5.29.2015

Tips for Global Entry

The Iceland trip is just around the corner and today the Little Sister and I finished up the Global Entry application and interview process.

What is Global Entry?

"Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for per-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States." -Global Entry Website. So you get fast tracked at customs coming back into the United States and you also get TSA per-approved for all domestic travel for five years.

After our adventure today I thought I would provide some tips for Global Entry. So here it goes:

General Global Entry Information:
  1. Global Entry requires an online application, $100 fee, and an in person interview with a Customs and Border Control officer at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.
  2. Are you eligible for Global Entry? Check here: http://www.cbp.gov/global-entry/faqs This program is for "low-risk travelers" and I heard a story of a DUI from twenty years ago stopping someone from being eligible. I have never had a background check like this before....
  3. Soon after you have completed the application you will have an opportunity to schedule a face-to-face appointment at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Schedule your appointment and be sure to make note of the documents you need to bring with you (Passport, proof of residency, acceptance letter.....).
Now some Tips for Global Entry!
I followed all the directions above and thought I was doing a pretty good job of being ahead of the game for my Iceland trip. When I went to schedule my interview, the local office was booked until I was already in Iceland so I scheduled an interview at the Otay Mesa Enrollment Center, right on the border of Mexico.

Photo by Little Sister

The Little Sister had also submitted an application but was not able to schedule an appointment online at the Otay Mesa Enrollment Center for the same day as my interview. The day before I was scheduled to go, I called them to see if they had any availability for her around the same time and they did! We booked her an appointment and worked out a carpool plan.

On this same day I called the Middle Sister who had an appointment closer to our Iceland departure date at the LAX Enrollment Center and said she might be able to call the Long Beach Enrollment Center (the place we all wanted to have our face-to-face interviews) to see if they had any availability earlier than her scheduled date and she was able to book an appointment that day!

I didn't really think about any of this until today but the Little Sister and I could of totally called Long Beach to for an interview. Of course I think of this as we are driving to almost Mexico for our interview. No worries, we had breakfast with a friend, but next time, I will call Long Beach for an appointment.

Tip #1 - Call the enrollment office you would like to have your interview in to see if they have availability. Save yourself a drive to Mexico......
My next tip seemed obvious to me when I was dealing with it, but not obvious at the time I was booking appointments.

Tip #2 - Book appointments early in the day. Bring a book or something to do while you wait.
My appointment was at 11am and the Little Sister had her appointment at 11:45am. We were able to check in 30 minutes before our appointments. They were running about 30 minutes behind schedule when we checked in and then lunch happened. The Little Sister finished her appointment at 1pm. If possible, book appointments early in the day. We did both bring a book, so it could of been worse, but it also could have been avoided.

Overall the interview was painless and the Customs and Border Control Officer is just making sure you are "low-risk" to be able to recommend you for Global Entry. Even after the interview you still have to be offically approved by someone else before you have Global Entry. Once you do, they send you a card (with your photo that you took during the interview) and you are good to go. I was concerned I might not get the card in time for my Iceland trip and the Officer told me I don't need it. My passport is what I scan at the Custom's kiosk coming back into the county and my Global Entry Membership number is the number I enter when purchasing airfare to receive TSA Priority.

All in all not a bad experience. I am thinking it will be worth the money spent and look forward to TSA Priority and not waitng in Custom's Lines! Leave me a comment if you have used Global Entry or have tips for expediting International travel. I am always looking for tips!

5.24.2015

I like to eat more than I like to cook

Sweet potato hash
I heard something recently that rang true for me. It was along the lines of "I like to eat more than I like to cook". I think I was listening to a Nom Nom Paleo podcast on my drive home from work and Michelle Tam said something along those lines and I thought, "That's me!". I cook because I love to eat, not because I love to cook. I had never really thought of it before, and it gave me permission to admit that I don't always like cooking.

During the school year I cook A LOT. I leave the house at 7am and get home at 7pm. Five days a week I am up at 4:30am to run or take hot yoga classes. On Sunday I prep my meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for four and a half days. Each morning during the week I pack two to three meals. By the time summer break comes, I am kind of over cooking.

