Whew!

I still have a job.

My sincere thanks to all of you for your prayers.  I did feel their influence while I was on my trip, and I think you all helped me crystallize my thoughts on the moving decision.  I’ll expand on this in a later post, but for now, everything’s fine and I’m going to relax after having been up half the night worrying last night.  :)

Prayer Request

Just giving you a quick update before I go on vacation.  I had a horrific day at work yesterday and I think I will not have a job to return to next week.  Please pray for my career and help me discern where God wants me to go next.

Answer Me This: All Quiet on the Western Front

Since it’s Sunday and unlike TCIE and Simcha Fisher, I have no exciting news to share, I’m doing Answer Me this again.

An approximation of the likelihood of me getting pregnant.  Image by Flickr user id-iom.

An approximation of the likelihood of me getting pregnant. Image by Flickr user id-iom.

1. What is your favorite room in the house?  The kitchen!  I love experimenting with new food, I love the fellowship of cooking a meal with someone, and I love looking out the back window at my garden.

2. Do you subscribe to any magazines or other periodicals?  Yes.  I get a trade journal that I do my best to keep up with for continuing education purposes.  I also get Glamour, a guilty pleasure, and Mother Earth News, which has excellent gardening and DIY advice.  Sometimes I see the latter two on my coffee table and think they’ll spontaneously combust.

3. How do you feel about the sign of peace in Mass? Enriching? Awkward? Overdone? Just right? Some combination of the above?  The sign of peace can be really awkward when you’re at Mass by yourself (which I usually am when I’m not in the choir loft).  “Which person do I turn to first?  The person on my left has to shake hands with their spouse and 50 kids before mine, and the person on my right has to hug their boyfriend. Great, now I’m standing here holding out my hand like a dork!  Somebody shake my hand!  Oh, good, it’s the Lamb of God.”  So, yeah, I don’t really like it, but that’s mainly because I’m a socially awkward dork.

4. What is your least favorite sound?  Today, It’s the sound of the words, “You’re next!”

Sorry.  Bad mood.  On other days, it’s the sound of a ringing phone because I hate talking on the phone, and at my job, we go through stretches where the phone rings every 30 seconds.  Usually during these times, it’s somebody calling asking me to fix something they can do themselves, or ask me to do something I’ve already done, and after about the 5th one of these calls, it gets really difficult to be patient.

Ring one more time and I'll throw you across the room, phone.

Ring one more time and I’ll throw you across the room, phone. Photo by Flickr user Richard Stebbing

5. What was your favorite TV show (or shows) growing up?   The Cosby Show!  I watched every episode, and nowadays if I have a sick day, I try to find it on TV.  The Huxtables were the ultimate TV family.  I also watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons, especially Garfield and Friends and The Smurfs.

6. What are your favorite TV shows now?  Netflix and my DVR are my friends – DH and I tend to binge watch one day of the week and the TV remains off the rest of the week.  In no particular order, I/we like:

  • Mythbusters
  • Doctor Who
  • Mad Men
  • The Profit
  • Sherlock
  • Downton Abbey

Also, anything on the Smithsonian channel will keep us entertained.

For more Answer Me This fun, visit Kendra at Catholic All Year!

 

Car-Free Vacations: The Hows

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed why car-free vacations are a good idea.  In part 2, I’ll talk about how to make them work.

Before You Go:

1. Do your research.  Some subway systems use paper tickets.  Others, like the London Underground or the Washington, D.C. Metro use plastic cards that you add money to and refill periodically.  Go to the city’s public transportation website and learn which system they use and how to purchase tickets or cards.  Do this well in advance, too – in some cities (such as D.C.) you can buy a travel card at the airport, but in others (such as London) you must purchase your cards before your trip and have them sent to your home.  If you’re going somewhere for the first time, you may want to learn the process of entering/exiting a bus or a train.  (YouTube videos are great for this.)

