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. Continue reading

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.

January 5 2017

Weekend Getaway

So, the hubby and I did something really cool this year over New Year’s weekend. We decided we wanted to get away from the city and we went to a cabin for the long weekend with no television, no WiFi, and sketchy cell coverage. It was great!
We ate at the local Pizza King on the way into town Friday night. It was the only thing open besides maybe a bar or two. Even the grocery store was closed already and it wasn’t nine o’clock yet. We brought a bit of food from home, but would need to visit the grocery store once it reopened on Saturday.
The cabin came equipped with two twin beds, a queen bed and a queen sofa sleeper, but you must bring your own sheets and blankets. It also has a coffee maker and filters, a two-slice toaster, a microwave, as well as a full-sized stove and refrigerator. Hey even supply the basic pots and pans, but you must bring your own food, drinks, plates, silverware and cooking utensils. We usually bring an electric teapot and at least a cookie sheet. When we grocery shop, we try to buy things that don’t require much in the way of seasoning or condiments so we don’t need to buy all that stuff and haul it back home or throw it out.
Now you might be asking why we would want to get away only to have to cook our own meals, and have nothing to entertain ourselves with. Well, the biggest reason is to get away from the stress of work and the idea that if we are home for the long weekend, we should be working on unfinished home improvement projects. So hubby and I have been to these particular cabins numerous times over the years so we know what we are getting into and how to pack for the trip. We keep plastic tubs stocked with the bedding needed for all the beds at the cabin, so when the time comes we just grab the tub and load it in the car. We have in years past, when the kids were much younger, brought along portable DVD player and several movies they wanted to watch. The problem with that is the screen was barely big enough for one person to watch at any given time. We both brought along our laptops, hubby so he could play games that didn’t require internet and me so I could write, though I barely go mine out and did no writing. Hubby brought along two Christmas themed jigsaw puzzles that have been in the family and traditionally get worked almost every year. We worked one on Saturday night, then hubby put it away before breakfast on Sunday morning. We, of course, brought a few books and magazines to read. I brought along my crochet basket and managed to get three hats made. I also took my bullet journal stuff so I could work on the spreads for the new year. We thought we might go hiking but never got around to it. It was very relaxing, nothing planned except make simple food when we got hungry. It was very quiet, nobody visiting, no extra people around to keep us from some much-needed rest. This is the first time we have gone to this particular park without at least our two kids, who are now adults, along for the fun. It was very different this time, but in a good way. I could see a bunch of writers getting together and renting one or more cabins for a weekend to just write. It would take some planning and cooperation if six writers were to all stay in one cabin, but it could really be fun. So, if you need a chance to just get a way and have never been to a state park cabin for a weekend, you really should give it a try.
Note: The photos below were taken at Whitewater Memorial Park in Liberty, Indiana.
 
September 12 2016

​Beautiful, but not Functional

Today I am writing from a king bed room inside the Baymont Inn & Suites in Alsip, Illinois. We stayed the night last night. We got a good rate and didn’t have to pay for parking and they had a free shuttle hubby could take to Midway Airport so he could catch the train into downtown Chicago. When we got here, it was obvious they were remodeling and had already finished the lobby areas. We got up to our room on the third floor with all our luggage. It took about ten tries between the two key cards we were issued before we were able to get into our room. No problem we will let them know as we leave for dinner. We told the nice lady at the front desk and she made us two new key cards, no problem. The new keys had the same problem but we were able to get in after a few tries again finally after dinner.

We had settled into our room and realized that while the room looks very pretty, fresh and clean, the chairs are not at all comfortable to sit in. The “easy” chair had a nice chunky footstool and the cool little table perfect for a laptop computer tucked under the footstool. I thought it would be great. At first I sat down and it was ok, but quickly realized the table wasn’t able to get near enough to the chair to actually use for a laptop until I lifted the right front leg of the chair and slip the corner of the table base under it. That seemed to solve the problem well enough. The foot stool was quite functional and might have actually been the more comfortable seating option. Hubby complained about the desk chair but I didn’t get a chance to use it until today and when I sat down it leaned back right away. I finally found the lever that keeps it from leaning back and it is now tolerable. It is not however cushioned in any way, not is it particularly comfortable to lean back against the back of it. It is functional and at least the correct approximate height needed for the desk provided.

When I finally gave up and went to bed last night, I realized quickly that this bed is NOTHING like the sleep number bed we have at home. This bed is hard as a rock and not at all comfortable. I know given the bed we finally splurged on at home, this will an issue when we stay the night away from home. But come on, this is not Bedrock and I am not Wilma Flintstone. I, at least, have some padding on my bones. Not that it helped.

Hubby took the first shower so he could grab breakfast and catch his train into downtown. He said the water pressure was lacking and he never complains about things like that. The room we are in is obviously one of the newly remodeled ones. Everything looks spiffy and clean. The shower is brand new. The shower head looks fine. The water does not come out of it straight ahead like you might expect, but barely makes it out at all before heading straight for the shower floor. The pressure is so weak, I doubt you would even need to close the slide shower door. The water never gets close to that far away from the shower head. If this were a tub/shower we would at least have the option of washing our hair while bent over the side, but the water only comes out of the shower head and even at the full-on position the water was very weak indeed. Usually we have this trouble in cabins in state parks where they just need to replace the limed up shower heads or clean them in vinegar for a while. This was a brand new shower head. It didn’t even have more than one setting, which is normally my way of dealing with lack of water pressure. There is usually one setting that puts out more water than then rest. Nope. This hotel remodel was done with simplicity in mind. The choice you have is to stay or go.

I don’t blame the hotel staff for this, they didn’t pick the beds, chairs and shower heads. They probably have never even been allowed to test them, so they don’t know. Does one complain about this sort of thing? Would it do any good? I mean they just spent all this money on remodeling and I doubt they would pull the chairs and replace them with something more comfortable. The shower head might be fine with tons of water pressure behind it. No, I blame the designers who decided this was a good chair design. The interior decorators who planned what to buy for these hotel rooms, the hotel chain who gave them their budget constraints or OKed the purchase of these uncomfortable beds and chairs in the first place are also to blame. Maybe we should even blame the plumbers who installed the shower heads, just because water comes out doesn’t mean it works right. If they were trying to be green and save water, they could have used less to flush the toilets.

OK, so enough about who is to blame. We came, we saw and we gave them a try. Will we stay here again? Not if I can help it.

The staff was very nice, the breakfast was adequate, but lousy showers and hard uncomfortable beds are too much to overlook. I have a choice, and would not choose to stay in this particular Baymont Inn & Suites again. I would still give others a try, but not this one. I give them 2 stars out of 5 for reasonable rates, friendly staff and cleanliness. Beautiful, but not user friendly or functional in my opinion.