Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vacation - Restaurants (#2)

Yes, I'm back to vacation posts!  Who ever thought I'd be vacationing in the state I grew up in, never saw that coming!

Vacations call for restaurants... and like I mentioned before there are the comfort restaurants.  You know the ones you can guarantee will consistently serve up decent food.  Then there are the ones you decide to give a chance for one reason or another.  Sometimes this works out well, and sometimes you just want to spread the news that no one should subject themselves to that dining experience!

Brick House - Orlando - International Drive
We were headed to Ripley's with a group of 7 and as you can imagine it's not always easy to spontaneously decide on a restaurant for lunch with such a large group.  After passing quite a few options we finally all agreed on Brick House.  The atmosphere was fun - would definitely want to visit for dinner & drinks... the food was good tasty & something for everyone... decent prices - most meals ranged from $10-$15... and the portions were huge - good thing I split my meal with my mother-in-law!  (And even on a rainy day we were able to eat outside on the covered patio!)  I would definitely recommend this restaurant to Floridians & tourists alike.

Black Angus - Kissimmee - Irlo Bronson Hghwy
How did we end up here?  Try jet lag, starting dinner too late, & not being able to get the oven in the rental house working.  We were hungry & grumpy and it was the nearest restaurant.  It started well, the restaurant was decorated nice, roomy, & had a big menu.  But inevitably the food was horrible, not one of us enjoyed our meals.  Even my 4yr old wouldn't eat her hot dog - c'mon how can you mess up a hot dog?  Then to top it off, at the end they forced 16% gratuity on to our check without warning - no where on the menu or posted in the restaurant did they mention this.  I like to tip the server based on service & food quality, not because management decides what we owe.  (BTW, I used to be a server, so I'm a decent tipper).  I of course went straight to management to complain and he blamed me, he said I should have seen this on the check and had the server remove it if I didn't agree, seriously!!!  Needless to say, I made a small scene, stormed out, and swore I would tell everyone never to eat at the Black Angus in Kissimmee!!!

Any of you ever tried Brick House?  Had a bad experience at Black Angus?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For Sale

Our apartment has been for sale for a while now, years actually (thanks economic crisis).  Anyway, we've been through a lot of emotions in this process.  In the beginning - excitement... In the middle - desperation...  And now, coming around the bend & out of the crisis - exhaustion.  Not because of the unknown time line before the place sells (we're actually no longer in a rush), but because the market is picking up & there are double the viewers than in the past year!  For those of you that have sold an apartment or house, you understand.  The meticulous cleaning is what gets me!!!  I'm a stay-at-home-mom and obviously cleaning is part of my job, but cleaning for a viewing is completely different.  You have to get the excess out, like the blankets stacked on the couch, the toys in the tub, the random sports bags lying around, etc.  You have to straighten things, fluff things, hide things, fold things, etc. etc.  You have to clean everything in roughly two days so it that smells fresh & the dust doesn't have time to settle (at this moment I'm glad we're selling an apartment vs. a 2-story house).  Then besides the cleaning you have to remember things like, don't cook any strong smelling food within 24hrs or to leave all the lights on when you leave (that's a hard one).  The husband goes off to work, and let's me pack his SUV with the excess before he leaves, can't really complain there.  Usually my kid is at school, that helps.  And the dog, well, she gets sent out back, sorry.  But this week there are two viewings planned (one was just an hour or so ago), and it's school vacation adding an extra challenge.  I can't complain our place is spick & span at the moment, but I know within hours it will be upside down again, and I get to start all over tomorrow for the next viewing!  (It's an interesting mixture of complaining & gratefulness.)  Happy cleaning!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vacation - Dramamine Kids

Our kid isn't prone to motion sickness, she's the kid who never complains about the car & loves roller coasters (even Space Mountain).  But something about her & an airplane don't quite mix.  She's flown between Europe & America 3 times now (12 flights due to connections), and each time was increasingly more difficult.  The poor kid had 4 vomiting sessions trying to get from AMS to PHL!!!  By the end of the flight she was covered in it, between little warning and a leaky bag it was a mess.  The poor kid couldn't even handle the smell of the food on the plane and had to cover her head in a blanket just to get some relief.  Eventually she wore herself out and fell asleep, but needless to say there was little enjoyment during the flight.  Based on past experiences we knew to pack extra clothes for the connecting flight - at least this time I wasn't alone trying to handle it.

