Preparing for Winter

As some of you know, I grew up in a relatively warm climate. The Bay Area has seasons, but to get winter, and I mean real winter, you have to drive somewhere to find it. Here in Pittsburgh, on the other hand, you just have to look outside.

Yesterday (Friday), my dentist called to see if was going to keep my appointment. I asked why wouldn’t I. She informed me that a storm was coming in and a lot of people were canceling. I didn’t realize that people would cancel appointments because of a storm so I rescheduled mine for earlier. Apparently the weather was going to get exciting around noon, so I agreed to a 2:30pm appointment.

It was 10:30am at the time and figured if I was going to go out, I should probably do that sooner rather than later. I ran to Target to get a laundry bag, kleenex, and some other knick knacks. After the storm hit, I realized I should have picked up bottles of water, canned food, and matches. Oh hindsight bias! Aren’t you wonderful?! *said with a high, cutesy voice.

The “storm” hit around noon, as scheduled. It was lovely. The prettiest storm I had ever seen! Beautiful, little snowflakes fluttered from the sky  in a light dusting. Our neighborhood slowly started to blanket. Around 1:00pm, that’s when the “flutter” became a “fall.” Snow came from the sky much more vigorously, but was still so pretty! “Oh how cute” I thought to myself. “This whole storm this is rather grand! If ‘storms’ mean that Pittsburgh becomes a winter wonderland… than I’m in!”  canceled my appointment 20 minutes later.

It continued to snow all day. Apparently, it wasn’t the “lovely snowflakes” we had to worry about. It was the fact that it was going to warmed up a bit, then the snow would melt,  then the temperature was going to drop (which it did) and everything was going to freeze (which it did) and finally there would be ice. Hmm….this “winter wonderland” didn’t seem nearly as wonderful as I had expected. It’s like the dentist lady knew something I didn’t. It’s like she’s lived in winter before and understood what “storm” really meant. Hmmm…..so what could I do to turn my frown upside down? I asked myself  “What could Sharon and I do to make being trapped in the house better?” There was only one answer: “DELIVERY!!”

Shaz got on the google machine and looked up delivery restaurants. We found this awesome delivery site called Meals Delivered and they have access to 40 different restaurants. We could order almost anything!!! What a great place we live in. We ordered up some Thai food because Kevin wasn’t around and waited for our food to come to us.

Forty minutes passed and we were starving. Garrr….was it the storm? Was is the weather? Or did delivery just take that long? It arrived within the next five minutes and Shaz and I chowed down. Yum yum yum. The food was soooooooooo good. About an hour later I was falling asleep. “Dang it! It’s only 7pm and I am fit for a nap!” That’s how I said it in my head, but as I announced that to Shaz, it sounded more like mumbles. I decided to grab a half hour nap.

Around 8 (yup, my half hour nap took longer than expected) I woke up and Shaz told me she was going to bed. I figured I might as well go back to sleep if my partner in crime was hitting they hay. Snooze time.

~

I hear yelling in the street. “Crap, what time is it?” I look at my phone and it’s 2am. “Great. Now I am going to be awake all night.” Kids were in the street throwing snowballs. Since I had been asleep a foot of snow had dropped. It was gorgeous! Slowly our street started to fad away under all the snow. “Winter is rather lovely” I say to myself while enjoying it from a heated view.

What does a girl do with spare time in the middle of the night? Get on internet!!! I read lots of cool things, wrote some great emails, discovered the meaning of life, posted some blogs, stretched, and so on. Ok, most of those things are true 😀 Anyways, it starts to get light outside and I figure that’s my cue to go back to bed. It was about 8am when I started to wrap things up. At least another foot of snow has dropped and my car has disappeared in the snow. At 8:30, the power went out. Fuck. The internet is down. And seriously, that was my first though. …. I know. I am shaking my head as well. Stop judging! 🙂

I check to see if the stove works. Gas works just fine, fire doesn’t light because it’s electric. Now realizing that we’ll probably run out of heat because the starter on the gas heater is electric. Buggar! Call John (our fix-it man). John says we should be fine, there are guys working hard to get power back to everyone but because there is so much snow the road are blocked. That being said, the house is warm and will stay that way for a while. I feel better.

I watched people try to dig themselves out of their house for a bit before retiring to bed. Ahhhhhhh, sleep. What a wonderful thing. At 9am Shaz woke up and so did I. I gave her the run down of what I knew and she geared up to go outside. I told her if she made it to Giant Eagles, she should grab matches.

