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I can’t believe that my last post was on January 1st.  Wow! So much has happened in the last few months. Some good, some sad. I’ll try to catch you up on a little bit of it.

In the beginning of the year I was winding down after the holidays and very focused on developing my website, Traveling With Purpose. Things were going along swimmingly and we were inching closer to launching the next phase of the site when things hit the proverbial fan.

At the end of January my husband’s mother was admitted to the hospital. It’s a long complex story, but the final result was that she has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It’s called a low grade glioma and is rare in people her age. It’s much more common in children and teenagers. She was in and out of the hospital for over a week while they did tests and a biopsy to determine the diagnosis. Then due to the fact that she was showing signs of confusion, difficulty communicating and had not been cooking for herself, the family and medical team determined that it wouldn’t be wise for her to go home to Prescott by herself.

Since I was the only one in the immediate family (in Arizona) that wasn’t working and we have a guest room, we decided that she would come home with us for the time being.  We realized that it would be best to have someone with her during the days and she has been with us since that time.

She is such a sweet woman and has always been so kind to me. It’s an honor to have her here.

This is Carole and her oldest son (my husband) on a Skype call with her sisters back east on Saint Patrick’s Day. We’re realizing that she understands a lot more visually than by talking on the phone or hearing someone talk.  She sometimes doesn’t know who we’re talking about when we mention a name, but if we show her a photo she understands, so Skype is better than a phone call. We need to do more of it.

2013.03.17 St. Patrick's Day 013 (800x530)

Mom is Irish through and through and she loves celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. So much so, that she requested that we bring down her decorations from her house so we could use them here. I don’t have a lot of St. Paddy’s decor, so it was fun to have her items to scatter around the house. As you can see she was dressed for the day as well, with her Snoopy sweatshirt and Leprechaun socks.

St. Patrick's Day socks

And of course we had corned beef and cabbage, even though it’s really an American Irish tradition.  We all love it. I always cook it in the crock pot, which makes it so easy. For the first batch, I added chicken broth to the water, and for the second I added Guinness Black Lager (brewed in Dublin). Mmmm, both were very tasty. I cooked the 2nd one a week or so later to go with the potatoes and carrots that we had leftover from the first batch. Let me know if you want the recipe.
Corned Beef and CabbageSo since the end of January we have all been busy with doctors and more tests, discussions about treatment options and how to best care for her in the coming months/years. They have a big family, so we’ve had lots of visitors to the house.  She really enjoys her visitors for the most part. She’s been eating much better and has good times and bad when it comes to understanding all that’s happening around her. She will be starting radiation treatments next week…once a day, five days a week for 6 weeks.  We’re praying that the side effects will be minimal, but we’ll see how she does with it all. The difficulty will be in explaining any side effects in a way that she can understand so that she wants to keep going with it.

Please keep her in your prayers. There is a very slim chance for improvement in her condition with the radiation, but mostly it’s just to slow down the growth of the tumor.

So this is just a part of what’s been going on since the first of the year. Am I forgiven for being away so long? What has your new year brought?

More to come on everything else…and there’s a LOT more.

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Hey friends,

I haven’t done a restaurant review in a while and I’m hesitant to do this one because The Oink Cafe is close to where we live and a review will just mean that more people will go there.  I’m kinda liking the place and not sure I want to share it with everyone in Phoenix.  But…I think you’ll like it and my mom taught me not to be selfish, so…here we go.

The Oink Cafe in PV

When driving down Cactus Road a few months ago, I noticed that one of the retail spaces near Paradise Valley Mall had a new sign outside.  This spot seems like a wonderful location, but has been somewhat of a revolving door in the past years, not retaining businesses for any length of time.  Hopefully, this will be the exception to that rule.

Anyway, you may remember that a few months ago I won a year’s supply of bacon so that treat has been forefront in my mind lately.  While driving by this new restaurant, the tag line made me do a double take. It reads “Breakfast. Lunch. Bacon.”   What!  A restaurant that features BACON!!! Wow! I’ve got to take my husband there!

