Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Girls in Mexico

Photo titled Look at my dirty feet! Look at my dirty feet! by Corinne S.

Yes, my blog has gone stagnant. What can I say? I am a typical new mom in some ways. ;-) Katie and I just got back from Mexico a week ago. It was a pretty last-minute tripe with just two weeks notice. My mom and Rich decided to use some of their time-share trade-in time for my mom's birthday. When they booked their two weeks they ended up with a two-bedroom suite for the second week. Being the incredibly generous folks they are, they invited my grandma, me, and Katie to come down and use the second room. We just had to pay airfare and incidentals.

At first I thought this was ridiculous. Fly to Mexico only weeks after quitting my job and ceasing to bring income into the house (oh, did I mention I quit my job? Oops.)? But my selfless and supportive husband pointed out that, despite not being able to take vacation time himself, I should take this rare opportunity for an affordable vacation in the sun with other adults around to help with the baby. So we did it. One expedited infant passport and a lot of rigamarole later, we were at SeaTac on our way to Mazatlan. My grandma (Katie's "GG") flew down and back with us and we met my mom and Rich there. We left at 5am on a Tuesday (ugh) and headed back the following Monday afternoon. Katie did great on the plane and received A's from nearby passengers, only giving me hell on the final flight home (2 poops and a 2 hour "don't move an inch mom" lap nap).

While we were there Katie had a bit of separation anxiety and didn't want anyone but me to hold her. She also started sleeping only catnaps unless I slept with her. Still, she did really well considering the upheaval. We never got in in the pool, but I did stick her little toesies in the ocean and the sand. This picture is evidence.

There are more pictures of the trip on my Mazatlan set on Flickr and my mom's Mazatlan set on Flickr.

For any parents planning to travel with infants soon (Katie was a little under 5 months during the trip) here's my advice:

  • You aren't required to use a car seat in Mexico and no one does, so if you're not renting a car or buying your baby a seat on the plane consider leaving the car seat at home
  • The extra space in bulkhead rows is worthwhile, even with the hassle of no under-seat space for your stuff
  • There are no changing spaces on most planes, so change the diaper right before getting on the plane whenever possible. Still, come prepared with your own little changing mat and some ingenuity for the blowouts that may occur with pressure changes
  • It costs 10% of the adult fare + airport fees and taxes to have a "lap baby" on international flights
  • Yes, you have to have a passport for your baby--no matter how young--to fly to Mexico
  • The little baby tent (KidCo Pea Pod) was actually useful, though I don't know if I'd pay retail for it unless I was going to use it multiple times
  • Kids under 6 months need to wear sunblock, not sunscreen. Good brands are California Baby, Badger, and Blue Lizard.
  • You're probably going to over pack. It's okay.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Airline ticket? Check. Passport for Katie? Check.

Photo titled My first passport photo My first passport photo by Corinne S.

This morning Katie and I went to the passport agency to get Katie her own international travel passport. Why? My mom and Rich booked a trip to Mexico and ended up with a 2 bedroom suite for the second week of their stay. Rather than using the second bedroom as an oversized dressing room (as I might), they generously invited me, Katie, and my grandma to join them in Mazatlan for a week, two week from now.

Benjamin has to stay home and work, but he selflessly encouraged my unemployed ass to go take this rare vacation opportunity. He's even going to look after 2 pugs while we're gone!

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oregon roads

Photo titled Oregon roads Oregon roads by Corinne S.

Benjamin and I are making a circuit in NW and central Oregon this weekend. While the scenery is beautiful, the hours in the car are wreaking havoc on my now third-trimester body.

We've also had hellishly bad luck with traffic on our journey, at least whenever I5 is involved. Friday we drove from Seattle to Salem and it took us 7 hours (4 hours is the expected travel time). We got caught behind two different major vehicle fires--one a Metro bus, the other caught the entire I5 median on fire and closed the freeway in both directions for a couple of hours. We also hit every misc and typical backup I5 has to offer. We were 2 hours late for the wedding that instigated this entire trip.

Yesterday we drove from Salem to Bend to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law who're living in John Day, OR. What little time we spend on I5 was a trafficy mess. My mom and Rich were at the wedding in Salem and drove to Bend, too.

