Saturday, April 11, 2015

New York City Guide

As Spring makes her appearance, I too seem to be getting my act together again. Recently my crafty friends at Cut Out + Keep asked me to write a New York City Guide for their site, which I was more than happy to do. They have a great selection of guides written by crafty people from those particular towns, cities, states and countries. So if you're planning a trip you may want to get a local's point of view!

Cut Out + Keep has been a favorite site of mine for years to find tutorials and crafting ideas. So pop over when you're looking for some inspiration.

I'll be back soon with some details on my costumes and travel plans for Atlantic City Boardwalk Con... my first Con!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On The Move

I'll kick off my first post of the year with a big confession. For all of the times I've been crafty while traveling, when it comes to moving residence, I am a hot mess. Perhaps it's the Jekyll to my Hyde? I moved at the end of October and I'm just now, starting to get my day to day life back on track.

The last couple of months have been a roller coaster ride of packing, moving, saving, spending and unpacking. Looking back on it, there a a few things I did right and a few I wish I had done better. In the hopes that I can spare someone else a bit of anxiety I'll share my experience.

Photo Credit: Betty Kane
I unexpectedly had to say goodbye to my couch on moving day.
Here, the couch and my moving helpers Chris and Mike wait for my former roommate to lay claim to it. 


Once you realize a move is on the horizon, start using any stockpile of household goods and food. The less you have to move, the better, plus refraining from shopping sprees will leave a couple extra dollars in your pocket (for the time being).

Decide on your method of moving. Professional movers will cost more and require quite a bit of research in advance. I have not been able to afford the luxury of a moving company... yet. The cheapest rates I found were in the $500+ range. I chose to drive a 10" U-Haul truck and coordinate a group of friends to show up in the right places at close to the right times. The bonus is that the cost of the truck rental was about $90. Add the cost of food and drinks for my helpers, for breakfast and lunch, and in total I probably spent about $200. The down side is that my stress levels were through the roof for the entire day. The next time I move, I really hope I can afford movers.

Don't make any large, non-essential purchases until after you are in your new place. This is especially true for renters in apartments. I'm glad I didn't spend money on a dining set I saw because I ended up needing to buy a new couch. We tried to get my old couch in and it just didn't fit. My now former roommate was able to take it off my hands that day. Also, if you find yourself in a similar situation, with no one to take said furniture, call local thrift shops. Larger facilities will often take furniture and you'll get a tax refund too. It's better than tossing it to the curb.

In the month or two leading up to moving day, keep a running list of people and companies who need to be alerted to your change of address. I highly recommend you use the Change of Address portion of the USPS website. It costs $1.05 and gives you one year of mail forwarding services.

Photo Credit: Betty Kane
This was not from my actual moving day. After moving into my new place I found a table and chairs on Craigslist.
This is what it looks like to put a dining room table and three chairs into a four door sedan.
I like to call this Adult Tetris
Level: Expert.


Packing is an art. At some point in the process you will hopefully feel like an accomplished master, but most of the time you're probably going to feel like a novice.

Flat out, start packing as soon as you possibly can. Have a garbage bag, a donations box and your regular packing boxes on hand. The donations box works great for me. I don't mind parting ways with things if I know someone else can put them to better use and it'll be a few less things to schlep on moving day.

Label boxes accurately. This becomes more difficult as you get down to the wire, but trust me. I know first hand the box you label "Stuff" today will be your headache tomorrow. It's also a good idea to color code fragile items. I label all fragile boxes in red and the rest in black. If you have a large family or a lot of rooms you may also want to consider more colors to code boxes.

Get creative with packing materials. There is no need to spend money on boxes and packing material. Save freebie newspapers, penny-savers, tissue paper and boxes that come your way. Go to a grocery store when they stock the shelves to get boxes for free. In my area, they stock late in the evening, usually on Thursdays. Try to get there before they crush the boxes. Also, if you aren't using a moving company, keep old blankets and tarps you may have on hand to use as furniture pads in the truck.

Prepare what I call a "First Last Box." This should be the last box you pack up in your old place and it should be the first you unpack in your new place. I keep a couple of days worth of essentials in this box, including toiletries, medicine, toilet paper, soap, bath towels, clothing, basic cleaning supplies, pen, paper, scissors, pocket knife, flashlight, eating utensil, plates, bowls, cups, a kettle, snacks (like popcorn), tea bags, instant coffee, cell phone charger, a book and a couple DVDs. Think of it as a survival kit.

