew the Brits were so superstitious? Across the pond they have a tradition that says each member of the family has to stir the Christmas pudding in a clock-wise direction and make a wish while doing it.

I’m sure you could find more of these on the interwebs, but why not take a moment and tell me what some of your favorite (or weird) Christmas traditions are.

Phew…it’s been awhile.

Sorry, all my traveling friends. It’s been awhile. I guess life just got busy. But enough excuses! On to the reason why you’re here!

I recently noticed something about most of the hotels I stay at.

The smell.

No, I’m not talking about the chlorine smell that hits you when you walk by the hotel pool or laundry. I’m also not talking about the chemical smell that you sometimes catch in the freshly scrubbed bathroom. The smell I’m referring to is the one that hits you in the lobby when you go to check in. “And what smell is that,” you ask?

Cookies. Is it just me or are more and more hotels offering freshly baked warm chocolate chip cookies? Seriously, at the last 5 hotels I visited, I was offered a fresh chocolate chip cookie!

Is it just me or are more and more hotels offering freshly baked warm chocolate chip cookies? Seriously, at the last 5 hotels I visited, I was offered a fresh chocolate chip cookie!

Don’t get me wrong, I was pleasantly and deliciously surprised each time. I’m just wondering when this trend started. And maybe this is just me, but at each hotel I thought it was kind of cool that the cookies were stashed in what looked like a heated drawer. Where can I get one of those? I mean, come on! I could see a lot of different uses for a heated chest of drawers that stretch beyond baked goods. Warm underwear anyone?

Then when I got home I had an epiphany. ‘Tis the season for lots of family get-togethers, right?  Well, why not create the same deliciously pleasant sense of “home” by making sure to have cookies baking when my guests arrive?!

I think it’s genius. My only two concerns are these:

  1. Where can I get that heated drawer? Seriously. Anyone?
  2. What if I inadvertantly impress my guests so much that they over stay their welcome?

I guess that’s a risk I’m just going to have to take.

Happy Holidays friends!

Post Vacation Blues

vacation

So, I just got back from a lovely vacation.  Well it was more of a “staycation” but it was still lovely. I went down to Vegas for a couple days of rest and relaxation. And it was while I was in the middle of ordering a poolside drink that something hit me:

“I have to go back to real life tomorrow!”

I tell you what, there are a lot of thoughts that can ruin a perfectly awesome day, but none quite so thoroughly as the thought of having to return to real life after a great vacation…staycation…whatever.

Maybe the worst part? Walking in the door to a dirty house.

I was in such a hurry before my trip that I didn’t take the time to clean. And I regret it. It’s not like I left open milk cartons and dirty socks laying around, but that is exactly the smell that assaulted me as I walked in my door. Ugh.

There is a spot on my carpet and I’m pretty sure is new. When I say new, I mean I don’t remember it so it had to have happened while I was away. Scary thought, that. I guess the good news is that I’ve got a friend who is a St. George carpet cleaner (you know who you are…Antonio!) who I’m calling as soon as I’m done writing this post.

Unfortunately I’m sure he’ll only want to clean the spot on my carpet. I wonder if he accepts bribes? Maybe if I offer him enough, he would clean the rest of my house too.

Anyway, I guess the point of this post-vacation rant is to say this:

Take the time…NO! Make the time to clean before you go.  I’m not saying a clean house will completely eliminate the post vacation blues, but it will definitely go a long way to assuaging some of it.

 

“No offense…”

Have you ever noticed how some things we say as a culture are just absurd? I’m not talking about idioms like, “By the skin of my teeth” or, “A dime a dozen”. No, those sayings are okay. I get that they are trying to convey a deeper meaning. The stupid stuff I’m talking about are things like saying, “Just joking” after every sentence especially when you know they aren’t joking. There is one in particular that kind of chaps my hide: “No offense but…” Anytime anyone uses that phrase you know they are about to say something offensive.

Okay, rant over.

