Category Archives: Travel

Search Stories

Often times, when I’m really busy and have important deadlines to meet and to-do lists that are four pages long, I stumble upon the biggest time wasters ever.

This week was no exception. I’m putting the finishing touches on a 7-day itinerary for a Spring Break trip I am leading for 14 students to Washington D.C. and New York City. And what do I find… Google Search Stories Video Creator.

I haven’t done a lot of research on it as I went immediately to playing, so I don’t know if it’s new or if I am the last person to find out about it. But either way, I couldn’t step away from it.

These 35-second clips are nothing more than a promotion for Google and a method for forcing users to set up YouTube accounts. Creating a YouTube channel is a little out of my comfort zone. I feel I should start making covers of music like this video I am currently obsessed with. And don’t even get me started on the data “they” are collecting on me.

But when I find something like this, my distraction from immediate priorities knows no bounds and my will must be done. You just input your searches, what Google method you want to use (Images, Blogs, News, etc.) and choose your music.

While I definitely plan to make 1,054 more of these for absolutely no reason other than my own enjoyment, I do actually think they would be great for quick marketing purposes for those with no budget and with no technical skills. This could be useful for us higher education professionals and student organizations to promote events and programming. You could get very funny and creative with these. And they are already online and easy to share. Again, no technical ability needed.

I created two “search stories” about the areas I’m most engulfed in right now.

Perhaps it’s just the need for procrastination, but I am hooked. At least until the next distraction comes along.

What are your favorite time wasters?


Happy, But Not Satisfied

This weekend, while escaping to San Antonio for a brief getaway, JB and I consumed our eighth bowl of guacamole in 24 hours as we watched the Texas Rangers clinch their 2nd consecutive World Series bid. I even broke my stringent rule of not sitting on the same side of the table when out to dinner (I hate when couples do that) so JB and I could both be in prime TV-viewing position.

We cheered too loudly in a we-think-we’re-in-a-sports-bar-but-we’re-not type of way during the exhilarating 9-run, 3rd inning. And later, we high-fived from our hotel room (in bed by 10p.m. each night!) as the celebratory pile-on of players and coaches happened on the field about 300 miles to the north of us. I lived vicariously through Facebook updates and pictures of friends in attendance.

But as the longest-tenured Ranger’s Michael Young said, we’re “happy, but not satisfied.”

This year, it’s not enough just to go to the series. This time, we have to win it! We’re favored, we’re expected and anything less won’t be good enough. But anything can happen, so in honor of our World Series run starting on Wednesday, I am re-posting my Why I Love: Baseball post that ran this past March to mark opening day of the 2011 season. Who knew what our season had in store at that moment?! And it’s not over yet.

Go Rangers!!


Why I Love: Baseball

The state pride!

The noise of the fans!

The Captain!

The awesomeness of the game! (ok, and yes, men in baseball uniforms. Sue me.)

Happy Opening Day people! Beyond the start of baseball season, it’s also a glorious sign that summer is around the corner. My interest in baseball started as a boy-crazy middle schooler who watched the games on TV because I thought the 2nd baseman was cute.  It blossomed into a true love and respect for the sport and it has weathered salary strikes, losing seasons, and just average-looking 2nd basemen. I even kept the stats for my high school varsity team, which is ironic seeing as I dropped a statistics class three times in college before accepting that the psychology minor wasn’t going to happen.

These pictures are from a playoff game last year, but *one day* I will take off work to spend the Rangers home opener at the ballpark. So get up your antlers, do the claw, and brush up on your singing, it’s time to go out to the ballgame. Best of luck to the Rangers (Cliff Lee who?) and to your team of choice.

Unless it’s the Yankees.

Does baseball opening day mean anything to you? Any special memories related to baseball? And if you want to read about other things I love, here is a movie and here is a teen-focused, country cross-over star.