Photo Credit: Betty Kane
Always keep a pen on you during the moving process.
Pictured here are machines at the
 DMV charging .25 cents for a
pen so you can fill out forms.
 Department of Motor Villains? You bet! 

The last bit of advice I can give is to take a little time to try to relax, or calm down at the very least. My new kitten Flint reminded me of that, as he's seen here snoozing on my shoulder. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home Away From Home

Well, I've been a little lazy in posting recently, but I've added a few travels and some crafts to the "done" list so I'll have fresh material for a while. Aren't you folks lucky?!

The more I travel, and perhaps the more I age, the more I appreciate a comfortable location to rest my weary head. I'm fine with a random hotel, especially on road trips. Still, I'll admit that if I'm going to stay at a destination for an extended period of time then the better the facility, the happier I'll be. This is where Home Away comes into play.

Home Away is a website on which people list rental properties. People will rent everything from apartments and condos to full scale luxury homes. The site is user friendly, allowing you to search by variables including location, price, number of occupants, etc. Most owners have fairly comprehensive listings that include photos and a list of amenities.

My friends and I have been using Home Away for a while now. We've used this site to rent houses for large groups of friends on holiday weekends. On or around New Year's we rent a house in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. Then on or around the Fourth of July we rend a house in the Poconos in Pennsylvania or Upstate New York. We basically rent a summer location during the winter and a winter location during the summer to get cheaper off-season rates. After several years of doing this we've had a lot of great experiences. In fact after about 10 or so rentals we've only had one house that did not meet our expectations. At the time it was annoying. Now it makes for some great inside jokes. As Matchbox Twenty sings, "bad trips can make great stories." Still, I'd like to emphasize that we've had some great houses and Home Away has been incredibly useful.

The most recent house we rented was near Hunter Mountain. There were plenty of activities available. We went hiking one day and river tubing another. At the house we had plenty of room for games, dancing, cooking, eating and lounging. This house was a little larger than we usually rent and for 20 people for a four day weekend we each paid $122. We each had a bed, there were plenty of bathrooms and we had the space and resources to cook all of our meals at the house. Including food costs we were able to have a weekend getaway for about $140 per person plus travel costs.

In June I went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with three girlfriends for an extended weekend trip. This was the first time we used Home Away for a small group. We were able to rend a condo just a couple blocks from town center. We were within walking distance to nearly everything and the cost was close to that of a hotel. The bonus being that we had two bedrooms, a full bath, a living room and eat-in kitchen for the price of a hotel. All in all, it was a fantastic place to stay.

Tips for using Home Away:
1. Shop around. When you've chosen a location call a few people. We had one person in the Gettysburg area try to charge us almost twice as much as the condo and he was a few miles outside of town.
2. Don't be afraid to bargain. If there is a cleaning fee and your willing to do your own cleaning at the end of the trip see if you can get that waived. Some people will say yes, some say no, but it's never hurt us to ask.
3. Each rental property will be different. Make sure ask for details. You'll want specifics about parking, cooking utensils provided, utilities, garbage removal, linens, etc.
4. Look up the closest grocery store before you leave home. If you're traveling with a small group you may want to shop closer to the rental property instead of worrying about transporting perishables in coolers. If you are traveling with a large group at least one person is bound to forget something, need something or want something.
5. Don't forget to add items like toilet paper, paper towels and soap to your packing list. Little items that are usually included in hotels may not be included in rental properties.
6. Before you arrive make sure you have a contact number to get in touch with the owner if you have any questions or problems during your stay.

Happy Travels!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cross Country Road Trip Days 9 & 10

Baltimore, Maryland to Long Island, New York

Day 9: Fun in Baltimore
Day 10: Go home

1. Maryland Crab Cakes from Jerry D's Seafood. It's a local place, far away from the tourist traps. It's awesome. Go there, thank me later.
2. A trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. They have some great exhibits & a fun dolphin show.
3. Food, particularly desserts from Vaccaro's Pasticeria. Unfortunately I didn't get a shot of my dessert because we took it to go. But it was AMAZING. This is one of the few places in Baltimore's Little Italy that keeps late hours (from a New Yorker's perspective) so it does get crowded, but it's worth it. The Mufalato, marinated artichokes & lemon drop martini I had was great too!
4. Charm City Cupcakes in Inner Harbor. Maybe you've noticed a theme, but I was basically taking a food tour of Baltimore . Drinks, shrimp & a funny wait staff at Dick's Last Resort was fun too.
5. Last bit of hang out time with my friend Michelle, who invited me on this once I. A lifetime trip... And some last quality time with her adorable cat & dog.