When it was time to return home, my husband & I dreaded the flight back.  We knew it would be miserable for her, and could possibly put her off flying (and flying back to The States to see family is just part of our life).  We had to do something.  But were we really going to be those parents that load their kid up on medicine just so they sleep through the flight?  It just didn't feel right, but what was better for her, vomiting for 6-8hrs or sleeping?  There we were searching the kiosks at the airport, exploring our options, feeling kind of guilty. Then as if the clouds opened and the sun appeared we found Children's Dramamine!  It was a great option, no guilt, no unneeded flu/sleep medication - one magic pill that we hoped would change everything.  And you know what, it did!  Whether it was a mental thing or actually worked, our 4 yr old didn't vomit once or complain about being sick.  She enjoyed the flights like a kid should (well, she did skip the meals & cover her head again, but that was precautionary in her mind).

Needless to say, THANK YOU Dramamine!  And for any of you out there travelling with kids prone to motion sickness, you have to try it!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Editing Manuscripts

Yes, I am actually writing about something other than our vacation!

I've probably mentioned it a gazillion times but I write stories as a hobby.  I never really thought much of it until I dared let someone read a few of the books I was working on at the time.  To my surprise they found them interesting and said I should do something with my manuscripts.  Here it is at least 4 yrs later, and I am still talking about getting published one day but haven't dared to actually take the step.  Every once in a while I take a good chunk out of my schedule to research my options and find answers to my looking concerns. 

Is it better to go straight to the publisher or via an agent?
Which agents actually want what material?
Do I need an editor?  And if so, which type?

These are pretty tough questions (and costly) when you're dealing with a piece of amateur work, that means something to you.  A book that you don't want someone to steal by sending it to the wrong person.  A book that you're not sure is good enough to handle true market feedback.

In the past I barely read books, besides being a time thing, I didn't want someone else's work to influence mine (movies do enough of that).  But then I decided I needed to understand what I was up against and if my work was even comparable.  And I must say there is just a lot on the market, all types of books, and I think I might have a chance somewhere on the rung of published authors. 

I recently contacted quite a few agencies and authors, curious about their take on editors.  Only 3 out of the 13 literary agencies I contacted actually responded.  2 couldn't really help and referred me to Google and 1 offered in-house editing at $225 p/h.  (I'm an amateur author, I don't have that kind of money!)  3 out of the 8 authors I contacted replied (it's nice to know we're all willing to help each other out).  So far the feedback has varied, and so far only 1 out of the 3 actually used an editor.

Do any of you have any experience with editors?  Or manuscript publishing?  Have any advice for a newbie?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vacation - Rental Car

Times have changed, and these days we no longer rent the Ford Mustang or cheap small compact.  The past two trips to Florida we have rented a Dodge Caravan, and it was wonderful.  I never thought I'd see the day I actually enjoyed a minivan but it was everything we needed.  We could easily fit all of the luggage (including golf clubs) to & from the airport... it was wide & comfy... fit 6 adults and 1 child, no problem... it's a smooth & sturdy ride... and last but not least, it actually had a decent sound system.  (As yes, when our daughter wasn't in the van we kicked up Wild 94.1 and jammed out to hip-hop, must have been pretty funny to see considering we're both in our early 30's!)  Our daughter loved changing seats, there were 4 she could choose from.  And everyone was fascinated with the way the middle seats folded up and moved aside in just seconds (wouldn't want to be standing in the way though)!  I even didn't mind driving it when my husband was off elsewhere, it didn't feel much different than our SUV (except the rental didn't have a reversing camera, so I didn't take the risk of backing it into a parking spot - something I can do in my own city car without a camera).  And unlike the old minivan my parents had in the 80's, everything is automatic, even the side doors open & close via remote and there are actually windows that go up & down in the sliding doors!  (Back in the day our only option was to pop them slightly open with a latch.)  I think this will be our usual rental when hitting up family in Florida, it's fun being able to travel around in one vehicle together, and the costs were not so bad either.

Any of you have (or rented) a new Dodge Caravan?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vacation - Swimming

Besides my family & friends (obviously), the one thing I miss the most about our trip to Florida is the swimming pool!