Hopefully she’ll post her video, but she has some really great footage of her experience in the snow. The snow was sooooooooo fluffy and so amazing…wow. Perhaps pictures will do it justice. Shaz was knee-deep during a bit of her walk about a mile down the road. How fun! Well, let me be specific. “How fun” when you get to visit a city. I don’t think I’d like that every day.

Fast forward to 2pm. Shaz and I keep thinking about fun things we could do today, oh but wait, they all require power. Merde!

We could watch movies. Nope.
We could make costumes on my new sewing machine. Nope.
We could make popcorn. Nope.
We could make toast! Nope. Unless we wanted to do it over the gas stove.
We could catch up on all the writing we wanted to do. Nope, not if we were planning on doing that on our computer.
I could talk on the phone! Nope. Not unless I was willing to run out of battery and then not have a phone.

Crap. What a fun, possibly-creative day we could have had if we had just had power!

In the end, we were fine. We had endless cups of tea, chatted, I worked out a teeny bit, and then we made pesto pasta and a salad. Around dinner time it was starting to get dark. We lit some candles and prepared the guest room to be an awesome, girly fort! We had magazines, laundry, books, trumpets, canes and top hats to keep us busy. Hehe, well, some of things are harder to use in the dark, but they were there! Then we fell asleep around 8pm, reading by candle light. Lots of people called to make sure we were ok, which woke me up, but the sentiments were really nice.

OK, now onto Quick Life Lesson! What did I learn from this?

  • When a storm is coming, pay attention to what’s going on. And take it seriously.
  • If you have time to get supplies before a storm hits, go do it. Seriously, just go pick stuff up while you can still get out.
  • Keep your electronics charged so you have access to them. This includes spare cell phones. You never know when one cell phone will die and you need to make a call.
  • Have water, canned food, matches, windup flash lights and serious sleeping bags in your house. When the time comes, you’ll be super grateful you have these things.
  • If the power goes out, conserve your batteries so you can use them when you need to.
  • Pick a small room with the least amount of windows to sleep in for the evening. Covered the window with a sleeping bag or something to help create an airlock.
  • Stay warm.

Ok, so some of you East Coast folk probably know all of that already, but I didn’t. I haven’t lost power during the wintertime before, and even though it wasn’t scary, I knew I wasn’t prepared. I will definitely remember that picking up supplies ahead of time is freaking smart. Making sure there is enough food in the house to comfortably eat for 3 days is super, duper smart. Gas stoves rock. Fully charged electronics are awesome!

Ok, so that’s the story and there was the QLL. xoxo

QLL – cruises are awesome

Why did I not know this before this week? To be honest, I was thinking this cruise gig was going to be a total bust, but low and behold, within an hour of being on the ship (we hadn’t even left port yet), I was sold. I am a believer!

Now, I am sure that cruising isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. Relatively they aren’t all that expensive. For the price of a hotel room for 6 nights, you can take a 7 day cruise, get fed until you have to be rolled back to your room, order room service, go on water slides, watch movies on the big screen, escape the winter weather (depending on where you’re going), play splashy-splashy in the middle of January, play games (i.e. putt-putt golf, bingo, cards, shuffle board, trivia challenges, etc.) watch dance shows, and more! My favorite things: being completely surrounded by ocean and nothing else, a great gym (which is surprisingly empty), an awesome spa, and a killer shower in the room.

Life lesson: cruises are a blast, and they might be for you. If you decide to go on one, bring someone you’ d like to spend time with, sunscreen, outfits for theme nights, and a carefree attitude. Oh yeah, and if you need to do internet, just suck it up and buy the biggest package, chances are you’ll need it. Yes it’s expensive, but it beats being out of communication when can need to connect.

10 Travel Tips – from Outblush

I read this out Outblush and I couldn’t have written this any better. I’ve added bits and pieces after each section. Read and enjoy!

1. Buy wisely: Be a savvy consumer when it comes to flying the not-so-friendly skies. Tuesdays are the cheapest day to buy – the airlines and discount sites publish new deals on Monday and re-publish ever lower prices on Tuesday in an effort to beat out competitors. You might also want to try saving a search in sites like Kayak.com or Farecast and just wait for the lowest price to come to you.

*I use Kayak religiously. I like how I can control my search parameters (multiple airports, airlines, alliances, price, and layover time) and how easy it is to send the flights I like to organizers or friends.

2. Try to get a on a flight that leaves in the morning or afternoon: We know those last flight of the day tickets are appealing because you can leave right after exams or squeeze in one more full day of work, but with winter weather and over-booked flights conspiring against you there’s a good chance of delays and cancellations.

*Try not to go through Chicago in the winter. It’s an amateur mistake. If you absolutely must, try to find some lindy hopping friends that you can crash with.