Vacation Book Review

I want to write about my latest vacation to St. Croix because it was wonderful, but who wants to see other people’s beach pictures? Hey, guess what I was doing while you were at work? Oh what’s that, you’re laid off due to a bad economy and have no paid vacation days? Aww, I’m sorry……. but look, the water is so clear you can see my feet!

No, no, I didn’t want to do that (this time). So instead, I will recount my vacation through the literature I read while away. Having time to devote myself fully to a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures (for me) and is surely a way I restore balance.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

I actually read this leading up to my vacation,  and it’s a good thing, because even though it is a quick read, it is not exactly what I would consider beach reading.

I’m usually hesitant to read or watch Holocaust-related books and movies, especially when it focuses on the youngest victims. True to form, I had a troubled sleep every night while reading this book. Sarah’s Key is fiction, but centers on the real event of the massive round-up of French Jews in Paris, largely women and children, in  July 1942. Most involved in the arrest were ultimately sent to their deaths in Auschwitz.

I had resisted reading it despite recommendations, but I was lent a copy and with that guilty accountability you feel when you borrow a book and you know the next time you see that person they will ask you if you have read it, I decided to give it a try.  I didn’t put it down for three days.

Sarah’s Key follows the story of a little girl and her family involved in the round-up, juxtaposed with a current-day story about a journalist in Paris investigating that horrific event. To remind you that this is fiction, there are conventional plot twists and some all-too-convenient coincidences linking the two stories, but nevertheless, I found it to be engaging, emotional and educational (I was previously not familiar with the Vel’ d’ Hiv’ round-up).

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

At just 166 pages, I started and finished this book on the flights to St. Croix. McEwan is the author to one of my favorite books, Atonement. (Yes, the Keira Knightley movie, but the book is much better, as per usual.) Atonement had a tentative start, but it’s build-up, twists and ultimate pay-offs have made it a book I like to go back and read the last few pages of every so often.

McEwan showcases the same refined writing style in On Chesil Beach, along with the “what could have been” agony that characterizes Atonement. I picture the author writing this book in one sitting on a rainy afternoon. As he hits “send” to his editor and shuts down the computer, I hear him saying to himself, “Well that was easy.” That’s kind of how I felt reading it too. I was never very attached to the two characters in this book, Edward and Florence, or their predicament — consummating their marriage on their wedding night.

Most of the book takes place on this night in their hotel room. In the end, it’s much more about communication, confronting fears, and sharing them with those you love than any physical act. And I found these emotionally damaged partners and their loosening grips on their relationship very interesting. I just needed a little more. As my flight touched down in St. Croix and I closed the book, Edward and Florence were already far behind me.

Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn

At least the last book had the word “beach” in the title. I can’t find any reason why this book should be read on vacation, but it was actually the one I read anytime I was out by the pool or relaxing on our patio (I’m not really into sand or sea life so I keep my distance from the actual beach).

I’m not a Bonnie and Clyde aficionado or anything, but it was a selection of my (now former) employer’s staff book club and I thought it would be an interesting read. I was right. The author delved into the life of robberies, fast getaways and family dedication of these young criminals with rich details and, from what I can tell from reading the sources, a whole lot of fact-checking.

Besides his driving ability, Clyde was a pretty mediocre thief. They rarely had glamorous bank robberies or a posh life on the road as presented in the Warren Beatty movie. They were just poor West Dallas kids who every now and then had money to buy some nice clothes. I’m not sympathizing with them by any means; they had a death count, mainly of law enforcement, to be sure. But it’s amazing how we romanticized these and other legendary outlaws.

I’m not sure I would be as interested in this book if I wasn’t from Dallas, but reading about familiar locations added a certain feeling of insider knowledge. If you’re local and/or a history buff, you might enjoy this work.

In reviewing this blog, it’s clear I read a lot of depressing sh*t. If you were looking for suggestions about how to begin and end your upcoming vacation with books about death, I hope you found this post helpful.

