March 16 2017

Travel Tips for Parents and Everyone Else

Travel Tips

We have done a fair bit of traveling as a family and I have learned these travel tips along the way.

For Everyone:

Pack basic snacks, preferably healthy ones, for the road trip. I suggest baby carrots, celery sticks, bottled water, cheese sticks, and pretzels. This will help cut down on costs and the number of stops. Eating healthy can also help offset the extra calories we all tend to eat on vacations, just because it IS vacation and we know we deserve to treat ourselves.

When you are planning a trip, unless you already get some sort of member discount for booking hotels, you might want to consider getting a membership to your local AAA Auto Club. This can often save you at least 10% off the cost of hotel rooms or attraction tickets. The savings from one trip could well pay for the cost of the annual membership and you would still have the benefit of the roadside assistance and towing to use the whole year which can again save you to cost of the membership if you ever need to have your car towed.

Book your overnight stays before you hit the road. While I am all for being spontaneous, there is something to be said for having a guaranteed place to sleep each night. I have been on trips where we spent hours driving from one hotel to another only to find out they were filled. Nothing sucks the fun out of a trip faster than taking care of this sort of thing while actually on the road. Save yourself the stress and headaches and book ahead of time. Trust me on this. If you want to be spontaneous while on your trip, you can always change your plans but again call and make reservations for the night before you go off on the new plan. Most hotels will let you cancel a reservation without penalty as long as you do so before 6pm. If they don’t then you should know this upfront so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to stay there at all.

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Remember the games you played on car trips when you were a kid? Get the whole carload of passengers involved as you take turns trying to find the letters of the alphabet in order. There are many travel versions of family favorite games like travel bingo, checkers, chess, backgammon, Chinese checkers and more. One of the games we love playing on the road is called RubberNeckers. We picked it up at a Cracker Barrel store years ago and it stays in the pocket in the car door so it is at the ready.

For Parents with Young Children:

Get extra road maps and highlight the trip so your child can follow along. Talk about the places you are driving through as you are on the road. Get the kids interested ion maps and such early.

Consider wrapping small treats to give out every hundred miles or so. This helps keep them entertained because there is something new to hold their interest every so often. It helps the kids to track time. Discuss how many treats it will be before you arrive at your destination. This encourages counting and discourages the “Are we there yet?” whining that every child seems to feel is a necessary part of traveling.

Consider traveling at night so young kids will sleep through the better part of the driving. This can be hard for the parents because it could mean they are sleep deprived and cranky when the kids are wide awake, so use your own judgment here. You know your kids and how well they travel.

Again, consider healthy snacks and for heaven sake, avoid sugar unless you want the kids bouncing around the car for the entire trip. Think water instead of soda and fruit or raisins instead of fruit roll-ups or candy.

Keep baby wipes with you in the car at all times. These are great for so many things, but especially wiping sticky hands and faces.

For Parents with Teens:

Encourage your teen to pack their own entertainment. Headphones are your friend unless you enjoy the music your teen listens to.

Encourage them to bring along crossword puzzle books, electronic hand-held games or game systems (they may have these games on their cell phones). These can help pass the time. Our family used to bring GameBoys and Pokémon games. Don’t forget to bring books and magazines along to read. E-Readers can be great to keep them reading well after dark, but have them set the background to black or dark gray and the text to white so the glare won’t bother the driver so much.

Books on tape/CD/digital media are awesome. Have the family pick a couple of longer ones and consider listening as a group. They will be asking when you are getting back on the road again instead of are we there yet. Some of our favorites were the Harry Potter series (love listening to the accents!) and the Redwall series. Try to either make it something everyone is interested in and hasn’t read yet or a familiar favorite that you may have read but never heard read aloud.

Let the teens take turns navigating and choosing where you will stop for meals. Teens love to be independent and prove they have something to contribute.

One of our favorite apps to use while traveling is Interstate Exits Guide. This tells what restaurants and gas stations are at each exit on the major highways. It can be very handy. It also lists rest areas. Make sure your phone has a flashlight app when you travel, but it is also handy to have all the time. There is an app called HERE WeGo that allows you to download maps for entire states ahead of time and use the app offline so as not to use up your data while on the road. It goes without saying that you may need multiple chargers for the family’s electronic devices. We have used the sliding pencil cases to store cords and chargers in. These are cheap and easy to throw into a backpack or duffel bag while still keeping cords contained and tangle free.

Where ever you travel remember to be safe.