2.  When booking a hotel:  

tumblr_inline_n4wn6mAJZK1s0u9u5

You’ll need to walk from your hotel to the nearest bus or subway stop carrying all your suitcases at least twice.  Choose a place that’s within a short (to me that’s less than a mile) walk of the nearest subway or bus stop.  Your back will thank you later.  It’s also a good idea to get a hotel that’s near more than 1 mode of public transit – that way you can still get around in case of construction or strikes!

3.  Pack well.  As I said in #2, you’ll need to walk from public transit to the hotel with all your suitcases at least twice.  Getting a hotel close to the nearest subway stop is one way to make this easier on yourself; the other is to just take less stuff.  And even if your hotel is right next door to the subway stop, chances are you’ll need to go up or down at least one set of escalators while navigating the subway system.  Ever tried to take a big roller bag on these?  It’s not pretty.

This + Roller bag = disaster waiting to happen.

This + Roller bag = disaster waiting to happen.

First, pare down to what you actually need (I find it helps to lay out each day’s outfits before packing) and then learn the most efficient ways to pack.  There are a lot of great resources for this both in text form and video form.  I also recommend OneBag.com.

If you look like this guy, you're doing it wrong.

If you look like this guy, you’re doing it wrong.

4. Plan, plan, plan!  You don’t need to plan your itinerary down to the minute, but it helps if you make a list of things you want to see in the city you’re visiting and determine roughly where they are in relation to each other.  As much fun as it is to ride the subway, it makes little sense to ping-pong yourself across the city multiple times per day; it’s better to devote one day to, say, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House and spend the following day at destinations that are farther out, like Arlington Cemetery.

During Your Trip:

1. Double check the schedules!  Since you’re on vacation, you probably aren’t on a strict timetable, but it helps to know if there are times of day when the buses or trains don’t run.  For example, the London Underground is not in service between midnight and 5 AM; ditto the Portland, Oregon light rail.  If you’re an early to bed, early to rise type, this probably won’t cramp your style, but if you plan to stay out till the wee hours carousing, be aware that the subway system may close down before the bars do.  In some cities (such as D.C.), schedules may be reduced on weekends – plan accordingly.

2. Be polite.  You may be on vacation, but if you’re taking the subway or bus during rush hour, everyone else is on their way to or from work.  If you want to stop and look around, that’s fine, but step aside and let the busy people through.  Johnny T explains it best.

3.  Relax!  You may run into delays.  You may have to deal with construction.  You may find yourself stuck next to somebody with bad B.O. for a 90 minute ride.  Don’t worry about it!  You’re on vacation!  You’ll get where you’re going, and after you get home, you’ll have a great story to tell.

 

So, that’s my advice for traveling car-free!  Did I leave anything out?  Comment below!

Answer Me This: Lazy Sunday Edition

The post on the hows of Car-Free Vacations will be up soon, but since DH is headed off on a business trip, I’d like to save the serious writing for after he leaves.  Instead, have something short and fun!

1. What’s your favorite thing on YouTube?

Glove and Boots – they’re puppets for grownups!  Here’s their video on how to fix your grammar.

2. Who taught you to drive?

Despite what my friends might tell you, I did not get my license in one of these.

Despite what my friends might tell you, I did not get my license in one of these.

I went to Driver Ed like everybody else at my school, although my mom and dad took turns riding with me while I practiced.  This may be the reason why my mom’s hair is completely gray and my dad has no hair.

Neither DH and or I learned to drive a stick shift when were younger, so about a year ago, we went back to Driver Ed and learned.

3. What’s your favorite thing to cook?  Ooh, that’s a tough one!  I really enjoy cooking in general, but I think my favorite things to make are marinara sauce and chili.  Both are dishes I can basically make up as I go along, which is what makes them so much fun.  For marinara sauce, I use this recipe; if I plan to freeze it or I’m making a small batch to use immediately, I’ll add garlic, onions, basil, oregano, red wine, and maybe some olives or veggies.  If I’m canning it, I’ll only add the garlic and herbs to the pot, then add 2 tbsp lemon juice to each quart  jar.

