Saturday, March 29, 2014

How I Go About Planning a Trip, Or, The Most Intense Trip Planning Ever

Otto and I are about 2 months out from our two week adventure to the Pacific Northwest. It will be my first time to the area, but it is where he was born and raised. For most of the trip, we are staying with his family on the Olympic Peninsula, located a hop, skip, and ferry ride west of Seattle, about two hours. Although, I'm not going to lie, before we got married, I didn't even know there was anything west of Seattle!!
Since it will be my first time, and I am a Travel Agent, we will be making a few side trips including: 1 night in Seattle, 1 night in Victoria British Columbia, and 1 night in Portland, Oregon, and perhaps a few spontaneous adventures. Who am I kidding, most DEFINITELY a few spontaneous adventures.

As I was tooling around online this evening, I was thinking about my trip planning process, and how it is pretty much the same for every trip I take: intense as ever #andprobablydrivesmyhusbandinsane. I thought it might be fun to outline, and perhaps give some ideas to someone who doesn't know where to even start when planning a trip.

Step # 1. This might seem obvious, but you need to pick the destination.
As someone who is saturated with wanderlust, I have the immense urge to go everywhere, all the time. But you have to weigh some factors:
1. how much time do you have
2. how much money to you have
3. what interests you
4. what inspires you

Sometimes when I am planning a trip for a client, it pains me when they don't have at least 2 out of the 4 above towards their trip, which causes them to be cranky and uninvolved, dollar signs flashing, time off balances at work reducing, and no one the happier.

One example would be that while we were planning this trip, I was decidedly taking us to Vancouver, no questions about it, no matter how much it cost to get there or how rushed it would be! Though, the more we looked into it, we just didn't see anything that really caught our eye. It didn't inspire us, and after costing out a few scenarios, was a little more than our budget allowed. Also, the timing was just a bit off with how many days we had to get from A to B. We would have been straining to see it, while probably not enjoying it that much with so little time. So we nixed it in favor of spending more time enjoying Seattle (though I am sure we are going to be missing out!).

This might mean you wait a few extra months to save up, or it could mean you just pick a different destination!

Step #2 Get to know your new destination

After choosing the destination, you want to get to know it better than that person from high school you secretly creep on #letsbehonest. I Google, TripAdvisor, CNN, Instagram, Facebook, follow, like, friend, thumbs up, and Twitter it! These days most tourism departments, restaurants, hotels, and popular sights have a profile somewhere that they post regularly to. My favorite thing to do is find everything related to the destination in Instagram. It's as easy as taking 5 minutes during my lunch break and searching "Seattle."

  For this trip I am following a few different specific hotels like the Fairmont Empress in Victoria where we are staying, as well as some restaurants, like a few #aton that I am dying to check out.
This gives you some insight into the destination whether it be tips on getting around, social media discounts, or where to catch the best sunrise. Do it! You can always unfollow after you have your own pictures and advice to offer!

#Step 3 Details Details Details

Now you have to start legitimately planning your trip. If you are sure about dates and places, I would lock in airfare first. We have had our flights for months now. Take it from a pro - last minute flight deals to popular hubs are non existent. If only I could have forewarned all the people who, in the last week of March are planning their April School Vacation trips and paying exorbitant prices to get to Orlando. Get. Your. Flights. Early.

Maybe I am a hotel snob, but DO NOT SETTLE for accommodations that are just "meh" when you are traveling! Who wants to come back from a long day of touring around and pay to sleep in a bed worse than the one you left at home! Not this girl right here! Ok, there are exceptions - says the girl who once spent a night with the hobos outside of South Station in Boston and has slept in hostels in random places. Just decide what you want and that your expectations reasonable.

Fairmont Empress, where we are staying in Victoria, BC

We have a few hotels booked for this trip, and I use a combination of methods to obtain best rates. I always look for the most ideal hotel I want to stay in and work from there. This included going on Trip Advisor and checking out the Top Ten best rated hotels in Seattle and calling them for their best rates. I also emailed a few of them for more information about where they are located, if it is easy to get to their hotel from the airport, etc. Most of the rates for top ten hotels in a destination will be sky high, but take it easy. Search groupon, living social, travelzoo, and kayak for discounts and best rates. Personally, I hate hate hate booking through Expedia type "online travel agencies" and would rather book directly with the hotel, or with a Travel Agent.  #Oopsie #Plug. It is more personal, you can ask questions, ensure exactly what you are paying and how much you are paying for, as well as make any requests you need, ensuring the hotel gets the memo. In my experience the cancellation policy is a lot less stress if you stay away from online travel agencies, and you can sometimes get the rate directly with the hotel.

