Archive for the ‘ Travel ’ Category

Road Tripping through Bookshops

photo (23)Here’s our stack of book purchases from our commitment to visit an independent bookstore at every stop along our road trip. Some are used bookshops, mostly new and some delightfully had both. I urge you to SHOP LOCAL & INDIE as these are some of the best town treasures, truly! (Note that if my 14 year old son was with us, the stack would be twice as tall).

STOP at these shops if you find yourself in the area:

Bardstown Booksellers – Bardstown, KY  (Currently FOR SALE if you’ve ever had a dream of opening your own bookstore in The Most Beautiful Small Town in America)

Carmichael’s Bookstore – Louisville, KY

Politics & Prose – Washington, DC

Fountain Bookstore – Richmond, VA

The Regulator Bookshop – Durham, NC

Flyleaf Books – Chapel Hill, NC

Politics & Prose

Politics & Prose

We hope to make a few more stops as we head home in the next 2 weeks at Duck’s Cottage Downtown Books (Manteo, NC) and Tales of the Lonesome Pine (Big Stone Gap, VA). Click HERE to find independent bookstores in your area.

BEA Highlights

Author Bob Shea

Author Bob Shea

I attended my first BookExpo America (largest annual book trade fair) this past week in New York City. For this literary nerd, it was pretty close to nirvana. I had never gotten a chance to go as a bookseller so I wasn’t about to let my first year as a Librarian pass me by. I knew from research that it was to be a haven of publishers, authors, FREE BOOKS, exhibits, presentations & parties. Now before you assume that this conference wouldn’t be open to you, you are wrong. BEA has embraced all the non- industry book lovers/avid readers and created a special day just for them called Power Readers day that falls on the last day of the conference.

I would encourage anyone who is a lover of books to investigate attending this conference. Here are some highlights and I’ll post my top tips later this week.

Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket

  • Attending a party where 8 authors were bartending their own stations & mixing cocktails. 
  • Walking along The High Line which Peter Brown so beautifully writes about (and illustrates) in The Curious Garden.
  • Trading music festival tips with Rob Sheffield while he signed his new book, Turn Around Bright Eyes:The Rituals of Love and Karaoke.
  • Talking tattoos with the winsome Obert Skye, of Potterwookie & Wonkenstein books.
  • Being completely charmed by the talented Greg Pizzoli & loving The Watermelon Seed.
  • Acting like a ‘fan girl’ while getting FaNGIRL signed by Rainbow Rowell, gushing about Eleanor & Park.
  • Attending the Children’s Author Breakfast with Mary Pope Osborne, Rick Riordon, Octavia Spenser & Veronica Roth. photo (20)
  • Zola Books FINALLY a brillant alternative to Goodreads. Can’t wait until the site if fully operational next month but go play around right now!

Road Trip 2012

Two sisters, each with two kids, road trippin’ along with our mother (all in the same vehicle) who had never been to the Grand Canyon.  First, a Family Reunion followed by a Southwest journey followed by a Route 66 tour back to St. Louis. Then my kids and I headed to a second Family Reunion in Dale Hollow – Burkesville, KY & a visit to my hometown – Bardstown, KY, recently named Most Beautiful Small Town in America by Rand McNally.

Here are the stats and the highlights:

Miles traveled: 4861,  States traversed: KS, CO, UT, AZ, NM, TX, OK, MO, IN, IL, KY, TN

Hottest air temp: 112 degrees at bottom of Grand Canyon (and over 100 everyday from Phoenix to St Louis).

Coldest water temp:  48 degrees in Colorado River

Class 5+ rapids conquered on Colorado River:  3

Continental Divide crossings: 3 x over, 1 x under.

Highest elevation: 11,539 ft ( Hoosier Pass, CO)

National Forests driven through:  lost count

Most overcrowded state park: Slide Rock, Sedona, AZ

Most scenic view from hotel room: YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, CO

Best balcony: Overlooking the Animas River at Durango Doubletree, CO

Best missed sunset: Mather Point, Grand Canyon

Favorite song:  “Old Matt Palmer’s Misfit Farm” – Bar D Chuck Wagon Singers

Drive that will make you go vegetarian:  Rte 60 between Bovina and Hereford, TX

Best upgrade: the premier car on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Train

Favorite meals/restaurants: Brunch – L’Auberge, Sedona, AZ; Lunch – Nini’s Taqueria, Durango, CO; Late lunch – Pops, Arcadia, OK; Dinner – Plaza Bonita, Tusayan, AZ

Best beers:  Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo, TX

Cheapest treat: Sno-cones at Four Corners Monument

Most random, multi-tasting stop: Eagle Ranch Pistachio Farm, NM – wine, pistachios and ice cream all before 11am