The weekend "Meal Prep" is a great idea and it keeps me in healthy meals. I don't really eat processed foods so I am usually making roasted chicken or carnitas and then packing fruits and veggies in my meals. Hard boiled eggs are a staple and I've been making smoothies with coconut water, frozen fruit, and a raw egg for an after hot yoga breakfast in the car..... Yep, raw egg.....
Recenlty I started making Sweet Potato Hash and am loving it. During the week it was great with lunch and on the weekends it is fabulous with a fried egg. It works with the "Meal Prep" because everything is chopped and tossed and then baked as a big batch. It is also one of the things I love to eat right now so it is worth cooking.

This hash can be modified in any way you would like. I have made it with shallots, herbs, etc. Currently I am liking the onion and mushroom combination below. The recipe makes about two servings, but you can always double or triple it!

Sweet Potato Hash with Onions and Mushrooms
  • 1 sweet potato diced
  • 1/2 onion rough chop
  • 8 mushrooms quartered
  • bacon grease or olive oil to toss
  • salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss sweet potato, onion, and mushrooms with bacon grease or olive oil on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Place in oven and stir every 15 minutes. Cooking times vary based on size of the sweet potato chop, but I usually cook mine for 45 minutes.

Eat right away or save for meals later in the week. Can be eaten cold or reheated in a fry pan. Enjoy.
Sweet potato hash and egg

5.17.2015

Red lipstick wedding

A few weeks ago T and I attended a family wedding at the San Miguel Mission near Paso Robles California.  It was a whirlwind week for me, being out of town for work, and I had to pack everything ahead of time.  I went with a simple black dress and packed my new red lipstick that I got on our Vegas trip!  Here we are at Sephora in Vegas looking fancy...

Mission San Miguel is pretty amazing.  It is a functioning church and closer to what I imagine the California Missions were really like.  When we lived in San Luis Obispo years ago I did a photo shoot at the San Miguel Mission and was excited to attend a wedding there.  It did not disappoint.



Getting ready for the wedding I applied my red lipstick and had to talk myself into wearing it.  I am not a "make-up" person because I barely have time to brush my hair sometimes let alone put on make-up.  In my mind I think the term "natural beauty" is what I use to describe my look.

So looking at my painted mouth before the wedding produced a debate in my head about the pro / cons of wearing red lipstick.  At the end I decided to go for it and had beautiful red lips in all the photos.  I even was told I look like an Italian Movie Star!  Thanks red lips!

5.09.2015

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas

"Vegas" is not my thing.

And by "Vegas" I mean drinking, partying, and gambling. Those are not my things. Also, cigarettes are not something I really like. So "Vegas" is not a place I would usually decide to visit. Which is obvious when you realize I have only gone twice and I live close enough to drive. The second time I went was just a few weeks ago.....

Now food, that is my thing. I have this balance between the cost of the food and the taste / experience of the food. Vegas has a lot of food. Some of it is amazing. Most of it is expensive.... I am still deciding if the food in Vegas is worth the price......

On this last trip I realized Vegas also has Red Rock Canyon. And Red Rock Canyon turned out to be one of my things.

When this trip came up I was discussing doing something outside of Vegas and the Middle Sister suggested hiking Red Rock Canyon. It was 15 minutes outside of downtown Vegas and I was in!
Our group arrived about 11am and started at the visitor's center to get our bearings. We had a dinner reservation at 4:30pm at Giada, so we needed to decide what hikes we could do and still make it to dinner on time.

We decided on the Moenkopi Trail and the Calico Hills. On our return trip we ended up on another trail and think we hiked about six miles in all. The weather was warm with a breeze and we were lucky to be hiking when some of the wild flowers were blooming.




A few words about these hikes. They are exposed and almost 100% full sun. They are "easy" and water is a must (there is a place to fill you water bottles near the bathrooms at the visitor's center). They are marked, but there are a few different trails in the Moenkopi Trail area and those are not always marked with the trail name. Instead you come across a marker that has "Trail" with two arrows. Or four arrows. And those arrows don't tell you which trail is which. This got us off course a bit, but it was all part of the adventure.


It seemed like a lot of people were visiting Red Rock Canyon on the day we were there. Probably because of the wildflowers and nice weather. We were planning on driving the scenic drive after hiking but ran out of time.

All in all I would say it was one of the highlights of this trip to Vegas. I will go again if I am in the area and look forward to hiking more trails and learning more about Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas!