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This sounds like a wonderful idea! That Italian Lakes trip is high on my travel bucket list!

Holiday Plus Rentals - the Blog

Vacation by the lake. Everybody thinks about the sea when deciding to visit Italy, but actually there are as well many beautiful lakes where to spend amazing vacations….

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It started with a Kiwi Bird!

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One little Ornament! That’s how it began! A gift from my good friend Julie who had moved back to her native New Zealand. She sent me an adorable little Kiwi Bird ornament that still adornes our tree 20 years later.

After that, Any time I went anywhere, I sought out an ornament as a keepsake. In addition to that, another good friend & I shared the memories we created on a Euro trip as students back in ’86. Since then, we try to swap unique gifts that remind us of our adventures there. It’s not always an ornament, sometimes it’s European Chocolates or tea or anything else we come across. This ornament in the photograph is one of my all time favorites that she sent me! Every time I look at it, I think of the two of us taking cover from the rain with locals under an Arc. Someone had a bottle of wine, someone else had bread, we had the chocolate…we had an impromtu picnic with complete strangers in the downpour of Paris

As I was putting up the ornaments this year w/ my family, I noticed that I have enough travel related ornaments to do a themed little tree if I wanted to. Now I’ll be on the hunt for clever DIY ideas to help bring it all together so I can make it happen in 2013! Any ideas?

eiffel

A hotel for your Pooch!

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From Pooch Hotel’s Web site:

“We Love Dogs.

As recently as a few decades ago, most dogs were “outside dogs”, and only the most privileged had dog houses in their yards. In recent years, not only have dogs made their way inside our homes, but most are now welcome in our beds, cars, laps, purses, and wherever else we can share our love together. And now, when you can’t be together with your dog, they are welcome to join our extended loving family of Pooch Hotels.

In 2004, we had a vision: to create a dream destination for dogs, where people could feel good leaving their pooches, knowing they would be loved, pampered, and cared for. Pooch Chicago was born.

By 2008, we had two locations in Chicago: Lincoln Park and West Loop. In 2009, we expanded to the Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California.

Shortly thereafter, Pooch was elevated from a boutique, family-run organization to a brand worthy of national recognition and scale – it was purchased by Petco to recreate the fantastic Pooch experience in more areas across the country.

So who are we?

We are a family of diverse experiences, backgrounds, and interests all brought together because of our love for animals.

We are animal behaviorists, dog trainers, groomers, and veterinary technicians. We are students and doctoral scholars. We are musicians and mathematicians. We hike, bike, ski, run, and golf. We are young and we are old – but all of us (you included) share something larger: We Love Dogs.”

I LOVE this idea! I’ve only had to board a dog once & it felt like the pound, it was sterile, musty, and in no way resembled any form of fun.  Pooch Hotel feels like a home and treats your dog as if it is a family member! Locations are popping up across the country. I’m excited that I have one nearby to try out! Pooch Hotel offers 1/2 day, full day, and multi day boarding so whatever your needs are, they can meet it! Click here to see their full site with a list of services, locations, and more about the company. Next time you travel and need a place for your four legged loved one, consider finding a Pooch Hotel near you!

 

5 ways to snag free WiFi at the airport

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Excellent tips to keep handy!

The Wireless

WiFi isn’t always free at the airport. Some want you take a survey first, some restrict access to specific websites, and others only offer services like Boingo and iPass. If the company isn’t paying for the WiFi, how do you get online?

1. Sit near an airport lounge

Airlines frequently offer their lounge guests all kinds of freebies, including free WiFi. Settle down near a lounge and hop on the internet.

2. Find an unprotected network

Your chances aren’t always great, but it’s worth looking for an unprotected network. If you manage to connect, remember that your information is just as unprotected as the network is. Stick to https sites.

3. Tether your phone

This won’t get you on the WiFi, but it will get you online. Learn to tether your phone, and by connecting it to your computer you’ll be able to use your 3G or 4G to…

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Vino Volo Wine bars at US Airports

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sf 9When Traveling at some US airports, whether your coming or going, it’s always nice to have an option for a “Wine down”!  “Vino Volo” wine bars are in over a dozen US Airports across the country, including Oakland, where this wine was enjoyed!

From their site, they say ” Vino Volo aims to revolutionize how people experience wine.  Each store is a comfortable post-security retreat for air travelers, combining a cozy wine lounge, restaurant, and boutique wine shop.  Vino Volo (derived from “wine flight” in Italian) offers wines from around the world by the glass, in tasting flights, and by the bottle for guests to take home or have shipped.  Operating successfully in airports across the nation, Vino Volo is the only airport wine bar and wine retail concept with a depth of experience and a proven track record.”

This was the 2nd time I’ve been able to relax in one of their wine bars before a flight & I look forward to them! They are much more quiet than the standard food court & the food options are WAYYYYY better. The food is good, the wine is good, the ambiance is good…I’m in! Whose with me!?

to see the list of Vino Volo Airport wine bar locations, click HERE

Happy St. Nikolaus Tag!

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st_ nick shoesWhere I grew up, December 6th was a BIG deal! It was almost like a day of reckoning for children! That was the day it was made clear whether you were going to have a good Christmas or a bad one! It was a day that clearly marked whether your sins of the past year were remembered, forgotten, or forgiven! In my child’s mind, that is how I saw St. Nikolaus Day!

I remember being nervous all day hoping I did not find twigs, stone, fake candy, or a lump of coal in my shoe! Being one of six kids, it was inevitable that ONE of us might find that!

When I became a parent, I was sure to continue many of my German traditions to my children. All 3 loved the “pre-check” of St. Nick coming. They are now 24, 21, & 14 and guess what? They will be putting their shoes outside tonight with anticipation! I think I would get a stink eye if St. Nick didn’t visit!

Many of my friends with young kids are currently doing the “Elf on the Shelf” to help keep their kids in check before Christmas & build some family traditions along the way. While I think it’s cute, I like that St. Nick is an old world tradition passed down in my family for many generations.

48 hours of fun in San Francisco!

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sf2I’m back from my whirlwind girl’s weekend in San Francisco! I’m still on a “weekend high”, that’s how much fun it was!  This shot was taken just steps from our hotel as we wandered over to our first “meal stop” of the weekend, an Irish pub, for excellent bowls of Butternut squash soup washed down with a tasty beer!

Click here for restuarant details! It was reasonable, great ambiance, centrally located, & the staff was friendly too.

Big Girl, Big City!

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I’m headed to San Francisco this weekend with 3 friends to celebrate a 40th b-day for one of them.

I’m really excited to explore and enjoy the city by the bay as a grown up without purpose, such as a soccer tournament & entertaining 3 children through a weekend!

I used to live up North so going to the city was a regular occasion for me.  Back then though, I was either driven there with my family or it was for school field trips! This picture, for example, was from a school visit to Alcatraz.  Our Psychology teacher lived on the Island as a child since his doctor was one of the primary physicians on the Island.  His real life experiences & memories that he shared with us students gave us a glimpse into Alcatraz that isn’t found on most tours!

I look so carefree in this picture, not a worry in the world! 17, just shy of graduating in a few weeks & heading to Hawaii for a grad trip!  I never got to “experience” the city as a carefree adult though! I moved south at 18 &  all of my subsequent visits to the Bay have been with my family in tow so it  usually involved many soccer fields, visits to Pier 39 & the usual tourist areas. I always enjoyed those fun weekends & we built many fond memories of our road trips.  There is something to be said though for shedding the responsibilities of your normal everyday life to enjoy a fabulous location like this!

I won’t be visiting Alcatraz this time but if you are headed to the city soon, be sure to book your tour early, they fill up fast! Click here for more information. In the meantime, my next few posts will be SF related!

Up close in Big Sur!

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I’ve lived in California since I was 10 yrs. old.  I’ve seen ALOT of amazing things and people in this state! However, this one experience really trumps the others!

On our way back to LA from Monterey, we decided to take HWY 1 back. If you’ve ever traveled it, you know it can be exhilerating and nauseating at the same time!  On this day however, it was incredible.  Each corner filled with a new view of the pacific and the coast.

As the road straightened out before us, just north of the Hurst Castle area, we stumbled upon this beach. What an amazing sight, the whole beach was covered with these seals! The best part was that only a slight burm and a rope separated us from this lively creatures! The beach had volunteer docents who shared their knowledge of the migration of the seals and their habits on shore. All of it for FREE!!

Elephant Seals

Elephants in Kenya

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A few years ago, a good friend of mine was taken on quite a vacation by her in-laws. They invited their adult children, their spouses & grandchildren on an African Safari over Christmas time. They visited several countries, did a few safari’s, mingled with the Masi, & had the family vacation of a lifetime.  The pictures she shared with me were truly amazing! This is just one of many & was taken in Kenya.

click here to see one of the lodges they stayed at.

There are so many beautiful places to see on this planet & Africa is just one of many on my list! It’s prioritizing the list that brings me anxiety! How to choose what’s next is always  when the boxing gloves come off at my house, the art of compromise comes into full play! Africa will have to wait a little longer since next year’s trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary has been booked! We will be Europe bound, not quite as wild as seeing Elephants at play in their natural habitats but still full of culture & adventures for those seeking it.

Digitally “Artkive” Kids Art

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I saw this feautred on our local news this morning and just had to share it with as many people I could!  I wish this had been around when my now 24 yr old, 21 yr. old and 14 yr. old girls were in pre-school or grade school! Digitally “Artkive” Kids Art. This app allows you to share the art instantly, store it with ease, and better yet, order it in an album!  No more boxes in the attic with dusty artwork you can’t part with!

I think I’m going to make it a goal to pull ours out and give this a try!

A good read that takes you to Italy

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The Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary SeductionThe Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary Seduction by Anthony Capella
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I could see this definitely being on the big-screen someday! What an eloquently written book! The language was delicious & it just flowed so nicely. I enjoy WWII stories & this one has been one of my favorites. Amazing how people’s expectations of themselves and others are changed when in survival mode! Naturally, it made me hungry for Italian food! I enjoyed his writing so much, I’m half way thru his Coffee novel!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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I’ll have it easy this year, we are not hosting! Instead, my dear friend has opened her home to my family, her family and a slew of others who can’t quite make it home or have families scattered about. My college aged daughter is even bringing a few of her soccer team mates who can’t make it home. I think there will be about 30 of us in total! Total chaos but total fun & great memories to be made. I’m already looking forward to leftovers and we haven’t even had the main meal yet! God Bless you wherever you spend your Thanksgiving & may it be filled with warmth, family & loved ones.

Picture is worth a 1000 words!

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looks like harmless fun!

As soon as I saw this beautiful picture, I was flooded with childhood memories from Germany. I lived there for my first 10 yrs. & one of the events I looked forward to most as a child was the day the traveling carnival came to town!

I thought it was such an exciting life to roam from city to city & set up “home” for two weeks at a time. The carnivals were filled with gypsies & they didn’t seem to mind 8 yr. old girls lingering around and watching the rides go up. My sister & I spent hours petting horses & getting excited about opening day!

The big swing was always my favorite ride hands down. I would ride it each day as if the occasion was the first! Always exhilerating with just the right amount of butterflies in my belly!

Fast forward 11 years. I was on a student EF tour of Europe. I had just celebrated my 19th b-day the night before in Prague.
The next day, I was quite hung over & was laying low. Our tour stopped in Vienna. Much to my delight, we found a carnival that had the large swing ride I had such fond memories of as a child. Naturally, I wanted to ride it & forgot all about my fragile state. My friends & I hopped on! BIG mistake!

The ride was everything I wanted it to be when it was going forward! The ride operator however, decided that he wanted to put the ride in reverse and extend our experience by another 10 minutes! To my complete & utter horror, my childhood memories of my favorite carnival ride were tarnished by the hangover that now raged for release from my body!

How I managed to hold on & not vomit all over the city of Vienna, I will never know! I did make it off the ride looking very very green & with the most quesy stomach ever! I left my friends, managed to make my way back to our hotel & did not resurface from my room for the next 48 hours!

It’s taken years for me to be able to look at a swing without feeling nauseated immediately! I’ve managed to hold on to the childhood memory instead of my more reckless young adult memory!