I could go on. Ask me in the comments if you have any questions.

Step #4 Think About The Excitement!

Now that you have everything booked and locked in, start thinking about the excitement! See the picture on Instagram and make a mental note to check out that hilariously touristy statue. Read the article about the best coffee in Seattle, and map out how close the cafe's are to your hotel. Chat it up. Dream it up.

Step #5 Wait

The hardest part for me. It's especially hard because my job involved travel planning, so I am always thinking about what else to add to my trip, or how else I can get the best deal. Sometimes, I just have to think about other things though, and just remind myself that it will be great!

Step #6 GO!

The best part!

How do you go about planning a trip? Are you not as crazy as I am about it? Are you more crazy about planning than me? I am super curious!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Oh Hey

Just testing out this new layout to see how I like it. If you have any comments or issues getting around the blog, let me know!

Also, Wordpress sucks, Blogger wins.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Maps, Maps, Maps

I love maps. It is a pretty intense situation, my love. One of the best things about my job is that I get to look at maps all day long. Looking at maps to find people, to find cities, to find townships, to find stores or addresses, to find land marks or highways or intersections.

It is surprising and kind of funny that no one ever really knows where they are (with all the access we have to maps these days.. right?). But I get to pull up my best friend GoogleMaps and search away! Last week, using my map skills, I was able to find a road that no one else could find! Good old Shirley-Leominster Road that is like one foot long.

Since people are always driving everywhere, I get to learn about some of the most captivating places. I can take one call, google map it, and then spend the rest of my shift learning about a new place (in between other calls and work of course).

Anyways, I figured I would share three of my recent discoveries with you! Take a gander:

Did you know that Old Oaken Bucket Road in Plymouth, Massachusetts actually has a world famous poem written about it, and also has a Big Ten college football trophy named after it?!

Who knew that off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine lie a small gaggle of islands known as the Isles of Shoals? These were discovered by John Smith in 1620, used as fishing villages populating up to 1,000 people, then as an artistic colony, then resort getaway in the 19th century, and now sit mostly uninhabited except for a lighthouse and Star Island which is owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a camp ground. (Maybe a few ghosts as well)

In my own Smith Hill neighborhood lies an entire historic DISTRICT! This was quite surprising to learn about from Google maps, as I pass these little houses a few times a week. (Since this picture was taken, they have all been painted different colors). This district, called the Andrew Dickhaut Cottages Historic District, consists of 18 homes on Bath, Orms, and Duke Street in Providence built in the 1800s. They were small worker's cottages built, owned, and rented by an entrepreneurial butcher from New York City. Here you can see the names and professions of all those who lived in these cottages in 1892, which is super interesting! That link also references information from the National Register of Historic Places.

I am hooked. And haven't even begun talking about the wonder of Google Earth.

Have you ever discovered something new from a map? 

p.s. even one of my favorite songs is called "Maps" (by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Experience New England: Lowell

Adam, Niki, Sarah, Hannah, Chris
Lowell, the fourth largest city in Massachusetts, has been on my radar for a few years. The christian student fellowship of University of Massachusetts Lowell is pretty involved in the same circles that Johnson & Wales campus ministry was, so I know a few people from the area, but I've never had a reason to visit or learn more about the city.

 Until now. My good friend Sarah (who also happened to live with me a few summers ago) moved to Lowell to work as a semester missionary on the UMassLowell campus, and a couple of us from Providence decided to head up there for a little day trip to explore the city and have little reunion with Sarah! 

Before my trip I did some research on the city. All I really knew was that it had a lot of mills (simply because everything there has "mill" in the title), and that it was in the Merrimack Valley (a AAA term).

Well, yes it is on the Merrimack River, and about an hour and a half drive north of Providence. And the city lays home to many old mill buildings, many reconstructed into lofts and apartment communities.

We started off in the historic down town at Brewed Awakenings, and our friend Sarah gave a grand tour (coffee included) of the fascinating historic district. We wandered down to the Riverwalk, a delightful walkway right next to the famous Merrimack River. A few little children passed us on bikes with their parents meandering behind. There were ducks and geese along the river and a wonderful evening view of industrial bridges and landscape.

We made a giant loop near City Hall, past an old train turned into adult play ground, back to our cars. Sarah gave us a driving/walking tour of the University of Massachusetts Lowell campus, which was a pretty large campus, and where we topped the hill with the best view of Lowell around:

Holy Moly!

