Monday, November 21, 2016

Camo Chevron Quilt

I finished this camo chevron quilt last month and since it was finally given to its intended recipients, our friends who are having a baby soon, I'm posting the finished product!

Camo Chevron Quilt | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

Since Greg is closer with the soon-to-be father (Greg's been friends with the family since high school), we went to JoAnn together to pick out some fabric for the quilt. The friend is big into hunting, and I initially wanted to pick out a white arctic camo, because I thought I could combine that with some other non-camo fabric that would be cute, but Greg insisted it had to be traditional camo. Although I had some brown and tan coordinating fabric in my stash already, we picked up some digital camo as the main fabric for the quilt.

Camo Chevron Quilt | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Camo Chevron Quilt | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

I did the chevron pattern with half-triangle squares like I did for this purple ombre chevron quilt, although instead of binding by hand, I did machine binding, which made it faster to complete the quilt.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received

This time last year, I stumbled on and participated in the Goody Goody Gift Swap, and I got a good swap partner (Nadia) who sent a very nice package:

Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

The sign-up for this year's Goody Goody Gift Swap looks to be open now - closes December 2nd! I'm tempted to do it again this year, but I'm not sure if I'll have enough time between how busy work has been and being on vacation at the end of the month. We'll see!

See also:
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent
Pretty Postal Floral Swap 2016 - Sent
Pretty Postal Floral Swap 2016 - Received

Monday, November 14, 2016

Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent

Time lately has felt like the saying, "The days are long, but the years are short." It's now mid-November and the holidays (Thankgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) are going to be upon us in no time.

As an aside . . . a quick Google search turned up that this quote is by Gretchen Rubin from her book, The Happiness Project. She writes about the quote in this blog post: The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short. Add this to the list of things that I now cry about since becoming a parent!

Anyway, I've participated in a handful of swaps before over the years, and obviously, the results can be mixed depending on who you're matched with. I now have about a 60% success rate with a swap partner (or partners) NOT flaking out. It's disappointing when people sign up for a swap, but don't follow through. Last year I stumbled on and participated in the Goody Goody Gift Swap. Fortunately, this swap partner, Nadia, was really good (package I received in a later post!).

Here's the package I sent:

Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

I should've blogged about the package I sent earlier, because now I don't remember what I included in a couple of them! But a few highlights:
  • A pocket letter with various crafty goodies
  • A mint-colored Instagram album
  • A sampling of textured mini origami paper from Mako, our Japanese exchange student from 2010

And some more pictures!
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Sent | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

See also:
Goody Goody Gift Swap 2015 - Package Received
Pretty Postal Floral Swap 2016 - Sent
Pretty Postal Floral Swap 2016 - Received

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tips for The Novice International Traveler

I went to Europe in August on a business trip, and it was the first time I'd traveled internationally for work. The last time I'd been to Europe was on a family trip in middle school, and so I consider myself a pretty novice international traveler.

I jotted down some thoughts from while I was in Europe that I thought were helpful to know.

Tips for The Novice International Traveler | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

International Cell Service:
Although most of my trip to Milan and the UK was for work, I did take the opportunity to fly out a day early and stay a couple extra days. On work days when I was with co-workers and the days consisted mostly of going to work and back to the hotel, not having cell service wasn't a big deal.

On the days where I was on my own though, having the cell service made me feel better equipped to explore by myself, because I had more confidence that I'd always be able to find my way back to the hotel.

My Note 4 already worked internationally in Italy and the UK, so it was just a matter of getting the service turned on. On Verizon, there is a TravelPass option where, for $10/day, you can talk, text, and use data like on your existing plan at home. So in my case, if I were physically in the UK, I could call UK and US numbers. In Italy, I could call Italy and US numbers. I could also specify which days to opt-in (well, more like I asked Greg to do it on my behalf, heh).

Loose Agenda:
The last time I'd been to Europe, I went with my family the summer after 8th grade, and my parents signed up to go with a Chinese tour group. Although that option makes it less stressful in terms of coordinating logistics of travel (where to go, what to see, where to stay, etc.), Greg and I usually tend to favor looser agendas where we may have a things that we want to hit each day, but also leave room for stopping to do things that pique our interest. That's the approach I took when I was solo in Milan and London, and I saw what I saw at a leisurely pace. Both cities also had a pretty good subway network that allowed me to get to the majority of the sights I wanted to visit either via subway, walking, or combination of both.

Currency Exchange Costs:
In both the UK and Italy, I exchanged some currency at the airport because it was convenient and I didn't want to risk being without local currency while I was out. There's a premium for that convenience, though, in the form of high fees, not as favorable exchange rate, or a combination of the two. In talking to one of my co-workers, he mentioned that Citi lets you charge local currency and does the exchange to USD for you without the same high fees or not-as-good exchange rates, so I started to use my credit card where I could, though there were still instances where I needed to have cash on hand because credit cards weren't accepted (such as many cabs in the UK).

Italian Postage Stamps:
At one of the souvenir shops next to the Duomo in Milan, they sold international postcard postage, but from a private mail delivery company (not the Italian state postal service). I didn't realize this when I bought the stamps, but when I took a closer look at it, I went online to research it more. The stories about this scared me off of using the private company postage on the actual postcards I was mailing to Evelyn and Parker, but just to see how it compared, I mailed a couple of blank postcards back.

One of the biggest complaints I saw online about the private company postage was that the postcards took a very long time (i.e., months) to arrive at their destination. My experience wasn't bad. It took maybe a couple/few weeks, but not that much slower than the regular Italian postal service. In any case, it was probably safe to have the concierge at the hotel mail off the postcards using more legit postage.

Tipping:
Not having done a lot of Europe travel, I wasn't sure if tipping was expected or not. I did some Googling and came across a Tipping in Europe page by Rick Steves that was helpful, but I still felt very weird not tipping like in the US. More often than not, I still ended up leaving some tip.



Not being a very seasoned international traveler, these tips likely just scratch the surface. Here's to more opportunities for international travel, whether work or play!

Monday, October 24, 2016

London Highlights

Before leaving Europe back in August, I stopped in London for a couple of days to sight-see. Greg loves London, and so while I was glad that he was home with the kids, I also wished that he could have gone around London with me those couple of days (and, say, get afternoon tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace).

After I arrived in Heathrow on Friday morning, I took the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. The hotel I booked (Mitre House) was only a couple of blocks from the station. I was able to check in early and drop off my luggage before heading back out to explore. The first afternoon, I took the tube from Paddington station to Picadilly. I also went over to 221B Baker Street. Although I thought about checking out the Sherlock Holmes museum, it must've been a tour stop, because the line to get in was crazy long. I headed back to the hotel before it got dark, and found a place to eat dinner nearby, Salt & Honey Bistro.

The second day, I explored some other parts of London, including Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, and went over to Buckingham Palace. I also saw a play, Mamma Mia, and really enjoyed it (because, plays!). After that, I had dinner at Dishoom, which a former co-worker who now lives in London recommended.

Sunday morning, the day that I flew back to the US, I decided to just hang out at a nearby cafe in between checking out of the hotel and heading back to the airport.

Kensington Palace gardens:
London Highlights | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

Westminster Abbey:
London Highlights | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

Dinner at Salt & Honey Bistro the first night (top) and Dishoom the second night (bottom):
London Highlights | shirley shirley bo birley Blog

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