This weekend we had the perfect opportunity to try it out.  We had family visiting from out-of-town and when we described it to them they were excited about the adventure.  So, our party of 5 headed there around 9:30 on a Saturday morning.  Phoenix restaurants can get pretty busy on weekends for breakfast, so we weren’t sure what we’d find.  We checked in at the hostess station, then moments later 2 more family members arrived, which increased our request to a party of 7.

Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes

Maple Bacon Donuts

While we were waiting we noticed all these amazing looking baked goods.  We didn’t get a chance to try any, but will definitely need to do that next time.  Take a look at all the bacon options.

The staff handled our larger party graciously.  And fortunately while it was already pretty busy, there were a few tables that cleared just minutes after we arrived and we were seated promptly.

We perused the menu and ordered a nice variety from our friendly food server.  Here are a few photos to enjoy.

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One item of note:  At the time of this writing, they have 5 different flavors of bacon (applewood smoked, honey cured, sugar cured, peppered, &  jalapeno).  I enjoyed the applewood smoked bacon with breakfast and someone else at the table got an order of the jalepeno and gave me a taste.  It was delicious, especially for those who like that extra little kick of heat in their meal.

We mentioned to the server that they should have a flight of bacon that people could order to try a piece of each different kind.  She said that they have it, but upon checking the menu we couldn’t find it.  Hopefully they’ll add it to the menu or maybe to the list of “specials” so folks can check out all the different flavors.  Plus even though their logo is a pig, maybe they should consider adding turkey bacon for those who want to try to be a tad bit healthier.

Overall, everything was very tasty!  From the time we ordered till the time we got our food was a bit long, but since we were busy visiting it wasn’t too bad.  We’ll chalk that up to being relatively new to the breakfast scene and hope the timing improves.  It’s definitely a place that we’ll visit again…maybe for lunch next time.

Hey maybe they should offer an ultimate BLT with all the flavors of bacon!  I’d order it.  How about you?

What do you think ?  Does it sound promising?  Do you think you’ll try “The Oink Cafe” if you have the chance?

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It’s been a busy and somewhat non-traditional month for us.  As you’ll see from these photos, there’s been a good amount of time spent with those we love, but somehow things were busy in other ways too.

Christmas NativityWe also went to the Musical Instrument Museum (the MIM) for our 34th wedding anniversary on Dec 9th, celebrated the holidays with a few of the non-profit groups that I work with and had a lovely evening with some other dear friends.  All of those activities don’t have pics posted yet, but hopefully I’ll get to it.

I’m not quite sure how the month got away from me, but we didn’t decorate inside the house until December 19th which is VERY LATE for me!  Originally we weren’t expecting to have any gatherings at our house this year, so I guess that gave me the freedom to put it off.  Then we found out that we were hosting our family gathering, so I got busy and did a few things.

We still have at least one more celebration to come with our son, Kevin when he returns from being overseas in early January.  That will be a special time to have him back home and in the U.S. hopefully for a very long time.

Here are links to a few photos that I’ve posted on Facebook over the last month.  I hope you enjoy them!  (Note: I was told that some of these links didn’t work for those that aren’t on Facebook, so I’ve updated them.)

Randy Thompson’s Christmas Concert where Terry played in early December

Christmas with our Home Group (they’re like Family)

Christmas with my side of the family

Christmas with our Los Angeles area family and our precious friends, the Thompsons

Christmas cookies

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Hey friends,

This is last call for the Oscar Mayer Bacon Contest and the odds of winning are excellent!  I will be away from my computer until about 6pm (MT), so I’m leaving the contest open until then.

Just to get your creative juices flowing, I thought I’d share a Dutch Oven recipe that I found in my November issue of Taste of Home magazine.  (FYI, This recipe and others can also be found online, but you need to “register” by setting up a login.  There’s no cost to join.)

Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

Take a look at the first ingredient!  Ah yes, bacon!