February 17 2017

Bullet Journal – January Flip Through

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I originally began bullet journaling back in October 2016, but because I was using the Lime Green Leuchtturm1917 A5 Hardcover Lined Journal that I had on hand, I didn’t feel like I could really do the spreads right without having the dots or graph lines to help me. I did the best I could but in the back of my mind I kept telling myself that maybe I should/would treat myself to a dotted Leuchtturm1917 in Purple with Christmas money and start the new year fresh in a new journal. As it turns out my son somehow ordered exactly that for me as a gift so all I had to do was wait not so patiently for it to show up at my door. It came just in time to take it on our weekend cabin getaway over the new year.

I know how much I like seeing what other people choose to out in their permanently-bound bullet journals. The fact that it was important enough to use one of the pages in their journal means it is worth looking at in my opinion. So I thought maybe I would share mine too.

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January 12 2017

​SMART Goals 2017

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Ok, we have a new year and that means I need to bunch of new goals. I have been setting goals for years, but it seems I write them down, post them to the group that asks us to set the goals and then proceed o forget all about them until December when I dig them up and look them over to see if I have managed to actually, accidentally get any of them done. Usually, the only ones I got accomplished were the ones I would have done anyway because I certainly wasn’t deliberately trying o get any of my goals done. I decided that since I found this shiny new obsession called bullet journaling, that perhaps I would do well to really think about my goals before setting them this year and once they were recorded in my bullet journal I should actually try to actively get them done this year.

So I saw some folks in the bullet journal community talking about the importance of setting SMART Goals. So I, of course, Googled it and came up with lots of helpful websites and graphics. I decided I liked the looks of one of them so I saved it and tried to stick to what it said when it came to creating my goals this year. I will include the graphic in this post in case you want to see if the goals you have set for yourself are SMART Goals.

So, I won’t bore you by telling you what makes a smart goal because you can read them for yourself in the colorful graphic.
I split my goals into categories. I’m not sure why, but I’ve done this a few times before, so decided to stick to the established system this year because it seemed like a decent idea at the time.

FAMILY FUN GOALS:
1) Do a cabin weekend
2) April trip
3) Annual Hockey Trip for the kids’ birthdays

You are probably saying that these sound easy enough and you’d be right. I actually marked the first one off after New Year’s weekend because hubby and I decided the cabin was the way we wanted to celebrate the new year. (See my previous post and pictures of the cabin.) We already have the April trip planned because we planned it during our trip last April. The hockey trip is a matter of hubby and the two grown kids settling on a NY Rangers game that fits everyone’s schedule and is somewhere in the midwest. We actually did the 2015 trip in March 2016 and the 2016 trip in November 2016 because that was the way it worked out with the NHL hockey season schedule.

FITNESS GOALS:
1) Get 6 hours of sleep a night
2) Drink 6 cups of water a day
3) Continue using MyFitnessPal app

None of these is easy for me. I usually drink only water after work, but almost never drink water earlier in the day because I need my caffeine fix and so I drink my unsweetened iced tea instead. Yes, someday I will need to break the caffeine addiction, but this is not the year for that goal. I log into MyFitnessPal daily when I am at home, if nothing else, to record my weight each day. I am trying to do better about recording what I eat and drink in the app because I know when I do so regularly and stay within the caloric recommendations, I can lose weight. The sleep thing I have been trying to do better about since before I had kids (25 years ago) and it just isn’t happening, but I continue to try.

HOUSE GOALS:
1) Clean out my home office
2) Declutter the landing
3) Declutter my clothes

My office is an eight-foot square that was, in a former life, a breakfast nook. It has a built in china cabinet, an L-shaped desk, half of which has a hutch attached to it, three file cabinets with six drawers of files and four drawers of assorted junk between them and my desk has one of those long drawers for pens and such too. I am very good at cramming a lot of stuff in a small amount of space, unfortunately. Most of the stuff is just there at this point and needs to be gone through, sorted and decluttered. The clothing can always use a good culling. The landing is full of furniture waiting for the master bedroom to be gutted and rebuilt from the studs out. Seriously lofty, those goals!

PERSONAL GOALS:
1) Do some genealogy
2) Take three writing classes 
3) Read for thirty minutes a day

I was looking at the website just yesterday to see what classes are being offered at the local writers center. Reading is not hard, but I don’t always make time for it every day and I really should. I used to do genealogy all the time, it was my passion from the time I was in fifth grade until I started working full-time over ten years ago. I miss it, I can’t remember where I left off so jumping back into it might be difficult.

