Archive for the ‘Memes & Quizzes’ Category


Thursday 13: The Dos and Don’ts of Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon

May 31, 2012

A couple of months ago, we went to Arizona for the express purpose of visiting the Grand Canyon. Unlike most of my impeccably planned travels, this one was seriously lacking. Hopefully you can benefit from my mistakes by following these tips.


  1. When researching the local weather, don’t check weather temps for Phoenix.  Do be sure to look at Grand Canyon weather instead.  Even though I knew there was a 4-5 hour car trip between the two locations, it did not occur to me that I could look up Grand Canyon weather.  After all, I can drive four hours from home and only have temperature variances of a few degrees.  Imagine our surprise when we left 90 degree Phoenix and drove up to the Canyon, only to be greeted by a snow storm.  We now own tacky Grand Canyon souvenir sweatshirts as a result.
  2. Do plan way in advance and stay at one of the park lodges.  (They fill up early, so it’s essential to get reservations as far out in advance as possible.)   The only other hotels nearby are going to be ridiculously expensive ($200 a night for a substandard Holiday Inn Express) and lacking in amenities.  The park lodges are less expensive, provide shuttle service around the park, and have all different types of restaurants either on site or nearby.
  3. Don’t plan to be there more than a day or so.  You can see all of the majesty and nature that the Grand Canyon has to offer in one day.  You just don’t need more time than that, unless you’re planning to do some serious hiking or exploration.
  4. Don’t eat outside of the park.  The restaurants in the hotel area just south of the park are mediocre at best and ridiculously expensive.  If you must eat at a restaurant outside the park, I recommend Wendy’s or McDonalds (which will still be more expensive than they are elsewhere in the US).
  5. Do stay hydrated.  The Arizona air can leech every bit of moisture out of you, even if you aren’t sweating away in the sun.  Keep a refillable bottle of water with you and/or stop to buy beverages often.
  6. Don’t overdo picture-taking.  I have approximately 450 photos from the Grand Canyon.  Most of them fail to capture the vastness and beauty of it.  Many are barely distinguishable from the others.
  7. Do take pictures at sunset.  The lighting is better and the colors more vibrant.  You can even book a relatively inexpensive “Sunset Tour” that will take you to various lookout points by bus at the right time for awesome photos.  (This was one of the few things I did right!)
  8. Do utilize the park’s shuttle service.  It is fast, free, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get an entertaining driver who will share some tips about seeing the park.
  9. Do take time to look at more than just the canyon/rocks.  There are California condors, ravens, and mule deer throughout the park.    There is also a Tusayan Museum and Ruin that sheds light on the Native Americans who called that area their home.
  10. If you have school age children, do have them complete the Junior Ranger program.  It’s free and it will keep the kids from getting bored.
  11. If you’re hiking down into the canyon, don’t do it on a whim and don’t underestimate the distance or time you will travel.  There was a chilling poster in one of the visitor centers about an athletic young woman, age 24, who had run in the Boston Marathon, but died on a hike into the canyon.  Why?  She under-calculated the length of her hike, and didn’t carry enough water with her.
  12. Do check out the Desert View Watchtower.  It’s an amazing, beautiful building.
  13. If you do venture into to the money-sucking town south of the canyon, do see the IMAX movie about the canyon and its explorers.  You’ll be impressed with the one-armed Civil War veteran Major John Wesley Powell, who was responsible for mapping most of the canyon.

Thursday 13: How NOT to Be a Victim of Pickpockets While Traveling Abroad

July 28, 2011

Well, here I am back from almost a week in London England.  I love England… I always have and I probably always will.  But for one day last week, my love affair with all things English nearly came to a screeching halt.  A pickpocket stole my wallet as I rode the subway back to our hotel.

Needless to say, I made some mistakes that led to this unfortunate loss.  But I also did some things right.  Here’s a list to help me remember how to keep this from happening again.