3.Travel light: Avoid checking your bag if you can. Leave you bumble and bumble behind and ship your gifts. Not only does it save time, but if your flight is canceled and they have to redirect your luggage it’s a good bet you’ll spend your first day home arguing with a surly baggage attendant.

* Due to our tour/performance schedule, the members of The Killer Dillers travel with an excessive amount of luggage (excessive for a weekend, but not for 3 months). Unfortunately we cannot carry-on our luggage, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! I strongly believed that if you are checking your luggage, you’re bringing too much stuff. I still stand by that statement, but I now understand why it can happen. Let’s see you travel with top hats, roller skate, canes, feather fans, banana skirt, and aviator outfits and still have space for your regular clothes for the weekend!

4. Check-in and print out your boarding pass before you leave: Again, anything you can do to avoid lines or waiting is good. Everything takes more time during this time of year: security lines are longer, weekend traffic is even worse than average, there are about three times as many people to run between if you’re dashing to make your flight.

*On top of that, see if you can travel with someone who has status. At least you’ll have a shot at being bumped to the front of the (shorter) line.

5. Don’t follow the crowd: If your flight is canceled make sure you listen to the announcement carefully – there’s often a precious tidbit of information that most panicked travelers ignore – like an alternate flight you might be able make or a request that you rebook at the airline’s main check-in desk instead of the kiosk within the terminal.

*I totally lucked out by following this advice. I was traveling to Italy and flew into Bologna instead of Genova. Luckily (or unfortunately for many) there was a historically large storm that came through Germany and our flight was canceled. Over the loud speaker we were told where to go to rebook our flights. I was one of the first in line because I followed the directions. Needless to say, not everyone got where when wanted to go when they wanted to get there.

6. Smile and play nice: Having a flight canceled after waiting through hours of delays is heart wrenching and infuriating. You are not alone in your fury, but you can stand out and get home sooner by staying calm and charming your way onto a new flight. Airport employees get yelled at, abused, and threatened about a hundred times a day. Don’t underestimate the power of their special airline industry computers; they can work wonders if you ask nicely.

*Be nice. Remember, you don’t want to be yelled at when you’re at work either. You can’t more flies with honey than you do vinegar. Most likely there is someone who can help you, so why not be nice to them?

7. Just in case undies: Even the most cunning and organized traveler can’t win every time. Freezing rain in Chicago could mean flight delays all over the country. If you had to check your bag make sure you have a fresh pair of clothes and the essential toiletries. Being able to put on clean knickers and brush your teeth after spending the night using your laptop as a pillow will make you want to punch everyone in an airline uniform a lot less.

*If you’re going to teach at a dance event, bring a pair of dance shoes with you! Don’t chance it (like so many of us have done), because that one time you don’t, you’ll be stuck dancing in your snow boots like a tool. Learn from other people’s mistakes!!

8. Pack a snack: Not only is airport food expensive, but a lot of restaurants and shops close around 9 p.m. You do not want to be stuck in travel purgatory hungry, and by that we mean a dangerous state in which you are both hungry and angry at the same time. A bag of trail mix and a few granola bars are always good to have on hand.

*I travel with oatmeal at the very least. It’s relatively easy to find hot water (for free) from any of the coffee shops and because it comes in a cup, you already have something to make your oatmeal in. Rather genius if I do say so myself. Nuts are also good.

9. Baby wipes, Purell, Airborne: The travel trifecta of illness protection. There’s a reason why the expression “this place smells as fresh as LaGuardia” doesn’t exist. Airports are veritable petri dishes during the holidays so do your best to fortify yourself against the onslaught of germ stranger-danger.

*I’ll add mouth wash and or toothpaste. It never hurts to have fresh breath!

10. Be safe, Be smart: Scoundrels of all varieties lurk in airports – a $120 ticket is a small price to pay for a half dozen iPods, wallets galore, and perhaps a MacBook or two. Use your good sense, keep your stuff zipped up, and be prepared to pitch the mother of all hissy fits if someone gets all up in your business.

*I am fortunately enough that I have not had my stuff stolen, so I presume this is good advice. In general, be smart about what you’re doing and where you are going, and try try try to not look like a tourist. You make for such easy pickings!

Last bit of information that is invaluable as an international instructor (and probably traveler). Have an address and phone number of who is coming for you. I repeat: have an address and phone number of the person or hotel you are staying with. England in particular will put you through the ringer if you don’t have this. Going through customs is a serious deal, even if you are used to breezing through them. You only need to be caught once to get flagged, so always have that information on hand.