In Bend we visited with my family, ate at McMennamin's, and had dessert at Goody (yummy, hard, cold ice cream). Then this morning we all ate breakfast at our B&B before disbanding.

The whole weekend it's been over 100 degrees during the day. Though I haven't been out in the sun much at all, I think I got dehydrated yesterday so I was pretty miserable last night.

Today we're driving from Bend to Portland for one last night in OR before we head home.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thanks Portland!

Benjamin and I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Portland even though it felt predictably too short. We didn't make it to Saturday Market or the Rose Garden. We did go to Powell's, though briefly.

We slept, ate, wandered, saw Iron Man at the theater, and read books in our King sized bed. We stayed in a new-to-us hotel (the Embassy Suites downtown in the historic Multanomah Hotel building) and it was good. We slept through our complimentary breakfast both days though. ;-)

We ate at mostly at new-to-us places too and we weren't disappointed. We tried Manzana Rotisserie Grill on more or less a whim when the hotel concierge's recommendations didn't appeal. Not a 10 for atmosphere, but good food (especially their unusual creamy-cheesy tortilla soup). We did return to the Portland Steak & Chophouse since it was right in our hotel lobby. We ate new dishes this time though--both were pretty good.

But the culinary hit of the weekend was a recommendation from a valet at the hotel for our lunch on our last day. Muu-Muu's World Grill was extremely tasty and the bartender/server was friendly, helpful, and cute. :-) The menu was so wide-ranging we were dubious it could all be good, but our 2 entrees and 2 appetizers were all fabulous. I wish I could go again tomorrow.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Big Trip: Day Six (Kraków)

Our final day in Kraków was a good one. Maddy and Mike went to Wawel Castle while the rest of us went to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. It was super hot outside--around 90 degrees, so I was excited to go to a cool, underground attraction. On the way to our cool attraction, the bus ride was impossibly hot. We were sweating like pigs. Once we arrived, the salt mines were cool--both interesting and a lot less warm than the outside temp. We went down 53 flights of stairs to 135m below the ground. It was a stairwell that felt like it would never end. Nearly everything in the salt mine was made of salt--chandeliers, floors, statues, and more. After our visit to the salt mine, we took a taxi back to the apartments (we're no dummies). Ola recommended a great little "Polish kitchen" restaurant and Benjamin and Rob walked there are got a load of takeout kielbasa, pork steak, pirogi, and other polish yumminess. As we ate, Rob suddenly noticed that not only was Maddy grinning massively, but there was something sparkly on her hand. It turns out that Mike proposed to Maddy over lunch at Wawel Castle. They're now engaged to be married. Yea for Mike & Maddy! That put the big finish on our night. The gang (sans lame Benjamin and me) went out to a bar in the Jewish district of Kraków to celebrate. They partied and we slept. Then we all headed off to the airport early the next morning.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Big Trip: Day Five (Kraków)

Our apartment in Kraków was hot and had a lot of traffic noise, but was also very spacious and comfortable. I didn't sleep well our first night there, so on our first morning in Kraków when Benjamin woke up early, I sent him away to play on the computer in the other room. I slept in to regain what I'd lost in the wee hours. We agreed to meet our pals in Market Square at 11:15 am to go shopping. We ate breakfast in our room that morning using provisions we'd purchased late the previous night at the grocery store, along with laundry detergent to wash our clothes. TANGENT: Though many things are different in Poland, a couple of minor details I kept noticing:
  1. People don't have dryers in Poland. This means we had to dry our clothes on little racks in our apartments, which was a challenge with our small wardrobes since you had to leave enough clothes unwashed so that the clean ones could dry and you could wear them.
  2. Many public bathrooms in Poland cost money. There seems to be little reason to which cost money from my point of view though. For example, the bathroom off the hotel lobby cost money, but the one at the gas station was free.
  3. Toilets in Poland have two flush modes: big flush and little flush. It took me several days of staring at toilet flushers to figure out why there were too different buttons you could push. Finally the one in our apartment clarified it for me since one half of the button had a single water drop symbol on it while the other half of the button had two water drop symbols on it.
  4. Bathrooms in Poland rarely have fans with which to dispel shower steam or bad smells.
  5. Lights are rarely left on in Poland, even in a hotel lobby or apartment stair well.

