First Impressions: Tarifa

We have been to Europe 5 times and have traveled through numerous countries. In this series, I want to share our first impressions of the cities we have visited.

Tarifa

Tarifa is a small town on the southern tip of Spain. Most people probably haven’t heard of it, but it is a great place to stay if you want to visit Gibraltar and/or Tangier. There isn’t a lot to do there, compared to other Spanish cities, but it has a kind of “edge-of-the-world” feel to it, especially when you’re able to see the coast of Africa in the distance and the point at which the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a lot of cool restaurants there and they have some things worth seeing, like St. Matthew’s Church, as well as a beach, though it is really windy there. Actually, it is supposed to be the windsurfing capital of the world! The views in Tarifa are also pretty amazing!

 

Our first impressions?

Worldly. Windy. Crossroads.

 

 

Our Summer Adventure

Our summer adventure has been decided! Last weekend, I came across a great deal on flights and I just couldn’t pass it up.

This summer, we will be visiting Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris, and London. We will arrive in Amsterdam early on a Thursday morning and will spend the next 3 nights there, leaving later in the day on the 4th night. We plan to take a train to Ghent (in Belgium) via Antwerp, where we will spend 3 nights. One day will be spent exploring Ghent, another day we will spend in Bruges, and on the 3rd day, we plan to spend the day in Brussels before moving on to Paris, via rail. We plan to spend 5 nights in Paris so that we can take a day trip, possibly to the Loire Valley. Then, we will leave early on a Monday morning and take the chunnel to London where we will spend 4 nights before flying home.

Trip planning is in full swing as we try to find a place to stay in all these cities. The kids are excited, and Anya is looking forward to seeing the Eiffel Tower.

 

International Travel Tips

A lot of people are booking trips for spring break or summer or maybe even both! If you are travelling outside the country this year, these are some things you should consider before leaving…

  • Make sure you have a valid passport with at least 6 months left on it. Many countries will not allow entry if your passport expires within 6 months of your visit.
  • Make copies or take a picture of your passport and all the credit cards you will be traveling with. If some or all of these documents are lost or stolen, you will be able to contact your credit card company, and you will still have your passport information. Take a copy with you and leave a copy here with a family member.
  • Call the credit card company and the bank before leaving so that they are aware you will be using your card out of the country. Some banks and credit card companies must unlock your cards before they can be used, and some may not allow you to use them at all. This is very important to avoid being locked out of your account. Also, be sure that you know your PIN numbers on your debit cards and know the maximum amount of money your bank allows you to take out per day.
  • Register your trip with the US State Department at https://travelregistration.state.gov/. This lets the State Department know where you will be and when. The State Department will also send you notifications if there is a travel warning in the area you are traveling. Also, check for any travel tips or warnings for the country you will be visiting.
  • Know where the US Embassy is located in the country you are traveling in in case something happens and you need to get there.
  • Bring a charger adapter, if necessary. Some countries require different chargers.
  • Be sure to purchase travel insurance, as your medical insurance likely does not cover you while out of the country. Bring copies of your travel insurance cards.
  • If you plan to drive while there, be sure to obtain an international driver’s license. This can be done at AAA.
  • Check with your cell phone carrier to see if you will have service in the country you are visiting and inquire about any international charges for use of your phone in that country.

Another thing I always encourage is to do a little research about where you will be travelling. Not everywhere you may visit is the same as your hometown. Lots of things could be different, such as food, pricing, language,and the overall culture of the people. It helps to learn a little of the language; most locals really appreciate the effort, even if you know very little. The best advice I can give is to expect things to be somewhat different and be open to something new.

 

Oh, January

How I hate this month. For years, I have felt horrible for almost the entire month of January. It took awhile before I realized the problem: there is just nothing going on in January. Nothing happening. Nothing to look forward to. Every other month of the year has something that I enjoy, but January? Nothing. After the hype of Christmas and all the chaotic holiday stuff, you’d think I’d enjoy a month of nothing, but I don’t. I always feel awful in January.

Four years ago, we started attending a wellness weekend in Brown County, Indiana. We stayed in a lodge, hiked in the woods, ate at restaurants we only got to eat at once a year, and took all kinds of wellness classes like yoga, Reiki, and a bunch of other stuff some people might label “new-agey.” But it gave me something to look forward to in the middle of the month and it left me feeling refreshed and ready to start the year. For three years, I have felt a lot better due to attending this event.