The reason I bring it up though is because I’ve noticed that a lot of cultures around the world are very blunt and they truly mean “No offense” by it. For example, I spent a good deal of time in Brasil. I loved everything about it but there were obviously some things that took some getting used to. Not being offended was one of them. Brazilians are blunt…no, that’s not the right word. Honest. Yeah, that’s better. Brazilians are honest. If you’ve got a pimple on your nose they will totally point it out. “Wow man, that pimple on your nose is huge.” And I honestly feel like they don’t mean to be, well, mean or offensive. They just tell it the way it is.

My personal experience was that I gained about 15 kilos while I was there (that’s about 30 pounds). The good news is that I got a bug a couple months before I left and lost it all, but that’s beside the point. I started splitting some of the pants I had brought and was feeling a little self-conscious about it. One day I noticed people who knew me started calling me, “Fofinho”. I had never heard the word and so asked what it meant. The lady who called me that a lot explained that it meant, “something fluffy and plump”.

Ouch.

But, I soon realized that they weren’t calling me that to be mean. Really. They were actually trying to be nice. I later learned that calling someone fofinho is like calling someone cute and fluffy, not fat. As a matter of fact, if you type in the word, fofinho into a Google search the first image you get is a cute little pig. There’s even a brand of toilet paper called, “Fofinho”. Brazilians just call it like it is.

I guess my travel advice would be this: when you travel someplace that has different customs, don’t be offended by the ones that you don’t like. Afterall, they may just be trying to tell you the truth in a kind way. Besides, you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Totally Sick!

We’ve all gotten sick on vacation before.  Sometimes it’s jet lag (even just a couple of hours throws me for a loop), sometimes it’s sea sickness (oh man, I went on a cruise and we were in the tail end of a hurricane….everyone was sick…everywhere), let’s just get this one out there….sometimes traveling can cause some serious constipation…yep I said it, but often it’s an upset stomach, possibly severely upset.  It’s the last one we’ll talk about today. (Though each one of these other mentions deserves a post too!)

So how do we fight this?!? Maybe we’re not used to the water in the area, or maybe the water isn’t really clean (depending on where  you’re traveling). I know we hear stories of water bottles being filled directly out of the tap, but if you’re going to drink water (and we all need water!), a water bottle is still the safest way to go.  Unless you’re in a third world country, then I would recommend getting a filter water bottle or purifying tablets and clean everything you put in your mouth.  I don’t even run my toothbrush under the water in the sink….rinse with a water bottle!

When I was in Egypt, we were told to drink a bottle of Coca-Cola with every single meal because it would kill a lot of the stuff in our stomach.  (That’s comforting……)  And when I was in Cancun, one night we all ate at this delicious little restaurant and were all SICK shortly after.  One girl I was traveling with had a bottle of Cipro antibiotics and we all took one.  The next morning, we were good to go.  She said her doctor gives them to her every time she leaves the country and that it always works for her.

These are just a few suggestions. What else do you recommend to fight off the upset stomachs from eating and drinking different foods?

Travelers Checks???

Years and years ago (pre-digital age) when I was in high school, my mom and all of her sisters and my girl cousins who were my age went on a cruise… a “sister’s trip” (with a few extra of us younger girls included).  We we to the western Mediterranean.  I think my favorite stop on that cruise was Grand Cayman.  Swimming with the sting rays was amazing.  For money purposes, we took Travelers Checks. They are kind of like a check (need signatures and ID from the owner), but can be used as cash. You would just go to your bank before your trip and get as many travelers checks (in any denomination desired) printed (prepaid, at the bank) and then used like cash that you signed.  Every place I visited took them!  It was pretty slick.  They were super convenient because they literally worked like cash, but if they got lost or stolen, they couldn’t be used.  And when you got home, the bank would replace them.  It was a safe way to carry money..,.safer than cash and better than risking not being able to find an ATM or a place that took a debit card (yes, it was hard to deal with credit/debit cards once upon a time).  So we loved our travelers checks.