It seemed to be the answer to everything...
...bored - swim on tan - swim
...eaten too much - swim
...want to save money - swim
...entertain the family/guests - swim
...don't feel like showering yet - swim
...practice no arm bands/diving with kid - swim

My husbands goal was to swim at least once a day with our daughter during the vacation, and he kept his promise.  I admit I did miss out once or twice, like the night we arrived in The States and they swam at 11PM!!!  There were days we only swam once due to the weather or plans, but there were also days we swam up to 5 times!  Since it was March in Florida we did need to heat the pool, even living in cold Dutch weather for 10yrs doesn't prepare your body for the icy water.  In general Florida is way too hot for me though, there were a couple days the sweat was dripping off as we were standing in lines at theme parks and I had to remind myself it was March and the temps would only continue going up and up.  We made the mistake and visited once in the summer, a quick reminder that I am a 70-75 degree kind of person (no warmer than that please)!  Anyway, I miss having a pool right off the house... no driving there, no paying entry fees, no dealing with the general public, I could go on and on.

Any of you have a pool?  Do you use it regularly or take it for granted?  When I lived in Florida I took pools for granted!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vacation - Book Time

Wow, there's so much to say about our trip, here it is 2 weeks later and I'm not even near out of stuff to write posts about!

For many people, vacations seem to call for a book (or books), maybe because you need something to do on the plane, maybe you like to kick back and read poolside... me, vacation means some time away from my usual tight schedule and a chance to squeeze in a quick read.

Knowing it's easiest for me to buy books in English and for a decent price in The States, I waiteded until I arrived.  As soon as we hit up Walmart I darted to the book section the first chance I had.  Of course since we were shopping with 5 people and time was limited, I didn't get to really skim through many books.  But luckily the one I ended up grabbing turned out to be decent!

If you want to read more about The Hero by Robyn Carr, head on over to Danica's Book Corner!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Vacation - US Airways

Knowing that the costs of a trip back to The States easily sky rockets, we take advantage of deals where ever we can.  This means you don't always get to fly on your favorite airline but whichever offers the best price.  This round that happened to be US Airways, and I must say the pluses (the ticket price) & minuses were almost equal.  Sure the flight was a reasonable price considering what other airlines were offering but we had to sacrifice personal entertainment.  Wow, this probably sounds spoiled but it's 2014 and the majority of airlines provide personal entertainment systems in which you can select movies, shows, or games to help you get through the 6-8 hrs it takes to get over the Atlantic Ocean.  We had no choice but to deal with it and luckily we brought our own entertainment. 

Another thing we had no choice of, was what they were going to play on the communal monitors.  Now we're adults and can tune it out, but what about our 4 yr old daughter?  She was exposed to 2 PG13 movies (Ender's Game & The Book Thief) + Chicago Fire (bloody EMS scenes) on the trip over and The Hobbit : Desolation of Smaug (a nearly 3hr PG13 movie) on the flight back!  There were many times we had to shield her eyes or tell her not to look at the screen (-insert big frown-).  I was furious and obviously filed a complaint when I returned home.  You know, all US Airways had to say was a meager sorry and they appreciate the feedback for future flights.  Thanks that you'll spare other kids, but what about mine who is already sensitive to intense movies?

Besides this there was the "weather delay" in Orlando which almost caused us to miss our connection in Philly.  (A 1 hour delay without any announcements!)  Sure there were tornado warnings (on the news) & heavy rain, but that had been over for quite a while before they even started boarding passengers.  They rush on to the plane, saying over the speaker we need to hurry so the flight can leave, then once everyone is seated they say we still have to wait because the bags weren't all loaded yet!  Of course everyone with international flights were panicking, if you miss that flight it could be another day until you get home plus an unwanted stay at or near the airport.  At one point we're told they were holding the flight to Amsterdam (there were 10 of us transferring), so of course we ran from one terminal to the next.  We had counted on the lay over so we could feed our daughter, she can't handle the plane food, even the smell makes her sick.  But now we weren't going to be able to feed her!  Despite running with her in our arms, we swung by a Dunkin Donuts (only place without a line) and grabbed a bag full of croissants, at least she'd have some food.  We all arrive at the plane out of breath and out of sorts, just to find out they are now holding it for technical issues!  Thanks US Airways, would have been nice to know before we ran through the airport!!!  Then as we waited for the 20 minute delay I got to watch our luggage being left out in the rain before it was loaded onto the plane.  Luckily I had put many things in baggies, but we did have to rewash a lot of clothes and lay some other belongings out to dry once we arrived home.

