CATEGORY: Travel Stories

Season Two is Here!

After a long wait, season two is finally here! Hooray! We're starting off with the wonderful videos from my visit to Advanced Concrete Enhancement: Decorative Concrete and Concrete Countertops.

You could say the owner, Blayde Penza, is tougher than his product. On the day we filmed, Blayde was worried he had caught his son's strep throat. But despite his sore throat and pounding headache, he stuck in there and was a wonderful interview. You would never guess he felt sick when watching the videos.

Of course, everyone else was worried they would catch Blayde's illness. So every time Blayde walked out of the room, one of his all-too-nice employees would pull out the hand sanitizer and pass it around. And it worked. Neither Brent, my videographer, or I got sick. But we did have a wonderful time.

And no, I'm not joking in the Concrete Countertop video. Concrete countertops really are that soft and smooth. I couldn't believe it. They were the best feeling countertops I've ever touched. Absolutely amazing!

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Monday, Apr 28, 2008 in Travel Stories.

Stagnant Suitcase Syndrome

We've all suffered from it. There was even an Everybody Loves Raymond episode about it. We enjoy a wonderful trip, we come home and then we leave our suitcases out for weeks until we finally have to unpack. It's a common side effect of traveling. But why?

I myself suffer from it. I've been back from California for over a week, and just finally unpacked. And I can't even blame it on my luggage being lost, because it wasn't.

I think we don't like unpacking because it's unrewarding. There's nothing to look forward to. We're not heading anywhere exotic. We're home. We can finally relax and rest after an exhausting trip, and unpacking is the last thing on our minds. That is until we need something out of our suitcases. And if you're like me, you just dig around for it and leave your suitcases sitting there for another two to three days.

But while unpacking my suitcases yesterday, I kept thinking about how nice it would be to stop living out of my suitcases the minute I got home. Of course, I'm not very disciplined so my method of unpacking would have to be very easy - which is when it hit me. The reason we have trouble unpacking is because we put our suitcases in the wrong spot.

When we come home, we normally put our suitcases in our entrance halls, on our stairs or even worse, in our bedrooms. That means we have to lug our luggage full of dirty clothes all the way back to our laundry rooms, which is normally far from our rooms. So we don't do it. But if we took our luggage straight to our laundry rooms first, and dumped out all of the dirty clothes - even if that's on the floor, then we wouldn't waste a trip and unpacking would be much easier.

So my new travel ritual is the minute I get home to head straight to my laundry room and dump out all of the dirty clothes. It will be therapeutic to get them out after being gone for so long. Then I'll take my suitcase up to my bedroom, dump out the rest of the items on the floor, put the suitcase out in the hall and get in bed. The next morning I'll deal with the piles. After all, half the battle is just getting everything out of the suitcase, and I'll have that part done all before falling asleep.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Friday, Apr 4, 2008 in Travel Stories.

The Break-In Blues

On our last day in California, my viodeographer, Brent, and I decided to go to the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for a little exercise. We drove our rental car to the park (Yes, I know. If we really wanted exercise, we should have run. But I would have only lasted two blocks from our hotel and turned around. So we drove...) and parked in a very public spot. After a lovely 2 hour walk, we returned to our car only to find this:

Yes, our car was broken into. It was the middle of the day, and dozens of people were around. Yet someone was able to break the driver side window, steal our Garmin GPS and walk away with the car alarm going off without anyone stopping them. You could say we were in shock.

But what I really was, was panicked. Being an idiot, I had left my cell phone and wallet in the middle console thinking they were safe because the door was locked. So immediately, I checked to see if they were still there. With a sigh of relief, I realized they were - how lucky, and we proceeded to call the police.

This is where the story turns south. The police told us we had to drive the car to the closest police station. When we told them there was glass on the seat and we were from out of town so naturally we don't know where any police stations are, let alone the closet one, they said be careful and they thought there was one on 6th or 5th street. Very helpful.

So Brent sat on the broken glass and cut his hands making every turn while I used the Internet on my cell phone to find the closest police station. From that point on, we received resistance at every point. The police were uncompassionate. The rental car company was hard-to-work with. And that was when I realized that if you're in trouble you can't count on others for help.

Most of us go through life assuming that if something bad happens others, especially the police, will come to your rescue. But that doesn't always happen. Sometimes there are bigger problems happening to other people. Sometimes people just don't care. Either way, you end up having to pick up the pieces and figure out how to rescue yourself.