Here’s my chili formula:

1 pound ground beef or turkey

2-3 cans diced tomatoes

1 can black or pinto beans, drained

1-2 cans Ro-Tel

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1-2 bell peppers

1 bottle of beer or 2 cups lime juice

Chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, and/or chipotle peppers to taste.

Brown the meat, garlic, and onions in a skillet and transfer to Crock Pot.  Deglaze the pan with the beer or juice and add to Crock Pot.  Add all your canned stuff.  Spices will depend on how spicy you like your chili; I suggest starting with 2 tbsp chili powder, 2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp oregano.  Add cayenne or chipotle if that’s not spicy enough for you.

Cover Crock Pot and let it sit on low for 6-8 hours.  30-60 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add the bell peppers – they get soggy if you leave them in the Crock Pot all day.

4. Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? Why?  I am a hugger, but I’m not sure why.  I do try not to hug people I just met because I worry about upsetting them.

5. Where do you pray best?  Like Kendra, I pray best while moving.  When I go for a long walk, I take my rosary beads with me and pray while walking.  I love sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament but don’t get to do it very often.

6. When is the last time you saw/spoke to your grandparents?  I’m very blessed to have two of my grandparents still living!  I last saw them at Thanksgiving, and if all goes well, I’ll see them in a few weeks at my cousin’s wedding.

For more Answer Me This fun, visit Kendra!

Car-Free Vacations: The Whys

Like any red-blooded Americans, DH and I love our cars.  But when you spend 90 minutes per day driving to and from work, often the last thing you want to do on a vacation is drive more.  And while for me that was a good enough reason to go without a car on vacation, there are certainly others, even if you don’t care about reducing your carbon footprint or using less oil.   Most of the examples in this post will refer to London because it’s DH’s and my all-time favorite place to visit, but you can apply this to other major cities as well.

1.  It’s good for your wallet.  For a weeklong vacation in London  a small rental car will cost you a minimum of $300 in rental fees.  Larger vehicles, such as minivans, can be as much as $1,500!  You’ll probably have to refill the gas petrol tank at least once, and don’t be fooled by the prices at the pump: that’s £1.30 per liter, not per gallon!

You were hoping British gas prices were stuck in the '80s, weren't you?

You were hoping British gas prices were stuck in the ’80s, weren’t you?

So, let’s do some math here.  Suppose you have a car with a 10 gallon gas tank:

10 gallons x 3.78 liters per gallon = 37.8 liters

37.8 liters x £1.30 per liter = £49.14 per tank of gas petrol

And let’s not forget our friend the exchange rate:

£49.14 x 1.71 dollars per pound = $84 per tank!

In contrast, if you have an Oyster card, it won’t cost you more than $150 to ride the London Underground for the duration of your trip, and that’s if you rack up the maximum amount of fares every single day while you’re in London!  Transit for London will only charge your card a certain amount per day. After you hit the maximum amount, you can continue to ride the Tube that day for free and they start charging your card again the following day – see their website for details.

Check it out: between the rental fees and a tank of gas, you’ve saved at least $200!

P.S.  For parents who might be reading: in London, kids under the age of 11 can ride the Tube and city buses for free.  Older kids can use an Oyster card and pay half the adult fare.

200_s

2. It’s good for your vacation experience.  You’re on vacation and your time is precious.  You don’t want to spend it in traffic jams!  Yeah, traffic jams.  You know one of the reasons why cities like New York, London, Washington DC, and Paris have such great public transit?  Because they have legendary traffic jams.

I do enough of this at home, thanks.

I do enough of this at home, thanks.

Furthermore, if you’re in a foreign country, you want to see and experience as much of the local culture as you can, and it’s hard to do that from inside a car.  Riding the subway is an excellent opportunity to people-watch, to read local newspapers and magazines, and to check out local advertisements.  (I know that sounds odd, but you can learn a lot about a culture from what they buy!)  Riding the train may give you the opportunity to chat with the locals and learn things about the region that guidebooks won’t tell you.  Cars isolate you; public transportation immerses you.

