Monday, October 16, 2017

No Phone. No Problem?

For the past few weeks Hubby Tony has been having trouble charging his cell phone. The problem became critical over the weekend, and matter what he did the phone would not charge. Eventually he gave up and decided to buy a new one online through our carrier. Until it arrives he will be without.

Today was the first work day Tony was phoneless.   I didn't think it would impact me so much.

Several times during the day today I had a question for him. Normally I'd just send him a quick text, but of course with no phone he wouldn't be able to see it.  The issue was too minor to bother him on his work phone, but even if it was more major I didn't remember the number.  In the eight years he's been at this office I think I've called him once.

Tonight our church was having a missionary speaker, and at the last minute I decided to go.  As I gathered up my things to leave the house I tried to figure out the best way to let Tony know where I was in case he got home first.  We're out of the habit of leaving each other notes, so I didn't know if he would even look around for one. In the end I jotted some information on the corner of the flyer, then taped it at eye level on the garage screen door.

Thank goodness the phone is scheduled to arrive by mid-week.  I don't know if I want to go back to the old days permanently!

Five years ago today: Pillow Inspiration

Friday, October 13, 2017

There's A Name For Everything!

On our walk tonight Hubby Tony and I were chatting about bad luck occurrences on our respective Friday the 13ths. (Fortunately, neither one of us had any issues.)  After that we segued into a general discussion of the day/date combination.

After I got home I decided to do a little bit of research about Friday the 13th.  I poked around the internet and came upon, where I learned that some people have phobias about the day. The phobia has two names, both of which piggyback off the more general Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13). One is Paraskevidekatriaphobia (after Paraskevi, the Greek word for Friday).  The other is Friggatriskaidekaphobia (after Frigg, the Norse goddess that Friday is named for).

Thank goodness I have neither, although today I made sure to look both ways when I crossed streets and gave the ladder in the middle of the TV department at Costco a wide berth.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One Year Old (And Wonderful)

I can't believe how fast time flies! Monday of this week marked exactly one year since we received a text from Son Brian telling us that Baby Jay had entered the world.

 Last weekend Hubby Tony and I flew out to California for four days to help Jay (along with his Mom and Dad) celebrate the big event.  The social event of the weekend, the official party, was on Sunday. However, during our visit we also got to visit DIL Nicole's office for lunch, a pumpkin patch, and several parks.

The highlight of the trip for me, though, was playing on the floor and getting baby hugs. 

Five years ago today: Not So GRRRRR!!!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Mouse Control

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself...

My main computer is placed underneath the desk in the kitchen, and the monitor, wireless keyboard, and wireless mouse are on top. I also have a laptop/tablet computer that I mainly use in the family room.  Its home is on top of a table next to my side of the couch.

The other day I was getting ready to go on an adventure and needed to take my laptop with me.  When  i went to bed the night before I moved the laptop mouse into the kitchen next to my purse (which is part of my system for remembering things).  The next day I got busy doing too many things at once; all of a sudden I remembered the laptop. 

I grabbed a mouse and went into the family room. When I tried to shut the laptop down I couldn't get the mouse to work. Growling, I used my finger and the tablet function to do it, then turned off the mouse and put everything into the computer bag.

The next time I sat back down at the desk computer its mouse was gone, and a light bulb went off.   I looked over to the island, where the laptop mouse was still perched on top of my purse. Shaking my head at myself, I backtracked to the computer bag, where I removed the kitchen mouse and replaced it with the correct one.

Five years ago today: Priorities?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kindness Matters

A great inspirational video from Lady Gaga, who spoke (along with the Dalai Lama) at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, 2016.

Five years ago today: Barometer

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Designed For A Door

This past weekend was the 2017 installment of a couple's retreat Hubby Tony and I attend.

For the past three years we have been on the retreat planning committee. At the beginning of the process this year the group decided that the theme would be Classic TV. Each of the couples used a TV show as the title of their presentation.  Tony and I picked The Love Boat.  A tradition at this retreat is for the committee members hang a decoration on their room door that coordinates with the theme.  This year we all started with a plain artificial wreath.  I'm not the most creative when it comes to craft projects, but I'm pretty proud of what I came up with.