I for one now know that I should always have a pair of glass-proof gloves and a glass proof mat in the car in case of a break-in. I also should never leave important items in a car, and most importantly never leave things of value visible in a car. After all, locks don't keep someone from getting in your car. They just keep them from opening the door.

But what about your home? When we finally returned to our hotel, I kept wondering,  "What if it had been my house? What if I had lost the things I value most? What if the police didn't care? How could I have stopped it?"

Breaking into a car is violating enough, but the home - that's sacrilege, and it's up to each of us to keep it from happening to our home. The common ways are to install high-quality door locks (You can watch a video about how to find them here.) and turn lights on at night. If you're really worried, you can install an alarm system and turn it on religiously. To top it off you can remove any big bushes that block your door.

But as I learned, even a car that is locked, with an alarm, that is out in the open can be broken into. So if you really want to keep things safe, hide them in a place where the burglar won't have time to look. Not where they won't think to look, but simply where they won't have enough time to find it before getting caught.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Thursday, Apr 3, 2008 in Travel Stories.

The Beauty of Simplicity

While in San Francisco, I got the chance to interview Jun Pinon, who is one of the top floral designers in the Bay area. His rise to fame is due to his stunning, yet simple, style. And it truly is simple. I was even able to do it. But you'll get to see that on video very soon.

During the shoot, Jun's cousin Iah Isip was there to take photos of the event -- and to make me nervous. Being in front of one camera is enough. But I shouldn't complain. Iah is a highly requested fashion, fine art and landscape photographer -- so it was an absolute honor to have him around for the day.

After filming, I took a look at Iah's portfolio and realized that the eye for simplicity ran in the family. His pictures are stunning examples of the beauty of restraint.

Gorgeous floral arrangements, photos -- and especially rooms -- don't need to be complicated and filled with tons of colors and textures. Often the simplest things are the most beautiful, and the pictures above are a perfect example of that. Maybe after seeing them you'll be inspired to simplify the decor in your home. I know I was.

To see the rest of Jun's gorgeous floral arrangements, visit To view more of Iah's stunning photography, visit

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Wednesday, Apr 2, 2008 in Decorating InspirationTravel Stories.

25 Things You Want to Do (In Your Home) Before Next Year

While in the San Francisco area, I was lucky enough to get to spend a day at Google. My host for the day, who was - and is - an extremely nice and intelligent man, excitedly showed me all around the Google headquarters. I saw everything stereotypically Google, the sleep pods, micro-kitchens, massage rooms and swimming pools, but the thing that stood out the most was not what he showed me - but what he said at the end of the day.

Being a very polite man, he asked me if he could offer me some advice. "Of course," I said.

"Meghan, you should write down the 100 things you want to do before you die," he said.

That's not exactly what you expect to hear while at Google. But rather than look dumbstruck, I proceeded to tell him that I had to do that for a class when I was a freshman in high school, and I'm sure the things I wrote were completely unrealistic and irrelevant to today.

"I think one of the things I wrote was to tame a wild stallion. They were totally ridiculous," I said.

He looked at me completely serious with not the hint of a smile on his face and said, "What's so ridiculous about that?"

I was completely taken aback. Not ridiculous? But he was right.

Anything is possible. No dream or idea is ridiculous. He taught me the importance of taking my aspirations seriously and treating them like real goals rather than daydreams.

I'm still working on my 100 things. When I finish, I'll let you know.

Creating my list made me think about our homes. We talk about how we want to remodel our kitchens or redecorate our bedrooms, but we rarely write down our aspirations for our homes. So rather than writing down the 100 things you want to do before you die, why not write down:

The 25 Things You Want to Do in Your Home Before Next Year

Your list will be very revealing and can contain absolutely anything. Remember nothing is unreasonable. I'll even help you get started with some ideas.

  1. Have everyone gather in one place - other than the kitchen - where we all relax together rather than going to different rooms at night.
  2. Make a charity box where I can put the things I no longer need. Then actually take the box to charity.
  3. Start a food fight and not worry about what will be ruined.
  4. Create a space for after dinner dancing equipped with good music and low lighting, and use it more than once.
  5. Grow a plant. Make sure it survives longer than a week.
  6. Hang a full-length mirror and not be afraid to look into it.
  7. Host three dinner parties that are such a hit people I don't know want to be invited next time.
  8. Look through my pantry and not find stale food.
  9. Make a real fire. Maybe even roast s'mores.
  10. Create a craft area, and actually make something.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Monday, Mar 31, 2008 in Travel StoriesDecorating Inspiration.




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