Archive for February, 2016

Saving money while travelling in the USA

So I thought I’d take a moment and list some of  the things we did to try and stick to a reasonable budget when we were in the USA. Hopefully someone will find it useful.

  1. Transport: Most US cities require a car to get around. Taking taxis/cabs can get expensive fast even if you use Uber. For the Colorado leg of our trip we saved a lot of money by hiring a car through Turo. Turo is like airbnb, but for cars. People rent out their spare car through the site. They get to make some extra money and you get to hire a car at a cheaper rate than the big rental car companies. This was the first time we have used Turo, but it won’t be the last. Not affiliated, just happy customers.
  2. Accommodation: Avoid hotels where possible. The most expensive leg of our trip was in Atlanta where we stayed in a hotel. We much prefer to use airbnb or a similar site to rent accommodation. Here you rent a house or apartment directly from the owner. There are also options to rent single rooms in an occupied house (homestay) like we did in Hawaii. There are a number of advantages:  the daily rate is often cheaper than a hotel and you get a whole house with a kitchen, and laundry facilities. This means that you are able to cook and wash for yourself. Not having buy three meals a day cuts down on daily expenses. Also by staying in a house you get a real sense of the culture and the place and get to do every day things (like shovel snow and shop in a grocery store) that you wouldn’t get to do in a hotel where everything is dedicated to tourists. Also being off the tourist track a bit more helps to uncover hidden gems of places that the locals know about but that may not be obvious to you if you stay in the tourist district.
  3. Food: Where possible we tried to self-cater as much as possible. It was cheaper to buy a box of oatmeal and some fresh fruit for breakfast each day than to eat in a restaurant. Also much healthier. Sandwiches for lunch and then eat out for dinner, or cook a quick meal if you feel like staying in. If you are from Australia or Europe then you will find that American serving sizes are much larger than you are used to and sharing a meal is a viable option, further reducing costs. The most extreme example of this was at a food court in Denver where we ordered a child’s meal for Gorgeous Girl and there was so much food on the plate that the three of us shared it and did not feel the need to buy any more food.
  4. If you are planning on visiting National Parks more than once look into getting a yearly pass. For us it was cheaper to buy a year pass to use for the two weeks we were in Colorado than to pay for single entry each time we visited. The yearly pass paid for itself after the second visit.

Those were the main areas where we were able to put some sanity into the budget. Remember if you are travelling always take out travel insurance.

What about you? Any money saving travel tips to share?

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Last year my scrapbooking mojo pretty much deserted me, so it’s been a while since I’ve played along with any sort of online challenge. However, when I saw the sketch at Let’s Get Sketchy for the first week of February I had to have a go.

Here’s the sketch.

Team A Week 1

I’ve flipped it and added a second photo, but you can still see the inspiration of the sketch.


We went to Germany a few years ago now so that Gorgeous Man could present a paper at a conference. Since we were in the country we made sure to stop at Neuschwanstein Castle, Gorgeous Man has wanted to visit this place for as long as I have known him.


I hand lettered the title. It’s a very simple page, but hopefully it’s enough to kick start my scrapping mojo again.

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We only had a few days in Hawaii, and the highlight of the trip for Gorgeous Girl was the opportunity to try surfing for the first time. We found an instructor who operated away from the main tourist beaches (and hence was much less expensive) and he was great.

Gorgeous Man also took part in the lesson. Before they were allowed in the water with the boards they had to practice on land.


Practicing their moves…surfing2

We had brought Gorgeous Girl’s wetsuit with us and Al the instructor provided a life vest. Gorgeous Girl was very confident in the water thanks to all the snorkelling in Fiji last year, and the life vest added to that water confidence. They started in close to shore.


Standing up with the board supported.


Standing on her own catching a very small wave!


Then it was time to paddle out to the break and catch some real waves.