In the future I'll try my best to avoid US Airways.  Last year we flew Delta and loved it, and my in-laws flew Aer Lingus and were also quite happy (food for thought).  Any of you have bad US Airways experiences?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vacation - Ripley's Museum

When you plan a vacation to Florida, you think of sun, swimming, & basically anything outdoors.  Well, what happens when it rains, hmmm?  On St. Patrick's Day the weather wasn't ideal, and we had 6 adults & 1 kid to entertain.  My husband and I thought back to the days we were regulars in Orlando and remembered a fun museum we had gone to during the first couple months of our relationship (mentioned this a couple posts ago).  It was a hands-on museum, full of fun science & cool facts.  "Ripley's" one of us blurted out, definite fun for everyone especially our daughter.  We went online to pre-order tickets, sometimes you save money this way, and sure enough we did... there was a Paddy's Day special, 1/2 off normal ticket price!  We all loaded into the minivan we rented (ooh, another good post!) and headed off for a quick lunch before Ripley's Believe or Not Odditorium.  We were barely in the door when my husband & I realized, this wasn't the museum we actually remembered.  The hands-on science museum was actually WonderWorks, that's where we had gone for a date!  We had never been to the Ripley's in Orlando, but we had visited one in Key West, oops!

Luckily, it turned out to be lots of fun, despite it being packed.  (We weren't the only ones avoiding the weather!)  The brain teasers were great, everyone was asking each other questions, seeing who would get it right.  And the slanted room with a pool table messed with your eyes nearly making everyone sick.  There was something for everyone (even my father-in-law who I thought might make a break for it near the entrance, ha-ha), from being startled or caught off guard to passing hands-on challenges.  Plus there is just a lot of unique things to look at, I can't even imagine the life Mr. Ripley led, what a collection!  I think my favorite thing in the entire place was the car covered in instruments, I had a lot of fun playing there with my daughter.  (So glad my Mom & Step-Dad good join in the fun!)

As usual I've tossed in some pics for you, there from 3 different cameras so please ignore the quality difference.



Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Monday, April 7, 2014

Vacation - Restaurants (#1)

Hey I'm finally getting around to the first post about our two week vacation in Florida!  Seeing that I am still short on time - the realtor is showing our apartment again today - it's going to be quick but useful.

During our vacation we did our best to moderate how often we ate out at restaurants, besides it being unhealthy & costly, we wanted to enjoy eating on the lanai & grilling at the house we rented.  Being that we live overseas there are definitely restaurants you miss, sure we have access to great European restaurants but sometimes the ones you grew up with just call your name.  For me, while visiting The States I have to squeeze in a meal eat at either Outback and/or Red Lobster.  We luckily enough hit up both!  (No, they aren't Michelin Star restaurants but they're yummy and bring back nice memories.)

For the adults, we had an array of choices, but my daughter was limited.  She's doesn't eat mac & cheese, hamburgers, steak, or shrimp... but luckily she does eat her share of fish sticks, chicken nuggets, & hot dogs which were on most American kids menus.  But after a while we felt bad ordering her those things, and then we started noticing grilled chicken on a lot of menus.  Turns out she is a big fan of grilled chicken at restaurants - now I felt a little less bad that she was eating too many fries during the 2 week vacation.

My 4 yr old enjoyed the grilled chicken at Red Lobster & loved the ice cream at the end.  But it was the grilled chicken at Outback that made her oooh & aaah!  She liked the chicken so much she even told the server, ha-ha!  Now the milkshake she ordered at Outback didn't go over so well, but the chicken completely made up for it.  So if you're stumped what to order you kids the next time you happen to be at an Outback or Red Lobster, go for the grilled chicken, it's highly recommended!

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What's Happening?

If you're not interested in reading me grumbling about crime in our area then I would skip this post over...

What's happening?  When I first moved to The Netherlands over 10yrs ago it took me a long to get used to how safe it is was.  It was hard for me to comprehend that I could walk down the street alone at night... that I never had to consider locking the doors of the car as we drove... that the kids hanging on the corner were still harmless, just big mouths... and that if you got into a confrontation a gun wouldn't even come to mind.  But now, one of the major bonuses of living in The Netherlands is starting to change.  Sure, there was always crime in the big cities or petty crime here & there in the smaller ones.  But lately every time I open the local online news I'm reading of more and more serious crimes, ones comparable to where I came from in The States, ones that didn't used to be so abundant here in the past.  Within the past 2 months there have been at least 2 store robberies at gun point, one was even across the street from my child's elementary!  (And another in a town not so far away.)  Then this evening I open the news again, and 2 gas stations within 10 minutes of our apartment were held up at knife point, then there was a 3rd across town.  The Netherlands has so much to offer, a healthy living style, great health insurance for the children, clean streets & parks (of course all paid for by the extreme amount of tax people pay, but that's besides the point).  Crime seems to be on the rise, guns are starting to become more prevalent despite the strict laws.  And besides weapons, it seems like some of the people are changing or maybe the numbers of criminals are increasing... it seems as if they have less respect for the world around them.  I hope this isn't true.