Dinner was at the unique Egg Roll Cafe, where we each picked out some delicious egg rolls and curry soups to try. (Everything from pizza to Buffalo to Chicken egg rolls) Yum! And we walked over to Sarah's apartment to hang out for the rest of the night.

Lowell is definitely an beautiful little city that I want to know more about. In the summer there is the Lowell Folk Festival, and many other out door activities. Sadly the Visitor Center was closed when we walked past, but I, of course, want to check that out too and get a few post cards.

Hopefully that will happen this summer!
Have you been to Lowell? Do you have a favorite restaurant, hang out, etc?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corduroy Jackets, Faith, and Questions

As I shuffled through piles of spiral bound notebooks on my shelf, looking for one with the perfect amount of empty pages to capture any thoughts I could possibly have, a rough looking one caught my attention. Dated almost a decade ago, it appeared to be a journal from high school yesteryear. I shoved it in my purse next to some books that I thought would provoke note taking, and headed downcity to get some reading done.

Of course I pulled the blue notebook out first, pages filed with the scribbles of my 14 year old self. The first few pages were full of the typicalities of that year. Directions on making the perfect duct tape messenger bag and a long list of inspirational quotes, including: "I have learned a lesson from all the lessons I have learned." (How inspirational, yeah?)

Reading further in, one specific entry caught my eye and made me think. It talked about a recent purchase that I had made. Essentially, I had always wanted a corduroy jacket. Apparently that was the style for high school freshman in 2003 (or something). Well, I found one at the local BonTon (imagine JCPenney and Bed Bath and Beyond combined into one store), it was green and calling my name, so I bought it. For $32. Perfect right? Well, it was a boys jacket and it fit, except not really (stupid girl hips). But I had a gift card! I still remember it to this day, and wonder why in the heavens my mom let me do that.

I was prompted to text my mom asking her if she remembered the situation, which she indeed did. She said that she wondered about my ability to get what I want because I want it and then figure out how to make it work, as if it were some magical strength. (I do recall wearing it a few times, though it was a tight in awkward places and loose in awkward places).

While my ability to get what I want and make it work seems like a strength in some perspectives- I think I see it differently- almost as a weakness that I end up having to jerry rig. Could I have found a jacket that actually fit and looked somewhat decent? Probably! Had I just held on for a little longer and looked around a little more, surely there would have been a "stylish," (green), (womens) corduroy jacket with my name blazed across it. Impatiently, I took the first thing that seemed to resemble what I want.

Curiously, I wonder if this reflects a deeper attitude in my life.  

Not to infer that a bad fashion choice as a 14 year old reflects my adult life choices, but maybe. 

Do I want something and then take the first thing that even slightly resembles it? Or do I trust in God to provide what most glorifies Him, and wait for timing that might be alternative to mine? Sigh. This question cuts into my soul with a heavy, dull, but quite relevant knife.

At the moment, answers allude me, and this post might be drowning in over-processed mire. It is almost midnight after all. 

Do you have any answers or thoughts?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fog and Pain

I just wanted to visit some friends.

Woke up early, dressed, maybe took a few too many minutes to get ready.
Grabbed some pancake ingredients, put the eggs in a baggie in my pocket.
Put on my sneakers- maybe they were moccasins- ran out the door into the brisk morning.

"It's  going to be okay, I am an occupational therapist!" A strange man stopped his white 15 passenger and ran to my side as I lay on the icy ground grasping for air.

The eggs survived.
Two months ago, my last normal step.

Today the beautiful Narragansett Bay looked sun kissed and the green grass was frolic ready. I took my first step and felt a twang. If it isn't my knee, it's my foot. Probably both. After every step I forget, and during every step I remember. Guilt creeps in, I feel lazy, but then I take another step and the pain shoots up my leg.

The doctor said I need a second opinion. All I have to do is call the specialist. I've turned into my dad.
"I don't want to bother anyone to take me."
"I don't want to pay for any procedure."
"I cant afford to take off work."

I'm going to die alone?

If I tie my shoes extra tight, and the orthopedic insert fits perfectly into my lackluster arch- I can make this work. How ridiculous.

Where is my trust in God for provision and healing? Where is my reliance on people for support and help? Where is my "can-do" attitude that wants to conquer all? Where am I?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


About an hour outside of Rome, New York, I am sitting on this slow moving train heading from Buffalo to New York City. We pass through nothing dramatic or exceptionally scenic. Melting snow covers the muddy woods, aged out factories, and small towns covered in rust. The bouncing click clack of the rails almost rocks me to sleep if I'm not careful.