Most UFO sightings: Roswell, NM

Best dunes – White Sands National Monument, NM

Longest and most unnerving drive into a national park:  Mesa Verde, AZ

Favorite pool: Tapatio Cliffs, Phoenix, AZ

Arizona towns laying claim to inspiration for the animated movie “Cars”: 3 – Peach Springs, Seligman, and Holbrook

Most wacky or random signs:”Knives and donuts” – NM; & “Toot n Totum”  – TX

Where graffiti is encouraged: Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX

Nicest Welcome rest stop:  Oklahoma between Texola and Erick

Most Ironic – Having a Family Reunion in a dry county

Most Fun on a Lake – Pontoons with slides in Dale Hollow, KY

We had a great trip and if you are ever considering this journey to the Southwest , along this portion of Route 66, or Bardstown, KY let me know and I’d be happy to help.

To the right my sister and I are “just standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ…”

 

Disney Tips (prior) to Trip

We just got back from an amazing (and possibly only) Disney trip so I made sure that we “did it all”. While I’m a big fan of those teary eyed SURPRISE Disney commercials, we told our kids (Cullen 12 ½, Sadie 7 ) as I wanted their input. I didn’t want this post to be 10 pages long so this first part (of 2, or 3…) will be what helped me before we walked out the door.

  • We used the (no annual fee) Chase Disney credit card so most of our trip was FREE. Room, dining plan, park passes were all covered by points that we had accrued over the last 4 ½ years.  We went through AAA to get even better deals than I found online and saved out of our monthly budget to cover our flights.
  • We chose to take kids out of school for a few days and go at an unpopular time of year. I’m not good with heat or crowds so mid-January worked perfectly well for us. There were a few rides closed for repairs or refurbishments but nothing major.
  • I’d read that pin trading was big at the parks so I went online prior to the trip and bought / bid on $1 Disney lanyards plus one ‘lot’ of 26 Disney pins ($25)  so the kids had pins to trade with cast members (employees) from the minute they walked into the parks. In the parks, this would have sent me back well over $150 and they kids really got into it. Instead of asking for things when we went into shops, they were finding employees to trade with.
  • Going online and getting a few ‘gently loved’ goodies before the trip (my son loves Stitch and my daughter Tinkerbell) can save you tons in the long run on t-shirts, backpacks, ears (got these new & personalized for 50% off-free shipping by watching Disney.com/ store), etc. A family member gave each child a $25 Disney gift card for Christmas so we were actually able to get out of the parks with out spending anything ourselves. I did a countdown of “The 12 Days of Disney” before we left and each child got a pin every morning and then I surprised them with a t-shirt and backpack on the day we left.
  • I’d recommend two web sites (if you want to pay) to join for an incredible amount of information on all things Disney – tourguidemike.com or touringplans.com. They each have different positives depending on your needs but I’d suggest at least one as it helps to guide you to the least crowded parks on which days, sample touring plans, reviews on everything and more tips and hints than you would ever need.
  • When they say make your dining reservations 180 days in advance, they aren’t kidding even in ‘low crowd’ times and especially if you want to do something special like a character meal or signature dining. You can reserve online or over the phone. There are various dining plans but we chose the Deluxe Dining Plan because of some of the specialty meals we reserved and we also wanted to sit down and eat 2/day and not be elbowing our way through counter service restaurants for chicken nuggets. While this added cost would have been over what points we had accrued, Disney offered a special for a FREE basic dining plan during January which our travel agent caught & that saved us close to $500 which put us back into our allotted points.
  • We chose to stay onsite at The Contemporary Hotel (my favorite from childhood) which allowed us to walk to The Magic Kingdom and has the monorail that comes right through the hotel, pretty cool.
  • Last but not least, read books (Peter and the Starcatchers, Swiss Family Robinson, Alice in Wonderland or rent a few Disney movies to get in the magical mood.

While all this may seem a bit overboard, saving money & having a plan were my 2 biggest priorities and all this led to a wonderfully spectacular trip. To be continued…

 

 

I’m Going to Walt Disney World!

Such is the exclamation after every BIG win in sports and various other celebratory occasions. Our family will join the ranks of countless others as we will finally make the kid’s first trek in January – and it’s not costing us a dime. WHAT?!?!

A few years ago we started using the Chase Disney credit card and have finally accumulated enough points to head to Disney next year. There was no annual fee and ‘cashing out’ the points couldn’t have been any easier.

Nerd Wallet is a great site if you would like to review and compare various credit reward cards in categories such as cash back, gas or travel. While Dave Ramsey would wholeheartedly disagree with my endorsements of credit cards, if you’re able to pay off your balance every month, we’ve found it a great way to offset travel costs.

Daily Deals – are you missing out?