3.  It’s good for your waistline.  When you take public transportation, chances are it’s not going to deposit you directly in front of your destination.  (I can think of a few exceptions to this in London – Madame Tussaud’s and the Houses of Parliament are both right across the street from Tube stops.)   So, what will you have to do then?  That’s right, walk!

Photo by Flickr user Moyan Brenn

Photo by Flickr user Moyan Brenn

While walking around in a new city is a great way to learn more about it and get to know the local culture (see #2), it has other benefits.  If you don’t have a car, you can walk upwards of a mile a day.  That will burn calories, get your heart pumping, strengthen your bones, and just generally improve your mood (even if it’s pouring).

Hopefully now I’ve convinced you to give car-free vacations a try!  In part 2, I’ll talk about how to have a car-free vacation. 

7 Quick Takes Friday – Orphans!!

1. Since Madison and Mason are currently unavailable for adoption due to the unrest in Ukraine, here are Trudy, Tristan, and Tatiana!  I had these siblings on my blog a year ago, and I’m bringing them back because Trudy will be 16 on her next birthday which means she will age out!    All three have HIV.  Tatiana has FAS, and Tristan has unspecified mental delays.  Reece’s Rainbow is hoping to find a way for them to be adopted together.  Do you know their family?  Maybe you do and you don’t know it!

Trudy, age 15

Trudy, age 15

 

Tristan, age 10

Tristan, age 11

 

Tatiana, age 7

Tatiana, age 8

2.  I’ve been pondering my 2014 goals lately, and DH and I have made a decision about one of them.  This is NOT our year to move.  DH (known for his immense patience) didn’t really mind waiting to move.  I (known for my immense impatience) couldn’t wait.  And then one afternoon,  I found myself working on the conference I’m planning… and enjoying it.  Two days later, I was out taking a walk and it occurred to me that this organization took a chance on me when nobody else would, and it’d be mighty churlish of me to bail on them. So, we’re not moving this year… but a big vacation might be on the horizon.

3.  My other goal for 2014 was to walk 400 miles, and I’m pleased to announce that it’s halfway complete!  I hit the 200 mile mark during the first week of July!

4.  I’ve recently discovered the Wolters World YouTube channel, and I can’t recommend it enough!  If you haven’t traveled outside the US often, this channel is full of tips on how not to look like a tourist, how to avoid getting mugged, and, if you’re traveling to a country where English isn’t the primary language, 1o essential words in various languages.  Parents who may be watching, he also has tips for traveling abroad with little ones!

5.  I got nothin’ else.  The next two takes are orphans!  First up is Ethan!  Ethan-2013-249x300

He is HIV+ but is a very happy young man; a family who visited the orphanage to adopt another child described him as “gentle and kind” and that he would wear silly clothing to make the other children laugh. These are such rare attributes in a child who’s been institutionalized! I’m sure he’d do well in a loving family.

6. I couldn’t decide which of these two girls to end with, so you get them both!  Sarai and Jeanette are NOT related but they have similar issues.  Both girls are 10 years old and have HIV and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Jeanette

Jeanette

Jeanette is a little impulsive and has trouble understanding consequences.  However, she enjoys drawing and can sit still a long time doing that.  She also likes to dance and sing and make goofy faces.  The orphanage thinks she’d do well in a family with lots of older kids.

Sarai

Sarai

Not much info is available on Sarai other than that she also has FAS (again, likely issues with impulsivity) and HIV.  Her skin test was also positive for TB, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean she has TB – for example, the skin test can be positive in a person who’s received a vaccine for TB – but it might complicate the process of adopting her.  She looks like a happy little girl despite everything, and she needs a family!

7.  TGIF!  We need a song!  Since one of my 2014 goals is half complete, here’s “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.


For more Quick Takes from Jen and others, visit Conversion Diary!

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for orphans!