In The States, I can barely watch the news, they often use scare tactics to get viewers or get people hooked waiting for the next update.  And it often seems like endless negative report after another.  Maybe that's what's happening here.  Maybe the crime was there all along and the media just never focused on it.  But now they are, and the scare tactics are working.  It makes me question the safety of Eindhoven, makes me wonder if it's still the right place for us.  Everywhere has its pluses and minuses, I guess I'm just surprised as to what is happening here, somewhere I didn't expect.  I try and tell myself no matter where you go in the world there is crime, just some places worse than others.  I enjoyed living with little concern about crime around us, but I guess that was na├»ve anyway. 

Sorry for the depressing post, and I promise I will get around to happy fun posts about our vacation to Florida.

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Online Degree

Since I have very little time this week to write a proper post or even mention some of the awesome things we did in Florida, I'm just going to throw one out there!

While on vacation out of no where it hit me.. instead of wasting time in the evenings watching movies or tv, maybe I should start using that time toward something more worth while... like a college degree.  See, I tried community college twice after high school, but it just wasn't for me.  Sitting in the long classes, tons of homework in the evening, come on, I was 18/19 yrs old and I had other things on my mind (plus petty part time jobs).  Then when I met my future husband, we had way more fun missing classes here & there and going on dates to get to know each other.  Before I knew it we were moving overseas, and the thoughts of a small community college were well behind me.

Now here I am over 11 yrs later... an adult.. a wife... a mother... and not many years of mature work experience behind me.  And for the first time realizing if I ever want to get back into the general workforce I might need a degree in my hand just to get through the door.  In my dreams, I am too creative for a desk job, I want to write, I want to create, and for this you don't need a basic degree, just a unique imagination.  But in reality, that doesn't always pay the bills.

When I returned from our vacation I decided to start checking into an online degree.  This suites me better, doing it at my own time & pace, and around the busy schedule of our family in the evenings from my home computer.  Plus I still live in The Netherlands and I am wanting to get an American (possibly UK) college degree.  But to my astonishment these online degrees (even just an associates) is still damn expensive.  Especially for someone who has no idea what they even want to study and thought of it on a whim.  I guess I'm going to have to give this more serious thought... considering I'm still too big of a wuss to try and publish any of my fiction stories.

Any of you have online college degrees?  If so, what was your experience?  Which school did you choose and why?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I'm Back!

I'm back... even though you didn't even know I was gone!  Sunday we returned from a 2 week vacation to Florida!  Why Florida?  Well, if you know anything about me (even if you don't and per chance read my profile) you'd know I was born & raised in Florida.  So when it comes time to visit the family I can't really complain that I have to go to one of the biggest tourist traps in the world.  This round we (my husband, me, & our 4 yr old daughter) rented a house in Orlando with the in-laws.  Now that we've gone this route, I can't imagine ever doing anything different (well, other than the costs!)  The house had plenty of space so we weren't stepping on each others toes, it had a heated pool (someone was in the pool 1-5 times a day), it had a game room, and was one exit down from Disney!  It might have been a once in a lifetime trip, and trust me, we saved for a long time to make it happen.  It was great seeing my family again, due to living on different continents we only see each other roughly once a year.  And even squeezed in time to see some old friends!  Obviously there is so much to tell, but I'm not going to overload this post.  Plus I have plenty of stuff to take care of around the house, there's rounding off the unpacking and the realtor scheduled 2 viewings at the end of the week.  Basically this week is going to be a series of working my butt off and naps to get adjusted to the time difference (what a combo)!
Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica


What a waste of paper!  I bought one item and the receipt is way too long!  I went specifically to this store because their batteries are cheap but yet I feel I'm costing the environment a lot :( 
Have any of you noticed paper waste after simple purchases?

Bye! Dag! Adios! Namaste!
:) Danica