The finished product
The first step was to go online and find the show logo.  I wanted the colors to be vibrant, so I had it printed at a copy shop.  Next I carefully cut the shape out.  I took the design to the scrapbooking section of the craft store, where I found a piece of paper that coordinated with the blue of the logo.  At the same store I also purchased a remnant of bright blue nylon net.

Back at home I cut the nylon net into strips and wound them loosely around the wreath.  I cut a circle out of the scrapbook paper and glued it to a small foam plate.  After it dried I attached the logo in the center.  I printed out our names on card stock using an Art Deco font, glued them to cardboard, and secured them to the plate with hot glue.  The last step was to tape a strip of nylon net to the back of the logo and tie it to the top of the wreath, centering the plate in the hole.

At the retreat I clipped a large magnetic binder clip onto the back of the wreath and stuck it to the metal door.  I was concerned that the wreath would be too heavy for the magnet to hold up, but it worked like a charm.  Everyone at the retreat knew which room was ours!

Five years ago today: Fly! Fly! Fly!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Volunteering Vegetable

The other day I noticed the grass was getting long. With the days getting shorter Hubby Tony hasn't had a chance to get around to cutting it, so today after lunch I fired up the lawn mower and did the job. The weather was perfect for outdoor work; 75 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. I was outside for 45 minutes and barely broke a sweat.

Along one side of the back yard there's a bed that I've planted with a variety of perennial flowers and plants. However, even those low maintenance plants need attention, and I haven't taken care of the bed for weeks. Now it's a ragged-looking tangle of stems, blooms that should have been deadheaded, and annual weeds. Today as I walked by I took a good look at the bed and noticed some vines with large leaves and yellow flowers that looked an awful lot like squash plants. When I investigated, I found out that I was right.

There were two vines that wound their way past the peony bush and coneflowers and sprawled on top of the weeds.  When I moved the vine to the side, I noticed one small fruit hiding underneath the leaves.  The skin was completely ripe, so it came into the house with me.

Grown completely by Mother Nature

The squash is a little guy, weighing in at a little over a pound.  All afternoon I mulled over how the vines had gotten there, and eventually remembered dumping some compost in the bed when I redid the pile in the spring. I guess the compost included a couple of seeds that were still viable.  I've never tried to grow winter squash before, and I'm looking forward to cooking the one that grew all on its own.

Five years ago today: Rescue Plant

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Feels Like Fall


Overnight our hanging-on summer weather disappeared, replaced by temperatures that were 20 degrees cooler.  It wasn't exactly sweater weather, but I finally felt like I could put away my tank tops and white pants.

For dinner I made a sweet potato hash and baked it in the oven.  When I opened the door the heat coming out actually felt good.  After dinner I craved a cup of herbal tea, something I'd given up when the temperatures soared.

In honor of the newfound new season, here's my favorite version of the song "Autumn Leaves".  Enjoy!

Five years ago today: Churchillian

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monster Plant

This year's official 'garden' at my house consisted of one tomato plant and three pots of herbs, all purchased from a garden shop. Back in June the tomato got pruned by some type of critter, but after a short setback started growing again.  It never produced much fruit, though. (Or maybe the same critter had a taste for green tomatoes?)

When the weather turned steamy I started spending as little time outside as possible.  Even though the plant was in a bucket right next to the compost pile I barely glanced at it as I dumped the food scraps and scurried back inside.  At the beginning of August I noticed the plant had grown tall enough to lean on the pots hanging on a nearby shepherd's hook.  By that time, though, it was so entwined with the hanging plants I decided to leave it.

The beginning of September was so cool I thought about pulling out the plant.  After I harvested the first tomato of the season, thought, I decided to leave it in place. Then the weather got hot again, and the plant went into overdrive; it's now it's the monster of all tomato plants!  The stems that were leaning on the shepherd's hook are now poking though the deck rails onto the steps, and others are sprawled out on the ground, making it hard to walk in the area.

The plant is big, but I'm not complaining since I've been harvesting a ripe grape tomato or two every day for the past week.  I know that as soon as the weather cools off production will drop off to almost nothing.

