This is a Clumber spaniel at the Monaco Dog Show earlier in the year. Clumbers are, I believe, the heaviest of all the spaniels.
This is pretty amazing, that a dog this size can compete in agility. He may not be the fastest dog in the ring, but I bet he’s the biggest! The video was shot during the Rocky Mountain Cluster Dog Show at The National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado early last year. Until next time, Good […]
As I’ve stated a time or three, I have strong feelings against giving puppies for Christmas because they often end up in shelters when the giftee isn’t prepared to commit to a destructive puppy or a full-grown adult dog. But, I know it is a practice that continues to be popular. I’m curious as to […]
How Trophy Hunting Can Save Lions
An American hunter's killing of a beloved lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe last month was enough to fuel widespread outrage. But the details of the hunt are even more damning: The lion was allegedly lured out of a national park and then killed illegally.
Read more on Wall Street Journal
The story behind Lewis Murray Stadium and his impact on Bogalusa
Cookin' with Nino: Lemon and Basmati Chicken Salad · (Playbuzz) Can you name all these Christmas cartoons? (WGNO Twix the Guinea Pig visited from the Audubon Zoo · Friday Night Football … Why the Newman Greenies play on Michael Lupin Field …
Read more on WGNO
Book review: Climate Change, What Everyone Needs to Know
A new book makes the case that those who understand the basics of climate change and clean energy will be the “smart money” in the coming years. Those who don't, however, will make bad decisions for themselves and their family. They might, for instance …
Read more on The Guardian
As my regular readers know, I’m an avid traveler. There is little I love more than taking trips to explore new places, relax, and/or visit loved ones. And it works out that I tend to travel more throughout December and early January than the rest of the year, so I’ve had a lot of experience with the madness of holiday season traveling. In addition to visiting family around the holidays, I usually travel with my husband to the Caribbean in December for a festival his band holds, as well as to wherever they’re playing their annual New Year’s run in late December, and I take at least one small road trip to visit family and friends in early January. This year, because I have a baby due January 9th, is quite a bit different than the norm and I’m sticking closer to home. But hearing others talk about long lines and frantic crowds at the airport, traffic on the highways, scary winter storms, and other seasonal travel stress brings back lots of memories of my own experiences enduring travel this time of year. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to make the process easier during the most hectic of all travel seasons, and I’m going to share some tips today that have helped me to simplify and enjoy the journey as much as possible.
1. Expect to Wait. This holds true for both flying and driving. If you’re flying, be aware that lines and wait times will be longer during this peak season. And if you’re driving, you can expect extra traffic and the possibility of winter weather. I am notorious for being late (admittedly not my best trait), but I have learned to allow myself a lot of extra time when I travel this time of year. I also try to start the journey with a good attitude and assume that everything is going to take twice as long. The great part about that is that if it ends up going quickly, you’re happily surprised. If it doesn’t, you’re mentally prepared.
2. Pack Light. I know, I know – it’s huge challenge to pack light this year of year, especially if you’re traveling for the holidays and have gifts to bring, or for the New Year and (like me) can’t decide which outfits to take with you. But the more bags you have, especially if you’re flying, the greater the hassle. If you have a lot of gifts, consider shipping them in advance instead. Try to plan your clothing for each day and use packing cubes (my personal travel saviors), which can sometimes even mean only needing a carry-on. Not having to check a bag is huge in terms of saving time and, with some airlines, money.
3. Choose the Right Travel Rewards Card. If you’re a frequent traveler (or even just a sometimes traveler), being able to earn and use travel rewards is key. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that booking holiday trips with travel rewards cards can be difficult due to inflexible flight times, low availability or hard-to-get seats. This is why I love the Capital One Venture Card. It’s a travel rewards credit card that offers double miles on every purchase – anywhere, anytime, and without the restrictions commonly found in rewards programs. Cardholders decide when, where and how they want to use their miles, and they’re redeemable on any travel-related expense – from flights to hotel stays, cruises and even Uber rides. They don’t tie you down to a single airline and you don’t have to deal with the hassle of advance booking and inconvenient flight times. Capital One offers straightforward, intuitive products and tools to help consumers use their money wisely during the holiday season and beyond. And when it comes to simplifying travel during the holiday season, the Capital One Venture Card is the way to go.
