Lili on the Loose: On Life and Getting Lost 

Museum Monday: Cartier Pearl Necklace

The Denver Art Museum had an exhibit called Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century which I was lucky enough to see in its last few days.

I was mesmerized by some of the older designs, including this 1911 necklace that features platinum, diamonds, and pearls. Its hard to see but the connectors of the chain are a swirl around a 4 diamond floral pattern. Before cultured pearls, pearls were worth more than diamonds.

1911

1911 Cartier

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

Souvenir Saturday: Money Cat

It is a bit ironic that I was ripped off buying a Maneki Neko (Beckoning/Lucky/Money Cat) at the old International Marketplace in Waikiki.

I was young, and didn’t know you were supposed to barter in the open air tourist shopping bazaar. So when they gave me a price for this golden cat, I immediately agreed. I was just starting my obsession with Japanese culture and just had to have a Money Cat. But it was an expensive purchase…nearly all of my spending money…and at the start of the trip. My parents were shocked I spent so much on it.

They asked if I bartered. I didn’t even know what that was! Once they explained it to me…I felt foolish. And I felt worse when my sister showed the various things she bought. How did she barter? She forgot she had money in various pockets and would be like “Uh…this is all I have…” and would show the seller a handful of dollars and much much less than what the initial asking price was. So this money cat…was an expensive lesson!

moneycat

Sadly, the International Marketplace was closed down in 2013, to make way for a shopping mall with Saks 5th Avenue. A very different departure of what it was before. Read the history of it here. Or learn more about Maneki Neko, the lucky cat.

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Travel Missteps: Ripped Off

Budget travel means that you are trying to stretch your money as far as you can. Which means in my case, I often choose the cheapest flights, even if they aren’t ideal. Which is why I found myself at DIA late at night getting ready to catch a late night flight. But what I hadn’t counted on was my flight to Costa Rica to be delayed. Which meant I arrived in San Jose after 1AM, and found that that my hotel was completely full for the night.

They kept speaking Spanish, and it sounded like they wanted me just to leave. I was tired and upset because I had already paid for the hotel. After a bit of this back and forth, someone who spoke a little English explained that their hotel was full but I was upgraded to a 5 Star Hotel “just a little down the street.” Well half an hour of wandering in the dark later, I found the hotel they moved me in to. On the plus side, it was an amazing hotel, on the negative side it was 2AM and I was stressed that I didn’t know where my tour group would be meeting the next day. At this new hotel? Or the old one?

I found the answer at 6AM when I was awaken and told I needed to be moved into a different room in that nice hotel. I packed everything up, left it at their luggage room, and in a sleep deprived state decided to explore the city. I hailed a cab, who was very confused on where I wanted to go.

I tried to explain that I wanted to go to the National History Museum (not the Historic Theater, not the Historic Gold Museum, or all the other things named Museum, History, or Historic that he tried to take me to.) After again, much back and forth, we eventually headed to the right museum.

When I finally got there he grunted at me “TIP!” and as I was trying to figure out the exchange rate I noticed that the meter kept going. In my sleep deprived state this really stressed me out. It kept going up and up and my mental math at the exchange rate was quickly confusing me. So I handed him some cash, vaguely thinking it was a little too much and I asked “Is this enough?” which he quickly swiped it out of my hands and jumped in the car and drove off.

It was then I realized two things. First, the museum wouldn’t open for another hour or so…and secondly….that I had given him the equivalent of $80 USD in local currency for what should have been a USD $4 cab ride…

So after that I ended up paying for everything mostly in USD instead of local currency. At first I was upset, being on a budget this was a bit of a setback so early in the trip. But I consoled myself by realizing that this was my first time of being ripped off after many travels and that likely, the cabbie needed the money more than I did.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica my first stop in San Jose.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica my first stop in San Jose. It use to be a barracks and fort for the national military, but in 1948 the military was disbanded.

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.

Gondola Ride at The Venetian Las Vegas

Me and my friend Heather enjoying our Gondola Ride.

Me and my friend Heather enjoying our Gondola Ride.