Five years ago today: Music, Music, Music

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Food Court Goodness

Tonight Hubby Tony got together with his group of Guy friends for a night of poker playing.   I was all set to go with him and hang out with the Dolls (wives), who had their own plans, but at the last minute a horrible headache made me decide to stay home.

I knew that the women were going to be enjoying Chinese carryout food, followed by apple pie and ice cream for dessert, but now I was on my own. None of the healthy options in the refrigerator appealed, and I decided to get some carryout food. What, though?  We have a Chinese place just a half mile away, but if I drove a little further I could choose from hamburgers, pizza, sub sandwiches, Mexican, or Middle Eastern. I left the house not knowing where I was going, but before I got out of the subdivision I had an inspiration.  I headed in the direction of Costco.

I shop at Costco several times a month, but for the longest time I ignored the food court located just past the cash registers on the way to the exit. Eventually I tried it out, and now I'm a fan.  The prices are cheap (a hot dog and soda for $1.50, or piece of pizza for $1.99). However, my new favorite is the Chicken Caesar salad-a huge bowl of lettuce, juicy strips of chicken, cherry tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, and a container of Caesar dressing for $3.99.

The salad has enough high-calorie items that it can't be considered a health food, but it's a nice treat.  When I got home with my food I dumped the ingredients from the plastic carryout container into a large metal bowl, tossed them with the dressing, then poured myself a large glass of ice water and sat down to enjoy my meal.  And ate the whole thing.

Five years ago today: We Did It!

Friday, September 22, 2017

There's Always More Than One Way To Do Things

Wednesday morning I came downstairs and noticed that the computer monitor on the kitchen desk was dark.  As in not working.  Thinking that maybe there had been a quick power outage that turned the computer off, I pressed the On button a few times.  Nothing.  Next I tried resetting the surge protector, and heard the motor inside the tower make some noises.  After a few seconds it stopped.  Not good!

Those were all the solutions I could think of before coffee, so after breakfast I took up the project again.  I pulled the tower out from its spot underneath the desk and dislodged a large cat hair dust bunny.   Thinking the problem might be dust inside the case, I took off the cover and cleaned everything out with compressed air.  When that didn't do anything I admitted defeat.

Our computer guy is a personal friend, so I emailed him with an SOS.  Fifteen minutes later I got a text telling me to bring it by his house so he could take a look at it.  As he took the tower out of my car, he told me that based on my description of the symptoms it sounded like an easily fixable power issue.  He could probably have it fixed by time he and Hubby Tony got together on Saturday night.

Between my laptop, tablet, and phone it's not like I have a lack of ways to access the Internet, but as I drove away I realized there was a slight problem. You may remember that each week I put together a weekly slide show for electronic bulletin boards at my church.  I change them on Thursday night or Friday afternoon, and everything I needed to do the update was on my now non-working computer!

At first I thought that perhaps I could just leave the old set of slides in place, but my records indicated that one of them would be out of date after Saturday. I needed to come up with a creative solution.

I use the Microsoft Paint program to produce the slides.  I can navigate the program on the kitchen computer easily, but the laptop I bought several months ago uses a newer version.  Each time I work with it I figure out a little bit more, but this week I didn't have the time to wrestle with its complexities.  Instead, I made a generic "Welcome" slide and saved it on the laptop. 

On a normal week all I carry with me on the trip to the church are three flash drives.  Today I brought the laptop, which I used to remove the slide for the obsolete event and add the new one. Problem solved.

Simple background.  One word.  Done!
Five years ago today: Happy First Day Of Autumn

Thursday, September 21, 2017

We'll Contact You (Maybe)

I enjoy doing my independent consulting jobs.  However, sometimes the available jobs are few and far between and at the end of the month my bank account isn't as large as I'd like it to be. Last night I saw an ad for a grocery delivery service that's getting ready to start operations here. They were looking for people to apply ahead of time so they'd have a pool of applicants to choose from when they launch.  I did a little research and decided it wouldn't hurt to put in an application.

The application process was all done online. They wanted to know my name, address, phone number, and which part of the area I wanted to work in. Thirty seconds after I submitted the application I got a text inviting me to participate in a virtual interview.

Yikes!   In 2009 I had a job interview that was videoed, but for that one I had a real person to talk to.  This time it would just be me and my tablet's camera.