Well, we didn’t get to go this year because of snow and ice. I was so disappointed. And almost two weeks later, I’m remembering exactly why we go to this every year. I feel awful. In fact, I haven’t felt this awful in four years. Never mind all of the other things going on in my life that make things even more difficult. Like the fact that my cat has diabetes and I have to pay an exorbitant amount on insulin to keep him alive for longer. Or the fact that my Fitbit no longer syncs to my phone and the company refuses to stand by their product and either fix the problem or send me a new Alta. Or that somehow part of the ceiling in our dining area was leaking and my husband had to tear the dry wall out and is in the middle of replacing it, so a chunk of the ceiling is messed up right now. It just never ends.

The bottom line is that I know there are also a lot of good things going on, but right now they are clouded over by all the stressful stuff happening. I know I’ll get through it, but I’m glad we only have a few more days of January left!

Something to Look Forward To

With all the crazy snow we’re having around here, I am so ready for some nicer weather! I’ve been trying to catch up/get ahead with my travel planning so I’ve been researching tons of places in the Caribbean, which makes me wish we were planning a spring break trip, too. I’ve also been working on a lot of European trips, so I ended up spending one late night with a cup of coffee and a map of Europe pulled up on my screen…which can be dangerous in our house!

So of course, I’ve come up with a possible itinerary that looks like this:

Amsterdam (4 nights)

Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges (3 nights staying in Brussels or Ghent)

Paris (4 nights)

London (4 nights)

We have not been to Amsterdam or Brussels and it has been over 10 years since we have visited London and Paris, but the kids have never been. Felix is oblivious and has been requesting to go back to Greece to check on all the cats we saw last year, but Anya seems pretty excited about going somewhere else in Europe, especially Paris.

This is still pretty iffy and it may not work out but we have been looking at possible accommodations in each of those cities and just brainstorming ideas for things we’d like to do. I’ve also been playing around with different dates and flight combinations trying to figure out the least expensive way to get there and back.

Here’s hoping it all works out…After the crazy 2 and a half weeks I’ve had, I need something fun to look forward to!

Family Board Games: Our Top 10

We love to play games at our house, and I am planning to do even more game nights with the kids this year, so I wanted to share our favorites, in no particular order.

1. Survive

This is a board game that involves placing game pieces on certain parts of an island that is slowly chipped away, and you have to get all of your people off the island and to safety. This is one that Felix can play, though he normally chooses to be on a team with someone.

2. Forbidden Island

This is another board game, but you play as a team with the other players to try to beat the game. It involves the island slowly sinking as the players all race to collect certain items that allow them to fly off the island to safety.

3. King of Tokyo

This is yet another board game where you have to collect so many stars before losing all your hearts (life points). It reminds me a little of a video game, but it’s typically fairly short and Felix can play on a team with someone.

4. Sushi Go

This one is a card game. We have the party pack where there are numerous ways to play the game. It’s different in that you pass around the hand you’re dealt and build a new hand of cards instead of discarding from the hand that is dealt to you. You choose cards based on how many points you can collect from each card or combination of cards. It usually goes pretty quickly and you can play with anywhere from 2 to 8 players. The variety of cards you can use allows for lots of different combinations, so the game is never the same. Felix doesn’t really get the idea of this, so he sits it out, but Anya does really well.

5. Farkle

I’ve been told this dice game is similar to Yahtzee, but I honestly have never played Yahtzee. All four of us can play this game and we all enjoy it!

6. Quixx

This is another dice game that we can all play, but it’s a little different from Farkle. There are colored dice and choices to make about whether or not to add a roll to your points total. It’s easy to learn and can be a fairly short game.

7. Santorini

This board game is one that Felix could theoretically play on a team with someone. It is more complicated than it seems at first. You can play with 2 to 4 players. The basic game has specific rules but each game is different if you play with the God cards, which allow each player to have different abilities. For this reason, the game is always different.

8. Phase 10

This is a card game from my college years. We just recently taught Anya how to play it and she picked it up pretty quickly. It would maybe be a good game for Felix, because he needs to work on his numbers.

9. Monopoly Deal

I like the regular Monopoly game but it makes for a super long game so this is a great alternative. It’s Monopoly in the form of a card game and it’s designed to last approximately 15 minutes. It was pretty inexpensive and since it’s just a deck of cards, it’s super mobile.

10. Uno Attack

This is just a spin on the classic Uno game. Felix loves playing this game with us. It has all the same rules as the original Uno game, but the Attack part of it means that you can make people hit a button and get more cards he or she will need to discard.

