Margarita Monday: It’s important. Really.

I didn’t know what to expect when I moved in with my best friend, but I never guessed we’d actually see less of each other. It turns out we have sort of opposite schedules/social lives. That’s why what started as a “oh-hey-we-live-by-a-Mexican-restaurant-let’s-go-there” moment one Monday has blossomed into a sacrosanct weekly ritual: Margarita Monday.

There’s actually only about a 50% chance it will involve margaritas, but if it does there’s a 100% chance it will also involve online shopping and regret. Basically, this is our time dedicated to catching up with one another. Despite the fact that we are never actually out of touch. It’s just that text messages like this – although constant – are not enough.

photo 1

She gets me.

photo 2

We are the same, yet different.

photo 3

Honesty.

Margarita Monday roommate time is my favorite thing about living in this new apartment – aptly nicknamed the “Nerd Haven.” If you have the chance, I recommend having an awesome best friend and moving in with her and catching up with her in person at least once a week.

If that’s not possible, have a margarita. You deserve it more than I do.

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Dedicated To My Roommate

A few days ago, I met up with someone I hadn’t talked to since early August. She asked me what was new in my life, and I laughed in her face.

There’s just a lot going on right now, guys.

One of the best things to happen to me recently – and probably in all of 2013 – is acquiring a roommate. This is not usually the top of the list for the almost-thirty crowd, but my roommate is not a stranger I’ve found on Craigslist; she is my best friend hetero-lifemate, Lacy. Who I found on Craigslist.

No, that’s not true, I found her in high school.  A dozen years later, we’ve finally fulfilled our teenage dream to get an apartment together and fill it with books. Nerds in high school, nerds 4 life!

So far, living together has resulted in texts like this:

text

And notes like this:

note

And nights like this:

night

Currently, we’re following up our traditional Margarita Monday (two weeks is a tradition, right?) with some Futurama in our pjs. She doesn’t know I’m writing this. And she just texted me an emoticon of Zoidberg from the other side of our couch.

So far living with my best friend is as amazing as I imagined it would be, but with more cartoons.

I know; it won’t always be this way. Check back in six months, and maybe the “Dedicated To My Roommate” post will be nothing but “It’s YOUR Turn To Re-Alphabetize The Books” or “If You Drank All The Wine I Will Eat Your Babies.” But right now, it’s great. It’s comfortable, and comforting, and more than I could have asked for.

Life is not perfect, but my life has some very good people in it. I’m lucky to be on this adventure with one of the best.

#Winterfest Dos and Don’ts (From Me to Future Me)

I am a lucky girl. I love great beer – and I happen to live in the Twin Cities, where the craft brew culture is booming. I also love great events – and this past weekend, I got to go to one of the year’s best: Winterfest.

This was actually my second year at the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild event, and both years have been great. And, well, learning experiences. I am already hoping to go again next year, so this is basically a list for Future Rachel. Still, you may as well reap the benefits of my beer-tasting wisdom, internet strangers.

So it begins.

So it begins.

Do obsessively hit “page refresh” for ten minutes before the tickets go on sale. The event is capped at 750 people, and sells out in seconds. I’ve managed to get tickets for two years in a row using this highly scientific method, and also dark magic.

Do eat before you go. Yes, they have food at the event, and it’s included in the price. I bet it’s pretty great, too. Last year I think I ate some cheese; this year I completely missed out on all of it. Whatever you do, don’t go to a 3-hour all-you-can-drink craft beer event on an empty stomach. Rookie mistake (that you only make once).

Do gloat about this event taking place in St. Paul, the right side of the river.

Do your research. Look through the program and have a top ten list of brews you do not want to miss, and find those first. Things do run out, plus you want to try the snobbiest stuff (technical term) before your tongue goes numb. Also, if I hadn’t looked over the program, I might have totally missed the Sugar Shack Maple Stout from Third Street Brewhouse. It’s made with Saint John’s Maple Syrup from the Arboretum where I used to work. I really like it, but with a pedigree like that, how could I not?

This has nothing to do with beer, but any time I bring up my time at the Arb I like to remind people I did this once.

Look, I know this has nothing to do with beer, but this is the most badass picture of me in existence and it was taken at the Arboretum, so I’m sharing it again.