If you want some actual “beach read” recommendations, check here and here. And if you have your own suggestions, please share in the comments!

Retirement Living

Yesterday was my last day of work. And I don’t start my new job until Monday. So for two whole days, I am not an “employee.” There is no parking decal on my car (crying when you drop that off at your employer’s parking office is awk-ward, by the way), no company ID in my wallet, and no emails piling up that I will have to respond to upon return. This is different from vacation. For two days… I am retired, baby!!

While my retirement is short-lived, I was able to celebrate two real professional farewells this past week — American Airlines Captain O’Neil (can’t confirm the spelling) and Oprah (pretty sure babies coming out of the womb know the spelling).

When flying back from vacation on Sunday, we were informed this would be the last flight for pilot O’Neil after 33 years. As we pulled away from the gate (and again when we landed), the traditional water salute for retiring pilots and planes commenced. This isn’t a picture from the actual occurrence, but to give you an idea of what it looks like:

It was a moving tribute. Even more special, as we flew, we learned that Captain O’Neil’s wife was making this last voyage with her husband. The pilot thanked her in flight for her support, despite a work schedule that includes many missed holidays and birthdays over 33 years. Needless to say, I was emotional.

Upon touch down, all of the passengers immediately broke into applause. The women, if comfortable, were asked by the flight attendants to give Captain O’Neil a hug on the way out. Every woman I saw, myself included, did just that. All the while, his adorable wife was snapping pictures.

Another moving tribute happened earlier that week, though I didn’t watch it until I returned from vacation. Ms. Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her viewers as the last “Oprah Winfrey Show” aired. Now, I am not a huge fan of the show. I have nothing against it, but it’s on at 4 p.m. which isn’t exactly conducive to my weekday schedule and my DVR has a “no vacancy” sign.

But I did record her very last episode, as any self-respecting pop culture junkie would do. I knew it would be no-frills, but I was a little taken aback by the simplicity of the episode. Oprah stood on her stage, speaking to her ever-adoring audience both in the studio and watching in their living rooms about what the show and the fans have meant to her over the last 25 years. Needless to say, I was emotional.

Her last episode touched on some of the themes her show addressed, but I’ll leave the rundown to bigger Oprah fans over at Salt and Nectar.

While Captain O’Neil and Oprah might be retiring from very different environments, it was interesting what they had in common. They both profusely thanked and shared credit for their success with staff, family and friends. Stedman affectionately sat  in the Oprah audience just as Mrs. O’Neil sat in the front row of the plane, just a step outside the cockpit where her husband was addressing his audience in his own way. Clearly, no matter your job, your ultimate success comes down to those who support you along the way.

As if she knew about my future blog post, Oprah said she told her team that they were finally going to “land this plane.” And as she concluded the show and walked backstage through her entire staff lined up on either side cheering and hugging her, it reminded me of the two streams of water forming an archway of recognition. Recognition for, at its most simplest, a job well done.

Good luck to Captain O’Neil, Oprah and your families! I’m not quite ready to land my plane yet, but I hope when I do, I can leave with similar support and the knowledge I’ve had a career where I gave all I could to make an impact.

And then I’m sleeping in.

Home Is Where Your Sock Monkey Is

It’s hard to believe that even when you have been experiencing this:

Lunch at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, CA

It still feels comforting to come back to this:

A most special gift and symbol of home

While the vacation in Orange County was brief, it included all the makings of a great getaway: making new friends, eating pastries instead of fruit at breakfast, reading  a book, dancing the Hora, dreaming of retirement, secretly coveting iPads in the airport, leaving the phone in the hotel room (Ok, just once. On accident. But still!), staying up late, sleeping in, and most importantly, marveling yet again at the compatibility with your favorite traveling partner.

But even so, it’s nice to be home.

What’s your symbol of home (assuming of course it’s something other than a sock monkey)?