My kids also like to play all the other silly games like Toilet Trouble and Pie in the Face, but I personally hate playing those games, so we have spent a lot of time trying to find games that are fun for everyone.

 

Books Read in 2017

These are the books I read in 2017. Let me know if you would like to know what I thought of any of them!

1. Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone

2. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

4. Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

5. Leave Me by Gayle Forman

6. Eligible:A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

7. The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

8. Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

9. The Other Widow by Susan Crawford

10. In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

11. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

12. I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

13. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

14. All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart

15. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

16. The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

17. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

18. Hillbilly Elegie by J.D. Vance

19. He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

20. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

21. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

22. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

23. The Map That Leads To You by J.P. Monniger

24. It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

25. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

26. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

27. The Ruins by Scott B. Smith

28. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

29. The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

30. The Troop by Nick Cutter

31. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV

32. While I Was Gone by Sue Miller

33. The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron

34. The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

35. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

Intentions for 2018

Travel:

As usual, we have travel plans in the works for 2018. There are the annual planned trips we always do, such as the January Wellness Weekend and our anniversary getaway in October. We are also planning to camp at least twice this year, take the kids on a weekend trip (possibly St. Louis), and go to Disney World in September. In addition, we plan to take a family vacation this summer, but we aren’t sure where yet. Options include Smokey Mountains/Asheville/Myrtle Beach, London and Paris, Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, or Ireland…we’re all over the place! These trips have become habits and annual events at this point, so I am not listing them as actual intentions this year.

Reading:

My book club will be choosing new books the first week of January, so I am looking forward to that. I also have some books that have been on my list for awhile that I’d really like to tackle, so I’m hoping to make an effort to read a few of those.

  • Read 32 books. (0/32)

Writing:

My journal circle has been taking a break for the last few months of the year. Much to my dismay, it may or may not start up again in the new year. If not, I have some things planned to keep the creativity flowing. I have really missed writing so I hope to do more of it.

I am also planning to do something different with my blog. I’m hoping to merge my business website with my blog somehow, and I’d like to cover a variety of topics that include travel, music and music therapy, wellness, and some of my personal ramblings.

  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (0/60)
  • Work through a book about writing poetry. (0/22)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (0/36)
  • Writing prompts from one of my books (0/36)

Music:

It looks like there may be some big changes in my music therapy work this year, so I’ve modified these intentions just a bit to reflect that. I want to make an effort to spend some time each month coming up with new music to use in my groups. I also want to continue working on playing and writing music for my own enjoyment.

One thing that I have started doing is making an effort to start each day with some kind of music. This might be playing a song on the piano, singing a song while playing my guitar, or listening mindfully to a piece of recorded music. I feel like I start the day a little more relaxed when I actually take a few minutes to do this.

  • Learn at least 5 new songs to use in groups (0/5)
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (0/3)
  • Listen to 5 classical pieces.  (0/5)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (0/20)
  • Write at least 3 new original songs. (0/3)

Travel Planning:

I have been working on different online training programs and I would like to complete several more this year, including training pertaining to St. Lucia, Princess Cruise Lines, Cancun, and Hawaii. Completing training on destinations, cruises, hotel brands, etc. really helps me to know how best to match up destinations and accommodations with clients.

  • Complete at least 6 training programs (0/6)

Home and Organization:

There are a million and one things that need to be done around this house, but I’m trying not to overwhelm myself!

  • Finish staining the deck.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.
  • 8 areas to organize (0/8)

Family:

I’ve come up with some ideas for things to do together as a family. We would like to take the kids bowling, play mini-golf, make a home video, paint, etc. We also want to do more game nights with the kids….maybe a monthly game night.

  • Game nights once a month (0/12)
  • Bowling
  • Mini-golf
  • Make a home video
  • Painting

Service:

I’m hoping to come up with more ideas as the year goes on. My main intention here is for our kids to see it as the norm to do nice things for people on a regular basis.

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (0/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once

Food:

We kind of dropped the ball on our cooking and trying new restaurants last year. I hope to pick those back up again and see if we can try a few new things.

  • Eat at at least 8 new restaurants. (0/8)
  • Make at least 6 new international meals. (0/6)

I am considering only blogging about my progress every 2 months or every quarter, just to get away from having to obsess over my goals. That being said, I really do enjoy looking at where I am at the end of each month, so I will just see what I feel like doing at the end of January.

