How I handle the endless paper on a long trip


This is not a paperless society yet. At least my life is not paper free. When we travel, I always have a huge stack of confirmations, tickets, directions, reminders, etc. The good news is I have found a system which really works for me; a Japanese folder system from Sedia called Sepal Out-In. I use Penco thin transparent folders to sub categorize hotel/car/ restaurants/ activities/ tickets/ misc. They aren’t designed to go with the Out-In Folder, but I find they work marvelously to keep me organized. The inside gets a clip with the flight itinerary and the back gets a printout of the master itinerary. As we finish adventures I toss applicable paper and it shrinks down. The empty sections become catchalls for ephemera.

IMG_6686 I pre-organize everything by date/location. Then I don’t have to sift through the paper piles en route, using paperclips to hold related pieces together (like a hotel confirmation and the directions). The papers get put in order by date and are arranged in the transparent folders, which then go into the Out-In Holder. The system has now been tested on multiple adventures with multiple car/hotel/restaurant reservations.

I highly recommend a trip to Maido in San Francisco; they carry both products but don’t sell them online. Similar folders are likely available at most Japanese stationary stores. The folders come in various sizes. I have them in A4 size which fits standard printer paper. I choose the transparent Penco folders in different patterns or colors (there’s some that maybe aren’t Penco but have beautiful designs on them – maybe made by Miyabi?). The different colors/patterns allow me to easily grab the “restaurant” sub-folder without having to think twice. The transparency of this system makes the papers I need easy to find. I can grab the hotel “subfolder” without having to pull out the whole Out-In binder. The plastic is super slippery, folders slide in and out very easily when you need them, but are kept in place by the design (so that papers don’t fall).

When I return home, I transfer the remaining papers into a travel file and then set up the folders for the next trip. They are very sturdy and I haven’t managed to damage one yet. They are expensive, but an investment which saves time and frustration. These folders would also work beautifully for a project.


Maido SF

Midori (who make similar system folder)



Planning the Scandinavian Adventure 2013 – The First Installment

Crazy strange people that we are, the trip we are planning to take involves no overnight cruises. A driving tour of Scandinavia may be a novel concept for most vacationers, but it fits our style to wander the countryside. In Europe these types of trips are packaged and called Self-Drive Tours where you rent a car and travel around to a pre-set itinerary. I won’t be signing up for a self-drive tour, but I will be looking at what they consider the highlights of an area before making a decision of whether the offerings are attractive enough to make a detour.

The planning of 4 country adventure by car is a daunting task and I’m just starting to piece things together. The first challenge is to find the perfect number of days for the adventure. The second is to find a place to stay about every four and half hour or less car trip. Long drives are tough for adults but suicidal with most kids/teens. Generally we like to stay 3-4 days at a location and usually aim for a minimum of 2. That means I have to find the perfect sleeping spot about four hours away from the last one. There are logistical problems to tackle as well; namely what to do with the car when you get to a city or want to take a train ride which sends you to a new location. We are not light travelers, so luggage is always a concern as is laundry. Generally we pack 7 days of clothing on a 3-4 week trip we have to find laundry facilities at least twice.

This is the first post of hopefully many in the planning process. I’ll be throwing links in at the bottom of the post which I’m using to help with the planning.

Things I’ll be looking for are: Castles/Ruins, Gardens, Places of Historical Interest, Interesting Architectural or Cultural Buildings, Restaurant destinations, Wildlife Parks, Mazes, Places of Natural Beauty, Day adventures (like glacier walking, fjord cruising, train rides, fishing, hiking), Aquariums, Museums/Art Galleries, Glass blowing experiences…

Here are some websites I’m bookmarking… The all-important restaurant short list will be my next post-in-progress :)
Countryside Hotels – Sweden
Self- Drive Scandinavia
Profil Hotels
Smultronstallen Hotel
Svenskamoten Hotels (Business & Meeting Hotels – Sweden)
Kloster Hotel
Aland – Things to do with Family

The place of the lakes

The haul from Low Sizergh Barn in our Coniston cottage's kitchen

In the Lake District

Time to leave Bath and head north. The big 4+ hour drive to the Lake District was ahead of us. We rented a luxury self-catering cottage near Coniston for a week, so that was our destination. The plan was to stop enroute and buy supplies for the week ahead, so that when we arrived we would be basically set up.