Do bring your ID, a pen, and your tallest friend. The ID is obvious. The pen is for taking notes and/or writing your phone number on strangers’ hands. And the tall friend is easy to find in a crowd, and can also find you if/when you wander off.

Do dress appropriately. For some that means warm boots and gloves. For others an outfit you can easily sleep in on your friend’s couch. For me that means both.

Do find the Excelsior Brewing Company booth and take pictures of the staff; when you find them on your camera the next morning, understand that you will be left with more questions than answers:

They just posed like this, without any direction. Naturals.

Probably this was towards the end of the night.

Don’t be embarrassed when you spot someone you met and talked to for half an hour at a past a beer event and you can’t remember her name. She doesn’t remember your name, either.

Don’t force yourself to finish anything you don’t like. Give it to your tall friend who seems to like all the things you don’t (another reason you brought him), and find something you like better.

Don’t be afraid to not love the things everyone else loves. There may be a time and a place for me to drink Barley John’s award-winning Dark Knight Returns; that time was not two hours into the event, after an uncertain number of other pours, when I knew it was a really heavy hitter. Some other night, DKR.

Don’t live-tweet the event.

livetweet

MNBeer.com knows what I’m talking about, or wants me to shut up.

Do make an active effort to find and drink water.

Don’t get upset when one of your brewer friends makes fun of you for drinking water. He’s working and therefore sober, and definitely laughing at your slightly slurry, indignant response.

Do make friends. It’s fine if you don’t pay attention to her last name. You’ll think of something.

Legit beer friends.

The truest form of friendship.

Do have a safe drive lined up. Even if you cancel on your original safe drive to catch a ride with your new friend, Stephanie Beer and her boyfriend, Sober Dan.

Don’t go to the Onion afterwards. Just don’t. You hate that place. It never ends well for you there.

....Best laid plans...

….Best laid plans…

Do expect your best friend to text back: “UGH, RACHEL, you hate that place!” because she knows you.

Don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning and think, “I’ve felt better.” But since you remembered to eat before the event, and drank plenty of water, you’re actually in pretty good shape and will be up as soon as you have some coffee.

So there you have it. That’s how you semi-sensibly enjoy one of the best beer events in the Twin Cities.

(But seriously, don’t go to the Onion next year.)

Social/Life

A while back, I went to a totally not embarrassing concert and mused about what the experience would have been like if I’d been able to “live-Tweet” during it. Would it take away from the experience, or would it add to it? At the time, I didn’t have a smartphone, so sharing the experience while it was happening was not an option. Well, now I have one, and after figuring out the basics I’ve managed to become a slight oversharer.

Instagrammed photo of bird poop on my car

“I appear to have deeply offended a large bird.”  Okay, a huge oversharer.

I keep making vague promises to myself that I’ll settle down, but the honeymoon phase between me and my new friend Siri has overlapped with the start of summer. Like any true Minnesotan, I’m not about to let this all-too-brief season slip by. What people in less volatile climates do in a year, I’m going to try to do in three months.

That’s not anything new; last summer, you may recall, I did plenty of things. The difference is now I can share my nonsense in real time.

I think we can all agree this might not always be a good thing.

Dog of Censorship

Someone needs to invent a “Dog of Censorship” App ASAP.

Anyway. Last Saturday, I took myself to another totally not embarrassing concert at the Target Center: Aerosmith. And because I love Aerosmith for no and beyond all reason, my guess from last year’s NKOTBSB concert was not far off – once Steven Tyler hit the stage, I basically just went “Squeee!” and forgot about the ability to share/brag beyond one fairly good picture:

Steven Tyler Instagram

Instagram gets the save on this one.  Some of that confetti is still in my purse.

That (amazing) experience over, I thought I’d answered my own question about how I’d use social media at events. I’d managed to do some sharing while staying in the (really amazing) moment. And anyway, I’d blown my summer budget on that (really, REALLY amazing) ticket, so I didn’t expect to get the chance to try it out again for a while.

Less than 24 hours later, I found myself enjoying some Trampled By Turtles from the comfort of the terrace view at Target Field. Since I didn’t know about the bonus concert until I got to the Twins game, and since I was an hour early for the game thanks to my pops, I had to share the news of my good fortune.