SPIRITUAL/CHARITY GOALS:
1) Pray daily
2) Read 15 inspirational fiction books
3) Crochet 26 hats to donate to charity (12 of 26 done)

Ok, so I already pray daily, but perhaps I should expand my prayer list a bit. I prefer to read inspirational fiction but want to make sure I am reading mostly in this genre. I attend three crochet/knit meetings a month where I can usually get an entire hat crocheted, but I don’t always get to attend the meetings and don’t always finish a hat at each meeting. I have already completed four hats this year toward the goal. Hats are my thing, I rarely deviate from the one hat pattern. Carpel tunnel could be a serious issue in achieving this goal.

WRITING GOALS:
1) Finish one of my previous NaNoWriMo novels
2) Publish something
3) Participate in NaNoWriMo (and hopefully win again)

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I LOVE NaNoWriMo! I have participated and won for the past four years. I have four unfinished manuscripts (just over 50k words each) to show for my efforts along with one Camp NaNoWriMo unfinished manuscript (just over 30k words) and a non-fiction book as yet unfinished. Thus, goal number one. Once that is completed, it would be nice to actually publish one of those six books. That goal could also mean writing and publishing a short story or article of some kind. Come November, I will be writing another 50,000 words on some new project.

So those are my 2017 goals for what it’s worth. The thing I’m not good at it checking in on those goals occasionally and planning to make sure they get accomplished. If you have any tips or tricks for how to actually get yourself to accomplish the goals, please contact me by email or leave a comment.

December 18 2016

​When you can’t find time to write…

Make a writing date with someone else who needs to write, go to Panera or some other writing-friendly place that doesn’t mind if you hang out for a couple of hours. Take out your notebook and pen, laptop, tablet or whatever your writing tools of choice are and do word sprints together. Mix it up, start with some short 5-10 minute sprints then do a longer one, maybe 25 minutes. Have a goal in mind. Maybe your goal is writing and editing an entire blog post, or writing your holiday newsletter, or a short story or article.
Have a goal and set aside some time to write with other writers. Make it a regular writing date.
We started a group after NaNo last year and we meet every Thursday night at a Panera (we rotate amongst a few local ones on an odd schedule) and we write. I get my dinner and eat it then I won’t let myself eat the 99 cent pastry I always let them talk me into until I have written at least 500 words for the night. Some Thursdays we have just 1 or 2 of us, sometimes we have as many as 8. It is sad when I am the only one to show up, but I have made the comittment to show up and write and I just do the writing sprints anyway, then maybe during the breaks between sprints, I grab a drink refill or read some in whatever book I am currently reading. When we have more people, we can chat and catch up between sprints, but during those sprints we write.
Our Thursday Nights Writing @ Panera Group has a closed Facebook group page just for us where we can post the events, let each other know which of several Paneras we are meeting at that week and also post who is going to be able to get there and who will be elsewhere that week.
Being part of the Thursday writers group has made all the difference in making me into a year-round writer instead of a November only writer. If you don’t have local friends, make a virtual date and meet via Skype, or Google Hangouts or FaceTime or whatever. Hold each other accountable, show up and write. It works. For me, writing is a group thing. I used to get really down after November because all the hype of NaNoWriMo was over and I needed that energy to write, having a regular writing date each week has made me keep writing in my life throughout the year. Make no mistake, I don’t write with the frenzy or frequency during the rest of the year that I write during November, but the meetings of fellow writers once a week means that no matter what else is going on in my life during the week, on Thursday, I will take the time to write.
Basically, everyone has time to write if they want to write. You may easily find excuses as to why you have no time, but they are just that…excuses. I have dragged my computer to work with me in November and written while I ate lunch during my 30 minute lunch break. Give an honest look at how you send your time. Do you watch tv? Are you on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube or Twitter? Do you check your emails. Chat on the phone, text back and forth with friends? Read the newspaper, magazines or books? You can choose to do these things or you can choose to write. Not writing is a choice you have been making, I guarantee if you REALLY want to write, you will find a way to do so just like you find a way to do other things you want to do. If you have to, carry a notebook and pen with you into the bathroom and multi-task for 10 minutes a day. Ok, you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone there. My point is you CAN find time to write, you just have to want to write.
The real question here is, what are you willing to give up or cut back on to MAKE time to write? Think of all the time you would have to write if you gave up making excuses and just do it!