We got a good start in the morning and set off for the Lake District via the M5. Big mistake and good thing we had lunch on board. The M5 ground to a full parking lot halt just south of Birmingham. After about an hour and a half it was clear that things were not going to be moving anytime soon. Police arrived and started backing cars up and turning them around and then exiting them via the last exit. So much fun to drive the wrong direction on the M. Apparently a truck had crossed the barrier into oncoming traffic, taking out a Mercedes. Needless to say I was happy it was not our Mercedes. It was a huge mess and the highway was closed for hours and hours.

We managed to figure out a detour, found the M6 and made it to Low Sizergh Barn before they closed, but no time to visit the castle. With the entire back of the car full of local food, we headed to No. 1 Silverbank in Coniston. The last time we stayed in the Lake District we stayed much farther east and north at Lowther Farm – a lovely place which arranged for Organic chicken and eggs. We found that sourcing organic, artisan and local food challenging. Believe or not the best place was the Westmoreland Farms Motorway stop. Low Sizergh Barns has a great reputation for stocking all that and more, and although I was disappointed it didn’t have a butcher shop, we were not disappointed and got most things we needed.

What we bought at Low Sizergh Barn

What we Bought at Low Sizergh Barn

The cottage awaited us in the rain. It was a bit farther to bring the bags in than I had planned and the bedrooms were all upstairs, but the cottage itself was nicely decorated and I was super pleased to find the kitchen had lots of utensils, pans & a full freezer! The plan was to BBQ. I am not the primary BBQ-er in the family, so I set out to investigate. There was a fancy BBQ up where the patio furniture was. I sent Jack out to hunt for charcoal and he found the last quarter of a bag. With that in hand, a box of matches, and some newspaper I set to get something lit. The charcoal left was little pieces and powder. It was raining and windy. Did I mention it was raining? Using a crazy number of matches, I got it lit. After a while I had enough heat to actually cook something so I threw on the burgers and steak and the buns. It was still windy but the rain had mostly let up. We ate burgers and steak and salad. It was not my best meal ever but it was edible.

The next morning, T & J both woke up with colds. I started with homeopathic remedies and we called it a movie day. It was pouring outside and the cottage came stocked with lots of DVDs. We watched Nanny McPhee and Inception. The rain let up and we threw ourselves together and went out to Gilpin Lodge for dinner. Dinner was very good and Trent was a trooper making it through a long dinner. The next day we managed to do almost nothing at all. I started some bread dough with the biodynamic stone ground flour I had scored. We had a lazy morning with a big breakfast which set off the smoke alarm (this would not be the last time.)

Stoneground Biodynamic Flours from the Lake District

Stoneground Biodynamic Flours from the Lake District

We headed out in the afternoon to Ambleside in hopes of getting Organic Milk and Coffee Beans. Don’t laugh too hard. Neither was acquired, but we did manage some psuedo-local milk. Apparently where we needed to go was Booths in Windermere. Jack scored a sweatshirt which got lots of use on the trip. Trent’s cold was better but not perfect. I still was managing not to get it. An ‘off’ day was a huge luxury, but a much needed one. I made a fire, baked bread and roasted a chicken (oh why oh why didn’t I bring my instant thermometer??) Despite my best efforts to ruin it, the chicken turned out perfectly and dinner was delicious.
Scallops at Gilpin Lodge

Scallops at Gilpin Lodge

Next up: Recovery Day Aquarium.

Crossing the Pond To Bath…

A blissfully uneventful trip to Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic was living up to the reputation – mostly. I think it was fortunate that T & J had a full snack at the Virgin lounge before the flight. The food was still eyebrow raising (steak & mushroom pie, resembled nothing you can imagine) but generally it was a smooth transfer. The young traveler had chosen not to sleep on the plane until the the very end – about 10mins before landing, so of course I was kissing him awake at the gate. 14 miles of walking, and a bus haul on, haul off later, landed us at Hertz rent a car to pick up the Volvo we had booked. To my surprise Jack drives up in a R300 Mercedes. Not sure if that was a score (jury is out on that) but certainly a touch more luxury than we had expected.

It came with a navigation system, and I’m starting to get good at these, so I actually managed to program it with directions to Stonehenge within 30mins, unfortunately that wasn’t before a detour had sent us off in the wrong direction – definitely the closest to Hampton Court that I’ve come. Trent was sound asleep again and missed all the signs to Legoland, Windsor Castle, etc.