All the mascots at the Twins Game

I was too disturbed by the presence of literally all the mascots to take a picture of TBT, however.

This caused a tiny uproar amongst some die-hard TBT fans I call my friends, but more importantly, it made my pops wonder why I kept looking at my phone. As much fun as it would have been to keep spreading the joy/jealousy of a bonus concert (not to mention a 15-inning baseball game), it was more fun to enjoy Father’s Day with my pops. (We actually only made it through 11 innings and I did respond to a few messages, but hey. We tried.)

After determining that “losing your mind to your favorite band” and “hanging out with your father” are not quite the right times to go live-Tweeting, social-sharing crazy, I struck upon a much better opportunity: the River’s Edge Music Festival in St. Paul on Saturday.

I managed to win free tickets* last week and took Lacy, another twenty-something with a smartphone, and we did it all. We admired the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria‘s magical hair. We blew our budgets on outrageously overpriced beer. We held a few inebriated souls upright in the Sublime with Rome crowd. We soaked in some much needed sun rays to the tunes of Blaqstarr. We lost our voices to Tool. We Facebooked, Instagrammed, Tweeted, sang and danced.

We shared a wonderful day with each other, and then we shared jokes about it on the internet. And that, #youguys, is the best balance of social media and social life I’ve found yet.

girls who look like girls

Just your average Tool fans.

*I won 2 single-day tickets through a Twitter contest, which is awesome. However, the publication which ran the contest was non-responsive about how to get my tickets until two days before the concert despite three attempts to contact them, then they told me (twice) to pick up my tickets at will-call at the River Centre (which is a place in St. Paul, but has nothing to do with the River’s Edge Festival). Finally, the tickets, which were not at the regular will-call at the event either but rather at the media tent, were not for “either day” as promised, but for Sunday only. Luckily two very nice Live Nation employees took my declaration that “75 minutes of Tool is infinitely better than 3 hours of Dave Matthews Band” seriously, and switched the tickets for me. Despite this rant, I did get in completely free, so thank you, Live Nation; less of a thank you, publication with really poor communication/customer service skills.

Luck of the Norwegian: An Essay from the Archives 2

This was written about St. Patrick’s Day 2009 – a memorable but odd one for sure:

I got my St. Patrick’s kicks in a little early this year, choosing to make bad decisions on a Saturday rather than a Tuesday.  Does that make it a good decision?  Call it a wash.  Anyway, my weekend was great, aside from the parts where I felt like dying.  The other parts were too much fun, and I would do those parts again (which pretty much means I’ll do the “feel like dying” parts again, too).

The actual St. Patrick’s day was going to be low-key, but ended up pretty bizarre.  First of all, there were drunk nuns before noon.  Always entertaining.  Then there was a phone call from my mom, letting me know my dad was in the hospital because of a work accident (found a chlorine gas leak with his face), but he didn’t want me to come home because I should “stay there and make money.”  I never listen to my dad; he never makes sense.  So instead, I spent about two and a half hours in the ICU, watching my pops take in oxygen and watch NCIS.  It was exactly like hanging out with my dad at home, except with a few extra tubes and wires.

Around seven, the doctor checked dad’s O2 levels and sent us all home, telling him not to smoke for a few days because it would irritate the acid in his lungs.  The acid in his lungs.  I take that to mean “don’t smoke because IT WILL MAKE YOU BLOW UP,” and dad takes it to mean “Gonna smoke anyway, because I like a challenge.”  My dad: surviving things he shouldn’t for half a century.

And that’s how I ended my St. Patrick’s day: watching my dad watch NCIS (at home this time) and thinking not about my Irish ancestors, but my Norwegian ones, and wondering if I might inherit some of their luck.  And their ridiculously hearty lungs.

Note: Dad’s lungs are not quite so hearty anymore, but I am so incredibly proud of the work he’s put into quitting smoking in the past few months. Love you Pops! Keep taking care of yourself so I can keep writing jokes about you.

One of the Guys

There was a time in my life when basically all of my friends were gay men.  I call this time “college.”  During that experience, I wrote this in my journal:

So I found myself at a party last night, sitting on a loveseat between two gay guys.  The optimistic side of me thought, Isn’t it fun to be talking to some really great people, no worries?  The cynical side of me, the side that is slowly but surely killing the optimistic side, thought, Yep.  This is my lot in life.