When I received the email my hair was still damp from the shower. I went upstairs and tried to tame it with the blow dryer, then put on a dab of makeup and mascara'd my lashes. Since I would only be seen from the waist up I figured I could leave my shorts on, but I traded in my tank top for a more professional-looking shirt. 

Semi-satisfied with the way I looked, I came downstairs and sat at the kitchen table.  The first step was to do a practice interview, in which I had to answer generic questions (What would my ideal job look like?  What activities do I do for fun?)  I thought the results were cringe-worthy.  Despite my best efforts my hair was frizzy, and without an obvious person to look at I felt like my gaze was all over the place.  However, in the interest of moving on I went ahead and started the real interview. 

I was surprised to find out that it wasn't all video questions; there were also multiple choice and short answers too.  For questions that required an oral response I had thirty seconds to compose my thoughts and three minutes to answer.  The other questions were timed, with a counter ticking down at the top of the screen.

When I finished all the questions I got a message that the company had received my answers and my submission was on file  The company did not say when they would be starting their operations, so I have no idea when they would contact me even if I was selected.  I'm not stressing out over it, though.  They'll either want me or they won't.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September Summer

At this time of year the average high temperature here is 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The record high is 96 degrees.  It looks like today we'll either break the record or come close:

Just last week it was lovely and fall-like. Hubby Tony and I opened the windows, and each night we fell asleep listening to the nighttime sounds. Over the weekend the temperatures started inching up (but the humidity was low, which made things bearable).  However, last night an hour before bedtime it was 84 degrees and sticky.  We reluctantly turned the air conditioner back on.  Instead of crickets and cicadas, I fell asleep to the mechanical hum of the air conditioner motor.

The forecast says it's going to be really hot again tomorrow, too.  Then it will inch down from the low 90s into the high 80s, and finally back to normal by this time next week.  I can't wait!

Five years ago today: Walk With Me

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tree Away

Shortly after we moved into our house 25 years ago I planted dwarf spruce trees on either side of the driveway. They grew well, and eventually got about five feet tall.

Last fall I noticed that the tree on the left had large patches of brown needles. A garden center diagnosed the problem as spider mites, and recommended a miticide. After a couple of applications some portions of the tree seemed to snap back, but the branches on the bottom completely lost their needles. This summer the tree continued to decline.  When I looked at it with a fresh eye last month I realized it was probably time to get rid of it.

I was going to get Son Donald to do the job when he was home from college during the break in between the summer and fall semester, but he was getting significant hours at his paying job to fatten his bank account. The tree was a manageable size, so I was pretty sure I could do it myself, but I wasn't excited to do strenuous work in the summer heat and the job kept getting put off. However, Hubby Tony recently mentioned how shabby it made the front of the house look and I realized it was time to put on my big girl panties and get to work. Tomorrow is trash day and yard waste pick up, so this morning after breakfast I put on some old clothes and my yard shoes and got ready to 'detree'.

The first step was to gather my equipment--garden gloves, a pruning saw, long handled shovel, hand trowel, compost fork, large plastic flowerpot, plastic tarp, and the green waste recycling bins.  I started by sawing off the branches from the bottom up.  The lowest were only a foot above the surface of the garden bed, so I had to stoop down to get to them, being careful not to kneel on the crunchy brown needles that flew off as I jostled the trunk.  Halfway up to the tree's top I found two tiny abandoned bird's nests nestled in the crooks where the branches met the trunk, signs that critters had enjoyed the shelter the tree provided.

When all the branches were removed the six inch diameter trunk stuck up like a mutant totem pole. I cut it off in three pieces, and tossed each to the side.  Finally, when there was nothing left but a stump I started digging around it with the shovel and compost fork, removing the dirt to the tarp by the flower pot full and exposing the roots underneath. I pulled up the roots when I could, but used the saw to cut through the bigger ones. Several roots extended beyond the tree's planting area; I left them in place, figuring they'd disintegrate over time.

Every so often I'd try to wedge the fork underneath the stump and lever it to see how much progress I was making. It was very satisfying to feel the stump start to wiggle, and finally topple over. One good tug later it was out of the ground!  It wasn't surprising that the small tree had a small root system, and I was able to add it to one of the yard waste bins.