He was still asleep when we made it to Stonehenge, but I did my best to wake him up and he begrudging tottered after me, extra growly. With about 5 mins viewing in the wind and cold. Onwards to Bath. The Nav system managed to take us through downtown Bath at rush hour delaying the process, and then didn’t actually find the hotel, but between googlemaps and the hotel directions we detoured quickly and managed to find it.

I chose the Bath Priory as it was a small hotel in our price range. We were greeted warmly and our bags whisked away to our room. I love the UK & European (although not all countries) practice of trust. No need for a credit check or ID swipe when you arrive. You simply are checked in by showing up for your reservation.

We were shown to the Tulip room, a lovely room in yellow, with a small sitting area, desk, dining table and a comfortable bed at the end of the house overlooking the garden. A towel turned into an elephant and a games book and colored pencils greeted our young guest. Note: there is a nursery school a few doors up – and the sound of children playing can be heard during the day.

We tried out room service for dinner as we needed something to eat without the hassle of getting dressed to go downstairs for dinner. T & I ate our toasted sandwiches in PJs while watching the British version of Wipeout. Jack ordered a lovely bottle of Burgundy which lulled us into sleep, and I managed to sleep through the night beating jetlag for the 1st time in while.

Off to adventure… We headed out into Bath, finding the Royal Crescent and a parking spot – but alas we had no coins to get a parking pass so we headed deeper into the town. We found a newsstand and a parking spot on Gay Street, just south of the circus and headed for the Fashion Museum/Assembly rooms. A quick visit (I was fascinated, the boys, not so much), we noted the oldest dress in the collection (17th C), the oldest gloves William Shakespeare’s time, Queen Victoria’s black dress and the oldest white wedding dress (from 1828). I was taken with the parasol collection. We also breezed through their more modern fashion display seeing some evolution of fashion in general and then their special Helmut Lang exhibit.

We went in search of Liz Cox (the bath bag maker) but her store was closed, so we headed for Indian Food for lunch, finding that the restaurant of our memory was not the right one, but had a pleasant lunch at Bengal Brasserie anyways. T spotted ThreeAs Martin robot figures on the way back. So he and I stopped in while Jack headed to the car as our parking time was running out. Lovely parking ticket on our car saddened the mood, as somehow we had managed to get a 1hr not a 2hr parking voucher, but we brushed it off and headed for the Roman Baths.


Roman Baths were not enrapturing but gave us an insight into the origins of Bath. Memorable highlights were the Gorgon and the cooling bath. The piles of tiles to raise the (no longer existing) floating floor were an interesting concept. We managed a bit of shopping and scored a sim chip for the ipad in town before heading back to the car.

Dinner was off the cuff, and Jack chose a restaurant at the Queensbury Hotel called the Olive Branch. The chef is lively and the dishes were surprisingly delicious. Care is obviously taken both in the kitchen and upfront where the owner keeps charge. The children’s menu was a first for us, offering some real food choices and (drum roll please) offering any menu item at 1/2 charge. The child’s menu plate was elaborately garnished like ours were. A lovely dining experience.


Tomorrow’s adventures: A Circle, A Maze & Some Famous Arches.

Cumbria (The Lake District), Northumberland & Bath, Oh My!

This latest adventure is taking us to the UK. As always I research trips and cross reference and note links and save and print and search some more. In the spirit of all of that I’ve saved some of the links I used in researching this latest pond jump. Perhaps they will help you plan a future trip. Do what thou wilt with them.


Roman Baths

Bath Fashion Museum

Visit Bath

Bath – Maps

Stone Circles:

Stone Circles Wiki

Google Map of Avebury

Sights to See in Northumberland:

Northumberland National Park

Farne Islands Boat Trip

Lindisfarne – The Holy Isle


Kielder Water & Forest Park

Northumberland – What not to miss

Kielder Birds of Prey Center

Cumbria Sights to See & Cumbria Food Links

Muncaster – World Owl Trust

Ravenglass Railway

Cumbria Organic Food Delivery

Cumbria Food Delivery

Some Cumbria Food Links

Lake District Food

Artisan Food – Lake District

Ambleside Restaurants

Historic Cookery/ Cooking Classes

Yew Tree Farm

Travel in Northumberland & & Oxfordshire & Cumbria Accommodation & General:

National Trust Cottages

Luxury TA

Britain’s Finest

Coastal Retreats

Accomdation near Vindolanda

Mulberry Cottage in Oxfordshire

Mazes to Note:

Notable Mazes

The Shape of Things to Come… and what has come before…


So it’s almost May. The garden is planted thanks to Forni-Brown-Welsh Gardens (where we acquired this year’s heirloom tomato, pepper, melon, squash & eggplant starts), the birds are singing, and I think the rain may be done by the end of the week. That means to us that it’s Travel Time again. This year we chose simple and easy, over a long journey with many stops. This year it’s just 4 locations, one country and almost 4 weeks of exploring. I will tell you more as that unfolds.