Things I Will Absolutely Not Do This Weekend


1. Secretly hope that LC and Lo are visiting their parents and will walk into the local Laguna “hot spot” (so I’m told) where we are eating dinner Thursday night.

2. Hum Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean” in my head while NOT secretly hoping to see LC and Lo.

3. Jam to Phantom Planet’s “California” while I get ready in the morning. (again)

4. Kick myself too hard for not living in CA at a point in my life when I didn’t care about things like “cost of living.”

Yes, I am headed to Orange County tomorrow! And yes, I will, in reality, do all of these things no matter how hard I try!

I’ve been to San Diego and LA, but never this quaint little county in between so it’s been left up to TV shows about high schoolers and “real” housewives to shape my impression. As a pop culture junkie, this excites me, but I’m most looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the great things I have heard from actual people. It’s been a long two weeks and a coastal vacation is just what I need. I wonder if it will be a similar balance conundrum as the other coast.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. And if you have any OC recommendations, please let me know!

For those who were Laguna Beach and/or The OC fans, let these songs take you away to a simpler time… 🙂 And if you were not a fan of these, you probably have no idea what the hell this blog post was about. So put down your book or stop spending time with your family and watch some crap television!

Dear 23-Year-Old Self…

Last week, WordPress’s Daily Post posed the blog topic: If you could have a 5 minute conversation with yourself 10 years ago, what would you say? I’m game, so let’s set the scene: I am 23 and it is February of 2001. I’m about six months into my first job at a public relations agency. I’m still at home after moving back from college, but it’s cool. The economy rocks and I’m pretty much just rolling along. In my 5 minutes, here are the 6 pieces of advice I would impart to my younger, dapper self:

1. In 7 years, you will turn 30. About four minutes into your 30th year, your metabolism will pack a bag and joyfully head south to live out its days in retirement on a beach. It won’t even leave a note.

There will be no major visible change to the outside eye, but you will have to start making conscious efforts to stay healthy and maintain your weight. I implore you, start these habits now! Modify your diet, learn to cook, and above all, start exercising. The earlier you make these changes, the easier it will be to carry them out throughout your life. Otherwise, at 33, you’ll be the queen of excuses to skip the gym.

2. Circles don’t fit into squares. Stop trying so hard to convince yourself otherwise.  In a few years, your best friend will give you a card with Buddha’s quote: “Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness.” You will keep it on your counter for years and years (still do). You will even quote it at social gatherings, pretending you are a cultural scholar of sorts.  But you won’t really believe it for a long time. Believe it.

3. Save your money. Not because of an uncertain economy or the rising costs of higher education, but because around 2008, I want you to invest in a self-serve frozen yogurt franchise. People will think you are crazy. They will say, “but we already have TCBY.” Ignore them. And soon, over a cup of red velvet cupcake yogurt mixed with a little bit of cake batter topped with sprinkles, they will apologize for doubting you.

4. Travel abroad! We already regret not studying abroad in college, don’t make the same mistake during this early part in your adult life while you are still living at home and have few expenses.

5. Take a graphic or website design type of class at a community college. Actually, I probably didn’t need to tell myself that 10 years ago. I need to tell myself that now.

6. You know that voice (which sometimes manifests itself as stomach pains on Sunday nights) that keeps telling you that you don’t really like your current job or the industry you chose? Listen to it. You eventually will, but you could do it a lot sooner. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. And one day you will make a living out of telling people that it’s okay to change their mind about career decisions.

I don’t mean to present these as regrets (besides not studying abroad in college, I meant that one) because they are not. And I suspect that in 10 years, I will look back at my 33-year-old self and have plenty of “if I knew then what I know now” wisdom to share as well. But it wouldn’t be life without figuring it out for yourself. Your current self, that is.

What would you share with yourself 10 years ago? Would you even want to talk to yourself? I’m kind of afraid of what my hair would look like. I don’t think I bought a CHI until 2004.