Reality check: After seeing so much variety, so many colorful people & having such a great time I've confirmed / learned that I am an East Coast gal 100%, I miss having pets, I drive better in cities than I ever gave myself credit for & I really want my own house. That last bit may sound weird, but seeing so much gives one a great appreciation for home.

1. A Brighter Day by The Doobie Brothers
2. What's The Rumpus? By Gaelic Storm
3. Where I Sleep by Emeli Sande
4. Comin' Home by Lynyrd Skynyrd
5. The Once And Future Carpenter by The Avett Brothers

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cross Country Road Trip Days 7 & 8

St. Louis, Missouri to Baltimore, Maryland

After spending extra time in St. Louis & in an effort to gain some extra time in Baltimore we pulled another all nighter. There are pros & cons to this plan. On the downside fun side stops and sights are closed. On the bonus the roads are often clear. If you're attempting such a trip I recommend working within your personal limits. Here we have two people who work overnight shifts and are often wide awake in the middle of the night, so we used that to our advantage.

1. Going out to dinner & shopping in Inner Harbor in Baltimore. We scoped out the sights, took it easy & made plans for the next day.
2. We stopped in Indianapolis for Sushi. My travel mate was in the mood for sushi so we put Yelp to the test & found a winner.
3. Relaxing once we got to our final destination. My friend's new apartment was ready & waiting. After an overnight drive a shower, a nap & painting out nails put us on the right foot before going out.
4. Healthier options at chain restaurants. I try not to splurge calorie wise on every meal. Surprisingly Cheesecake Factory had some lighter options that tasted great.
5. Sleep. A good nights sleep helps reset for the next days activities.

Reality check: Overnight drives don't eliminate your need for sleep, they just help you get to a specific sleep destination.

1. Black Water by the Doobie Brothers
2. Oh Hey by the Lumineers
3. Drops of Jupiter by Train
4. Daylight by Maroon 5
5. Good Morning Baltimore from the Hairspray Soundtrack

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cross Country Road Trip Day 6

Kansas City, Missouri to St. Louis, Missouri

1. Feeding the fish at the marina at Longview Lake in Lee's Summit with my friends from the area.
2. Getting to St. Louis early enough to enjoy the evening. I particularly liked the Drury Hotel we stayed at. It was a 15 minute walk from both the stadium & the Arch. Plus they have a free happy hour & breakfast.
3. Going to a baseball game at Busch Stadium! Beer, cotton candy
4. Roadside stop at Nostalgiaville, USA... It's a great kitschy little shop & it breaks up the monotony of the usual stops.
5. Grabbing drinks after the baseball game at The Outfield bar. Great drinks, atmosphere, city view & music.

Reality check: We originally planned on only stopping for lunch in St. Louis. The game changed our minds... And breaking up really long driving days with fun days makes for a great pace. Flexibility makes a trip like this work.

1. Drive by Incubus
2. Starlight by Muse
3. Steady As She Goes by the Raconteurs
4. When I Come Around by Green Day
5. Open Your Eyes by Snow Patrol

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cross Country Road Trip Day 5

Denver, Colorado to Kanas City, Missouri

For those of you who haven't examined a map of the US lately, Colorado is separated from Missouri by Kansas. One state, sounds easy... It's not. It's long, flat & boring. Based on the billboards along the road I can tell you that the only things to do are sleep at any number of road side motels, loose an hour if your traveling east & go to the "2nd friendliest" yarn store. Of those we made a run for the border and lost an hour of time... That's it. Luckily we found salvation in Missouri.

1. Staying with some friends in Missouri.
2. Gate's BBQ in Kansas City!
3. 75 MPH speed limit.
4. Starbucks at the rest area.
5. Leaving Kansas.

Reality check: Michelle & I will now refer to long work days as "Kansas Days."

1. International Harvester by Craig Morgan
2. Jimmy Olsen's Blues by The Spin Doctors
3. Rain Is A Good Thing by Luke Bryan
4. Save Me by Remy Zero
5. Something Good This Way Comes