It’s not like I set out to collect them.  I don’t buy into that Sex in the City, every-girl-needs-a-gay thing (you know, where they exist solely to snap out one-liners/take a woman shopping/wear interesting hats).  I just met a lot of great dudes who happened to be into other great dudes.  Perhaps it had to do with working for the theater department for four years, perhaps I have a magic gift.  We’ll never know.

The point is, for the first 25.5 years of my life, I had exactly one (1) consistent straight guy friend.  He’s The Original, the guy who knew me when I dressed like this AND like this, and has stuck with me anyway.  I sort of imagined it would go on like this, me with my boys, my girls (of course I have great girl friends, too), and my one guy forever.

But you know what they say: life is what happens when you’re busy making plans with gay men.

2011 might go down in history as the year I learned to talk to anyone. I can talk to straight men as if they are actual humans, and I am one too. It turns out we have common interests: beer, action movies, football, making fun of one another, nachos…

The Notebook

Also, every one of them loves Ryan Gosling and "The Notebook" more than any girl I've ever met.

And although I still have some wonderful, fabulous boys, there are now a whole lot more guys joining The Original in my corner. Sometimes even they wonder why it has happened; my buddy Mike (editor’s note: I was going to make up a better pseudonym, but when I asked Lacy for help she strongly advocated for “Long Duck Dong” before announcing “I feel like you should know that I’m tipsy.” I’m sticking with “Mike“) recently told me, “Rachel, I spend more time with you than I do with girls.” I frakking love this. Being “one of the guys” is one of the funniest experiences of my life thus far, and I am enjoying every (occasionally smelly) second of it. In fact, I really only want my guys to remember I’m a girl when I need someone to carry heavy objects or intimidate someone for me.

So how has my life changed since that journal entry? A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at my usual table at my local bar surrounded by a bunch of my new guys, when one of them said: “Rachel is better at being one of the guys than I am.”

Yep. If this is my new lot in life, I think I’ll take it.

Best Things of 2011

Another year, another Nuns Having Fun calendar, and another chance to look back and ask, “What was I thinking?”  Welcome to 2011: The Year That Was.

January: Best Month I Forgot About Entirely

Seriously, I had to turn to the new-fangled Facebook Timeline to help me remember January 2011.  And here’s what I found out:

1. I made these cookies with Manolo.

Cookies, Kind of

On the left, either me or Velma from Scooby Doo; on the right, Manolo with a tan or Medusa.

2. We also ate them.

3. I finished what wound up being the best book I read all year: The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop by Dan Charnas. I could tell you how well-written, informative, and crazy-interesting it is, but if you’re not already on board from the title, this might not be the book for you.

4. And I found out my name would be featured on “millions of cups” at Caribou Coffees everywhere. This would be the peak of my fame in 2011.

February: Best Second Month of the Year

Another one I don’t remember! Apparently: I went to a couple of concerts (favorite: Pete Yorn at First Ave), and I continued one of my favorite traditions of watching the Oscars with my bro.

In my defense there was a lot of snow on the ground last year. I didn’t get out that much.

March: Best Month To Start New Friendships

At some point in March, Lacy invited me out for brunch with one of her old friends who had just moved down the road from me.  Going against my usual winter attitude of “people are the worst,” I agreed to go.

That friend was the Ginger.

Also joining us that day was the Ginger’s roommate, another guy I vaguely knew years ago. And because I feel confident he will never read this, I don’t mind telling you he totally ignored my presence for the first half hour or so of our brunch and I wasn’t thinking we’d ever hang out again. Then I mentioned Battlestar Galactica. And now I can’t get rid of him.

****JOKE! THAT PART IS A JOKE.****

But really, our friendship formed because of BSG, found its footing in football, further developed over beer, and continues despite the amount of hell I give him.  He would probably like to make some jokes about getting rid of me, too, but is too nice to do so.

Easily the best brunch of my life.

April: Best Month to Get Older

I turned 26 by being sick on my couch and having a Die Hard marathon.  Later I convinced some coworkers to buy me an ice cream cake if I picked it up; this is what I chose to put on it.

Die Hard Cake

"Live Free or Die Hard" PG-13 version; the DQ employee had no idea who John McClane was. KIDS TODAY.

