Summer Fun

What do you do in the summer for fun? Do you go on vacations, go road tripping, amusement parks?

For me, nothing beats a good road trip. It can be a day trip or a couple of days. Get off the main roads and definitely off the highways and just drive around and find something new you haven’t seen before.

I get up early in the morning and off I go. I have no set plans or places I’m going so I just take off.

A couple of weeks ago I went West into Pennsylvania. Just driving around and I found Bushkill Falls. Very beautiful place. You can bring a picnic and make a day of it. Great hiking trails, good for all types of hikers.

I would definitely recommend Bushkill Falls if you are ever in Pennsylvania, worth it for sure.

Summer Cooking

So, how do you cook during the summer months? My family does a lot of grilling, though we do grill all year around even in the winter with the snow on the ground. We enjoy our grill and like trying new foods on the grill that we would usually not grill.

Recently we have been grilling ribs. We cook them in the oven first and then put them on the grill to give them some more color and a bit of crisp outside. They are very good.

Another food I have heard of grilling is pizza. We have not tried it yet but it is on our list to do. My brother has grilled pizza and he raves about how good it is.

A lot of people grill vegetables. My family hasn’t done a lot of that but we have tried grilling corn on the cob. We have had mixed reviews with that one. You leave the husks on the corn and you wet the outside of the husk and then put them on the grill. Unfortunately, some of the corn cooks and some burns. Obviously we are doing something wrong, we will just have to keep trying until we get it correct.

We also do a lot of cold salads, macaroni salad, potato salad, green salads. Summer just seems to be the best time for all those salads you like but normally don’t make very often.

This is cooking but how can you forget about all the wonderful fruits in the summer. My all time favorite is watermelon. I can’t get enough of watermelon. Nothing better than biting into a nice cold piece of watermelon.

So again, what do you love cooking in the summertime? Please share your favorites with us.

Comfort Food

Do you have a comfort food? Is there one or more meals that are your go-to meals when you need some comfort or just want to think about home, your parents, or grandparents?

I have a couple of comforts foods that I fall back to on occasion. If it is breakfast i like a toasted bagel with peanut butter and bacon on it. Now I know that probably doesn’t sound all that appetizing to some people but I tell you, don’t knock it until you try it. I think it is very good

Now for lunch nothing can beat a really good cheeseburger. Now I’m not talking a fast food burger but a homemade cheeseburger.

My next comfort food would be what my grandmother called American Chop Suey. Some people would call it beef and macaroni. The way my grandmother made it was that she would scramble hamburg with some onions and salt & pepper. While she was doing that she would have water on to boil for the elbow macaroni. Now, for whatever reason I can tell you that is HAS to be elbow macaroni and not any other kind of pasta. Just doesn’t taste the same without the elbow macaroni. Yes, I do realize that pasta basically tastes the same but it really does make a difference here. Once the macaroni was cooked she would drain it and then put it in with the hamburg and onion mixture. She would then put in a can or two of tomato soup. Stir it altogether and there you have it, American Chop Suey. My total comfort food.

What is YOUR best comfort food?

Favorite Recipe

Do you have a favorite recipe that you fall back on when you need to bring something to a gathering? Do you like to bring an appetizer, main dish, or a dessert? I enjoy bringing desserts. Making desserts for my friends and family is something I like to do. I like to make desserts that look very complicated and have that wow factor but in reality are very easy to make.

So, are you willing to share your favorite recipe with me? Something that you always fall back on when you need to bring something? Come on, don’t be shy, I’ll give you one of my favorite recipes.

One of the easiest recipes I’ve made is called Pink Lemonade Pie. It is a great dessert for the summertime. It is a frozen pie so you don’t even have to cook at all if you don’t want to. Below is the recipe.

Pink Lemonade Pie
9-inch pre-made graham cracker crust
1 large tub of Cool Whip
1 can frozen pink lemonade partially thawed (if you can find a small can get that instead)
Red food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, empty Cool Whip and half the can of Pink Lemonade (if you have a small can use the whole thing)

Fold together until just mixed together. Start with 2 drops of red food coloring and mix together. You are looking for a nice pink color to the mixture.

Pour into Graham Cracker Crust and smooth top out. Carefully insert a couple of toothpicks part way into pie and then carefully cover with plastic wrap. Place in freezer for at least an hour or until pie is solid.

This recipe doesn’t have a great wow factor but it is always enjoyed by everyone when I bring it to a get together.

I hope you will share a favorite recipe with me.

Ketchikan, AK

I finally got back to Alaska after going there for the first time 7 years ago. I went by cruise ship again just because for me that seems to be the easiest way for me to get there.

The first stop we made was Ketchikan. It’s a great town. They claim to be the Salmon Capital of the World.

