Friday, September 28, 2012

Destination: Greece

Every Friday I blog for Sunday Hatch. Here's today's post!

If you're reading this, and nothing has gone terribly wrong on our end, we're in GREECE!


Santorini Island to be exact. That's right. In fact, we've been here for three days. One of the most beautiful places on earth. Also possible inspiration for mythological utopia, Atlantis. I admit I wrote these posts in advance (I'm not going to spend precious vacation time blogging, sillies), so I can't tell you yet exactly how amazing it is first hand. Rest assured. The trip review will come. I bet you can't wait (for me to stop talking about this...?).

In the meantime, we're heading off the island this evening and back to the mainland for the rest of our adventure. For those of you travel-philes who like these sorts of things, I've included our road trip route. I mean, since I've dragged you through all my trip preparation, it's only fair you get to tag along for the rest of the tour. Here's Greece. See that island in the bottom right corner? Fira (Santorini) is where we are!

All those little green letters are places we are stopping. They are all chosen for historical sites we want to see. >NERD ALERT.< I spent massive amounts on the Trip Advisor forums, asking questions and reading other's trip reviews, in putting together this itinerary. It wasn't easy. The hardest part was cutting places out, actually, since there is such a wealth of things to visit in a country so rich in ancient history. If you notice, we're not venturing much into Northern Greece, which is a real shame because it's supposedly absolutely beautiful mountainous countryside. But with only 10 days in country and the goal to keep it feeling more like a vacation and less like speed dating, we had to reign in our fancies just a bit.

Let's zoom in just a tad.

A/H) Athens. B) Delphi. C) Olympia D) Mycenae. E) Nafplion. F) Epidaurus. G) Corinth.

Despite the way it looks, even our longest drive isn't much over 3 hours according to GoogleMaps. Of course, we are prepared for a 3 hour drive in a foreign country to take quite a bit longer, especially since it's mountain territory and we'll be driving on questionable roads trying to decipher a another language. Thank goodness for GPS rentals.

Did I mention we had to get these?

Basically, we paid AAA $15 a piece to give us this book that translates our US Driver's Licenses into other (participating countries') languages. We didn't have to do this for our South Africa trip, and the other time I've been to Europe I didn't have to worry about driving, so this was new territory for me! Pray that our marriage survives the Hubs navigating foreign roads and drivers. (Sometimes I worry about us surviving Austin, TX traffic, and by that I mean: survive each other.)

So next Friday will find us finishing up our road trip for two days in the metropolis of Athens, and then we'll be on our way back home. Stay tuned... and wish us luck!

On the road again....

Friday, September 21, 2012

Let's Go! (Line Dancing?)

Every Friday I blog for Sunday Hatch. Here's today's post!

Oooooooh, are you sick of me talking about my trip to Greece? I am preeeetty sick of talking about it. In fact, I've talked about it so much it's like people are afraid to make conversation with me about anything else. 

But in all seriousness - just a few more posts about our upcoming travels, and then our travels will no longer be upcoming, they will be . . . over. Then I will be ready to tell you, perhaps with a little less jealousy, all about my sister and brother-in-law's new life in Scotland! (Now that you're hooked with that cliffhanger...)

This week was the finale of SYTYCD. For all you non-watchers out there, that's So You Think You Can Dance. Yes, it's a reality TV show. Yes, it involves dancing. No, it is not the same as Dancing with the I-want-to-gouge-my-eyes-out Stars, thank you very much. I will admit that I TiVO the show and fast forward through the judging and ridiculousness, but I do watch nevertheless.

This week was the finale, and as I was watching the dancing, I started thinking about cultural influences and what we consider our truly "American" styles of dance. And then I got on YouTube and found a wealth of examples of Greek styles of dance. Is it Riverdance? Are they line dancing? Yes, they just might be the originators of line dancing. Take that, Texans!

I can summarize Greek folk dance like so: 
(lots of) stomping + clapping + snapping + (lots of) jumping = Greek folk dance

But see for yourself. This is the Greek SYTYCD. What's with the old man putting on his jacket at the beginning? Anyone?

Oh, and Joe's Crab Shackers ain't got nothing on this waiter.

I am pretty sure I would tip heartily to ensure this happens during any one of my meals. This is what happens when you indulge me. Random Friday Post. Now, change the subject! 

It's the weekend, do a Happy Dance and see if your kicks are as high as that guy's.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Follow the Locals

Every Friday I blog for Sunday Hatch. Here's today's post!

I've started using research on our Greece Extravaganza as an excuse to not do housework! It's working quite well, and it certainly helps keep me excited amidst the stress of being now less than two weeks from our departure!

One of the things I love best about visiting new places is experiencing the culture through food. And in Greece, with hospitality always a priority, food is a part of their welcome language. I don't think of myself as a foodie, and I don't particularly love to cook, but I do love to eat! Ironically, I'm a pretty picky eater, but I do like to try a few traditional dishes that I feel confident won't completely mess me up inside later. The Mister is the adventurous one. I usually rely on him to order something utterly unique. Then I'll smell it and watch him take a few bites before I consent to tasting it myself. We make a good team.


