Category Archives: travel

My Trip to Central Europe – Part 2

Greetings!  Here’s Part 2 of my November trip to Central Europe.  Today’s post will include my time in Prague, Karlovy Vary, and London.

Day 4 – Prague, Czech Republic

Our tour’s last stop was Prague, and it’s a truly stunning city.  It was barely touched by bombs during the second World War, so it’s a wonderful place to see historic architecture dating back centuries.

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After checking in at the hotel our group took the streetcar down to the Charles Bridge.

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Infant Jesus 1

I also visited the church of the Infant Baby Jesus, whose altar is over-the-top ornate. The statue of the baby Jesus has hundreds of lush, ornate outfits, and the church is a pilgrimage destination for many.

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That evening we had a group dinner at a local restaurant. The food wasn’t spectacular, but a lively older gentleman played music (keyboards, trumpet, violin and vocals!) and it was a fun outing with my tour mates.

Day 5 – Touring Prague (Last day of the official tour)

We started our day at Prague Castle up on the hill. We only saw a tiny bit of the castle complex, but what I did see was fantastic! We started at St. Vitus Cathedral, took in the changing of the guard, and looked out over the river and the city.

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St. Vitus Cathedral’s main entrance

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St. Vitus Cathedral interior.  Wow.  Just wow!

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There were at least 6 stunning windows this size and shape featuring colorful scenes.  

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Another view of St. Vitus Cathedral

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The changing of the guard on Castle Hill

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We also visited Old Town Prague, and saw the famous astronomical clock. The square there has a bit of a carnival feel, with live music, horse drawn carriages, and street performers – oh, and loads of tourists. I wandered the streets and did a bit of shopping that afternoon.

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Closer shot of a section of the astronomical clock

Czech Pub

That night I grabbed dinner in a pub that seemed to be a hangout for locals – Restaurace U Parlamentu. People drinking beer (Czech’s love beer!), smoking, and visiting with friends. I have an aversion to cigarette smoke, but put that aside in order to take in a non-touristy scene.

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I had Czech goulash with dumplings, and was super curious about the table of eight older men who were drinking, smoking, and visiting at the table next to me. I wish I’d been able to tell what they were talking about – who they were. :]

Day 6 – Old Town Prague

After sleeping in and grabbing some breakfast, I took the streetcar to Old Town and visited a few antique stores. I also visited the lovely Tyn Cathedral and the Old Jewish Cemetery.

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Such history…

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The fall leaves were just gorgeous

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Later in the afternoon I crossed the Charles Bridge again and revisited Lower Town, and then had a picnic in my room for dinner.

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Lower town

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Hotel room picnic with food from the market near the hotel…

Day 7 – Karlovy Vary

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For my last full day in the Czech Republic I signed up with a local tour company and took a day trip to Karlovy Vary. Approximately 2 hours away, this town is known as a bath town because of the numerous mineral hot springs. People come from all over to take in the healing waters, and I tasted water from at least four of the springs. They didn’t taste too good, but I like the idea of improved health. :]

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One of the springs we drank from…

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Our tour meandered through the town, stopping at many of the springs and the geyser. We had lunch, and then had time to wander along.KV_hotel

I saw the Grand Hotel Pupp, which was in Queen Latifah’s movie “Last Holiday” and the Bond film “Casino Royale” – fun. Mostly I just wandered, and drank in the sights of the lovely town. It was such a treat to be there and to see another part of the Czech Republic.

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I loved this horsie – so cute and sweet natured! :]

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Happy to be spending time in Karlovy Vary…

Back in Prague, I saw the astronomical clock do its “on the hour” thing again, and had a tasty dinner before heading back to the hotel, packing, and preparing for my trip home.

Day 8 – Missed connecting flight and my night in England

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So, yeah. I was supposed to be home Saturday evening. Unfortunately, I missed my connecting flight at Heathrow in London. Booking agents are supposed to allow one and a half hours between flights, and I only had one hour and ten. I didn’t get to the next terminal (you’re bused to other terminals), through security and to my gate in time, so I stayed overnight in London. I wish I could’ve gone to London proper and seen more than the airport area, but by the time I got to my hotel it was too late and it just wasn’t in the cards.

London_residential

However, after breakfast on Sunday I did go for a walk in the area surrounding the hotel. I saw some residential streets, visited a park where some adorable kids were playing soccer, and got a tiny bit of a glimpse of life in England on a Sunday morning. The missed flight isn’t something I would’ve chosen, but I made the best of it and saw yet another tiny bit of the land of some of my ancestors.