Gorgeous Girl did really well, unfortunately my camera didn’t zoom that far and all of the pictures of her surfing at the break are blurry. She fell off a few times, but climbed right back on and kept going. She managed to catch a lot of waves  and stood up more than she fell off. The beach was perfect – uncrowded and the water was very calm. I’m pretty sure that she’s going to want to try surfing again on an Australian beach very soon.

Hawaii was a great way to end the trip and I’m hoping that we have created some memories that will stay with us for a very long time.


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After the conference in Atlanta it was time to head home. Gorgeous Man and I spent our 19th wedding anniversary travelling with Gorgeous Girl to Los Angeles and then on to Hawaii where we broke our journey for a few days.

In Hawaii we stayed in accommodation we found through airbnb.com. It was a homestay where a couple rent out rooms in their house to guests. There was one other guest aside from our family. Normally when we use airbnb we rent the entire place and don’t interact with the hosts, so this was first for us to stay in an occupied house. It wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be and I’d do it again. Staying away from a hotel also means that you experience more of life in a place than just the tourist district.

We did a lot of walking in Hawaii and Gorgeous Man did some bird watching. Hawaii has a lot of birds from other places and in one park we spotted birds from South America, Australia, Asia and Africa. My favourite was this little guy.


A Brazilian cardinal.

On one of our walks we found Magic Island and Gorgeous Girl had a swim. She takes every opportunity to get into water, but I have to admit it was kind of surreal given that we’d been in snow just a few days before.


We didn’t stay in any of these fancy hotels 😀


All in all it was a lovely day.

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After a wonderful time in Colorado we got on plane and headed to Atlanta so that I could present a paper at a conference with these very talented people.

Conference participants

I was really honoured to be invited to present with this group of scholars.There was a really interesting range of papers. Some people on the panel I have met before, so it was nice to catch up with them. It was nice to put faces to email addresses for the others.

Gorgeous Man and Gorgeous Girl came to hear these presentations, but for the rest of the time they were out exploring Atlanta. The Lego Museum was a big hit.

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This is the last snow post I promise. On our last day in Estes Park we decided to go sledding again. This time we tried a different location. The hill was a bit steeper and longer. Once again we hired our sleds and set off.

By this time Gorgeous Girl had the steering and management of the sled down pat.

YMCA sledding1

Heading back up the hill.

YMCA sledding2

I managed to get better photos of Gorgeous Man this time. Since we were the only people there (it was a school day), it was easier to get closer to the action.

YMCA sledding3



Another family turned up and Gorgeous Girl and their little girl had great fun riding in tandem on  their sleds. They had a tube. Here’s Gorgeous Girl’s method of carrying it up the hill for their little girl. (I’ve cut their girl out of the picture).


And more conventionally.


Yes, she really was wearing short sleeves in the snow…

I have to admit that I didn’t really like sledding on the plastic sleds. They felt too fast and out of control for me. I also took a pretty good tumble out of one on this hill. Nothing was hurt, but I rolled over a few times. The other family persuaded me to have a go on the tube and I really enjoyed it. Much more my pace and I felt a lot more secure in it.

It was a great way to spend our last day in Colorado.



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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I love to knit. One of the great ironies of my life is that right now I live in a place where it is never, ever, cool enough to wear knitted items. Knits get carefully stored in anticipation of a visit to a cold place. I’m a process knitter, in that I enjoy the process and the finished item is of secondary importance, but still, it’s nice to actually wear the things I’ve made from time to time.

Looking through some photos of me on our trip I was happy to see the knitwear appearing.


Hat is handspun and hand knit and the shawl is knitted in Nurturing Fibres sock yarn. This shawl is reflective of my life in the last few years. The yarn was bought in South Africa, the shawl was knitted while on a research trip to the USA in 2013 (collecting material for my thesis) and finished once I got home to Papua New Guinea…


This is handspun. The fibre was from Nurturing Fibres. I spun this several years ago, but didn’t get around to knitting it up until last year.