Las Vegas gets a bad rap of being gaudy and fake. But that is actually part of its charm and you have to enjoy it for what it is. Take for instance the Gondola Ride at The Venetian hotel. You are serenaded while being ferried around the waters of The Venetian hotel.

The start of the indoor route.

The start of the indoor route.

The inside route is a facsimile for Venice’s tight waterways, and you’ll float below bridges, shops, and cafes while the fake sky looms overhead and tourists gawk and take photos. But this felt more like a real gondola ride in Venice! The other added bonus is its always a comfortable 75 degree weather inside, so this ride is perfect for poor weather days in Las Vegas.

The large pool for the outdoor route.

The large pool for the outdoor route.

The outdoor route is much more open and is a facsimile of the Grand Canal and the general Venice lagoon. In my opinion this one is a little boring as you are essentially floating around a huge pool which is right next to a busy street. It might have some charm in the evening when you can see the city’s lights come to life.  It also is a little shorter route. Note that the outdoor route may close for weather and over winter part of this lagoon becomes an ice skating rink!

If you are wanting a romantic ride, make sure to pay extra for the private gondola, otherwise you’ll share. I actually enjoyed sharing because the other riders and I switched off taking photos of each other. Much cheaper than the official photos they try to sell you!

I really enjoyed our female Gondolier who sang beautifully and told great jokes!

If you go:
Tickets are 19.95 per person. Each gondola seats 4.
There are 2 different routes. Inside & Outside. Inside is a few minutes longer.
You must arrive 15 minutes prior to your start time & the ride lasts about 15 minutes.

Every other week Travel Thursday brings you travel tips and information on the amazing sights and activities the world has to offer.

Museum Monday: Triceratops Skull

There is a little and overlooked museum on the University of Colorado campus called the Museum of Natural History. It is quite small, but has a good section on dinosaurs. Its main piece is a large Triceratops Skull. It even has its own personality and facebook page. Come check it out at the Henderson Building.

Triceratops Skull

Triceratops Skull

 

Museum Monday is an every other week series about museum news, objects, and reviews.

Souvenir Saturday: Cable Car Snow Globe

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I lost my head in San Francisco
Waiting for the fog to roll out
But I found it in a rain cloud
It was smiling down
-The Mowgli’s

This was my second snow globe that I got after deciding to start collecting. I picked this one up near Ghirardelli Square among other typical tchotchkes.

Souvenir Saturday

Souvenir Saturday is an every-other week series on the items that represent travel memories.

Recipe: Lemony Dill Smashed Potato Salad

Ingredients

Ingredients

When you forget ingredients at the store, you have to come up with another plan. I was going to do loaded baked potatoes for 4th of July, but after forgetting butter and sour cream I decided to make impromptu Potato Salad! Only problem was…I’ve never attempted potato salad. So I grabbed some fresh herbs from my herb garden and started whipping them together with mayo and a Lemon Juice.

Mix all the ingredients minus the potatoes to taste.

Mix all the ingredients minus the potatoes to taste.

The List:
Black Pepper
Fresh Dill
Garlic
Fresh Chives
Fresh Rosmery
Bacon
Lemon
Potatos
Salt
Mayo
Olive oil

The final product (trust me it tastes amazing!)

The final product (trust me it tastes amazing!)

Travel Missteps: The Fish Bet

When you have 10 high schoolers on a trip abroad, things can get weird. Clicks form, arguments occur, and silly childish bets occur. While we were still in Tokyo, one of our chaperones bet us that no one would stick our head in the hotel’s massive lake, filled with Koi fish. The idea was that once you put your hair in, you’d need to flip it back “baywatch style” and stroll back into the hotel like nothing happened.  Like all bets, it involved money and for high schoolers who had already blew a lot of money shopping Tokyo, earning extra money was an exciting enticement.

The Koi from the lake.

The Koi from the lake.

The problem was, the hotel staff were so friendly and inadvertently monitored people as they wandered the grounds. So no one could figure out how they could get close enough to the Koi pond, get their head wet, and back in without attracting a ton of attention. But then, it started to rain. So about half of our group ran to the elevator, and down to the lobby while our Chaperone watched us from his window. We slowed down as a helpful hotel attendant offered us an umbrella. We just waved the bewildered man off, and headed out into the storm.