Okay, so back to our day. We met up in Market Square and headed off shopping. We walked through the square in the general direction of the new Krakow mall. I was told that it's the largest mall in Europe. On arriving, we realized that while it is a good sized mall, it could never give the Mall of America a run for it's money. While there, the girls shopped for clothes and shoes, the boys shopped for electronics, and I used the free WiFi. ;-) After shopping, we ate at the food court in the mall. Yes, we really did. Benjamin ate McDonald's, most people at pizza or calzone, and I ate a big salad with chicken on top.

At this point the group broke up into many parts. I went with Maddy and Mike to do more tourist viewing. We walked around part of the outside of the city wall and then went to climb a tower in the square. I forget its name. It was a lot of very big stairs in a narrow corridor. It was much too short for Mike, but he made it up there anyway. After that we rewarded ourselves with gelato and I headed back to the apartment to meet up with my hubby (who had been hanging out online at the mall).

Rob & Steph had date night this night and Ola hung with her brother, so Benjamin and I joined Maddy and Mike for dinner at an "underground" restaurant on the square. It was okay, but not great. After dinner I think we again returned to our apartment for some sleep. And that's what I am going to do now. More later kids!

Labels: ,

Big Trip: Day Four (Zakopane to Kraków)

On our second day in Zakopane we were in a relative hurry since we had to check out of the hotel by 10 am. We ate a mediocre breakfast in the hotel and then checked out. The hotel was kind enough to let us leave our car in their secure parking lot for the day so we packed all of our luggage inside and set off for a day of fun. We all walked into the town of Zakopane and on to a lift that would take us up to a height where we could see the Tatra mountains on the other side of the valley. Up atop this ridge, we walked along a 3 km path/road to a little ski lift, which we rode back down. Ola was disappointed because there wasn't a clear view, but we all thought it was pretty anyway. Back at the bottom, we realized that the bus we'd planned to ride back wouldn't come for another hour or something, so we decided to hoof it back to town. As we neared the hotel, thunder threatened to bring more rain. We put four of our roller bags into garbage sacks and hoisted them onto the roof, tying them down with rope from Ola's dad. And then we were off to Kraków (in Polish, this is pronounced Crah-koof). With Rob back behind the wheel, we spend another 2-3 hours enjoying the Polish drivers. By this point we got into the sport of it. Rob even completed one passing maneuver worthy of a native Pole. We laughed a lot at the absurd things people did on the roads. After a few challenges with the Polish atlas, we made our way into the city of Kraków and went to the Old Town Apartments office near Market Square. We redeemed our keys, paid our bills, and got the addresses of our temporary apartments. By this time it was about 4pm and we needed to return the rental mini-van by 5. Rob rushed us to the apartment and we pulled up behind a double-parked van and began frantically unloading luggage onto the sidewalk. At this point, the van pulled away to reveal a police car. Apparently the van handed so much been double parked as pulled over by the cops! He told us to move the van and when we indicated we were almost done he said, "No, now, go." In deference to his orders, Rob reparked the van on the sidewalk (this is legal in Krakow, though in this case we took up more room than is polite). We finished unloading the van onto the sidewalk and got Rob and Steph pulled back out into traffic. Maddy, Mike, Benjamin and I loaded up 6 people's bags and began to walk the last 2 blocks to the apartment. On the way we encountered Steph, who had left the rental car paperwork in her bag, which we now had. After giving her the paperwork, we plodded down the sidewalk while they raced off toward the rental car office. According to Rob & Steph, they reached the office at 4:59pm--1 minute before closing--and convinced the man there to let them in rather than locking the gate. They got charged for insurance they hadn't wanted, but other than that all was well. In the meantime, the other 4 of us were hauling everyone's bags up the 4 flights of stairs to our new digs. There was some huffing and puffing, a broken bottle of beer on the stairs, and a punctured can of Red Bull, but all was well. We made it into the apartments and so did the luggage. After a refreshing shower-bath in a kidney-shaped bathtub with a shower head but no curtain, we headed off to dinner in the market square. After all our walking, we opted to take a cab back to the market. Benjamin and Rob had opted for a fancy Polish restaurant, which is a bit of an oxy-moron as it turns out. The food at the restaurant was fancy and good, but not really Polish at all. Even so, we enjoyed ourselves. There may have been coffee or something like that post-dinner, but Benjamin and I headed home to bed none too let and left the partying to heartier souls. I was still sick, after all.