4. Use Travel Apps. I can’t tell you guys how often my husband and I use travel apps and how much easier they make the traveling process, especially during the holidays season. We use airline apps to quickly check on flight status and delays, the Weather Channel app for updated weather information, map apps to check traffic times, apps to keep track of our travel itineraries, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how we traveled before smartphones!
5. Travel During Off-Peak Times and Days. I know this isn’t always easy this time of year, especially when you’re having to plan travel dates around work or little ones. If you can make it work though, it can make a massive difference in your overall experience. I’ve found that for driving trips, traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays tends to mean much less traffic on the road. And if you’re able to fly at less desirable times (like red eyes, very early flights, or late flights), you’ll likely save money and deal with less wait times at the airport.
I hope that these tips prove useful for those of you about to embark on holiday travels! For those of you taking trips soon, where will you be going? Do you have any other tips for simplifying travel this time of year?
Photo used in top graphic can be found here. All other photos are from my past December travels to the Dominican and Mexico, where I’m traveling right now in my dreams.
Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
I stopped writing about dogs.
It’s not because I have stopped loving them. I do.
I always will.
But I also have come to the conclusion that my level of expertise just isn’t doing them justice.
There is much we don’t know and cannot know.
To the extent that I have been wrong, I have failed.
I never got into team sports because it was always a constant chest-thumping one-upmanship that I found repulsive.
Spending time alone in the woods with dogs was the opposite of that sort of existence.
Little did I know that that world of dogs was gripped by the same sort competition. I just happened to be around dogs in a part of the world where no one cared about these things.
And the truth is I have been outdone by those with more resources. I’ve been outdone by those who were able to be tougher and nastier.
I’m not a nasty person.
All I’ve ever sought was more time to be alone in the woods with dogs, and if whatever I wrote here helped me to that end, then I’d write about it
It would help me recreate what I had once known and what I had yearned for.
I may write about dogs here again.
But it is going to be a while.
I think I’m fresh out of expertise.
But it may be confidence in myself.
It doesn’t really matter.
It all ends up in a kind of writer’s block anyway.
My mother was not a great cook. I think she would happily cop to that. She made spaghetti, burnt steak, and stuck underseasoned chicken breasts in the oven until they turned rubbery. Her mother was not a great cook either. She was Irish, so I guess that was part of her legacy to boil everything until it fell apart and all the taste seeped out, or so she claimed.
However, her father was French, so she inherited a different type of culinary genius: boy could she bake. If I had to choose one of the two to excel in, it’s pastry chef every time. Banana bread. Cranberry muffins. Christmas sugar cookies with just the right frosting:cookie ratio. And her New England birthright, the whoopie pie.
Every Christmas, she would bake piles of these little crack blobs and send them to every corner of the States, where otherwise mild-mannered humans would turn into ravenous wolves and tear into them until nothing was left but a small pile of chocolate crumbs and the satisfied groans of bellies bloated with marshmallow creme. And when my kids were older, they took my place up at the counter to learn the great tradition of cookie decorating:
They weren’t bakery perfect, but that’s what made them fun.
Mom would also on occasion bake macaroons, those pasty, blobby coconut things that stick to your teeth and cling to the insides of your esophagus like phlegm. I was not a fan. But one fateful day I wandered into a French bakery and admired the little pastel rows of goodness and light known as French macarons, and everything changed. I picked up a rose flavored one and a lavender one, and I was hooked.
Before they became wildly popular a year or two ago, they were nearly impossible to find, and I decided that the easiest thing to do would be just to learn how to make them myself. Mom was on board too, ready to add a new treat to her repertoire.