The current state of affairs, is winding up loose threads in the winter life. Lampworking at GlassFusion Studios with Goldy has pinnacled at glassblowing. T’s first glassblowing was a huge success and eyeopener. He’s not quite big enough to do full scale glass blowing, I think, but this was a step towards it and lifted the veil. His 1st ornament is lovely. The other pieces he made; a tank, a plant stake and a cased glass mushroom, were all stunning.


Our PMC ring projects finally were finished. We work with Mary Neuer Lee and she is just amazing. My mother’s ring was one of my best I’ve done with a cherry blossom band set with a ruby. I also created a pirate treasure ring with an Alexandrite and a maze band set with a garnet, which I may never take off.


We went trout fishing last week. A first fishing trip for both Trent & I. He caught 10 fish, the biggest was 17″ long. It will not be our last trip, as fishing was a colossal hit. We went to a trout farm in Calistoga called Smith’s Mountain St. Helena Trout Farm. A great all-round first experience with bamboo fishing poles and a non-live bait. We’re all set to poke pole fish at the beach in June.

Next week is a Baseball game, a Magic: The Gathering Draft, a trip to Alcatraz & a party celebrating the early release of Sifteo small interactive fun educational cubes which we’ve been privileged to play with over the last couple weeks.


It’s certainly been quite a month. A Birthday, Spring Celebrations, Exploratorium Science Classes, a Bouverie Hike, filled the month full of color and energy, bubbles & butter. Kapla made a resurgence, requiring a revisit to marble runs and some new color planks, an RC helicopter has been a smash hit, Zometools have been utilized to make bubbles on a number of occasions, ATCs (artist trading cards) were finished and sent out, washi eggs were created, science class sparked interest in tops, rockets, butter & tin foil ovens…


Other wildness and new passions have been the launch of our own Minecraft server, T’s 1st Skype acct and Steam. Between that and youtube videos about the above, Magic: The Gathering and the ipad app EDEN (a Minecraft-like app), it’s been a whirlwind of activity at our house.


Did I mention that The Sketchbook Project 2012 event has been announced… All of our sketchbooks have been viewed as they’ve been traveling around the country. I can’t tell you the excitement at getting an email “Your Sketchbook Has Been Viewed In xxxx”!

Are you tired yet? I am. But there’s much much more ahead… We’re already planning well into August. The sky is the limit… Off we go…


Too many moments to recount

I find myself deeply ensconced in March without hardly any memory of February. The whirlwind of our winter is tinged with days at the parks, magic, science, skiing, tennis, PMC and lampworking. The whirlwind has been good though, we’ve produced things, made discoveries, had experiences and lived a lot. There have been giggles and cuddly moments. The ‘days off’ have been met with the languid pleasure of not having to move too quickly. The sparks have had time to catch. I’m sure you know what I mean.

I’m creating. T is creating.

We’ve both made rings. Rings that we can wear. More than 1 now. So exciting to work with real silver and real gemstones. I made a bracelet with Mary Neuer Lee. She is awesome and we have so much fun working with her. Trent is loving working with Davin learning the art of lampworking. They are using borosilicate glass, so he has special glasses and kevlar arm protectors.

Our Sketchbooks are in Austin, Texas right now. I’m thrilled when I get an email that someone has opened mine. T & I are also participating in Photomobile. I think we will take our cameras on our next adventure. Who knows what we might capture in Sin City.

Did I mention that we are adventuring again? Two trips are planned and detailed. I will tell you more as I have more to tell.

and I’m roasting coffee… more on that tomorrow…

I’ll leave you with bracelet that Trent designed for Claire.

New Sparks & The Continuing Quest for Adventure

A new passion was discovered this week: Beading. I’ve always been partial to jewelry and have a good collection of bits and pieces I’ve accumulated over the years including stray beads and broken necklaces. I must have imagined that someday I might learn to string beads.