Lately I’ve gotten a few questions from friends about sites that are similar to Groupon as I don’t show up anywhere for anything without a coupon anymore. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  1. Groupon – The first one on the scene to offer great deals – sign up for other cities if you are traveling. Great app.
  2. Living Social – You can get a family or escape edition of deals in addition to their daily ones. Great app.
  3. Eversave – My latest find & I’m loving their daily deals.
  4. City Steal – Great local steals.
  5. Scout Mob – The coupon is free. If you see an offer you like, just click a button to receive the coupon via text message or e-mail. You’ll only pay when you show up – only in a few cities right now but growing!
  6. St. Louis Daily Fix – Outstanding deals at local restaurants, salons, spas and more in St. Louis.
  7. Care 2 Daily Deals – Organic, green, good-for-you, good-for-the-planet products at up to 70% off.
  8. 8 Coupons – Lists all the deals from the top sites (including Groupon, Tippr, BuyWithMe and others) & lets you search via map or zip code.
  9. Buy With Me – Like many other sites, if 3 friends buy from your referral, yours is free.
  10. Daily Candy Deals – Offers limited number of coupons so you’re not fighting with hundreds of other purchasers, but limited cities currently.
  11. Spa Finder – Only in NYC, LA, Boston, Philly & Miami

Others I’m missing? Let me know!

Delicious for Derby

Being raised a Kentucky girl, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity and provide a bit of education regarding the upcoming 137th Kentucky Derby – the greatest two minutes in sports. The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, of which yours truly is a member, provides this wonderful & informational history of the mint julep, drink of choice on May 7th, 2011.

“Julep” is said to be a word meaning “rose water”.    Mint Julepjulep is a concoction of bourbon, water, sugar and a sprig of spearmint. The drink is over 200 years old, first referred to in print in the first decade of the 1800’s.  The book defined the julep as “A dram  of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” It is said that Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the mint julep to Washington, DC. and thus it became famously associated with Kentucky and Kentucky Bourbon.

OK, for those holding Derby parties, here’s a recipe.  There are several but this is MY favorite:  Take two frosted silver mint julep cups.  In the first fill with ice and add a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of water.  Then, gently crush a couple mint leaves and place in the ice.  In the second cup, pour about 3 fingers of a quality Kentucky Bourbon.  Now, pour out the mess in the first cup and drink from the second.

Enjoy! -Colonel Saltsman

Take Me Away!

After months of dreary winter and now storms that make Dorothy’s tornado look almost cute, I’m putting my mind towards sunshine & some upcoming travel in my future. I’ve always considered myself a savvy shopper when it comes to traveling but I’ve got to admit, Priceline and Hotwire have always intimidated me. I’ve heard all the stories from folks who’ve stayed in fabulous hotels for a fraction of the cost so I’ve decided that it’s time for me to get in on this blind bidding.

Clark Howard, money guru, is one of the biggest proponents of travel bidding and he recommends checking out Bidding for Travel if you are going to work with Priceline and Better Bidding if you are going to try your hand with Hotwire. Both are great forums where travelers help each other and share knowledge — including tips on how to bid multiple times a day.

Now if you want to bypass some of the research but still glean many of the same benefits, check out The Bidding Traveler! Read the rest of this entry

Step Up your Spring Break (for free)

No matter where you are headed this Spring Break or even if you are having a “staycation”, you can kick it up a notch with geocaching. But what is it? Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. There are over There are 1,304,804 active geocaches around the world and I noted more than 10 listed within 1 mile of my zip code in St. Louis.

Easy Steps to Geocaching

  1. Register for a free Basic Membership.
  2. Click “Hide & Seek a Cache.”
  3. Enter your postal code and click “search.”
  4. Choose any geocache from the list and click on its name.
  5. Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device.
  6. Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
  7. Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
  8. Share your geocaching stories and photos online.

For my friends ‘across the pond’, they can also try letterboxing. Letterboxing is an intriguing mix of treasure hunting, art, navigation, and exploring interesting, scenic, and sometimes remote places. It takes the ancient custom of placing a rock on a cairn upon reaching the summit of a mountain to an art form. It started when a gentleman simply left his calling card in a bottle by a remote pool on the moors of Dartmoor, in England.

What’s in your wallet?

Everyone seems to have some sort of points program lately and I can’t keep it all straight. I become paralyzed with indecision when starting to make travel plans as I’m not sure where I have points, what is getting ready to expire and I never seem to know where I stand with retail points. Luckily Award Wallet has created a streamlined system to do all the work for me in three easy steps:

  1. Join AwardWallet for free and add your reward programs.
  2. Let AwardWallet track and monitor your reward programs and itineraries for you.
  3. Get notified when your balances change and before your points expire.

The number of airline, hotel, credit card, shopping, etc programs that AwardWallet will track for you is extremely extensive and so convenient to have all in one place. So pack your bags, travel, go shopping and know that someone else is keeping up with all the details.