May 28, 2010

Family Travels - Final push out of the nest and into the air

My sister is like these daisies. Sweet and happy looking, with bright open faces.  With her first big trip out of the country almost here, we spent one more day together for final purchases.

She has been told that she can take jeans now so she wants a new pair. I thought of steering her in the direction of those Not My Daughters Jeans at Nordstrom.  With her figure they might be the most flattering.  I want to minimize her "freshman traveler" look.  However she could not be convinced.  Instead she got two pairs of Style&Co jeans at Macys, a brand she currently was wearing.

Fine, I gave up.  What I did convince her to buy was a pair of socks for the plane.  They are the therapeutic socks that will keep her blood from pooling in her ankles during the long flight.  She doesn't know where she is sitting so she could be stuck in the middle of a row for hours at a time.

We also decided that she should get a neck pillow. REI had one for $20 that was a simple deflatable model that also had a nice soft fleece cover to it.  This will support her neck if she falls asleep, which I doubt she is too excited.

My work is over now. I have given her maps and books, advice and a list of her favorite foods in French. She swore to me that she would take notes or at least try really hard to remember the good stuff that happens between everyone.  I love anecdotal moments the most.

I know that the dynamic and differences between the six of them has to be fodder for some sparks during meal time at least.  At most, we will have a melt down by one of them at some stage.  It's three weeks together

Now I guess I will just sit back and wait to hear how it all goes down when they all return. I am going to be on pins and needles until the end of June!

May 26, 2010

May 25, 2010

Plan Your Staycation this Summer

Relaxing Home Retreats

Staycations have become more popular as vacation savings shrink or dry up completely like so many have over the past few years. Granted for some of us travel that involves a plane ticket is a luxury any year.  The high price of gas might also mean this summer we stay even closer to home.

One alternative to feeling like a prisoner is to choose how you spend your vacation.  You can put all the same time and attention to detail, as you would a trip to London.  My sister has maps and books galore to look through before her European trip with my brother and mother.  Why not apply the same excited attention to your staycation?

Consider these tips:
  1. Decide on a theme: you go to Paris and your time there is all things French.  Maybe you want a spa vacation at home. 
  2. Prepare your home: you make a packing list for your suitcase, do the same at home. Plan what you want to have around you and clear out the clutter.
  3. Unplug!  When you travel overseas you often cannot communicate with friends until you get home. Do the same here.
  4. Bring a book:  You take your books & magazines on the plane or to the beach, do it here. Cut back (or keep off) the television and computer and have some fun reading material! If you are a member try Costco otherwise, check out your local library.
  5. Favorite Foods: You go to new places to try their food and experience their culture.  Consider picking up some new and exotic meals or ingredients to make dishes you have always wanted to try. Be adventurous!
Don't forget that this should be a getaway even if you are at home.  We tell ourselves we won't call into work or check emails when we have spent all this money to take a plane somewhere, be good to yourself and make that pledge here. 

Relax and enjoy yourself this summer because I imagine time will fly and soon enough you will be day dreaming in your cubicle about next year.

May 23, 2010

Brad Pitt and Tokyo Subways Make a Great Study Tool

Riding the subways and trains in Tokyo can not only get you from point A to point B but they also provide you with time to learn.  The few years we spent living in Tokyo, we did everything but drive.  We walked, rode our bikes, Rollerbladed, took taxis, rode the bus, subway, train and Shinkansen. We also rode in other peoples cars as passengers.

As you can see here, I collected many of the subway passes.  This one for about $10 was typical Japanese - cute and adorable image of a puppy. I can't tell you how many of these I brought home as keepsakes.

Usually my time spent on a train was trying to read the posters and listening to the announcements. As I studied Japanese, one of my favorite study tools was to read the movie posters on the train. I learned that all foreign words are spelled in katakana.  Once I started to learn katakana it was fun to translate popular movie titles like Eyes Wide Shut.

The worst time I had was with the movie poster for What Lies Beneath. It is a mystery movie starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. For some reason I kept thinking that "lies" was "rice", which made no sense when I stared at the images on the movie poster.

The next time you are on a train or bus in another country, look around.  You might surprise yourself with what you can read and learn about the place you are visiting.  You might see a celebrity like Brad Pitt selling Edwin Jeans or Boss coffee in a can.

May 2, 2010

Shanghai Secrets Learned Just in Time for Expo 2010

One of my travel destinations that is near the top of my list is China, all of China. My Labor Day weekend spent in Hong Kong years ago only whet my appetite for more. Living in San Francisco, with our huge Chinatown and all of its people, restaurants and shops, keeps me thinking about planning a trip back too.

Today I just found out that the International Expo in Shanghai has begun. The newspapers and internet have in-depth coverage of the city and the Expo 2010. All I can is WOW, now I really need to plan a trip. I've always been interested in seeing Shanghai and its old neighborhoods. Remember the Spielberg movie, Empire of the Sun? It was so dramatic and captured my imagination forever!

It wasn't set in Shanghai but Bertolucci's The Last Emperor was the other huge movie (9 Oscars!) that made me want to know more about China and its history. There is a lot to learn about this city. I can see why it has been the setting for lots of well-known novels and movies. Did you ever see the famous movie Shanghai Express (1932) starring Marlene Dietrich?

Expo 2010

Behavioral adjustment squads have been deployed in Shanghai just in time for the many millions of expected foreign visitors. They sound more interesting than scary to me for some reason, certainly a reminder than one isn't in a regular democratic society. Their role is to be at metro stations urging people to stand to the right on escalators, to discourage spitting, line-jumping, pushing and shoving. Reports say that all of those habits are indelibly Shanghainese even if the government wants them to suddenly disappear.

These squads are also tasked with encouraging diners to take home restaurant leftovers, something that makes me happy since I know this is not so common in many cultures outside of the US. The squads will penalize smoking in public too, also a job I'm hoping remains permanent. My years in Tokyo probably scarred my lungs for life! I can't forget sitting down for dinner in a restaurant with an ashtray next to my fork! Then having neighboring diners stop mid-bite to take a drag off their smoldering cigarette. Bleck.

Pajamas in Public - Something I see around my neighborhood in San Francisco is apparently a well loved and well known habit in Shanghai, wearing pajamas in public and not just by the teen crowd. Ladies will match their handbag to their best pajamas for their shopping excursions! And maybe a not so attractive vision is those of the old men who like to wear only boxers out on the streets. Well, the Behavior Adjustment Squad will be out politely encouraging residents not to wear their pajamas in public, especially now that the Expo is here.

Most Desired Exhibit I Want to See at the Expo - The Dandalion! Okay that isn't what it really is but doesn't it look like one?!
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