Dateline 2010 – Jewelry making has been demystified! Better yet Trent is enthralled by the tactile nature of the beads and the colors and choices. Who would have ever guessed I’d be ready to haul out that collection and start stringing it up! We’ve made 4 bracelets, 2 necklaces and 3 pairs of earrings so far this week!

Perhaps the most exciting part is Trent’s enthusiasm for this new medium. He hasn’t lost interest in glass at all, but he loves beading almost as much. He also seeing the parallels and is curious how to make beads. He’s also eyeing the hammers and anvils, so I expect silverworking may be next on our agenda. For the moment I think we’ll take this slowly and evolve with time.

Look for us on Etsy sometime soon.

Felting is the other tactile art we’ve been working with over the last month and again Trent is taken by the color and feel. I couldn’t believe how easy cookie cutter felting was. We’ve invested in some more roving and tools so I expect some cute critters to be born in the coming months.

Meanwhile I’ve almost got the whole summer booked (I know it’s April). The activity and camp choices are diverse and exciting and the best ones fill up quickly. Looks like it will truly be a summer of adventure!

Trent is thrilled to be going to a new location in San Francisco – A Curious Summer – I bet you can’t guess which session he chose!

Baseball season had officially begun. We celebrated by attending our 1st A’s game in Oakland vs the Mariners. Then we drove home for Trent’s 1st game. He played 2nd & 3rd base.

Trip Update: 10 hotels booked in 6 countries. Car booked. 10 restaurants booked. Trip is a go!
We’re scouring websites and I’m noting exciting locales and dining spots along the way.

I have 40 tomato plants begging to be planted… so maybe this week we will manage to get them into the ground. This week we’ll be tasting popcorn & lemonade for a 4-H project; helping to plan a party, talking about Charlie & the Chocolate Factory at Book Club, visiting the dentist and going to see the SF Symphony.

The Trials & Tribulations of Planning.

One month after my 1st trip planning post and we still have not booked anything. No air. No hotel. No Car. Are we even going? I have piles of maps and guidebooks. I’ve watched 3 travel videos. I can draw a map of our proposed route in my head, on a napkin, in my dreams… I’m conversant with hotel options in multiple countries… Today there were so many Firefox tabs open on cross checks and searches and maps I had to restart the computer.

Clean slate now… What do I do…

We’ve re-shifted dates. X-ed out the Rhine and the Black Forest as a stay-location. Now the current dilemma is how to get from the Mosel in Germany to Alto Adige in Italy while maximizing the exploration experience, squeezing in a day in the Rhine, an afternoon or morning at Legoland Germany and making sure we manage the Romantic Road *and* that we have to time see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. Too much? Maybe. The big concern is that on a sight-seeing day we don’t park with luggage in the car. Now I challenge you to make a schedule that works! That is currently my lot.

Then there’s the hotel perplexity. The hotel I want to go to after the Wachau is fully booked on certain days. So we have to land there on a certain night if we’re going to stay there. Generally my argument is that’s close to the Czech border and the train stations – making it ideal for a day trip to Prague. The weekend we’ve chosen to be in the Italian Alps is obviously a busy weekend which is also limiting our choices there. If we shift so we spend extra days to cover all the mid trip stuff we want to see then we end up not being able to stay at specific hotels (which are in excellent locations, like the one near Prague). There’s also a voice saying “you need to stay around in Italy longer”. But we have to get back by the 20th of May, preferably before.

Meanwhile I’ve ruled out all the Amsterdam hotels I started with. The hotel in Belgium I wanted to stay at is booked the 3 days we want to stay there. If we use a Euro car rental we can drive to Italy but not the Czech Republic. We have a friend traveling in the Mosel & Wachau, so we’re trying to coordinate dates so that a winery visit might work in both locations. Of course there’s also the laundry factor which I won’t even get into.

Shall I go on? Probably not. This is just not that interesting if you aren’t in the middle of it. Rest assured, some resolution will occur. I just hope it’s sooner than later.

Castles to Visit in the Wachau, Austria

Turns out that we’ll be likely visiting Austrian Wine Country after all – and maybe even squeeze in a day in Vienna. There are some castles to visit too – some ruined and a lovely looking one called Rosenberg and an opulent restored one called Grafenegg. One of the castle ruins is the one that Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned at Durenstein.

Schloss Artstetten


Schloss Greillenstein

Ruins of Aggstein

and if we want some glass history: Zalto Crystal

To get around – this card looks like it gives a discount at Austrian Attractions but I will investigate further.