April was also when I saw Chuck Klosterman at the Fitzgerald, and went to my first of several Twins games of the year.  Spring is better than winter, you guys.

May: Best Month To Be Named Daughter of the Year

I took my mom to see Paul Simon at First Ave.

Paul Simon at First Ave

Therefore, I win.

And I took Lacy to see Donald Glover/Childish Gambino at The Varsity.

Donald Glover

Therefore, I need a new camera.

I also got a tan-line from a candy necklace while at the Lyn-Lake Festival. I regret nothing.

June: Best Month To Start A Blog

I started this blog in June for a class, but at first I tried to keep it homework-centric. Some adventures that happened in that time that haven’t yet been shared with the internet:

1. I took a tour of the Liberty Belle, a WWII bomber like the one my grandfather was in as a gunner.

Inside the Liberty Belle

How happy do I look to be holding that gun?

2. I rode a mechanical bull at Grand Old Day.

Rachel and the Bull

And you thought I looked happy with the gun.

3. I broke my bowling record (133 and it still stands! I’m not very good at bowling!).

4. And I officially became an Irish citizen (oh, have I mentioned that a time or two before?).

July – December: Best Things I’ve Already Written About So Just Read the Archives, Particularly Anything About Traveling With The Ginger, Visiting Virginia in July, Screaming at The New Kids On The Block, Being Thankful For Things, And Being Disappointed By The Vikings Live and In Person.

(We may be on memory lane here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take shortcuts.)

So that was 2011: New friendships, new adventures, and a new passion for volunteering. Things were constantly ridiculous. Some ideas were bad. Mistakes were made on a daily basis. But overall, I think I nailed it in one take.

Bring it, 2012.

Best Things of the Month!

Actually it’s been over 2 months since my last “Best Things” post, but if I had more time to write these things I’d have less to write about, right?  So let’s just sum up October:

First there was the ZPC wherein I ruined the childhoods of many with my Zombie Princess pals, and then there was Halloween.  For that, I was Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia for obvious reasons.

Two Charlies

The resemblance is uncanny.

A lot of girls use Halloween as an excuse to wear underwear in public; I just went a different way with it.  I bullied a buddy into going as Mac (aka I lent him a t-shirt and drew fake tattoos on his arms), and Manolo was a cat, so we did our best to reenact this video:

Overall I give Halloween (and October) a solid A.

NOVEMBER!

First there was vacation with the Ginger.

Then there was my dad’s first Vikings game.

empty dome

This is what the Dome looks like when you're 2.5 hours early.

They lost, of course. And cousin Adrian had to be taken out of the game with an ankle injury. Really not great, but it was awesome to be there with Pops anyway.  It’s also great that he’s quit smoking, and a non-smoking Pops is a snacking Pops. We had popcorn and Twizzlers for lunch. Happy Thanksgiving!

Next, actual Thanksgiving happened, and was lovely.

And finally: the Ginger’s birthday! Three costume changes were involved and we hopped all over Lowertown St. Paul: we started out swimming at the Holiday Inn, then a dinner at Kincaid’s (I am not that restaurant’s target audience, but even the vegetarian side dishes were beyond delicious), and then dancing/drinks at Barrio and the Bulldog.  It absolutely destroyed MY last birthday, which was spent sick on my couch with a Die Hard marathon.

Die Hard poster

If I hadn't been sick, it might have been a tie.

A lot of great things have already happened so far in December, but you’ll just have to wait until mid-February or whenever I update this again to find out about that.

Choose your own adventure, bring your own ginger

Hello, neglected blog!  The last time I wrote in you it was about something important.  This is the opposite of that, but my mother has been asking for an update on the past month.  I can’t remember that far back, though, so here’s what happened last weekend, when Favorite Guy: Ginger Division and I went on a little adventure to the east coast.

Day 1: In which we are awake for 22 hours

The flight was at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, which meant nervous-flyer Rachel was awake at 4.  We got to the airport too late for my usual pre-flight Necessary Calming Beverage, and the Ginger decided to regale me mid-air with tales of bad flights he’s been on in the past.  Luckily this was the only point during our trip when I thought about destroying him.  We got off the plane and a few train rides later we parked it at our first destination: a margarita!