Ingredients for Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

  • 4 bacon strips, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (29 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Additional shredded Gouda cheese, optional

Directions

  • In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Saute onion in drippings until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in the broth, pumpkin, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Cool slightly.
  • In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth. Return all to pan. Stir in cream; heat through. Add cheese; stir until melted. Sprinkle each serving with parsley, bacon and additional cheese if desired. Yield: 9 servings (2-1/4 quarts).

Can’t you just taste that warm bacony, cheesy goodness?

I also wanted to clarify how we’ll choose a winner.  Since I can see the names of the people that submitted and I don’t want to show preferential treatment, I’m going to show just the recipes to my husband and have him choose a winner based on which one sounds the most delicious to him.  Good news is he LOVES bacon, so they’ll all be in the running.

And here’s a little clarification on the fine print.  I now have the coupons in my hot little hand and this is what they say:

FREE – One package of any OSCAR MAYER Bacon (up to $9.00).  Expiration 3/31/2012  

The images show Center Cut Bacon, Fully Cooked Bacon and Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon just to name a few.

Thanks for joining in the fun!  Keep your eyes open for more contests in the future.

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What would you do with a year’s supply of bacon?

I’m so excited that I get the chance to find out, but I need your help.

Blog World Bacon WinnerLast week for my last session at the BlogWorld Expo I attended a workshop taught by Marcy Massura about how to be a Social Media Community Manager. I had no idea when I walked in the door that I would be walking out with a year’s supply of bacon!  Wow!!!

It turns out that Marcy works as the Community Manager for the one and only Oscar Mayer.  Can you say AWESOME!  AND she was able to procure a gift of 52 full value coupons each for a pound of bacon! Wow again!  I guess I don’t have to say much more…I won the raffle drawing!!!  Wahoo!  My husband was ecstatic when I told him.

Now, I need your help in discovering fun new recipes to fill the next year with amazing bacon-licious dishes.  I’ve heard of bacon ice cream, a bacon bomb, chocolate-dipped bacon, but what’s your favorite? Please share a recipe or a link to a recipe in the comments,then on Saturday, November 19thas my thank you to you, I’ll share the love and award one of the coupons for a free pound of bacon to the most delicious sounding recipe. (contest over – maybe you’ll win next time)

THANK YOU MARCY and OSCAR MAYER and THANK YOU ALL for your creative ideas.  I’m looking forward to a very tasty year.

Want more fun with bacon?  Check out the Oscar Mayer Facebook page,but don’t cheat by using one of their recipes in the contest, o.k.?

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Day 4 – Go West Young Man

On Sunday we decided that we were going to head west.  The plan was to follow this route from Aberfeldy to Glencoe, then on to Oban before coming back home in the evening.  It would be a lot of driving (about 2 1/2 hours one-way) but we felt the destinations were worth it.

Amy wasn’t feeling well again, so she and Andrew decided to stay back in the room.  We were sad that they couldn’t join us, but Amy got some much needed rest and Andrew had some adventures of his own.  Hopefully he’ll post about it.

Shortly after we left the resort we came upon our first up-close and personal sheep.  They were a common occurrence all over Scotland, but these were crossing the road right in front of our car.

Sheep

Then while driving along A827 through the town of Killin, we crossed a one lane bridge and came upon this gorgeous wide berth of the Falls of Dochart.  As always, feel free to click on any photo for a larger view.

Falls of Dochart

Of course we had to stop and do a little bit of exploring here…even though there was a light rain falling. Overall we had better weather than expected through the whole trip.  Oh, we had a little bit of rain nearly every day, but really only one day where we came home somewhat soggy.  For the most part we could expect the weather to change almost hourly, going from sunny to cloudy to sprinkling to raining and back again throughout the day.