I don't eat very much in one sitting, so it's stupid for me to waste a lot of foreign currency on large meals I won't ever finish. The Mister usually helps in that department as well, but for the most part I try to order small, appetizer-sized meals, which usually means I get small samples of several flavors or dishes. It's a convenient way to taste an array of food. It also means I'm hungry again in a few hours, which is the perfect excuse to stop and eat again!

Now that I sound like a complete Fattie... let me explain the place Greek food has in our hearts:

A month before we got engaged, Tim took me to NYC for the first time ever in my life. The first evening we were there, we happened to walk into an authentic Greek restaurant near Time's Square for dinner. I love Mediterranean cuisine (it's so flavorful and yet healthy) but surprisingly had never sat down and ordered a traditional Greek dish, at a Greek restaurant. I had my first taste of lamb and suddenly had a new favorite food. Also on this trip, Tim was supposed to propose to me. That didn't work out and is another story for another day!

A month later, He did propose in our living room. After having several elaborate plans he ended up on one knee one evening after walking the dog. A few weeks after that, we moved back to Texas and started planning a wedding. We knew we wanted to go to Greece for our honeymoon, and one afternoon over a lamb gyro at Tino's in Austin, we decided we'd serve Greek food at our wedding!

lamb gyro, mediterranean salad, dolmades

mediterranean salad

These photos make me so hungry. While I still have confidence we did the best we could here on home ground (we hired a master chef to cater our reception, who made his own hummus, tzatziki, and rolled dolmades, which were the best I'd ever tasted), we can't wait to set food in an authentic Greek restaurant. As in any foreign country, the best way of getting to the best food is to follow the locals.

Hopefully they lead us to all the right places!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finally Fall

This is the first post I've written in quite a while that wasn't in conjunction with Sunday Hatch. Whoops. Well, at least signing up for that assignment has proven to do exactly what I thought it would: make me write at least one post a week.

But this post is special because it's in honor of Fall: my favorite Season of the year. I like the other three in their own right, but usually I'm tired of them after a few weeks. In the case of Spring here in Texas... well, a few weeks is all we get! We go from cold and frosty to hot and humid, sometimes overnight. My hair, my skin, everything ends up a wreck. It's not pretty.

Fall is like the universal season I think everyone can get on board with. It's usually a relief after a hot summer, but it's not too cold you can't enjoy being outside. It brings the best fashion options - who doesn't love getting bundled up in baggy sweaters, scarves, leggings and boots!? You get to enjoy drinks, dishes, and desserts that other times of the year just aren't appropriate. Pumpkin bread? Um, yes please! Back to school, whether you're going back or not, is so sentimental. I think we all have fond memories of new notebooks, sharpened pencils, first day outfits, and another year of knowledge. But best of all are the fall colors. Not that we get much of them in Texas.

The past few days have been a bit of a preview. We're not there yet, not by a long shot, but a dry high 80's is enough here in Texas to get us excited. I'm not rushing to unpack my heavy sweaters, in fact, one of those days was perfect laying out weather - so I did, in my back yard. But I'm getting ready mentally. Ironically, I'm writing this post on the hottest day this week.

To aid in this sentimental preparation, I put together a little collage of some of the things I love best about this coming time of year. So feast your eyes. Let's get ready for the most wonderful time of year (ignore that silly Christmas song!).

all photos via pinterest

It's almost here. I can feel it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's in your bag?

Every Friday I blog for Sunday Hatch. Here's today's post!

When it comes to packing, I prefer to travel light.

That doesn't mean I ever do.

I have the typical female "Need 2,000 Options" mentality when it comes to packing. Traveling to a place I've never been to before and having little idea what to expect makes this problem even worse. Not to mention on any vacation you're bound to take a thousand pictures, and so you want to look cute while meeting the temperature requirements and remaining comfortable on a potentially exhaustive trip. Plus, I hate sticking out as a tourist. You know, the kind that wear fanny packs and money belts? Ick. But this trip I am determined to not be weighed down by unnecessary clothing and acessories, while still maintaining a "look" that's not totally based on utility.

One of my favorite outfits from Sex & the City is worn when Carrie moves temporarily to Paris at the end of the the sixth and final season. Carrie says,"I can't be drunk on the plane. I want to arrive stunning and impossibly fresh looking." And here is how they depict her as she's arriving at her hotel and checking out her balcony.

Yeah, right.

While I would love to believe it's possible, without owning a private jet I challenge anyone to walk off a red eye looking "impossibly fresh looking." Instead I usually dawn my trusty yoga pants and running shoes for optimal comfort and still arrive bleary-eyed and bushy-haired. And that's without drinking on the plane. Clearly, comfort is a must for me - but I don't think style should be sacrificed.