Gorgeous Man and Gorgeous Girl also sported hand knit hats (sadly Gorgeous Man’s hat got lost in Atlanta). Gorgeous Girl’s hat was handspun and it always makes me happy to see her wearing things I’ve made.

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Crafty shopping

My outing with Sam was not the only visit I made to a yarn store. Once we had unloaded our gear at the cabin we headed into Estes Park to get some groceries. I had used the fabulous Trip Planner tool on Ravelry to discover that there were two yarn stores in the town and so I had my eyes out for them. Imagine my joy when we parked right across the street from The Stitchin’ Den. Some yarn came home with me. I think this store was a little smaller and less overwhelming than Fancy Tiger.


The neon is for Gorgeous Girl and the Tofutsies is for me. I’ve been wanting to try this yarn for a while and this was the first time I’d seen it in person.

We also visited a Jo-Ann’s so that Gorgeous Girl could pick up some embroidery thread for making friendship bracelets and this fell into my hands.


Gorgeous Girl has taken a liking to hand knitted face washers (wash cloths) and so I’m happy to indulge.

We also visited The Loopy Ewe, but I was very restrained and only picked up some new needles for myself. Gorgeous Girl made a beeline for the fabric (she has a fabric stash even though she doesn’t sew very often) and half a yard of this came home with us.


I wish the exchange rate had been a bit kinder to us as they had so much lovely fabric that I dearly wanted to bring home.

And that my friends is the sum total of crafty purchasing while we were in the USA. We won’t talk about the scrapbooking supplies I bought on return to Australia so that I could scrap the last few trips we’ve made…expect to see them appearing on layouts soon.

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I have been reading Sam’s blog Madfabriholic for a number of years now. I really admire her quilts and knitting, and was thrilled to be able to meet up with her when we visited the USA.

She graciously set aside a day and, along with her lovely daughter, took me to her favourite yarn and fabric stores. Our first stop was Fancy Tiger Crafts. I have to admit that I was a tad overwhelmed by the selection available and only ended up with some fabric and a few stitch markers.  I only got two because I haven’t tried this kind before and wanted to make sure I liked them before buying a whole stack.


I’m not sure what I’ll make with it yet, so it’s going to marinate in the stash for a while.

Next up we visited Colorful Yarns. I was feeling a little less overwhelmed by then and some yarn came home with me. I also found the type of stitch markers that I had been looking for and so added a packet of them as well.


This is yak yarn. I’m really excited to give this a try! Just need to find the perfect pattern for it.

We then had a very tasty meal at a Mexican restaurant whose name escapes me and a wander around a mall for a while.

visiting with a blogging friend

Thanks for the wonderful day Sam it was great to meet you.


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Feedback from family (grandparents) and friends is that they are enjoying the holiday pictures, so we will continue…

We watch a lot of nature documentaries. Gorgeous Man and Gorgeous Girl are committed bird watchers and Gorgeous Girl has her own life list of birds that she adds to. [Side note: if you are coming to Papua New Guinea and you are interested in birds do get in touch Gorgeous Man frequently hosts visiting bird enthusiasts].

One of the documentaries that we watch often is about North America and has a segment on elk who wander through a town during the summer. The town featured on the documentary is Estes Park, so we were really hoping to see some of the native wild life while we were visiting. We had a competition going to see who could spot the first animal. I won with a sighting of these elk. These were spotted as we were driving to the National Park.


I have to say I was really charmed by the beautiful houses in Colorado. I’m very partial to the use of wood and there were lots of wooden houses around.

Inside the Rocky Mountain National Park we spotted these mule deer.


I love the new camera I got for an early birthday present last year. It has a much larger zoom than my old one which makes taking animal photos much more satisfying.

More deer having a rest.


But we didn’t have to go into the National Park to see animals. There was great excitement (from all of us) when these guys turned up in the front yard.


There were quite curious, but didn’t stay for long.


We also saw these guys up close in town.



But much to our disappointment didn’t spot any moose.

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