Terry at Falls of Dochart
Falls of Dochart Scotland

An island in the middle of the river on the downstream side of the bridge is known as Innis Bhuidhe. This is home to the Clan MacNab Burial Ground. Its use dates back to the 1700s. An oblong enclosure within the burial ground is home to fifteen graves, nine of which are the final resting places of clan chiefs, plus a medieval grave slab which suggests that at least one earlier burial did take place here. Unfortunately there was a locked gate on the bridge that kept us from getting inside, so this is all we were able to see.  However, if you have a little bit of time, there's a sign on the gate that says you can get the key from a nearby building.
Clan MacNab Burial Ground

After our pit stop we headed back out toward the road to Glencoe.  At one point we had to stop for a few minutes for road construction and I snapped this photo of the vegetation at the side of the road.  I just love the dozens, or would you say hundreds of shades of green…and how many different types of plants can you pick out?

On the way to Glencoe

Next we were finally on to Glencoe, a lush, misty and gorgeous part of the Scottish Highlands!  It is also the historic home of the tragic Glencoe Massacre of 1692 which adds an even more haunting air to the area.  We were told by those who would know, that watching the hovering clouds and mist shift and change in the valley is the only way to see the glen.

Glencoe mist

Glencoe ScotlandYou many not be able to see it in these pics, but there is water everywhere in the glen.  Seasonal rivulets cascading through the crevices of the mountainsides.  An amazing amount of water!

At one of the roadside overlooks we also came upon this bagpiper picking up a few extra pounds (sterling, that is).  He was decked out in the full kilt ensemble so tourists could pose for photos with him or just snap a few pics, like we did.  What’s your feeling about tourist teases like this?  On one hand it’s hard to condemn the man for trying to make some money and he’s providing a service in some way.  On the other hand it feels a bit contrived and artificial.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For those who may not be aware, the kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the back, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century.  I think the look is quite handsome myself and love the endless varieties of tartan plaids that are used to represent the different clans.

Glencoe Bagpiper

Soon we were getting hungry and realized that there weren’t too many options for eating establishments ahead, so we decided to stop in Glencoe Village to see if we could find a place for lunch.  This is the main street in the village, just a little wider than one lane so pay attention as you drive, in case you need to share the space with an oncoming vehicle.

Glencoe Village Main Street

The village sits at the entrance to Glen Coe and is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery.  It’s popular with serious hill-walkers, rock and ice climbers. The picturesque mountains have also been seen in numerous films, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the home of Hagrid.  I didn’t realize it before we went, but it’s possible that we could have gone on a Harry Potter Safari.  I guess that will have to wait until next time.  Here’s a list of all the movies, to date that have scenes from The Glen.  [This is a bit off the subject, but after living near Los Angeles (the film-making capitol of the world) for 18 years, I’ve always thought it would be a dream job to be a location scout.  Wouldn’t you just love having the responsibility of searching for all those amazing spots where they film your favorite movies?  But I digress…]

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD: We parked our car in the public parking lot and walked down the street until we found the Glencoe Cafe.  Since the town is very small and relatively remote, we really had no idea what the quality would be like.  Sometimes remote areas (in the U.S. too) don’t have the competition to encourage high quality foods, good service and/or low prices, so we were taking our chances here.  I have to say that the owners obviously take great pride in their establishment because they had an extensive menu of freshly made fare, cheerful service and some delicious offerings!  We were NOT disappointed. This is a photo of my lunch.  A light and tasty shrimp salad sandwich made with homemade lemon mayonnaise, accompanied by a wonderful green side salad. Mmmmm!  I loved it and the rest of our group was just as pleased with their choices! Be sure to stop by and enjoy the culinary creations of Justine Macleod and James Robertson if you’re in the area someday.

Seafood Salad Sandwich with lemon mayoGlencoe CafeAs we left the Glen and headed down the coast toward Oban, we were greeted with this rainbow.  One of many that we’d see in our 2 weeks of vacation, but this one was a double treat with the reflection in the water.  Truly a gift from God.  We knew then that it was going to be a great day!

Glencoe rainbow with reflection

I’M A FAN OF…WATER:  Living in the desert for decades has created a deep appreciation in my soul for water of every kind and this vacation was a true refreshment for me.  How do you feel about rainy days?  Do you cherish them or do you just survive them?

