Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Saturday, July 14, 2012

CouchSurfing vs. AirBnB: Pros and Cons

 vs. 

On my recent trip to Spain, my friend and I used AirBnB in Madrid, Granada, and Barcelona. When I lived in China, I was active on Couchsurfing (check out my profile!). I only "surfed" once, but I hosted and gave travel advice many times in 2008/2009.

I think both of these sites are awesome, and each have their own strengths depending on the situation.  I don't believe that they are competitors, but are two different approaches to the same ideas: that people are hospitable, that the best way to travel is to live like a local, and that the global village can be made a reality.

Couchsurfing Pros:



Couchsurfing Cons:



AirBnB Pros:



AirBnB Cons:



The bottom line is that both of these websites are great ways to get an insiders perspective on a new city, to stay in a place that is off the "tourist" trail, and to save money on hotels; many AirBnB options are probably even cheaper than a private room at a hostel.

Couchsurfing is probably more suited to younger/"backpacker" type travelers, who are very flexible in their traveling time (so don't mind if they wait for several hours until the host gets off work, etc.). AirBnB is better for families or those who might prefer more privacy. If you prefer a more transactional arrangement or want to plan/confirm in advance, AirBnB is probably the better way to go.

For both of these sites, ensure that you confirm any non-negotiables with the host.  If you need an elevator or a pet-free home, make sure you ask about those things before arriving.  When you first arrive, make sure to ask about things like hot water, curfews, keys, alarms, and house rules to ensure everyone is on the same page.  Be flexible, kind, and open-minded and you will meet some good people, make some great memories, and swap some crazy stories.

I hope to use both Couchsurfing and AirBnB in the future as I continue to travel and live abroad!

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Fiction in Reality


So last fall I traveled to Sweden to hang out with the wonderful Mr. Shawn Xiong.  I thought it would be fun to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while I was in Stockholm, where the book was set.  I needed to read the book before the movie came out, so the timing is perfect.  I loved the book so much, that I bought the second in the trilogy in the airport to entertain me on the way home.  It really was fun to read it while ambling all over Stockholm and to recognize the T-bana stations and other landmarks that were described in the book.

In June, I'm going to be traveling to Spain with the awesome Miss Anne Bradley, and I'm looking for a book set in Spain to accompany me.  So far, I'm leaning towards The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  This book also has a prequel, The Angel's Game, so I might go for both of them (with a little ipad/kindle action, I don't even have to worry about packing light!).  Anyone else have any thoughts about Spanish fiction?  I'm looking for something a little more modern (READ: not Don Quixote), and obviously something that has been translated into English.

Thanks to my last job for enough frequent fliers miles to travel to Europe twice in one year for free...and for getting me up to Star Alliance Gold so that I can hang out in the first class lounges!

Now, if I could only get to Narnia or Middle Earth to read those books in their proper settings!  I don't think I'd want to go to Panem, though...

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Low Carb Life

So I've been doing the low carb thing for a couple of weeks.  Despite the fact that I hate dieting (I mean, really, who doesn't?), this is not that painful--even for someone who loves bread, cereal, and baked goods as much as I do.  I've found that I get less hungry when not eating carbs, I don't get that starving feeling in the middle of the afternoon or that bloated feeling after a meal. Also, pounds have been dropping rather quickly, which is always nice!

My favorite creations so far have been two different types of salad (spinach, bacon, bleu cheese, tomato and spinach, salsa, sour cream, shredded salmon, chipotle powder), although bacon, eggs, hamburgers, etc. are always awesome as well.  And kale chips.  Don't get me started.  I'd trade potato chips for kale chips any day.  I wonder if I could concoct some salt and vinegar kale chips.  Hmmmm....

The other day I came across the bars that Atkins puts out.  I tried a couple of different ones, and this peanut butter fudge crisp is really delicious!  So good that even if I wasn't on a diet, I'd eat it in lieu of a candy bar!  It's nice to have a treat to reward myself for saying no to bread, pasta, cookies, etc. or for a breakfast on the run.  As much as I love sausage/bacon and eggs, there's not always time in the morning to whip that up.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Cookbook Club

Cookbook club has been one of my favorite things in 2012 so far!  As I mentioned in the last post about my 30 Before 30 List, I'm really trying to think about the person I want to become and how to actively work on getting there.  I feel like my life is in a bit of a limbo as I'm working part-time jobs and finishing grad school and not really feeling settled in anything, but instead of just wasting time waiting, I'm trying to actively wait and prepare myself for what is to come--whatever it may be.  And no matter what else the future holds, I am going to need to eat! :)

Basically, myself and a couple of girlfriends (we really should recruit a few more people!), get together about once a month for a potluck dinner, but instead of a typical potluck where everyone usually brings their "signature" dish, at cookbook club we all make something about of the same cookbook.  It's definitely been a stretching experience (we went vegan on the very first one!), but we've all surprised ourselves with some real winners.  