Labels: ,

Big Trip: Day Three (Zakopane)

I awoke at the hotel in in Zakopane (pronounced Zah-ko-pah-nay) to discover I was definitely getting sick. My throat was more sore and my sinuses were getting cranky. We went out to breakfast with the gang at a waffle joint in Zakopane's little town and then Rob & Steph meandered to a crepe place up the street. Everyone wanted to go for a hike, but with my sore throat I thought it ill advised. While the 5-some hiked, Benjamin and I took an afternoon nap. There were thunder showers while we slept, and the hikers got very wet. However, since it was in the mid-80's at the time, they were somewhat thankful for the dousing. After the hike, we all went into town in search of dinner. The group let Benjamin pick, and he found a cheesy-seeming place serving Polish mountain fare in a rustic wooden establishment. The food was plentiful and quite good. I think everyone enjoyed it and we thought it was some of the best restaurant food to date on the trip. Back in the room after dinner, vodka drinking ensued and then Benjamin and I begged off and returned to bed. The late night crew did there thing until the wee hours of morning.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Big Trip: Day Two (Rzeszów and Zakopane)

I know now that the night of Day 1, a few of our gang stayed up until 4am drinking a good portion of a second bottle of vodka. This turns out to be prophetic for our time in Poland. On our second day in Poland, those who could slept in a bit and then Maddy made us all breakfast since Ola's parents had to go to work that day (it being a Monday). We thought that Maddy's bag would arrive this day, but it turned out it wouldn't arrive until the next day. Ola's mom gave Ryan Air what for and arranged to have the bag waiting for us at the hotel in Zakopane when we arrived. In the afternoon, we loaded some of the luggage onto the roof and tied it down. Then the seven of us (six from Seattle + Ola) piled into the Kia Carnival mini-van and we headed into the mountains. We stopped a few times for food and breaks and arrived in Zakopane (pronounced Zah-ko-pah-nay) about four hours later. For lunch we'd stopped in a little town and gotten a whole bunch of different kinds of pierogi from a restaurant that Ola described as being "like grade school cafeteria food." Though that's not much of an endorsement in America, this food was pretty good. At least by our standards of pierogi. Being terribly full, we stayed in the hotel for dinner and ate leftover pierogi and spoils from the local grocery store. Of course this included kiełbasa and vodka. The last hour of the drive I'd started to get a scratchy throat, so I took it easy and went to bed early. Some of the other carousers went out after drinking and found a place to dance in Zakopane. They're having a much wilder adventure than I am. ;-)

Labels: ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

Big Trip: Day 1 (Rzeszów)

Our first day in Poland was a warm one. I woke up late, around 11am Poland time (just like I sleep in at home). It was a Sunday and Ola's mom was making a big breakfast for all of us. The breakfast was delicious, especially the scrambled eggs which Ola says are prepared the same but are just really good local eggs. Breakfast included a lot of translations between Ola and her guests, with Benjamin speaking some Polish as well. There is even a dessert as part of Polish breakfast! After chilling out for a bit and showers for all the weary, we went into the town of Rzeszów to walk around. It was the Pope's birthday, so there was a huge celebration in town, including an 87m long cake competing for the Guinness World Book of Records longest piece of cake record. We wandered around for an hour or two and took lots of pictures (many photographers in this group) and then went to get coffee at Costa Coffee, the nearest equivalent to Starbucks that Poland has to offer. After our coffee and smoothies, we headed over to the train station to meet Ola's brother Stanisław (called "Stashik") at the train station. Then we headed back to Ola's house for dinner. Ola's mom had really hit it out of the park for dinner. With a little help from Ola, she fixed beet soup with meat raviolis (Benjamin isn't here to remind me of the Polish name for this) to start, and delicious pork and Kasha (a grain) as the entree (and salad). After the main course we had her homemade apple strudel, which was delicious. I guess she doesn't always cook this way, but we were the beneficiaries of her fabulous culinary abilities on this day. After dinner, Benjamin and I took a two-hour nap while others chatted or went for a walk. Then Steph kindly rousted us from bed to join everyone at an outdoor concert in town. We went and saw a famous Polish singer who has been performing for over 40 years in Poland and seems to be beloved by all. Everyone at the concert knew the words the songs, singing along, and sometimes jumping up and down cheering. It was great to see such happiness amongst all ages of Polish folks. Ola's parents and brother were there, too. We left a few songs before the end, unable to stand up much longer, and headed back to Ola's house. There we fell onto the couch and were shortly brought Polish vodka and kilbase by Ola's parents. We had a lively conversation and snacks until almost 1am, when the brand new bottle of Vodka was drained. And then to bed for some real sleep!