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While we were there my friend & I went to the Lumberjack show.  Now if you want something serious and all this is not the show for you to go to.  They have a lot of fun joking with each other and also with the audience.  They form 2 teams and the audience cheers for their respective teams.  Now, the lumberjacks are there to show you a good time and they do but I can also tell you they know what they are doing.  They are very skilled with the axe, saw & chainsaw.

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Of course Ketchikan has a lot of shops for you to spend your money in also.  If you have ever been to the Caribbean and seen all the jewelry stores well they have the same ones up in Alaska also.  I will admit for me, that takes a bit away from the charm but no one is making you go into them so you if you just go off the beaten path a bit you can find stores that have gifts and items that are made by locals.  To me I enjoy finding the out of way places to pick up something from my trip.

I would definitely recommend going to the Lumberjack show if you ever get to Ketchikan.  Also, just walk around and see as much as you can see while you are there.  After all you are on vacation, most likely to a place you haven’t been before.  Get off the main drag and really see the town and the area around it.

Seattle, WA

Seattle is a very nice city. So very different than the cities on the east coast. People are very friendly which is a very nice thing. I was in Seattle overnight before I took a cruise.

My friend & I got to the airport and was able to find a taxi no problem. The cheapest way to get downtown is the Light Rail train service. We did not know this until after the fact. The taxi to downtown from the airport was about $46.00. They are doing construction on the roads so it may cost a bit more because of back-ups on the roads. The Light Rail is less than $10.00. You do the math but you can see where you would save quite a bit of money.

We stayed the night at the Warwick Seattle Hotel. I had never heard of the Warwick brand name before but I can tell you the Warwick Seattle was a GREAT hotel. The staff was very friendly and helpful and the room was very nice. It had a coffee maker and a mini refrigerator in the room. We had 2 queen size beds and still had a lot of room to move around in.

We were about 4 or 5 blocks from Pike Place Market. If/when you are in Seattle Pike Place Market is a definite must see place. Yes it is a tourist place but the locals do go there also. This is the place where you can see them throw fresh fish at each other if you so desire. I have never seen them do it in person but have seen it on TV. They have all different kinds of food vendor and arts & crafts vendors. They also have flower vendors. The flowers are just amazing. They sell them in bouquets for $10.00 and $15.00 dollars. These are not small bouquets either. They are very large ones.

The original Starbuck’s Coffee is also located near the Pike Place Market. If you want to say that you were at the first Starbuck’s be prepared to wait in line. The line is very long so be patient. I was at the Market 3 times and Starbuck’s had long lines each time.

For dinner that night we went to SkyCity Restaurant in the Space Needle. Now supposedly this is the place to go. I know now that it is the place to go if you are a tourist. The restaurant rotates so you get to have a 360 degree very of Seattle and the surrounding areas. The views and the wait staff are excellent, couldn’t ask for better. The food, not so much. Don’t get me wrong it was good but definitely not for the price you pay. If you do go just remember you are paying for the view and not the food.

Overall Seattle is a great city to visit and I will definitely be going back.

European Travel

I have been lucky enough to travel over in Europe twice now. Both times have been on cruises and I have enjoyed it very much. The one HUGE problem I have is converting US Dollars into Euros.

My most current trip over I was in Cologne, Germany and went into a store with friends. As we were looking around I found a very nice rain jacket that was on sale.  It was water proof, wind proof and had a very nice fleece lining.  It was 49 Euro or close to that. I decided that $49.00 dollars was a good price so I was going to get it. When I went to pay with my credit card I was asked if I wanted to pay in Euros or US Dollars. I decided to pay in US Dollars. Well my “sale” turned out to be a very expensive lesson. It cost $112.00 US Dollars.

My point with that story is to let you know that there are some very good FREE apps for your phones that will convert currency for you so you don’t have to guess what you are paying. One of the best I believe is XE Currency. Another good one is called GlobeConvert – Currency & Units. Both of these are free.  If you don’t want to download apps you can also buy currency converters and carry them with you.

Now one thing I want to let you know about is using your phone over in Europe. It is great to have these currency apps that let you know what you are really paying for something but PLEASE remember this: you need to make sure you have an International Plan on your phone before you go to Europe or anywhere outside of the United States.

While on the cruise I saw so many people using their phones for text messages and checking emails. Believe me, it is a wonderful thing to be able to do. The problem is that many people do not realize that when you are outside of the United States you are paying a TON more for minutes used and your data. I have a friend who found this out the hard way when he went on vacation and used his smartphone and came home to a $2500.00 phone bill.

