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I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat.
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

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The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.
~Jay Leno
 
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. 
~Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.  Don’t clean it up too quickly.  ~Andy Rooney

 

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Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren’t for Christmas
We’d all be Jewish.
~Benny Hill

 

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The worst gift is a fruitcake.  There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.  ~Johnny Carson

 

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And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?  It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.  ~Dr Seuss

 

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Happy Holidays!

Despite this summer’s unseasonably-cold weather, I’ve been trying to visit a variety of places recently, or revisit those I haven’t been to in a very long time before school starts, and the mania begins. Here are 3 recent  reasons why I love California!

1. Kayaking at Valley Ford

0811101522-00  A lovely, quiet place to kayak through miles of marshways and waterways that eventually lead to the ocean at Estero. Easy current and a sense of privacy, since not many non-local people know about it. 20100811174038

2. Hiking at Sugar Loaf State Park

cLots of trails –some challenging, some definitely not – that wind up into Sonoma County. FYI: The “Hillside” trail can feel like a bit more than walking up a hill (it burns), but there are thousands of ripe blackberries to snack on, which helps. There’s also a really powerful telescope in the park that opens during certain nights for deep space viewing (think faraway planets etc.) It cost $8 to get in, where there’s lots of bathrooms and picnic areas, and camping as well. 13

3. Beaches along Pacific Coast Highway 1, above Half Moon Bay

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Seriously spectacular fields of flowers. Definitely worth a stop along the highway. I can’t remember the name of this beach, but it has gorgeous yellow sand. 0725101734-01

Happy Saturday!

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Contiki Group, European Highlights, June 2010

Way  back in January, when we booked our tour to Europe, I had some reservations about traveling with a big (50) group of people. I didn’t know if we would all get along, or if the whole trip would be full of a bunch of booze-cruisers. I was also worried about the whole nature of a tour group; it’s never fun to stand out as “tourists” where ever you go. But regardless, we booked, and off we went.

And it was AWESOME.

But I’ve decided to give out some friendly advice to those who might decide to travel with Contiki in the future, because it isn’t for everyone, but it can also rock for many folks.

So, disclaimer:

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If you don’t like people, do not travel with a group. (This goes without saying, but anyway.) You will spend a lot of time with people. However, if you are like me, and enjoy people but not all the time, you will be alright, because there is plenty of time to be alone and/or go do things with a small group of people. In fact, much of your sightseeing will be done this way .

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If you think people who drink are pathetic losers, do not travel with Contiki. This is not to say that you have to drink on tour, but there will be  drinking. There will be hung-over people on the bus, and occasional vomiting (which I never had to really see, which made it funnier than anything else). But if you can’t stand people who drink, then don’t go! Having a drink or so in the evening is a lovely way to get to know people, and relax after a long day of traveling. Also; Contiki is HUGE in Australia (70% on tour were from down under), and Aussies hold their drink, or at least they try very hard to. And practice a lot. (hence big beer). Plus: Beer halls. 

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If you are a seriously devout religious person, you may not like Contiki. There will be swearing, inappropriate jokes, random sexual  incidents, songs about sex/drugs/rock ‘n roll,  pot-smoking in Amsterdam, hookers in random places, and may/may not be a guy on the bus who enjoys running around naked. It’s not like there’s burning of the cross or any terrible atheist conversations, but…this trip is for grown-ups, who aren’t so squeamish. However, there were a few more conservative folks on the trip, who loved it. And there are lots of fabulous churches, so….?

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Yay God!

If you hate buses, and riding on them for hours…  well that’s pretty much how you get around Europe. Europe is BIG. Sorry! But there are fun times to be found on the bus. Crampy legs, but also excitement.

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If you must sit in the lap of luxury…. you’ll have to pay more money. Now I’m not cheap, but paying more for the same sleep kinds sucks. That being said, Contiki (on Budget tours anyway) takes you to nice places to stay (mostly cabins that feel like little houses and have bathrooms) and feeds you about half the time. They shock you with the worst cabins in Paris, (right) but things get progressively better from then on. Sleeping bags are cool when you’re in Europe, as most things are.

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If you like planning, and can’t stand other people planning things for you, you will be in Hell. This happens to be my main reason why I did go, so… Let’s just say, it’s simpler to plan a trip to one places than 30, including different countries over thousands of miles in which you don’t speak the native language. That being said, having someone take care of the details is super lovely, especially when you are confused by public transit alone. But you can plan whole days of FREE time in most cities.

image WTF, Paris

If you must travel with 5 suitcases full of outfits “just in case” you are also screwed. One suitcase , per person, is allowed on the bus people. But this does make it easier a) to travel the airways and b) to not lose your luggage. It’s much easier to keep track of one suitcase. And there will be outfit repeats. Yep. 

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Same dress, different country

There are many things I could say here, but most important of all, I firmly believe that I did not miss any important part of Europe, or “traveling” because we went with a group. If anything, this experience was better because of the people we were with.

37584_448937738178_734173178_6119449_2390993_n Aw, group love

[Also: if you are a couple, there were other couples to hang out with, and also non-couple people to hang with when you got sick of/fed up with/cranky with your own partner. Which, over a long trip, will happen.]

Next Post: Top Things I wish I had known/done before, and Things I’m glad I did.

I promise to be back soon, with renewed vigor. But I offer up this small smattering of images to explain my absence and distraction:

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More to come soon? Indeed.

Today was, well, a mixture of things that I couldn’t seem to put into words.

 

 

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*pictures taken by me

Reasons why I love living in California:

~ Beach weather in January that looks like beach weather in the spring:

DSCN5316   Including, and not limited to;

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Lovely sunsets! DSCN5370

Ok, so the weather today is rather cloudy/rainy/foggy etc, but variety is supposedly the spice of life, right?

Cheers.

This Friday we went to Doran Beach in Bodega Bay, it was a rare day; lovely and non-super-windy, with an amazing view and no fog! Do you demand evidence?

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  Is the sky not lovely? 

 

 

 

 

 

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And the reflective sand?

 

 

 

DSCN4222   And here’s me!

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Ok, that’s enough. It is now raining, which it will continue to do for quite awhile, for the next week at least. I do love rain, but having just purchased a lovely spring dress yesterday I am now feeling the 70-degree itch. I blame stores. They seem to enjoy taunting us with short dresses and tank tops in January, when we can’t very well wear them. And bathing suits? Come on! Bikinis officially appeared in my area over a month ago. What?! That’s just cruel. Besides, my goal is to stay in the same shape so I don’t have to buy a new suit every year.

So today I did my yearly ritual of filling out the fafsa, except this year I was almost fooled by a ‘professional’ fafsa assistance site. It was the first link that popped up in my google search so I just went with it. And I was halfway through when I realized that not only did this site suck and was annoying, it wasn’t the .gov site. And did I mention they wanted to charge me $79.99 to have the forms ‘evaluated??’ What the hell, who is dumb enough to actually pay this? The FREE GOVT fafsa is super easy to figure out, and you can always go back and fix it. OR you can ask your school’s financial aid dept for help, which is also FREE. So please, students, do not be duped into this silliness. If you simply must spend money online, buy shoes. Or books. Or other fun things you can actually OWN IN REAL LIFE.

And did you know I am officially owned by the federal government? No, really. I think I owe them all but my first-born. But, the joke is on them because I don’t plan on paying my loans off till I’m good and ready, and have several degrees under my belt. And who knows how long that may take.

HA.