Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Christmas!

We know Christmas is coming when the gingerbread comes out at my brother's house.

Last night we constructed the Christmas train. Well, my brother Jason constructed while Charissa and I decorated other cookies and Elizabeth ate them.

Check out the gingy festivities!

Jason constructs the Christmas train.

Elizabeth decorates her cookie.

Christmas Gingerbread!

My Christmas Gingerbread Man in his lovely Christmas sweater by the Christmas train.

Amtrak Stuck

Two days after I took my inaugural trip on Amtrak from CHI to GRR, which was ever so smooth, the train became stuck in Holland during the winter storm last night (Sunday). The four-hour trip became 15 hours.

Read the story here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Amtrak Superliner

So, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago to Grand Rapids last night. This was my first trip with Amtrak and I was a bit skeptical. One hour into the 4-hour trip I was sold. Here's why:

The Amtrak Superliner
The holiday traveler's best friend

1) At the train station: Tickets obtained by Quik-Trak with the bar code provided by e-mail. Enter the boarding lounge and wait for train to be called. No security lines (which could be a bit disconcerting if dwelt on). You can arrive within 30 minutes of your train, get your ticket and walk right on.

2) Baggage: This particular run (CHI-GRR) doesn't have baggage check so I had to carry my large suitcase, which I was really tired of doing. BUT I was able to stash it on the first level of the train car and go right up to a reserved seat. It was easy to grab on my way off the train. No waiting for baggage handlers to bring it out. This was a HUGE bonus for me after waiting 30 and 50 minutes respectively in Nashville and Chicago for this same suitcase.

3) Seating: I was on an Amtrak Superliner. My parents have used this run before but did not have the Superliner; their train was more bare bones. If you take Amtrak and get a Superliner, you can expect comfortable seating with LOTS of legroom. The seats recline with leg rests.

4) Cabin: The ride was smooth and quiet, give or take a few light conversations around me. The best part is that you can keep your cell phones on, unlike the airplane, so there is internet and text messaging to be had. A good distraction on the 4-hour ride.

5) Weather: With the weather as crazy as it was in the Midwest yesterday (Friday), airplanes were grounded and flights canceled. But not the trains...they were running!

6) Cost: My round-trip ticket cost $94. Certainly there is not a plane ticket (CHI-GRR) to be found for that price.

Like I said, I was skeptical at first but it didn't take long for me to become a believer. I think if I ever need to get somewhere within a four-hour radius, I'll look up Amtrak first. Adding up the time it takes for arrival, check-in, security, boarding, flight and baggage claim with airlines, the train makes a whole lot of sense. And it's a whole lot more comfortable, too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Note From "Gandforth"

My mom told me that my niece Elizabeth calls my Siamese cat Gandalf by the name "Gandforth." I told her that sounded like the name of an old British Butler. As in, "Gandforth, please bring me a cup of tea."

Anyways, here's a new note from the cat:

Hey, Mom,

Just wanted you to know that I can't wait for you to come so I can do this on your lap.

You know that kid that comes here? Well, she thinks she should hug me and she can't even call me by my name.

You see, Tia was always using Grandma's lap as a roosting spot and I didn't like watching her getting her belly rubbed. I have taken over that spot because I'm bigger and can push her out by flopping on her.

See you soon. Can't wait for your lap.

Your lap cat,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What Type Are You?

Saw this, the Typealizer, on my friend Grant's blog. It supposedly defines your personality according to the words it reads on your blog.

Was curious....

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

***Close but I'm pretty confrontational.