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Sunday at the park…

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A cute front garden in the residential area…

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Standing on English “soil” – so cool!

Summing It All Up

I really enjoyed all the countries and places I visited. I had the best time, and am so thankful for all I did and saw! I’ve just provided highlights here – otherwise this post would be (even more) forever long – but I hope you enjoyed a peek at my travels. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Oh, and if you’re interested in a similar trip, I’d totally recommend Gate 1 Travel’s Affordable Central Europe trip. Gate 1 did a great job (except for the London connecting flight timing – LOL) and this is my second time touring with them. (Also went to Peru with Gate 1) I added two days at the end, which worked out well, and hope to travel with Gate 1 again. Next on my list? Maybe Thailand, India, or China.  Something to work towards…

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Trip to Central Europe – Part 1

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Greetings! I hope you’re all well and happy, and hope you have a wonderful December. Whatever holidays you celebrate this December, may they be joyous. :]

I traveled to Central Europe last month, and thought I’d share some of the photos here. I went on a quick tour with Gate 1 Travel, and had a fantastic time. The trip started in Budapest, Hungary, went on to Vienna, Austria, and finished up in Prague, Czech Republic. I also took two excursions to Bratislava, Slovakia (Woo hoo – a fourth country!) and Karlovy Vary – which is west of Prague. Bratislava was a half-day, and the Karlovy Vary excursion was the whole day. Since this would make a very long single post I’m breaking it up into two parts, and the second post will be shared tomorrow. Part 1 will include my time in Budapest and Vienna, and Part 2 will include my time in Prague.

This trip fed my spirit in so many ways. Not only did I have a change of scenery and see new things, the artist in me was jubilant. The architecture, fall foliage, and overall environments were truly amazing. I was also able to see the work of many masters at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, something that this art major was super happy about. Seeing work by the masters in a museum in Vienna? Pretty freaking cool!

The eternal student in me was happy to learn so much about these places I’d heard about but had never been to. Kudos to all the guides on the trip who taught me so much – particularly our Tour Leader, Dean. He kept our group of 40+ on track, taught us along the way, and always had a big smile on his face.

I was also so thankful to have an opportunity to travel to parts of the world that some of my ancestors reportedly hailed from – including Austria and the Czech Republic.

Day 1 – Budapest, Hungary

My time in Budapest was brief – one day of sightseeing – but I saw so many wonderful things.   Our tour started at Hero’s Square then moved on to Castle Hill where we saw the stunning Mathias Church. We took in views of the Danube River and the city Pest side of the city from the Fisherman’s Bastion.

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Next came an optional afternoon excursion that took us to the Great Market Hall, where many locals were shopping. I did a bit of shopping and grabbed a quick bite to eat.

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Market_Stall

The second stop was St. Stephen’s Basilica. The stunning architecture housed the mummified hand of St. Stephen. Oh my!

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The final stop of the afternoon was the Parliament Building. Amazing architecture, Hungary’s Crown Jewels and a changing of the guard were just a few hightlights…

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Day 2 – Moving on to Vienna, Austria

It didn’t take long to get to Vienna, and we stopped in the center of town for an hour or so before meeting a local guide for our tour of the Schonbrunn Palace. Schonbrunn Palace was spectacular! The “modest” summer home of the Hapsburgs, it’s truly stunning. Unfortunately photos aren’t allowed inside the palace, but some of my favorite details included the blog room with hand painted wallpaper, an exquisite room walled and furnished with inlaid wood, and “the backyard”.

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Schonbrunn_backyard

Schonbrunn_sunset

Schonbrunn_walkway

I took the subway from the hotel to the Karlsplatz stop and found some dinner. I was proud of myself for managing the subway in a foreign land on my own, and enjoyed seeing the buildings lit up at night.

Vienna_night

Day 3 – Bratislava & Vienna

I jumped at the chance to go across the border into Slovakia, and really enjoyed the morning’s trip. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, and we went to the historic old city center. Some of the buildings and architecture I saw date back 500 years. Crazy and cool. :] Many famous musicians lived, studied and played there – like Beethoven.

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Bratislava_Building

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Bratislava_fall

Back in Vienna I visited the spectacular St. Stephen’s Cathedral (no mummified hand in this one! I had a late lunch/early dinner of bratwurst with fried potatoes and sauerkraut – it was yummy! Next I visited the Albertina and was treated to the work of artists like Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Renoir, Munch, Kandisky and Magritte. There was also a whole exhibit on Miro. I finished up a wonderful day with Apfelstrudel at Café Mozart and took the subway back to my hotel.