Brooklyneer bar sign

Sesame Street: Influencing my decisions for over 20 years.

Also, the margarita was in New York City.

During the course of the first day of the vacation, it went bar/food, five-minute nap, shopping, bar/food, shopping, walking the High Line, food, five-minute nap, bar/food.  We stayed with some friends in the Upper East Side and had a pretty excellent time; there wasn’t a lot of sight-seeing what with all the sitting and eating, but we did manage to see  a whole lot of the subway and stay awake for 22 solid hours.

supergrover

Some of the details of this evening are best kept between me and Super Grover.

Day 2: Crazy in Connecticut

We woke up, showered, brunched, and bused to Hartford to visit the wanderluster herself, Sabrina!  The Ginger has a thing for suburbs, so Sabrina took us by one of the oldest in the country before showing us a good time in West Hartford.  And really, it was a good time.  There are in fact things to do in Connecticut.  Who knew?

Day 3: Bean Town

Our planes, trains and automobiles adventure continued with a drive to Boston.  The three of us stopped at the Onyx Hotel (highly recommended, and not just for their animal-print bathrobes and faux-fur bedspreads) before hitting Quincy Market and the Harbor and catching a bit of the Freedom Trail.

Nice donkey

No, I don't know why there's a statue of a donkey on the Freedom Trail, but I do know it's important for every tourist to sit on it, preferably while a stranger stands just off-camera and says "nice ass."

A little bit of shopping and eating and we were on to the Haunted Boston tour!  This was a highlight of the trip for the two ghost-loving non-redheads among us.

Later, out to the Oldest Tavern In America (or so the sign says) – The Bell in Hand – for a bit of live music and dancing.  Sabrina and I each picked out our “boyfriends,” and it took all night for us to realize our boyfriends were actually each others’ boyfriends.  Yep; in a room full of burly Bruins fans, we gravitated towards the two waif-y hipsterish guys with excellent floppy hair.  I have been in the Twin Cities too long.

Day 4: Family, Fenway, and Farewell

A few of my Massachusetts family members met the gang and I for brunch at the Eastern Standard.  It was great, but too short for a once-in-a-decade visit.  They took us around the corner to a little place called Fenway for a photo op.

Fenway

Then it was goodbye family and Sabrina, hello Old Ironsides/excuse to make Anchorman references!

Old Ironsides

It really is an old, old wooden ship!

She’s 214 years old and she’s still afloat and still commissioned – it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Next up: Tavern on the Water for a nice view of the city and a little interaction with some real Massachusetts folks, who told us Happy Hours are illegal in Massachusetts but that they had danced on the bar we were sitting at before.  I should note these were two 60-ish couples.  I liked them.

Last stop before taking off: Giacomo’s, or as The Ginger keeps calling it, “Giergamo’s? Guillermo’s? Gargamel’s?”  We waited in line for about forty minutes outside, during which time I realized I needed to find a bathroom (bear with me, this story goes somewhere).  So I went to a pharmacy across the street and asked the employee if there was a bathroom.

“Not here, but at the fire station down the street.”

Naturally I left, assumed I heard her wrong, and went a few doors down to another store.

“Try the fire station next door.”

Sure enough, there was an actual fire station next door.  Full of not-unattractive firemen.  Who I had to ask to lead me to the bathroom (“It’s right back theah, sweetheaaaaht”).  My only regret is that I did not buy a t-shirt to commemorate my time at this fine establishment.  Or, you know, one of those calendars.  You know the ones I mean.

Firemen Calendar
You knew what I meant but I wanted to put this here anyway.

Anyway, back to the restaurant!  Or actually the line out in front, where we met another awesome local couple (the guy talked about his twenty years of working for Phil Collins and building a stage for Steven Tyler at Fenway) who pointed out when a local hero walked past us: Zdeno Chara, captain of the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins and tallest dude in the NHL.  Yes, I googled all of that.  I had no idea who he was.

Zdeno Chara

Although if he had been dressed like this even I might have recognized him.

Dinner, Necessary Calming Beverage and flight: our whirlwind tour of the East was over.   Now I’m back and it’s taken me the better part of a week to get this blog post together.  My goal is to have my next vacation planned before I completely unpack from this one; at the rate I’m going that shouldn’t be too difficult.