Warning – If You Are My Niece, Don’t Read This

In eleven hours, at 5:40 Monday morning, I depart Bangkok for a six-day business trip to Houston.  This is my first business trip in five years, but I am no stranger to them.  For the four years prior to moving to Bangkok, I traveled more than 100,000 miles a year on business.  When I moved here, though, my employer laid out the condition that while they would be flexible with allowing me to work (very, very) remotely, they would not be paying for me to fly back to the US for meetings.

Since then, my manager and team members have regularly scheduled meetings around my visits back to the US, resulting in trips that frequently mix business and leisure.  This time, though, the company is paying for the trip.  A year and a half ago we were acquired by another large company.  While the integration has gone smoothly, we have a new Vice President for our division, several new regional personnel, and have not met as an entire team in two years.  When I first heard there would be a meeting, I checked prices and made the pitch.  Thankfully, I have known the new VP for most of my ten years with the company and he ran the price to the top of the flag pole to get approval.

Now, the downside is that I’m not being flown business class.  Asking them to spend five times the airfare of any other employee is enough.  But I’m glad to have this opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, meet new ones, and be present at what promises to be an important meeting as we move into a new chapter of our company’s history.

Plus, it will give me a chance to play Santa Claus.  You see, the meeting is only Tuesday through Friday, but tickets without a Saturday night stay-over were $500 more expensive than if I stayed until Sunday.  To save the company money, I routed my travel from Houston to Kansas City on Friday evening, so will get two nights and a day with my family.


You see, last year we gave my youngest niece, Ava, a small plush hedgehog, something a friend of ours gave us.  She loved it and noticed that on the tag, there was a picture of two hedgehogs, one smaller than the other.  Interestingly, she assumed that she had received the large hedgehog and promptly announced that she wanted the baby hedgehog, too.

Little does she realize that she actually has the baby hedgehog.  Pictured above is the bigger hedgehog, also a gift from the same friend.

The question was, how to pack it?  Thankfully, US carriers (yes, I’m stuck on Delta – bleh!) allow international passengers two checked bags, so I’m bringing a second bag for most of my clothes and using this larger primarily for the hedgehog.  The end result:


Oh, and Ava and her sister Emily don’t know that I’m coming for a visit.  Hopefully everyone there has kept it a secret and they’ll be very surprised on Saturday morning when they wake up.

So for the next few days I may be out of orbit on Xanga.  My apologies in advance.  I actually have some more food porn from Phuket to share with you.


Publishing a Children’s Book

There’s a software product called Booksmart from www.blurb.com that allows you to create and print your own books.  Since moving here and blogging, I’ve created “yearbooks” to summarize each year’s experiences, based in large part on my blog entries.  The first year I used Shutterfly to print the books (two volumes covering 14 months) but the binding quality was so poor that pages started to come loose the first day I looked at them.

My cousin Alex suggested Booksmart, which she had used to create guest registration books for her wedding, putting portraits of her and her husband Bill on one side of the page and then having the facing page blank.  She was impressed with the quality and the costs were much lower than at Shutterfly and many other sites.

Since then I’ve used Booksmart to not only create yearbooks but also customized books for my nieces.  I can incorporate pictures, text and backgrounds into many different shapes and sizes of both hardcover and softcover books.  The software is easy to use and allows full manipulation of all layout templates, so you have complete control over the look.

My most recent book is titled “Ava’s Uncles Get Married”.  As you might guess, it is a twenty-page tome about our wedding this past summer written for my youngest niece, who will turn four this Spring.  I thought I’d share it with you here.  You’ve seen most of the pictures and read much of the story already if you’ve been following this blog for a while, so I apologize to any of you who feel this is just a rehash, but I am very proud of this book.  I think it is the type of thing that Ava will treasure.

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While I’ve done a little scrap-booking in my life, I think this comes out looking a lot nicer.  If you’ve been thinking about doing something with your pictures and/or your blog entries, may I suggest you check out Booksmart at www.blurb.com?

Oh, and yes, I did used to be the high school yearbook editor.