Travelers checks can still be found today, but not very easily.  Today, you can get something that works like travelers checks, but is more universal. You can now get prepaid debit cards from MasterCard, Travelex, Visa, and AmEx (and probably more places…but I’d stick with big companies) that have chips and work like a regular debit card, but like travelers checks, they have zero liability.  If they get lost or stolen, you get all your money back.  This is very convenient if you’re traveling someplace that isn’t very safe.  And Travelex is pretty cool, because it can even carry up to six different currencies on one card.  They can all be reloaded, and all have regular ATM fees.  They aren’t attached to your bank account at all.  So if you’re looking for a safe way to carry money on your trip, check these different cards out!

Rio, Baby!

rio

I know the summer games ended a month ago, but I just love Brasil!!  The people, the culture, the language, the amazing beaches, and oh the food! So I wanted to give a shout out to one of my favorite countries out there.  I was able to spend quite a bit of time in Southern Brasil. I’d love to go back and see the north… maybe even see the Amazon…but I’m totally freaked out by crazy things that might be hiding in there.  So I’m trying to build up the guts for that one. Anyway, I absolutely fell in love with the food.  The aromas of breads and fruits and even garlic in some places.  I’ll never forget an experience I had with some sugar cane though….let’s just say you shouldn’t drink too much of that stuff no matter how delicious it is (unless you’re doing a cleanse). Anyway, I just wanted to share ONE of my favorite recipes from Brasil.  It’s a staple there, that’s why I picked it.  (Though in Rio, this would be considered poor man’s food.) They make it with the pig snout and ears and everything…to add flavor, they don’t eat that part.  But I just stick with salt pork.

Feijao

2-3 cups sorted, rinsed dry black beans                                                                 1 salt pork (or bacon, if you can’t find salt pork)                                               1 large sausage, sliced                                                                                                       1 medium onion, chopped                                                                                               2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                             water to cover everything by 2-3 inches                                                           ~3 Tablespoons flour (mixed with water to form a paste) to thicken after it’s cooked, if needed

Cook for 1 hour in a pressure cooker (after pressurized).  Add flour mixture if it’s too runny when it’s all done.  Simmer, pull out salt pork and serve over rice.

Gostoso! Desfruta! (It’s delicious! Enjoy!)

Finding the Perfect Hotel

Hotels make a huge difference in our experience while we’re traveling, right?  When we got married, we were brokety-broke.  Just young college students who lived on love and Ramen.  Shortly after we were married though, I had a training in Vegas for work.  My hubby was able to join me.  We stayed in a suite in the Venetian (when it was pretty new…) that was AMAZING.  Like, wow.  Talk about luxury.

When I finished the training, we decided we were only five hours from Disneyland and we should just jet down there for the day.  What the heck, we were young and up for an adventure.  Well, we drove during the night, but got to Anaheim at about 2 am.  It’s not exactly easy to find a hotel in Anaheim at 2 am….especially before internet was on cell phones.  We finally found a place with vacancy.  WHAT A DIVE!  Oh my goodness.  Smokey, cock-roach-infested, dirty, smelly, gross, with an animal of some sort living in the radiator (no joke, it reached it’s little paw or something out to claw around….AHHHH!) The shower…..so crap-a-nasty I could hardly handle it.  But after sleeping in that bed, I needed a hot shower and scrub with some soap.  We survived.  And we had a blast at Disneyland.  But wow, hotels seriously make a difference.

We definitely have been blessed to travel, but we don’t have a lot of money.  So most everything we do is frugally.  I’ve discovered that I love HOTELS.COM.  This site rocks!  It gives you lots of options and compares prices at other websites. I always read reviews.  I think those are the best judge of what you’re getting.  I also always look for places with free breakfast…because…FREE….   And the more you use it, the more free nights you earn.  It’s my go-to.  I spend time shopping around, but I’m definitely not a pro.  Do any of you have any tips for finding hotels? What do you do?  What do you recommend?