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Big Trip: 48 hours in Transit

Our friend Ola is Polish and is home visiting her family for 3 months. She invited her friends to visit her in Poland and Steph, Rob, Maddy, and Mike accepted. Later, Benjamin and I decided to go, too. We're flying to Europe at a reduced rate by the generosity of Mimi's Delta Friends & Family passes. That means we fly standby. Unfortunately it turns out that flying this way is a bit tougher and more expensive than it was when we last did it. And since Delta's partners don't accept these passes anymore, we couldn't fly into Poland directly. So we decided to fly standby to London, where we'd meet up with our friends and take a paid flight from London to Krakow. Flying standby brings the stress of uncertainty. We were planning to leave Friday morning from Seattle, giving us about 4 chances to make it to London on time for our flight to Krakow. When I checked the seat availability on those flights Wednesday night though, it didn't look good. Thursday was a whirlwind of appointments and driving to Tacoma and back to deliver the puggy to my mom's house. Thursday, 4:30pm I checked seat availability for Friday again and it had gotten even worse. It was negative. Benjamin and I decided that, although not yet packed, we had to get ourselves to the airport for a 10:30pm flight to Atlanta. It was our best chance. Thursday, 5:00pm Thus began a mad packing frenzy. Though we got out of the house an hour and 45 minutes later than we hoped, we miraculously made it onto the 10:30pm flight. It was a pleasant and uneventful ride to Atlanta. Friday, 3:00am (6:00am in Atlanta) I didn't sleep on the flight and Benjamin barely did, so when we got to Atlanta around 6am local time on Friday (3am in Seattle) with 11 hours to go until the first flight to London, we called a few hotels to ask about day rates. We decided to fork out the cash for some sleep and a shower, and chose the Westin since we knew the beds are good. Friday, 1:00pm (4:00pm in Atlanta) 6 hours of sleep and 2 showers later, we returned to the Atlanta airport and easily made it onto the flight to London. Hallelujah! We remained awake the entire flight again, and watched over 7 hours worth of new releases on Delta's new on-demand video screens in coach class (thank god for that). In addition to the movies, Benjamin also whipped out his Nintendo DS and Nintendogs, on which he created a virtual version of our dog Maple to keep us company. Yes, we missed our dog already. Friday, 11:00pm (7:00am in London) We arrived at London Gatwick airport around 7am local time on Saturday (11pm Friday in Seattle). After an hour in customs, we "queued up" in line to buy tickets on the Gatwick Express train to London. You see, Gatwick is 30 minutes south of London by express train, whereas Stansted is an hour north of London by express train. Our flight to Krakow was leaving from Stansted, but not until 6pm. Saturday, 1:00am (9:00am in London) We took the train into London successfully and found a place to pay to leave our roller bags for a few hours. Photo titled Sweat tea and the morning paper Then we had breakfast at Baker & Spice near Victoria Station. While at Baker & Spice, we saw a fancy pet store across the street called Mungo & Maud. Photo titled Tasty treats for British doggies We went in and looked for something nice for Maple, but wooey it was expensive (so we passed)! From there we walked to the famous Harrod's department store and explored the third floor (can you guess? electronics!). Saturday, 5:00am (1:00pm in London) After lunch at Harrod's, and starting to wind down in energy, we headed back to Victoria station and caught the Standsted Express train to our next airport. At the Stansted airport we arrived 3 hours early for our flight on RyanAir to Krakow. You would think this would be enough time, right? Well... Saturday, 7:00am (3:00pm in London) We tried to check in for our flight, but it was too early. We had to wait an unknown amount of time for that line to open, and in Europe you can only take