TRAVEL TIP TODAY:  A bit random, I know, but something to consider.  If you have hair that’s difficult to manage in wet weather, try to find a style that’s easy to take care of before you leave home.  Talk to your stylist and see if they can provide some suggestions.  My hair is generally straight in the bone-dry desert, but I knew that the little bit of natural curl would quickly respond to the rain and humidity where we were going.  I asked my stylist to cut my hair short enough so that I could just let it go curly and not worry about it sticking out here and there in my normal style, which I did.  I also asked for a suggestion on a product that might help it stay curly and she recommend Redken Ringlet 07 Curl Perfector which worked like a charm to “encourage” my wavy hair to hold some curl.  This cut down on the amount of hair products and styling tools that I needed to pack. Plus it shaved precious minutes off the time that I needed to get ready each day and lowered the stress on keeping my hair in place.

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Day 2 and 3 – Getting Settled

Friday afternoon when we landed we met the kids and picked up our rental car from the airport.  Our son, Kevin had already been in Scotland for a couple days and had a rental car too.  We decided that we’d pay for an additional driver for each car so that each of the 3 couples would have the freedom to go somewhere on their own if they wanted to.  It turned out to be helpful on a few occasions and the fact that a car that seated 6 people (plus luggage) would have had to be quite a bit bigger, we were glad that we didn’t get just one vehicle for all of us this time.

Andrew Practicing his driving

The experience of driving on the left side of the road with the driver on the right side of the car, was quite a culture shock for the guys, especially for Terry.  Add to that the fact that the rural roads in Scotland are VERY narrow, have virtually no shoulder, are often lined by stone walls and sometimes are no more than one lane, it makes for a stressful drive.  Fortunately our son-in-law, Andrew LOVED driving.  Here’s a pic of him practicing in a parking lot before he went on the road for the first time.  The next day he went out driving by himself and tried to find the narrowest roads he could drive on, just for the fun of it.  The week they were with us Andrew always drove and Kevin drove a lot of the time, even though I don’t think he enjoyed it as much as Andrew.  Then when we were in Ireland Terry came down with a cold and felt pretty crummy so Kevin drove almost the whole time there too.  [We were thankful that the guys were willing to do that.]

Dinner at Moness

Our home base was in the small town of Aberfeldy, right in the heart of Scotland.  The 6 of us were staying at the Moness Resort in a 2 bedroom time-share (with a sofa-bed in the living room).  We had a functioning kitchen which saves on time and food costs when you can prepare a few of your meals at home instead of eating out all the time.

On Saturday we all slept in a bit to try to catch up on sleep after our long travel days.  We envisioned a relatively low-key day since we knew we needed to acclimate to the new time zone before the schedule got too busy.    The plan for the day was to drive about 15 miles to do a bit of exploring in the town of Pitlochry.  The young guys wanted to check out some of the whisky distilleries there and the rest of us just wanted to start discovering Scotland.   When we got there we went to the Information Center on the main street and asked for information about how to find the distilleries.  After we started walking Amy wasn’t feeling too well, so she decided that she didn’t want to do a long walk.  I volunteered to stay in town with her since I didn’t have a huge interest in whisky and we sent the other four off on their adventure.

[Note:  Whisky is spelled without an “e” before the “y” in Scotland, but with an “e” in Ireland – and in the U.S. since my spell check keeps highlighting it as a misspelled word.]

Here’s a photo (above) that Chelsea took on their hike (and I hear it was quite a hike) to the Edradour Distillery.  This happens to be the smallest distillery in Scotland.  You can read more about their story here.  Since I wasn’t with them I don’t feel qualified to write about it, but I’m hoping that Terry (or someone) will give us their account of the hike and the tour that they went on.

While they were exploring the world of whisky, Amy and I visited Victoria’s for a delicious cup of tea on their outdoor patio (note the Rick Steve’s Scotland Tour Guide on the table).  Afterward Amy decided to go and nap in the car and I spent some time exploring the shops.

Here are a few of the sights.