  1. Keep passports in the hotel room.  You won’t need them while you’re out and about, just at the airport.
  2. Only take one day’s worth of cash with you when you’re out.
  3. Write down your credit card company’s phone number to report lost/stolen cards.  (Visa has a toll free number from nearly every country as well.  List here.)  Keep that number in your hotel room (not, for heaven’s sake, in your wallet!)
  4. Have a backup credit card that you leave in the hotel room.  Trust me, once the stolen card is reported stolen, it will be easier to use another card than to navigate the procedures for getting a replacement card sent to you.  And while we’re on the subject, be sure to notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling out of the country before you leave so they won’t decline your charges as suspicious.
  5. Carry your cash in the front pockets of your pants.  No one can pickpocket those without it looking like a sexual assault.  🙂
  6. For ladies, use a handbag with a long strap and wear it diagonally across your torso.  This will prevent anyone from grabbing your purse and running away with it.
  7. If your bag zips, make sure that the zipper is in front where you can see it.  Never leave the opening of your purse behind you.
  8. Avoided crowded places where people will be bumping into you and it would not cause you to be alarmed.  (For instance, the subway at rush hour!)
  9. If signs are posted telling you that pickpockets operate in a certain area, take them seriously.  They aren’t posted there just to scare away the tourists.
  10. If you might forget to do #1 above, enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  (Actually, this is a good idea even if you don’t forget to do #1.)
  11. Be aware of where your wallet/money/bag is at all times.
  12. Pay attention to your instincts.  If someone’s appearance or actions strike you as even miuldly suspicious, put as much distance between them and you as you possibly can.
  13. Finally, assume that you will be pickpocketed rather than assuming you won’t be.  A little paranoia can be a good thing sometimes.  🙂

The ones I did right:  1, 6, 10, 11

The ones I did wrong, or not at all:  2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13

What it cost me:  $400, my drivers license, the airport parking lot ticket, and my credit card.  Not to mention all of the time spent calling Visa that could have been spent seeing the sights!


Thursday 13: Pet Edition

February 24, 2011

Pets have always been a big part of my life.   Like human family members, they all have their own distinct personalities and quirks.  Here are 13 of the animals I’ve been blessed to have in my family over the years.

  1. Lady.  A Dalmatian with AKC papers, her full and proper name was Firecoach Lady of Dorchester.  I remember painting her toenails on occasion, which she tolerated amazingly well.  She had a penchant for chasing cars and was hit more than once, but managed to live to be 14 years old.
  2. Spooky.  I don’t know if I will ever love a cat as much as I loved Spooky.  He was all black, and became our cat when he parked himself in the street in front of our house and held up traffic.  He had a deep, booming meow and loved to sleep under the bedcovers.  The neighborhood dogs would run up to him, barking, and he would just look at them with disdain until they gave up and left.  He was a boss cat.
  3. Squeaky.  We found Squeaky after he’d been hit by a car.  His “voice” was horribly messed up, hence the name.  He was the most easy-going cat — you could pose him, rub his belly, do pretty much anything with him and he didn’t care.
  4. Sammy.  Sammy was a Corgi/Beagle mix that was full of energy and love.  It broke my heart when she was hit by a car.
  5. Beagle.  My mom, who volunteered at the Humane Society, brought home this pregnant beagle so she wouldn’t have to have her puppies there.   She didn’t have a name, and we decided to wait and see what her personality was like before naming her.  Unfortunately, she never displayed much of a personality, so we just called her Beagle.
  6. Bertha.  One of Beagle’s pups, Bertha was my favorite.  She was the biggest pup in the litter and she was just the sweetest thing ever.  So affectionate and always happy to see me.
  7. Mocha.  Another one of Beagle’s puppies.  There was nothing she liked better than chasing tennis balls.  Throw a ball for her and she was the happiest dog on earth.
  8. Corky.  He was my roommates dog but he was so sweet that I loved him like my own.
  9. Dammit.  My first pet as an adult, he was a kitten that insisted on making noise in the middle of the night, he earned his name because I was always saying, “Be quiet, dammit,” or “Leave that alone, dammit!”  Whenever anyone asked what his name was, however, I was too embarrassed to say Dammit, so I told them it was Opie.   Dammit’s favorite place to sleep was in the bathroom sink.
  10. Daisy.  I rescued Daisy from a life on the streets when I caught her her trying to get inside the Salvation Army thrift store one winter evening.  She adores me, tolerates the other family members, and hates everyone else.  She is not the sort of cat that comes looking for affection when someone visits… but I do love her so!  She is big and fat, with a loud purr and the most expressive face I’ve ever seen on an animal.
  11. Murphy.  Our neighbor’s dog, a Border Collie, Murphy was the sweetest dog ever.  She would bark hello at me when I pulled into our driveway and whenever I petted her she would not let me stop.  She was such a mellow dog and so affectionate.  We were all so sad when she passed away last year.
  12. Valentine.  We brought Valentine home when he was 8 weeks old.  Throughout his kitten-hood and adolescence, he earned the nickname Punk because he was always into something.  Now four years old, he is slowly starting to mellow out a little bit and even gets in my lap on occasion.
  13. Sandy.  My first dog since I lived with my parents!  She is a Pekingese/Pomeranian mix (both breeds I don’t care for) and she is my baby.  As soon as I sit down in the recliner, she jumps up there with me for a cuddle.  We’ve only had her less than four months but I can’t imagine life without her.