With the mobile company I use I know I can ask for the international plan to be turned on for when I am outside of the United States and when I get home I can have it turned off. I would think all mobile companies have similar plans, you just need to check into them. Now you are still going to be paying more than you normally do and I would make sure to limit the amount of time you are on your phones but your bill is still going to be cheaper than if you forget and use it without the international plan.

Whatever you decide to do while on vacation have fun! Remember some vacations are once in a lifetime so if you DO end up paying $112.00 for something just enjoy it and don’t beat yourself up about paying more than you would at home. Just learn the lesson and go from there.

Happy travels!

Ocean or River Cruising

I have been on 5 or 6 ocean cruises and have enjoyed everyone. In May I took a river cruise. The cruise company that I went with was Viking River Cruises.

The main thing I would tell you before you decide which cruise you think would be best for you is how much relaxation or excitement you want on your cruise.

3 of my friends & I flew out of Newark, NJ at 6:00 pm on a Friday night. We landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday morning at 6:00 am. Now when you fly at night you really think that you will be able to sleep during the flight. Unfortunately that didn’t happen with us. We all dozed but sure didn’t get even a couple of hours of shut-eye in.

Now when you go on an ocean cruise you go to the terminal and you are usually in this very large area where they check you in and give you your room key and any other information you need and then you have to wait to get on the ship. Not so with a river cruise. We got on the bus to go to the dock. The bus pulled right up to the dock and we just walked right onto the boat. No checking in or anything.

When you go on an ocean cruise you usually have to wait until 1:00 pm or later before you can check-in and get onto the ship. By the time we got to the boat for the river cruise it was 9:00 am and when we got on the boat we went to the lounge and every once in a while someone would come by and ask you what room you were in and they would check a list to see if it had been cleaned yet. Once the room is ready you are taken right to it and that is it.

Now another huge difference between ocean & river cruising is the size and the amount of people on board. An ocean cruise can have up to 5000 plus on the ship while on a river cruise there are only about 150 passengers plus 50 employees. BIG different.

Usually the day that you leave port you have a “muster” drill which is a drill so you know where to go in case the ship is in trouble and you have to get off it. On an ocean cruise you are with a lot of other people at your “muster” station and they tell you how to get onto the lifeboats if needed. On a river cruise you are basically broken into 2 different locations and told that there are no lifeboats onboard. On the cruise I was on on the Rhine River we were told that the Rhine River is 10 feet deep and the boat we were on was 20 feet high. So, if the boat had a problem and was taking on water we just had to go to the top deck and we would still be 10 feet above the water. I have to tell you, I really liked that instead of thinking about be adrift at sea somewhere.

Now onto the important stuff. Entertainment. Now if you are someone who needs to be entertained and kept busy 24/7 then a river cruise is NOT for you. River cruises do not have casinos, no movie theaters, if they have a pool it is very small. On a river cruise you have to know how to relax and enjoy doing nothing. I enjoy reading in my down time so I didn’t have any problem with it but I have a friend who would have gone nuts on this cruise because he needs to be doing something all the time.

On an ocean cruise they have 2 “shows” a night plus comedians or something else for you to see plus a casino and movie theater. There is always something to do on an ocean cruise. The river cruise they have entertainment but very low keyed compared to the ocean cruise. One night while we were in port they brought in a pianist & singer for an hour. That was the entertainment for the evening. Another night they brought on a glass blower for a demonstration.

Another difference is excursions. On an ocean cruise you pay for every excursion you go on. On the river cruise 1 excursion, usually in the morning, is included in the price you paid. There is an optional excursion in the afternoon or evening that you have to pay for if you want to go on it.

A river cruise seems to be a bit more luxurious than an ocean cruise but again it depends on what you are looking for in a cruise. One other thing that is worth mentioning is that while you can eat yourself into oblivion on an ocean cruise you can’t do that on a river cruise. Since there are so few people on the river cruise you all eat at the same time. So if you want to just eat the whole time you are on a cruise then definitely go on an ocean cruise.

Overall I really enjoyed the river cruise though I am not sure if I would go on another one. River cruises seem to be for an older crowd. That being said I am no spring chicken but I was one of the youngest on the cruise. It was fun and we did make some great friends from England and we all enjoyed ourselves completely.

Just remember when you are thinking about going on a cruise do your homework. If you book a river cruise thinking you are going to be partying the whole week your are going to be very disappointed. Also, if you book an ocean cruise thinking you are going to have peace and quiet you are in for a rude awakening. But if you do your homework before you go on your cruise I can tell you that you will have a great time.

Happy traveling.

Winter Travel

I don’t know where you live but I live on the East Coast and we get snow in the winter. How many of you have planned a trip only to have it cancelled because the weather turned on you?

I was going to Las Vegas to visit relatives this past February and another storm was suppose to hit my area. I was suppose to fly out on a Saturday at 4:00 pm just when the storm was suppose to be at it’s worse.