Unfortunately, macarons are known as one of the granddaddies of pastry making, a confection as temperamental as an 80s hair band vocalist. Beat the meringue too long? Ruined. Not long enough? Ruined. Also able to ruin them: temperature too high, too low, overmixing, undermixing, high humidity, Mercury in retrograde, wrong rack in oven, playing country music while baking, etc, etc.
It only made me more determined to unlock their secrets, so last year I procured a cookbook, 5 bags of almond flour, and spent an afternoon in the kitchen with my mother ruining macarons.
After 3 or so batches, we were able to get a cookie sheet out of the oven with at least half of them edible, and we considered this a great success.
“Next year,” she said, “We’ll have this down.”
We never did get to practice together after that.
So a couple of weeks ago, with this echoing in my mind, I realized I needed to finish what we started and make some damn macarons. They are not like making a batch of chocolate chip cookies where you screw it up a little, meh, still fine.
Macarons are an event. You need to prepare. You need to think about things. You need to time everything just so, knowing the difference between firm meringue and soft, how many folds it takes before the stiff batter melts into pipable lava, make sure to bang the tray on the counter a few times, you need to rest the cookie before you bake it so you get those little crusty feet. Getting it right is like finding the keyhole into the Misty Mountain, a perfect meeting of all the right tiny details.
And even when you do all of this right, they still get messed up. Sometimes they slant to the left like a manhole askew, sometimes the foot sticks to the pan and all you get is the top half, or they’re overdone and crunchy all the way through. Piles wind up in the trash. And every once in a while you hit the jackpot and get a perfectly done shell, and then- then, it’s magic. Crunchy and chewy and delicate and unlike any other thing out there, and you think to yourself, I have reached nirvana.
Manic Pixie Baker
I went into manic baking mode this week. Between the 3 dozen macarons I took to a cookie exchange (and lost the contest to a BROWNIE, what the heck is that about?), the teacher gifts, the ones my husband wants to bring into work, I can’t keep them in the fridge before they get carted out. Biscoff gingerbread. Pistachio. Cherry cordial. Eggnog. Nutella. I was a macaron machine.
I could have just gone and bought them, I suppose, or picked one of any thousands of easier cookies to make. But there is something special about giving someone a perfectly tied teensy box of macarons that makes a recipient light up- even when the cookies are imperfect, which most of them are. Because you are basically presenting a box that says, “I wasted 40 hours of my life swearing at a bowl of egg whites in order to bring you this,” and when the person squees in delight, you realize it’s not a waste after all.
In the hours I spent in meditative contemplation over a tray of almond meal, it really started to sink in as to why I felt such a need to get it right, to fulfill this promise to my mom that I would nail this cookie in a manner befitting my birthright. Whether or not they came out perfectly was completely beside the point, an added bonus but not necessary.
They are, simply put, a confectionary metaphor for life itself. They’re never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be one more way you can make them better. It takes time and effort and patience to get to the end and it still may not be what you wanted, but oh, even then, it was worth it.
What you bring to the party, and what you give to others from your own heart and hands- it is worth it. Never stop giving.
I think many of us can admit that we never quite live up to our own expectations during the holiday season. I absolutely love this time of year (which says a lot for a full-blooded summer girl who despises winter), and starting mid-November, I begin to compile a list in my head of all of the decor projects I want to do, cookies I want to bake, shopping outings I want to have, hot chocolate filled holiday light drives I want to take, etc. I have the best intentions, I really do, but they ultimately end up falling through the cracks. This year more than ever I feel behind. I’ve taken on more work projects over the last month or so than ever before, Essley is beginning to live up to being an almost two year old (in the best of ways, but man), and I could basically give birth to this massive baby in my belly at any time. I’ve only put out a few decorations, I’ve barely started shopping, and I certainly haven’t allowed myself the time to relax and enjoy the season. I’ve vowed to make that time though, starting this weekend. And for inspiration and motivation to do just that, I’ve gathered up some of my favorite holiday images that I’ve come across lately. Since I’m guessing many of you are in the same boat in terms of holiday expectations vs. holiday reality, hopefully these beautiful photos will be a reminder that it really is the most wonderful time of the year.