Thursday 13: Rhymes with Crazy

December 30, 2010

I have spent nearly all of the last week doing… nothing at all strenuous.  I’ve been downright lazy, and it’s been a nice change of pace.  However, starting Monday, I really need to get off my butt and do some stuff.  Here’s what little bit I’ve been able to accomplish this week:

  1. Went to the movies with Dan and Sophia to see “Gulliver’s Travels” in 3D.  (If you’re thinking of going to see it, don’t bother.)
  2. Sleeping late in the morning…. one day until 11 AM!
  3. Staying up late at night… twice until 1 AM!
  4. Taking photographs of the Boxing Day Blizzard and its aftermath.
  5. Meeting my health insurance deductible (today I spent $1080 for five prescriptions).
  6. Laundry.  But only because I had to.
  7. Organizing Sophia’s sock drawer.
  8. Napping if I felt like it.
  9. Trying to translate the lyrics to the Annie Lennox song “Il Est Ne le Divin Enfant.”
  10. Searching for leftover turkey recipes.
  11. Had a late Christmas dinner with good friends.
  12. Had a late Christmas dinner with my mother-in-law.
  13. Watched “Madea Goes to Jail” on Netflix.  It was excellent — I just love Tyler Perry movies!

Thursday 13: Geography Edition

April 29, 2010

I’m currently hooked on playing a Facebook game called Last Letter — it’s a word game, but you have to have some knowledge of Geography in order to play.  It’s a little slice of geek heaven for me!

In honor of that game, here are thirteen obscure places you may not have heard of before … and some interesting factoids to go along with them (where possible).

  1. Eritrea — a former African colony of Italy.  Who knew Italy ever had colonies?  I first heard of Eritrea from a cab driver in DC who told me I wasn’t much of an International Affairs major if I didn’t know where Eritrea was.  (It was his homeland and I think my ignorance insulted him.)
  2. Djibouti — No trivia.  I just like saying this one.
  3. Suriname — A South American country where Dutch is the official language.
  4. Rhodesia — the name used by an unrecognized state that later became Zimbabwe.  (You can’t use Rhodesia in Last Letter.  I found that out the hard way.)
  5. Svalbard — Polar bears are one of the main tourist attractions here.  Anyone leaving a settlement is required to carry a rifle to protect themselves in the event of a polar bear attack.
  6. Guernsey — a British island that was occupied by the Germans during World War II.  (I first learned of Guernsey when I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.)
  7. Andorra — a principality stuck in the mountains between France and Spain.  Legend has it that it was granted a charter by Charlemagne in return for helping fight against the Moors.
  8. Macau — This was both the first and last European colony in China.  People in Macau have the highest life expectancy in the world (84).
  9. Liechtenstein —   the smallest German-speaking country in the world.
  10. Saint Kitts & Nevis — There is an interesting story about how Nevis got its name:  The current name “Nevis” is derived from a Spanish name Nuestra Señora de las Nieves by a process of abbreviation and anglicization. This Spanish name means Our Lady of the Snows. It is a reference to the story of a 4th century Catholic miracle: a snowfall on the Esquiline Hill in Rome. Presumably the white clouds which usually wreathe the top of Nevis Peak reminded someone of the story of a miraculous snowfall in a hot climate.
  11. New Caledonia — so named by Captain Cook because it reminded him of Caledonia (Scotland).
  12. Swaziland — this land has been continuously inhabited since prehistory (ca 25,000 BC).  Swaziland has the lowest life expectancy in the world (32).
  13. Mayotte — They had the chance to become independent in 1974 and decided not to… retaining their status as a French territory instead.