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St.Stephens_Vienna

Durer's Hare

Albertina

Apfelstrudel

Tomorrow I’ll share the rest of the pictures from my trip. I hope you’ve enjoyed Budapest and Vienna!

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Blog’s 3rd Birthday!

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Yep, it’s true.  My blog is now three years old! I launched my blog in August of 2010, and have been blogging away ever since.  I’ve really enjoyed creating art and craft projects to share with you.  I’ve also enjoyed baking up recipes to entice you with, and am happy to have shared some of my other interests and adventures with you as well.

From trips to hole-in-the-wall restaurants to far-flung locales like Peru and Ireland, I’ve posted some of my images and experiences getting out and about in the world.  What fun!

I’ve also posted about my furry baby bunnies, Cypress and Pinto, and have shared my goofy pet mom pictures of them taken at holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.

I’ve tried to make giveaways bountiful, because winning free things is so much fun!  Many of you have won goodies over the past three years, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

Now What?
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As I embark on my 4th year of blogging, I’d love to know: what would you like to see more of?

Fine art?  (Photography, collage, drawing, assemblage, etc.)
Crafts? (Card making, jewelry, gifts, tags, etc.)
Recipes? Do you prefer savory recipes, desserts, or both?
Giveaways? What are your favorite types? (Gift cards, books, art supplies, etc.)
Photo haikus?
Travel?
Ethnic markets?

I value your input, dear readers, and would appreciate you leaving a comment sharing some of the things you’d like to continue to see , and/or things you’d like me to consider adding or beefing up.

Onward!
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I’m looking forward to more shared creativity and fun. Thanks for following my blog!  I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. If you’d like to “give my blog a birthday gift”, please consider making a donation to my Art Supply Drive to benefit at-risk children.  Details here.  Thanks!  :]

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Art Exhibit, Book Signing & Art Journaling class in Kansas!

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I was in Kansas last weekend – what a wonderful trip!  The 14 altered art illustrations from my book – An Altered Existence – are currently on exhibit at the Lincoln Art Center, and I spoke and signed books at an event there last Friday, July 19th.  It was a pleasure to be welcomed by both the gallery and the community, and it was such a thrill to see my work hanging on display in that lovely art space!  I also taught a class at the Lincoln Art Center on Saturday morning, and it was great fun to share art journaling with my 12 students.  A good time was had by all!

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Fun with Friends
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In addition to activities related to the art exhibit, I was there to meet up with some wonderful friends of mine.  Our adventures included a visits to a local wax seal manufacturer, antique shopping, and some yummy meals.  Some of us even went firefly “hunting” in the evenings.  We don’t have fireflies here where I live, and my Lincoln friends were kind enough to take me out in search of the luminescent beauties.  We didn’t find oodles, but I was entranced with those we did see!  I’m so thankful to all my wonderful friends for their kindness, support, and enthusiasm!

Antique Store Finds & Generous Gifts
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I invariably leave Kansas with more than I arrived with (this is my third such trip to Lincoln), and this year was no exception.  I was gifted with a number of wonderful and unique items, like a vintage crochet-trimmed handkerchief, books, vintage photos,  a ceramic pen holder, an Anasazi pottery shard and more.  Such wonderful treats!

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My antique store purchases included a bronzed baby shoe (I split a pair with one of my friends who also collects them), a manger cow with springy horns that truly looked like a “mad cow”, as well as a little purchase for hubby.  I also bought a jar of vintage buttons, and the jar itself was fab and rather unique.  Given the unusual size, shape, and contents of the jar, I wasn’t surprised that I was stopped at security when flying out of Wichita.  It was my first-ever on-the-spot bag search, so I suppose I was due.  Here’s a picture of the mad cow – I think he needs to turn his frown upside down!  :]

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Blessed Journey
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Every trip I’ve made to Lincoln, Kansas has been over-the-top fantastic, and this particular trip will always be extra special to me because of the art exhibit, signing, and class related to my book.  Big thanks to everyone who helped make my exhibit and overall trip so wonderful.  I’m most appreciative.  :]

Warm regards,
Melody

 

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DIY: Cambria-Inspired Driftwood Necklace

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I love driftwood – pieces that have been stripped of their bark and worn smooth by the sea.  This necklace’s foundation consists of two such pieces of driftwood – pieces I gathered on the beach in Cambria.  Cambria is a town on California’s central coast, and its slogan is “Pines by the Sea.”  It’s a charming, small town that combines a unique mountainy feel with that of a beachside community and I love it.  It’s my home away from home.