Am I already planning my outfits 3 weeks before our departure? Um, yes. And since you're asking, my cosmetic bag is already full of little travel-sized everythings as well. I'm THAT prepared. As I'm always curious what other women pack and I'm especially inquisitive of those who know how to pack efficiently and - you guessed it - lightly, I decided to share what will be in my bag for our 10 day Greece Extravaganza. 

You can read a little bit more about our travel plans so far here and here, but we are moving around quite a bit and need to anticipate fairly drastic temperature variations. Our three nights on Santorini island could hit lows in the 50s, but our daily highs in Athens metropolis could be in the mid-90s. So we need to find a balance between practicality and style. I put together a little visual representation of some staple items that will fill my bag in my attempt to achieve these goals.

1. A good walking shoe. 
This one is a duh thing, but I do like to go with an athletic shoe that has some spunk to it. Also, a darker color (read: not white) blends better and doesn't make you seem so "American." Am I right, or am I right?

2. A great comfy bag.
This is a convertible crossbody to backpack bag I bought at Urban Outfitters several years ago. I like that you can wear it both ways, since you want to be able to swing your bag in front of you on crowded streets and subways (pickpockets!), but for short hikes or day trips the backpack straps really help save my back! 

3. A sweater or hoodie.
I can be cold-natured, so I pack one of these no matter where I'm going, if only for use on the plane. There's nothing worse than trying to sleep in an already uncomfortable situation and being cold on top of things. I like one that opens in the front, rather than pull-over, because it's easier to get on and off in confined spaces.

4. A reliable pair of denim.
By reliable I mean won't lose its shape. I prefer clean clothes, but let's face it: you can wear denim for days before it starts looking worn... unless it gets all stretched out. I usually pack a pair of stretch jeans that I'm confident will last 3-5 wears without getting all loosey-goosey. And no,  this is not an acceptable situation to wear Pajama Jeans. Pajama Jeans are never, ever acceptable.

5. An ensemble of accessories.
a) I never go anywhere without a black pair of gigantic sunglasses. Yes, I want everyone to think I'm a movie star on vacation (staying in a budget hotel...).
b) The older I get, the more important a hat is for keeping off the sun. Especially when visiting an exotic island! I love this floppy straw hat I got from GAP - it's so excitingly glam. By exciting I mean it totally blows off my head with just the slightest bit of wind.
c) Scarves are the most useful and versatile accessory. They can dress up a t-shirt, and keep you warm from a cool island breeze. They can make an outfit you wore two days ago look like a new outfit. I love their utility almost as much as I worship their frivolity. 

6. Some plain Ts.
I'm totally a t-shirt gal. I feel at maximum comfort in my American Apparel Tri-Blend V-necks. With a scarf, jeans and boots for a cooler day or shorts and sneakers for a hike, I'm set.

7. Comfortable, cotton shorts
Raise your hand: who likes to feel fat on vacation? Now: who likes to eat whatever they want on vacation? My solution: comfortable, drawstring, cotton shorts. It helps that they are super hip right now and there's a plethora to choose from. And for long days in the car, in the air, or walking the streets of Athens - these will be my pick.

8. Swimsuit.
I always pack a swimsuit, even in the dead of winter. It's small, compact, practically weightless and you never know when there's going to be a jacuzzi available. One too many occasions have been ruined by being "that girl" who forgot to pack a suit. Never again. I usually opt for classic black, with enough coverage that I feel comfortable snorkeling or laying out on the beach.

9. A casual dress.
Fortunately, Greece is not known as a forward-fashion city. It's not Milan or Paris, so I don't have to worry about being dressed to the nines if we go out to dinner. However, a casual dress is still a staple item in the event you want to feel a little fancier for a special night out. This one's from Target, and I'm all about the stripes!

10. Several pairs of alternative shoes that I will actually wear.
a) If we were going to truly get fall or winter weather while there, I would wear my boots every single day. They are that comfortable. I can and have walked many city miles in these buggers. So I'm packing them, because depending on the weather, we could end up with some cold and rainy days, and I wouldn't want to be without them! Plus, they fold up really nicely so they don't take up as much room as you might think.
b) These sandals are also from Target, but are surprisingly cushy. I probably wouldn't want to get stuck in them all day on a rocky hillside, but they would do for an afternoon of sightseeing to let my toes breathe from the sneakers!

The other thing to note is I'm packing a lot of mix-and-match items. Boots and sandals can be worn with jeans, shorts, and dresses, so they play double triple-duty. T-shirts and button-downs can also be layered in case of cooler weather. I usually pack one (maybe two) scarves that color-wise are well-suited to all of the outfits I'm packing. You get my drift.

I travel with little to no jewelry. Usually just one or two pairs of studs that look good with everything else I'm packing, and an inexpensive watch. I'm even considering leaving my wedding rings at home this time. While I will miss it on my finger, I don't want to worry about it sliding down some ancient drain or becoming the heart of the ocean. And let's not forget the potential for muggings and pickpocketings, etc! Nothing like that has ever happened to me on any travels, but there's always a first time. I think it may just be better off in the safe at home.

Here's to packing!