Germans in Kilts

I thought these guys in kilts looked authentic until I heard them speaking German.  Not sure if they were trying to blend in (which they didn’t) or if they were there for some other reason.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD:  I visited a few other stores, but nothing really jumped out at me that I HAD to have.  Then I spotted The Scottish Deli and their sign in the window that read “Scotland Deli of the Year 2011”.   Despite Scotland’s reputation for having relatively bland, boring food, I had to see what this little place had to offer.  Inside the cozy shop that could only accommodate 2 employees and a few customers I found some wonderful surprises.  The huge blackboard behind the counter listed about 30 different sandwiches available.  There were unique treats like Smoked Local Duck with Chilli Jam or Dunked Local Smoked Salmon with Star Anis & Pink Peppercorn Mustard.  It was such a creative variety that I was disappointed that it wasn’t meal time.  I vowed to bring the gang back to have a meal here or to order some of their picnic lunches to go.

The Scottish Deli - Pitlochry

The Scottish Deli - Pitlochry,Scotland

While I was there I wanted to at least pick up some cheese and crackers that we could all enjoy in the room.  I browsed the various artisan cheeses in the case and asked the woman behind the counter to wrap up a Scottish Gouda as well as an Isle of Mull Cheddar to compliment the crackers I found. Then it was time to pay.   The register was in a corner of the deli area with a counter about 2 feet wide and there was already an older woman being served by the young man behind the counter.   She was having some difficulty with her bag and needed to have her items transferred to a new one.  Simultaneously I was paying for the cheese and crackers at the same small counter.  Soon the older woman was finished and walked out of the store.  Since I was waiting for them to give me my cheese, I stood at the counter, finalized my payment and looked at the clerks.

They looked at me as if to say, “I think we’re finished.  You can leave now.”.  But I still didn’t have the cheese that they had wrapped up behind the counter.

I’m sure I looked puzzled as I stood there and finally asked, “…my cheese?”

They both looked at each other and blurted out, “Oh no!  Mrs. McDougall must have taken it!”  The young woman tore out from behind the counter, ran out the door and down the street shouting for Mrs. McDougall while the young man apologized profusely about the missing cheese.  A few minutes later the young woman returned, a little out of breath, with my purchase.  She apologized again, we all had a good laugh and all was right with the world.

Pitlochry ScotlandThis is one of their beautiful garden areas in the town center.  It’s a charming little town, well worth a day trip.

Before we left town we headed for their grocery store, which was probably equivalent in size to a Fresh-n-Easy Market in Arizona.  We picked up food for one dinner, breakfast each day and a few snacks and drinks for the week.  With the itinerary we had, we knew that we wouldn’t be home much at meal time and we were right.  We planned the food perfectly, with just enough to get us through the week.  Here are some of our treasures.  Bramble preserves (which could be blackberries or raspberries – delicious), Crumpets (these remind me of an English Muffin that’s not sliced-very tasty) and Ginger Crinkles (a crispy ginger cookie or “biscuit” as the Scottish call them).

Crumpets, Cookies and Bramble Preserves

Dinner at our Home Away from HomeThat night we enjoyed a home cooked meal of vegetable beef soup, salad, bread and wine.  It was delicious!

TRAVEL TIPS TODAY:

1. Rethink the automobile: We have spent a majority of our vacations in the western United States which are filled with wide open spaces and sprawling cities where a car is almost necessary.  In older areas on the east coast of the U.S. and “across the pond”, we’ve found that a personal vehicle isn’t always required because so many sights are within easy walking distance of each other.  Plus sometimes its more hassle than its worth…with parking woes and navigating congested streets…consider other dependable modes of mass transit and walking, of course.

2. Every meal doesn’t have to be at a restaurant:  Depending on your accommodations, it might be possible to buy a few items to keep in your room to save on eating every meal at a restaurant.  You can also think about picking up a sandwich as takeout from a deli and enjoy your meal in the park.  We usually plan to eat no more than 2 meals a day out.  Often a late breakfast and early dinner work out well.  Then, if needed, an evening snack in the room will hold you over until the next day.

How do you handle your meals when you travel?  Any tips for saving money without starving?

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