The first girl didn’t really stick her head in, only getting the tips of her hair wet. She then ran quickly back into the hotel. The next guy went, stuck his head in and screamed, the koi fish were sucking at his head like there was food. He then ran back inside. It was my turn next. I stuck my whole head in, up to my eyes. The koi sucked at my hair and it felt so strange. I then whipped my head up, Baywatch style, and slowly made my way back to the hotel, not bothering to see what the next guy did.

I arrived upstairs to find a fight in process. Turns out the chaperone was pulling our leg and didn’t think we’d actually do it, and so wouldn’t pay any one of us. The first girl had grabbed the train tickets, and hidden them from the chaperone in an effort to blackmail some money. A lot of yelling and negotiating later, the chaperone got the tickets back, and had grounded the girl to her room. Not that it mattered, it was now night and the storm still going.

I still had fun doing it, I wasn’t a wild child and never had done anything like that before so I felt like a rebel at the time. Adult me can laugh but also cringe that we made fools of ourselves in front of the kind hotel staff.

Travel Missteps

Travel Missteps is an every-other week series on how sometimes part of the journey is making mistakes and getting lost.

Tips for Swimming with Sea Turtles

A turtle in Belize

A turtle in Belize

Sea Turtles are a majestic sight to see when snorkeling. I’ve had the opportunity to see and swim with turtles in Maui, HI, St. John USVI, and the Belize Barrier Reef. But too often swimmers or snorkelers get too close to Sea Turtles and inadvertently end up harassing them. Here are some tips when swimming with Sea Turtles to make sure the experience is good to everyone.

Turtle Town Maui

Turtle Town Maui

First it is important to note in many areas turtles are protected by law. You should not touch, attempt to feed, or attempt to “ride” the turtles. For example in Hawaii, if you are caught you can face up to $100,000 in fines and a trip to prison.

Turtle at Black Rock Maui.

Turtle at Black Rock Maui.

Turtles have signs to indicate when they are stressed or feeling harassed:

  • They may “yawn” by opening up their beak over and over again. They are not sleepy, this is a sign that they are irritated and you need to leave them alone. Should you ignore this warning the turtle may attempt to ram and bite you with its beak.
  • The turtle may also use its flipper to swat at you, and you should immediately move away and give them more space.
  • Turtles may also evasively swim away from you, do not follow them. A stressed turtle may avoid coming up for air, and so can die from lack of oxygen.

So make sure to give turtles space and not touch or chase them. Plus you’ll experience them better when they aren’t stressed. It is amazing to just float along and see a turtle eat, come up for air, or just glide along like they are flying.

Old turtle in Belize

Old turtle in Belize, eating sea grass.

You also should educate on turtle nesting grounds and make sure you do not disturb them. At night, it is important not to have lights of flash photography, as this confuses mothers and hatchlings on the direction of the moon. So make sure to wear dark clothes, and have a red-filtered night light. You should also go with a guide so you don’t stomp on the eggs. You also don’t want to surprise or anger females or hatchlings so give them a lot of space. No one should ever handle sea turtle eggs.

Learn more about the conservation effort.
Learn about the different types of Sea Turtles.
And read some Sea Turtle Facts!

Recipe: Apple Chips

One of my favorite healthy snacks to make are Apple Chips. They are so simple, all you really need is parchment paper, apples, cinnamon, and a mandolin slicer.

applechips1

Cut the apples as thing as you can get without them coming out like paper. (Thicker slices will be less crunchy.) I use a mandolin slicer since it makes this step so quick!

Next, put the apples down on parchment paper on a baking sheet. You have the option of sprinkling cinnamon to give it another layer of flavor.

Next preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and place the sheet in. You’ll cook it for 1 hour, then flip each slice and cook for another hour until they crisp up.

apple2
They will keep up to a week and taste delicious!

apple3

For more detailed instructions, check out this recipe.