You may also have noticed that I have cut down the number of intentions I’m listing. There are currently 24 of them. I am really trying to simplify things a little. Fortunately, many of the things that I’ve listed as intentions in the past have now become normal parts of my life, so there really is no need to list them as intentions anymore. With my intentions for this year, I want to focus on the things I have to make an effort to actually do. This is with the exception of reading books…I just enjoy seeing how many I can read in a year!

I’m looking forward to getting started on these. I’d love to hear what everyone else is doing this year!

2017 Intentions

Here’s how I did with my intentions for 2017:

Travel:

  • January Wellness Weekend
  • Weekend away with the kids
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (36/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (3/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. I have neglected my blog for quite a bit of time and I would like to get into posting a little more regularly. (60/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (43/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (36/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (24/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional.

Music:

  • Create one new Singalong packet for my Singalongs (for work). (1/1)
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (2/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. (3/10)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (19/20)

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation.
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.
  • Go through and re-organize the pantry.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory
  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Movie Night
  • Gatti Town or Chuck E. Cheese
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (2/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Run the 10-mile River Race in May.
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. Doing these kinds of challenges helps me to keep carving out time to do something physical and it gives me a chance to focus on some areas that I feel like I need to work on. (5/5)
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. I need to get back into the habit of drinking more water.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (6/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (4/10)
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (6/20)

Not too shabby, considering how busy things were this past year! I’m actually pretty excited to start my 2018 intentions.

 

2017

Obligatory end-of-the-year quiz…

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before? Visited Greece, swam in a bio-luminescent bay in Jamaica, participated in paranormal investigations
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I did pretty well with my intentions for 2017, and I have more ideas for 2018.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes – One of my good friends had a baby while we were coming home from Greece
4. Did anyone close to you die? Yes – Eric’s uncle, my great aunt, and my mother-in-law’s mother’s cousin
5. What countries did you visit? Greece, Jamaica
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017? Feeling more appreciated  7. What date(s) from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I don’t have exact dates for all of these, but these were important events this year:

  • Winter Wellness Weekend in January
  • Rainy camping weekend in Lincoln City during Spring Break
  • Mumford and Sons concert in May
  • The 10-mile River Run in May
  • Our amazing trip to Greece in May/June
  • Our first paranomal investigation in New Harmony in August
  • Labor Day weekend spent camping in Lincoln City
  • Paranormal investigation in Alton, IL at McPike Mansion in September
  • Delta University in Atlanta in September
  • 6 nights in Montego Bay, Jamaica in October
  • Music Therapy Conference in St. Louis in November

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Successfully moving forward with my travel business and getting another important music therapy contract (More information to come!)
9. What was your biggest failure? There was nothing I would call a failure.                     
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Just sporadic sadness at times                                     11. What was the best thing you bought? Tickets to Greece and Jamaica                       12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My close friends who have been supportive    13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? People who are always too engrossed in their own things to really see me                                                            14. Where did most of your money go? Greece and private school tuition
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Greece, Jamaica, and paranormal investigations
16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2017? The Night We Met by Lord Huron, because it introduced me to a great band!
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Probably a little sadder, actually
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner, for once!                                                                         
iii. richer or poorer? Maybe a little richer, since we have built up our account again since putting a down payment on the van
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Things I enjoy
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying
20. How did you spend Christmas? We spent Christmas Eve with my mom’s family. We spent Christmas Day as a family, then with my family, and then with my husband’s family later that evening.
21. What was your favorite TV program? The Walking Dead, The Handmaid’s Tale, 13 Reasons Why
22. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No                           
23. What was the best book you read? I read several great ones: Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt, The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn, The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella, and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
24. What was your greatest musical discovery? Of Monsters and Men, Lord Huron, Strumbellas
25. What did you want and get? Trips to Greece and Jamaica
26. What did you want and not get? A decision about whether or not to have more kids
27. What was your favorite film of this year? I saw very few movies…
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 36. On my birthday, I worked but had lunch with a couple friends and dinner with my family at Acropolis. Later, we came home for cake and some family game time.
29.How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017? Comfortable   
30. What kept you sane? Coffee and chocolate
31.Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? No one, really                  32. What political issue stirred you the most? I’m not sure there was any one issue that stirred me the most, but politics this year have been insane.                                  33. Who did you miss? The baby I won’t get to meet.
34. Who was the best new person you met? My travel agent friends                         
35Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017: I need to keep spending time taking care of myself.

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