Saturday morning I went online to the airline I was flying on and checked to see what was going on. I recommend you do this because it can really be helpful. When I got to the website I found out because of the storms on the East Coast my airline was letting people change flights without a penalty charge. Right there is a major bonus since some of the penalty charges can be up to $200.00 to change your flight.

Now I will tell you patience is the word when trying to get to actually speak to a live person. I called 4 times and the automated recording told me all operators were busy and to call back. Then it would disconnect me. On my 5th time I was told I had a 60 minute wait. Make sure you have something to entertain yourself with as you are on hold but don’t give up.

I finally got connected to a live operator and though polite you could definitely tell she wasn’t have a good day because of all the changed and cancelled flights she had to deal with.

The key is to make sure you are polite and again use a bit of patience and remind yourself you are probably one of hundreds the person has had to speak to that day and some are not going to be nice.

I would also recommend that you have the airline website up and have checked it out to see what flight YOU want to take instead of just getting on one they want to give you. This worked to my advantage when speaking with the operator. She was going to put me on a flight for the next day which was Sunday but leaving at 9:00 pm. I really didn’t want to do that so even though it shortened my trip I saw a flight online that left very early Monday morning. I told the operator my choice of flight and she started to book it. I was going to get put in the very back of the plane. Now I am a member of the airline’s reward program so while she was trying to find a flight and seat for me I looked to see if I would be able to upgrade to First Class. When she told me where I would be sitting I politely told her that I could see I could upgrade to first class. She checked and told me it would cost me an additionally $2.50 over what I paid for the ticket. Now I don’t know about all of you but I can tell you I will pay an extra $2.50 any day to be upgraded to First Class. It was only going because the return flight was still the same as when I booked the flight.

So what I am trying to tell you is if you do travel during the winter months with storms popping up whenever they want to just do your homework and you could get a very nice surprise and not only not get charged for a flight change but you may be able to live the high life for a very small amount of money and fly First Class.

Remember to have fun and even though things pop up that may seem like your vacation is going to be ruined you may just have to start your vacation a day or two later. Don’t just assume the worst that the whole vacation is over because a flight was cancelled. See what else can be done to continue on with your adventure.

Solo Long Distance Road Trip

I made my first long distance road trip the first of July. I have gone on solo road trips before but they have been short and not too far from home. The first weekend in July I drove from New Jersey to Atlanta, GA. A friend of mine was having a baby shower and I just had to surprise her by showing up.

I didn’t start out thinking about taking a road trip but after finding out that it was going to be almost $1000.00 dollars to fly down plus the cost of a hotel and a rental car I decided I could go a lot cheaper if I drove myself.  I actually spent around $450.00 round trip.

Now the directions that I got told me it was only a 14 hour trip but you all know that doesn’t take into account stopping for gas or food or anything. I decided I would do it in 2 days and make it a nice enjoyable drive.

I left my house on July 4th at around 5:20 in the morning. Drove for 2 hours until I got to Harrisburg, PA and stopped for breakfast. I was thinking that because it was the 4th of July there wouldn’t be much traffic. Was I wrong! I believe every trucker on the East Coast decided to drive that day. It was very interesting going through mountains on a 2 lane highway with the big trucks.

I stopped for the night in Gaffney, NC at a Hampton Inn. I had decided since I was going such a distance that I would stay at name brand hotels that I knew were good quality. On my short road trips I tend to be a bit more adventurous and try some “mom & pop” type hotel/motels.

After having breakfast the next morning I got back on the road. Now I should tell you I was only about 3 to 4 hours away from Atlanta, GA at this point so I figured I would be there by 1:00 pm at the latest. I actually got to the hotel at 5:30 pm that night.

Thankfully I didn’t have a certain time I needed to get there but it is a good thing to keep in mind if you are traveling and you do need to be somewhere at a certain to make sure you stick to a schedule. I stopped at some outlet malls on the way down and walked around for a couple of hours so that is where my time went.

The baby shower was a huge success with my friend being very suprised with the shower itself and with 3 of her friends from New Jersey being there. 2 other ladies went down though they flew. Everyone had a great time.

I took 2 more days to come home, the only thing I didn’t really give myself enough time for was to spend another day down in Atlanta to visit with my friend. Next time I will make sure that I do that.

I have to say for my first long distance road trip it was great and I enjoyed every second of it. I would definitely recommend everyone who likes to travel to do it at least once. I can tell you that I see many more road trips in my future. Yes, it would be fun with other people with you but remember, when you are by yourself you get to pick the speed in which you get to your destination along with where you stay and what you do. Sometimes that is a good thing.

Have fun traveling wherever you go!