Below is a list of the cookbooks and the dishes that I have made so far.  It's been fun to attempt some things I probably wouldn't have otherwise.  I think we were all surprised by how much we liked Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Julie & Julia made it seem like all the recipes would be quite difficult.  They weren't easy, and they seemed to use up every pot and pan in each of our kitchens, but the instructions were meticulous and it made me feel like maybe I could attempt a rack of lamb or something else that sounds far too complicated.  Also, Julie & Julia inspires me to also start a Dinner and a Movie club!  Julia Child was definitely one of our favorites so far, and doing the Chinese cooking was fun as well.

November-Chef Chloe (Vegan)


Vegan Ingredients: 
 

Vegan Mac N Cheese:
 




January-Hungry Girl (Low Cal)


Rockin' Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus Corn Chowder:
 

Crab Rangoonies:




February-Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Julia Child)

Aubergines en Persillade, Sautees:

Courgettes Sautees, Maitre D'hotel:


April-Chinese Home Cooking (co-written by my former boss, Amb. Julia Chang Bloch)

Harbin Restaurant Eggplant:
 

Sauteed Spinach:

Future cookbooks (if I have my way):
101 Cookbooks or her book Super Natural Every Day
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (yes, I own this!)
One of Rachael Ray's cookbooks (though I still don't believe most of her meals can be cooked in 30 minutes!)
Something from the Barefoot Contessa
More With Less
Real Simple: "Fake It, Don't Make It" Recipes

Do you have any cookbooks you love?

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Monday, April 30, 2012

30 Things to do...

...before I turn 30!

I refuse to use my pinterest for crafts/recipes/wedding plans (*note: I'm not planning a wedding, and don't see that happening anytime in the near future), but it turned into a handy way to track my 30 Before 30 list.  The bulletin board format is more fun than just having a list.  It was actually choose 30 things because I've actually done a lot of the things I want to do in life.  I've had an awesome 29 years!  

To see (most of) the list I came up with, check out my 30 Before 30 Board on pinterest.  I say "most of" because there are a few that are more personal.  Basically, I just tried to think of the person I want to be, and include things I thought would be indicators that I was on the way to achieving those goals.  

Let me know if you'd like to join me in accomplishing any of these goals!

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Simply Lite

Surprised to find a rather delicious sugar free, gluten free, low carb dark chocolate bar!   Mmmm!

Check out Simply Lite!

Trader Joe's, FTW!  Of course, don't even get me started talking about Trader Joe's dark chocolate caramel with black sea salt bars!  Best. Thing. Ever. I <3 TJ's!

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grad School


For those of you who don't know, I'm in the middle of a graduate program (because two jobs and normal life is not enough to keep me busy)!   I'm working towards an MS in Nonprofit Management through Eastern University.  We have class all weekend about once every ten weeks.  This weekend was one of those weekends.  I can tell you whatever you want to know about fundraising!  After the class residency, we spend eight weeks doing the coursework (bring on the paper writing, conference calls, and online discussion boards), before starting the next class.  At this point, I only have four residencies left!  Hard to believe!  I have Human Resources Management in July, Financial Management in the Fall, and Strategic Management Part II in December.  I missed Marketing during a trip to China last year, so I'll tack on that one in early 2012 and be ready to graduate by May 2013.  Time flies!

The classes will be no problem, but right now I have a capstone I haven't started hanging over my head.  Eeek!  I'm hoping to do it in the area of monitoring and evaluation, and should be finalizing the exact topic soon.  I'm not looking forward to all the work I need to put into this, but at the same time, I'd love to have a good final project since I'd like to pursue work in the M&E arena.  Wish me luck!!

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spain

So the fabulous Anne Bradley and I are going to Spain (God willing) in June!  After the debacle that was our planned trip to Egypt last year, I'm super excited to again be planning a trip with Anne.  If the European Union collapses before June, I'm not going to be a happy camper.  I swear I don't really mean to cause revolutions...

We're flying into Madrid, driving to Granada, and then on to Barcelona.  Probably stopping a couple places along the way, although we haven't finalized plans.  We're also planning to stay at places on airbnb.com.  I like to call it classy couchsurfing.

Get excited, Europe!

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