Not only does Cambria have pines and lots of driftwood, it’s also home to many deer.  I’m always entranced when I catch sight of them, and some of the gift-related stores in town feature antlers in one form or another.  And while I love these antlers and love the town they bring to my mind, I don’t want to have a real rack of antlers hanging about since I couldn’t be sure if they were obtained in a Bambi-friendly way.  They also don’t quite go with the decor here at home in Southern California.  :]

So, I love this necklace for two reasons.  Not only does it remind me of Cambria because that’s where I plucked the driftwood from the beach, but also because these two pieces of wood look a bit like antlers to me.  This simple and inexpensive statement necklace is a fun and animal-friendly way to embrace Cambria and some of the town’s natural beauty.

I’ve opted to keep this necklace very simple and natural, but there are many ways you could enhance this DIY jewelry project.  Whether you paint or burn designs into the wood, add beads and charms to your design, or even add more pieces of wood, the sky’s the limit!  It’s all a matter of personal preference.

wood

Materials
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Driftwood – 2 small pieces
Fine sanding block or sand paper
Thick/sturdy pin, very thin nail, or something similar to poke holes into the wood
Epoxy (I used Devcon 5 Minute Epoxy)
Thin wire (I used 32 guage)
2 screw eyes: #216 – 1/2″
Silver chain (my chain measures 22″ long)
2 jump rings (optional)

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Instructions
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  1. Sand any rough, scratchy edges with a fine sanding block or sand paper
  2. Decide how you’d like your wood pieces to lay out and where you’ll join the two pieces
  3. Poke or drill a hole through the two pieces of driftwood – work slowly and carefully to avoid splitting the wood
  4. Apply epoxy to the appropriate spot of the bottom piece of wood, then insert the stick pin through the holes in both pieces of wood, to ensure they’re properly aligned while the epoxy sets
  5. Sand any extra epoxy from around the place where your two wood pieces are joined after the pieces have set
  6. Thread your wire down between the two pieces and out the bottom. Wrap the wire around the two pieces to bind them in a way that appeals you and twist the ends together at the back when you’re done.  Trim wire ends.
  7. Attach screw eyes to the back of the tops of the two wood pieces – one on either side.  (You may find it easier to first start each hole with a push pin, as I did)  You’ll need to screw them at an angle, so they lay flatter to the surface of the wood instead of being completely perpendicular
  8. Attach your chain of choice to the screw eyes with jump rings, or attach your chain directly to to the screw eye as I did – by opening the screw eye with pliers, slipping on the chain, and then closing up the screw eye.

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What Do You Think?
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I’m thinking about adding a small piece of soft sea glass to the bottom of this piece.  It would hang off the end where the two pieces of wood are wrapped together with wire.  What do you think?  Should I add a piece of glass, or leave it as is?

I’m hoping this post will inspire you to create something with materials you’ve gathered from a favorite place.  Whether you use wood, stones, shells, or something else entirely, inspiration is all around! Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.

Warm regards,
Melody

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Another Look: Travel

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share some goodies from my blog’s archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is travel!  Just click on the name of the post to link over…*

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A Photographic Tour: Peru

 

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A Photographic Tour: Ireland

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A Photographic Tour: New York City
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A Photographic Tour: Kansas
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A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

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My wish list of places to go includes Italy, India, Thailand, Scotland, China, New England in the fall, New Zealand, and many, many more – just about any place that isn’t ridiculously dangerous.  Which travel destinations are your favorites, dear readers?  I’d love to hear about them – maybe I’ll add them to my travel wish list!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Another Look: Ethnic Markets

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share a handful of goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is Ethnic Markets!  Just click on the name of the post to link over…

hachiya

Shopping at a Korean Market
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Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away
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Chinatown
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El Mercado de Los Angeles: A Mexican Market
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A Quick Trip to “Persia”
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Do you enjoy trips to Ethnic Markets?  Which are your favorites?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY: How To Make Personalized Luggage Tags

luggage_tags

Personalized luggage tags make it super easy to spot your bags when you hit the road, and are fun to make!  I first made this type of luggage tag nearly a decade ago, and my original tags are still intact after many adventures.  (Please see pictures of the original tags at the bottom of this post)

Not only are they functional and nearly indestructible, they’re “me”.  I used color copies of a few of my original collages (reduced in size) for the decorative side of the tag, but you can use just about anything for your tags: photos, stamped images, children’s art work, decorative paper – whatever speaks to you and will catch your eye when you’re picking your luggage up at baggage claim!