one carry-on bag so we had to wait to check bags before we could go through security. While waiting, we found Rob & Steph, who had taken a bus from Heathrow, and we all took a break to eat "dinner" at a Pret in the airport. When we returned, the line had finally opened, but it was very, very long. We queued up. We waited at least an hour in line. Time was ticking by and we were not yet through security and there was no sign of Maddy and Mike. We tried to call them, but couldn't figure out how to dial internationally. Saturday, 9:00am (5:00pm in London) We finally make it through the check-in line (they have no computers, and the line was so slow we thought they might be hand-carving custom boarding passes in wood). Now on to security. The line to show your passport is minuscule. Sweet. And then we see the real security queue. Crap. We now proceed to wait another 45 minutes in line and in the meantime we get separated from Rob & Steph in different security lines. But on the plus side, Maddy and Mike arrive! They had to take a £200 cab ride (that's $400!) from Heathrow to Gatwick to get to the airport on time (by the skins of their teeth). Saturday, 9:45am (5:45pm in London) We run to gate 49. Yes, that's a long way. Down a corridor, up an escalator, around a corner, down some stairs, down another very long corridor, and so on. Final boarding call. We make it on the plane. Rob & Steph are shocked. Plane doors closing in 5 minutes. Where are Maddy & Mike? Still in security? What will we do if they don't make it? At the last second, Maddy & Mike arrive, sweaty, onto the plane. The doors close. In a few minutes, we take off. Phew! I pass out in exhaustion and sleep for the 2 hours to Krakow. Saturday, 1:30pm (9:30pm in Krakow) We arrive in Krakow tired, but happy to be there. We head off to baggage claim (brief wait in customs) to reclaim our forcibly checked baggage. All is well. My new, green roller bag arrives safe and sound. We all have our luggage. Except Maddy. And then the belt stops going. No bag. Hmm. Maddy, Mike, Benjamin, and I head to the lost baggage office to investigate while Rob & Steph go to get our rental car. No bag. No idea where the bag is. Ola's brother arrives and helps out by providing the address where we will be staying and so on. Maddy is without clothing. On we go. Saturday, 2:30pm (10:30pm in Krakow) Ola's brother returns to his dorm in Krakow, handing over his Polish cell phone in case we get lost. The Seattlites pile into a 7-passenger Kia mini-van and Rob takes the helm. We find the first of many Polish techno radio stations and head off into the night. It's dark and there is lots of construction on the freeways. Rob observes that the construction guide signs are made of concrete and steel, unlike our plastic cones back home, and they're placed close to the road edge. It's an adventure. We stop for water and food at a gas station, whose power is being flipped on an off repeatedly as they search for what's tripping the circuit. Benjamin pays cash (that's in złotch) for all of us. Saturday, 5:00pm (2:00am in Rzeszów) We arrive in Rzeszów (pronounced Jeshov) on what we think is the street where Ola lives, but we can't find her house. Our directions are approximate and conflict with Google maps. The house is new and doesn't have an address yet. We're searching the pitch black night for a yellow house with a Polish flag and lights on in a long stretch of road. No luck. After several calls to Ola, we return to the last major intersection and Ola comes to meet us and guides us back to her house. It turns out we were a km or two shy of the house. After a brief hello and being shown to our rooms, we all fall quietly into our beds to sleep the sleep of the dead.

Labels: ,

Big trip

Benjamin and I are in Poland. Again, I ran out of time before posting about it. We're on a trip with friends. A big vacation before my new job starts. We're visiting our friend Ola in Poland with 4 other friends from Seattle and after that we'll be staying in London for ~5 days with my former MS coworker Phillip.

Labels: ,