For the mundane passing by, I do have some curiousities.

The other day riding the bus to work I saw a man walking down the sidewalk picking his nose. He looked right at the bus, but only saw a bus- not a tin can full of people staring back at him.

People must only see railroad tracks and trains, and don't remember the people who like to look out windows. Maybe that's why they built their houses right to the edge of the tracks. Some sort of perceived security or safety. There is nothing protected about taking a shower in your back yard when train creates the back fence. I saw that spectacle when I was on an electric train going from Zavolzh'ye to Niznhy Novgorod.

Trains get to wander through the woods in places labelled "Posted: No Trespassing: Violator's will be shot," without a single bullet heading it's way. They are lucky.

As we traverse through the forests in the middle of nowhere, I see stone walls that only man could have built. It seems that this was not always the middle of nowhere.

Orange juice and books on the seat tray to my left, there is still plenty of time for contemplation. "Miles and miles to go before we sleep," if you will. I wonder what everyone else is doing back home, where ever that is. I wonder where everyone else is going, here on this train.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In What Ways Have I Seen God's Grace to Me Lately?

As I was provoking my mind to list the many ways God has shown me grace lately, a poem that I had written in 2003 came to mind. It is quite simplistic (and strangely philosophical), but does the job of reminding me of the many, often forgotten graces God has extended. I can imagine as a seventh grader just coming home from a long walk down by the canal, or maybe coming inside after a long day of reading on the swing in the back yard and reflecting on God's goodness to me.

God is Great
By Alissa Graham (2003)

Blades of grass and every tree, 
shows how good God is to me.
He pours down rain to wash away fears,
He has guided me well through the years.
The sky above proves God's presence,
Flowers remind me of his essence.
All the rocks and the deepest sea,
Shows how great God is to me.

Today, as I reflect on the ways that God has shown his care, love, forgiveness, and grace to me, I am overwhelmed to know that He has welcomed me as a beloved daughter in His family. He does not condemn me or hold me guilty, but "he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant," and brought provision and wholeness. He is my almighty Father who is ultimately worthy to be praised.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Jewett Cooks: Sausage & Sweet Potato Stew

On a cold winter evening, what could be better than a savory kick of heat and sweet. We have made this recipe twice and it is one for the cookbook. The ingredients are a delicious and filling combination, and even great the next day! 

Italian Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew

1 cup hot Italian sausage, diced
½ cup sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup wild rice
¼ cup carrot, diced
¼ cup onions, diced
¼ cup celery, diced
1 ½ g chicken stock
tt salt
tt pepper


In a large pot heat oil. When the oil is hot add the sausage to the pot and allow it to cook until the outside has seared. Add stock, carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, rice and bring to a boil.

Cook for 25 minutes or until vegetables and rice are thoroughly cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with cornbread and friends.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Haynes Black Bean Soup Recipe

This recipe is a classic. One night a few years ago I was visiting with some awesome friends and they made it for dinner. I was blown away and of course, got the recipe. It is both cheap and delicious, and can basically feed an army, as I am proving tonight as I make it for the Jewett family.


Black Bean Soup

3 Tbsp olive oil
½ c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
¾ c. chopped celery
¾ c. chopped carrot
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
3 (15.5 oz. each) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1 lime
1 T. tomato paste

In large stockpot heat oil, onion, and garlic.  Cook until tender.  Stir in cumin and cook 1 minute.  Add celery, carrots, stock, and beans.  Heat to boiling.  Cook on low, covered for 15-20 minutes.  Stir in lime juice and tomato paste.  To thicken, puree beans and return to pot. (I used a potato masher and just mashed the beans in the soup while still in the stockpot).

Variations on how you can enjoy this dish:

  • with cheese and sour cream on top
  • with smooth guacamole, sour cream, and cheese mixed in
  • over a bed of rice
  • next to or mixed with seasoned diced tomatoes 
  • add diced tomatoes and create a dip for tortilla chips   
  • add chick peas for a more robust taste
  • all of the above? haha 

Note: At first I had no idea what Cumin was, and didnt even have any. But I found it at my local market and as soon as I smelled it I knew exactly what it was! I recommend buying this spice for future dishes. Its very popular in many ethnic cuisines and makes beans, rice, and meat stand out. Dont be afraid of picking some up!

I already had all of the ingredients, but per serving I would say about $1.50.