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Here are the steps to follow to make your own luggage tags:

1. Select an image/material for your “decorative side”.  You can either use the same image or different images for each tag.  For three of the four tags above I made color copies of collages and reduced them to 40%, but you may need to experiment with sizing based on the dimensions of your original source material.  My finished tags are approximately 3″ x 4″.
2. Stamp, write, or print out the information for your “contact information side”. I just included my name and cell phone number on my original tags, and the tags shown above have my business card on the information side.
3. Glue your decorative and contact information pieces together using a glue stick. Trim if necessary.
4. Laminate the tag with a hot laminator.  I went to FedEx/Kinkos to do mine, and fit five tags into one sheet of laminate.
5. Trim the laminated piece, leaving 1/4″ of clear laminate around all four sides.
6. Set an eyelet at one end of the tag.
7. Attach the tag to your luggage with a sturdy piece of narrow ribbon.

Like I said, these tags are essentially indestructible.  Mine are a bit bent and “munched”, but they still look good and work great!

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I’d suggest making several of these at once, so you have a stash on hand.  You can attach them inside your suitcase, too, for an added layer of luggage identification.  Please let me know if you have any questions, dear readers.  Happy crafting, and happy travels!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Monterey Bay Aquarium & An Elephant Seal Rookery

 jelly-fish2
As I mentioned in a post last week I was on vacation – taking in the beauty of California’s Central Coast.  I stayed in Cambria for a week, and was lucky enough to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium during my stay.  What an incredible facility!  The exhibits were amazing, and the volunteers and staff were both friendly and helpful.  If you’re going to be in the area, and have a chance to take it in, I’d definitely recommend it.

The Kelp Forest was magical. Seaweed stretched from the “sea floor” to the surface of the water, and the exhibit was teeming with sea life.  From starfish and sea cucumbers to leopard sharks – and oodles of fishies in between – there was so much to see.  It was so lovely I could’ve stayed at this exhibit for hours, but finally had to move on.

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kelp_forest2

leopard_shark

I think of anchovies as being itty-bitty things, but these silvery beauties were around 4 inches long.  They swam round and round, and opened their mouths wide from time to time – which was both funny and kinda scary looking all at the same time!

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The jellyfish exhibit was another of my favorites – I could’ve lingered there for hours. SO lovely!

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I enjoyed the other exhibits, too, which allowed me to see things like anemones, sea horses, and other sea life and plants up close.

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fish

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In addition to the aquarium, I was also lucky enough to visit the Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon, CA.  Though most of the thousands of seals that birth and mate yearly on this beach had already headed back out to sea for their annual trip north to the Aleutian Islands, I was able to see many of the weaned “babies” (they weren’t so little!) and a dozen or so of the large male seals.  It was such a treat to see these creatures sunning themselves on the beach!

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seal_awake

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In addition to drinking in the sun, the seals also made frequent “raspberry” sounds and occasional barking/crying sounds.  Another of their favorite past times is using their flippers, which have “fingernails” on them, to scratch and to flip damp sand up onto their bodies.  The sand helps keep them cooler in the baking sun…

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One more photo: this was taken on the bluffs in Cambria, not far from Lodge Hill.

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I went for a walk with my Cambria hosts, and we saw so many wonderful things!  In addition to the gorgeous ocean view overall, we saw seals, pelicans, dolphins and sea otters!  I was super excited, and actually jumped up and down while watching the dolphins.  Seeing and hearing the otters crack-crack-cracking their food open on their chests made me giddy, too.  Yep, I’m definitely a nature lover!

We also went whale watching, and saw at least four whales, but the sea was rolling our boat around so much that I was more focused on not falling over the rail than taking great photos!  Please feel free to comment and share some of your aquarium or sea life viewing adventures, dear readers…

Warm regards,
Melody

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Haiku: Cambria

cambria

Days in Cambria:
relaxed, quiet, beautiful.
Love that it’s tranquil…

I’m currently on my second annual week-long retreat in this magical spot along California’s Central Coast.  (Thank you for your hospitality, T.E.L!)  I’ll drive home to hubby and the bunnies this weekend, and will return to blogging from Southern California next week.  In the meantime, I’m wishing you a relaxed, quiet and beautiful weekend…

Warm regards,
Melody

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