Thursday 13: Earth Day Edition

April 22, 2010

Thirteen simple things we can all do to become more environmentally aware…

  1. Recycle. There is just no excuse for not doing it if you live in a community with curbside pickup.  If, like me,  you don’t have curbside pickup, see if there are recycling receptacles near you where you can take your recyclable trash.  Also, make sure that you know what items are accepted.
  2. Recycle some more. Things that aren’t accepted at municipal recycling can still be recycled.  The Lion’s Club collects used eyeglasses.  CFL bulbs can (and, because they contain mercury, should!) be recycled (here’s how). Single use (i.e., non-rechargeable) batteries can also be recycled — to find a location near you, enter your zip code here.  Old cell phones can be sent to Cell Phones for Soldiers.
  3. Go paperless. Avoid using/collecting paper unless it’s really necessary.  A comedian once said that whenever someone handed him a flyer, it was as if they were telling him, “Here, you throw this away.”  If he’s right, and all you’re going to do is throw it in the trash, just say, “No thank you” and refuse to take it.  Make 2-sided photocopies at work.  Re-use scrap paper for notes, kids’ drawings, etc.  Pay bills online and, if possible, get your statements delivered electronically as well.
  4. Say Bye to the Bags. When packing lunches, don’t brown bag it — use a reusable lunch box or other type of insulated carrier.  (Bonus! One option is to buy really fashionable lunch totes.)  Likewise, put sandwiches in a reusable container or wrap instead of a plastic bag.  And of course, don’t forget to use re-usable shopping bags instead of the stores’ plastic ones.  I’m partial to this one from Knock Knock.
  5. Freecycle or Donate Your Stuff. That old starter furniture that you got when you first set up house on your own?  Yeah, you may have outgrown it, but that doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t use it.  Offer it on Freecycle or take it to a charity shop such as Salvation Army or Goodwill.  In either case, you will be keeping the items out of the landfill and providing them to someone who really needs them.  Old magazines can be donated to hospitals.
  6. Compost. I just started doing this.  I’m not sure how successful I will be, but I can tell you that it’s very easy to go dump your food trash in a bin outside rather than in the kitchen trash can.
  7. Don’t Live a Disposable Life. A new product being advertised, the Kleenex Hand Towel, is about as environmentally un-friendly as you can get.  If you don’t want to use a towel that other people have wiped their just-washed hands on, then get some waterless hand sanitizer. Disposable items should be avoided if you are attempting to reduce household waste. For more ideas, see this list at Blisstree.
  8. Get Less Junk Mail. Click here to get your name removed from the mailing list for those annoying credit card offers.
  9. What’s the 411? If you never use a phone book to look up numbers (I use Google instead), consider stopping delivery of the annual yellow and/or white pages books.  You can get off the distribution list here.
  10. Lights Out! Get in the habit of turning off the light when you leave a room.  Even if you think you might go back in there in ten minutes.  You can even install a motion sensor light in areas that you only pass through (stairways, halls, etc).
  11. Program the Thermostat. Switch to a programmable digital thermostat and you can set it to only run during times when you are home.  There really isn’t any need to keep the house at a certain temperature when no one is there to enjoy it, is there?
  12. Water, Water Everywhere. Use a refillable water bottle when you’re on the go.  At home and in restaurants, opt for tap water.
  13. Carpool. When a group of people are all meeting at one place, find out if anyone wants to share a ride.

Some of these things I do faithfully.  Some I’m not so good at.  But I am hoping that by this time next year I will be practicing what I preach and looking at other ways to help lessen the negative impact I have on the environment.


Thursday 13: Summer, Already?

April 8, 2010

The calendar says we’re just a week into the month of April, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather… it’s been pushing 90 degrees for the past 3-4 days here.  In order to stave off the grumpiness that hits me in hot weather, I keep trying to remind myself that spring weather surely must return at some point (hopefully, tomorrow).  On the other hand, it’s been a good way to think about what summer will be like and what our plans will be.  So, without further ado, here is a list of what I plan to do this summer…

  1. Keep the freezer well stocked with ice pops (the kool-aid in a tube kind).  They’re cheap, low cal, and cold as can be.
  2. Go to the beach enough times to justify buying a season pass.   (That would be only two or more times, but sadly last summer I bought the season pass and only went once.  Lame.)
  3. Pick lots of blueberries and make yummy stuff with them.
  4. Get the kids in the pool on really hot days… and join them!
  5. Take a portrait photography class at our community college.
  6. Research the heck out of Cornwall in preparation for our trip, and then go thereYay!!!!!!!!
  7. Get a low maintenance haircut that can withstand high humidity.  (This is always a dream, but never a reality.  I’m just a high maintenance kind of gal, I suppose.)
  8. Take the kids to the state fair, which we love but haven’t done in a few years.
  9. Take lots of pictures with my new camera and figure out how to use all of the various settings.
  10. Finish my scrapbook from last summer’s vacation.
  11. Attempt to grow my own vegetables using the square foot gardening method.
  12. Clean out the basement of all the unnecessary junk that has accumulated there for the past9 years.
  13. Have a regular Mom’s Night Out for my friends and me.