There was too much dirt on the tarp for me to move it all at once, so I repeated the bucket filling process in reverse, dumping the dirt back where it came from. My original plan was to add compost to the area, but by this time I was too hot and tired (the entire job took me an hour and twenty minutes, and I considered it my workout for the day). After the ground settles I'll go back and do the enriching.

Now, with a tree on only one side the garage looks lopsided.  The second tree is in better shape, but it's still showing signs of age.  Tony and I will have to decide if we want to keep it or take it out too and start fresh.

Five years ago today: Bell Ringer

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Demonstration And Dissent

Back in the beginning of August a trial began for Jason Stockley, a white police officer accused of killing Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. Stockley had waived his right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial, so after the trial ended the entire city waited for the judge to issue his verdict. On Friday it was announced...Not Guilty.

The judge also issued a 30 page ruling that described his reasons for the judgment.  I read it, and thought it seemed logical and reasonable. However, not everyone thought so.  There had already been rumblings of protests if there was an acquittal. Sure enough, within a couple of hours of the verdict a group assembled downtown. Things started off peacefully, but later in the day the demonstrators smashed the windshield of a police vehicle and threw rocks, water bottles and other items. The police responded by using tear gas to disperse the crowds. All weekend groups of protesters have popped up in different neighborhoods, malls, and festivals.  So far there hasn't been any major violence, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way.

With the entire metropolitan area on edge, events started being cancelled right and left. Tonight Hubby Tony and I were going to attend the Moonlight Ramble, a nighttime bike ride through the city. By lunchtime on Friday we received emails that it was a no-go. Just about every venue downtown or close to downtown (including the Symphony and concerts by U2 and Ed Sheeran), followed suit, citing the fact that the police department wasn't in a position to provide the standard amount of protection.

This afternoon Tony and I discussed what we wanted to do with the now-open evening. We tentatively settled on a jazz festival in an area we were pretty sure protesters wouldn't come to, but first we wanted to attend Mass and a reception for one of our priests who is leaving. We got busy talking at the reception and by time we got home all thoughts of going out again had disappeared.  Probably just as well.

More than likely some sort of protests will take place again tomorrow.  I hope with the start of the work week on Monday things will start getting back to normal.

Five years ago today: Basement Memories

Friday, September 15, 2017

Travel Jewelry Roll

On my summer vacation I brought more jewelry than I usually do for a ten day trip.  I needed a way to store the necklaces.  Wanting to save my money for shore excursions and souvenirs, I started rooting around in my jewelry box for a solution. At the very bottom of the box I found a set of gold plated chain necklaces presented in a thin flannel jewelry roll I received at least a decade ago.  The  chains were no longer shiny or wearable, so I took them out and repurposed the jewelry roll. It kept things from getting tangled up, but it was really too short; the longer necklaces hung out of the bottom.

When I returned home I knew I needed a different solution before my next big vacation.  The project bounced around in my head for a while, then inspiration hit. I decided it would be easy to make a new one.  Here's the result:

Opened up
The big problem with the original roll was that it was too short, so I decided that the new one should have a pocket at the bottom to hold longer necklaces.  I still wasn't looking to spend a lot of money, so I used a piece of floral upholstery material from my fabric stash, which I thought also lent a vintage touch.

The steps:
  • Cut two large rectangles and one small one for the pocket. 
  • Lay pieces of ribbon (for the holding straps) across one of the large rectangles.  Pin them at the edges.
  • Lay other pieces of ribbon (for the ties) across the same rectangle.  Pin them on one side, and roll the loose ends up in a ball and pin to the center so I don't inadvertently sew over them.
  • Hem the top of the pocket piece.
  • Put the large rectangles right sides together.  Sandwich the pocket between them. Pin everything securely.
  • Sew everything together, leaving a gap for turning. Trim the corners. Turn right side out and hand-sew the gap closed.
  • Pin the strips of holding ribbon into place across the width of the roll.  Sew several rows from top to bottom, making channels to hold each necklace.
  • Put jewelry in and admire the result!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

No Seeds For Me

Hubby Tony did something really out of his comfort zone at work.  To celebrate I told him I'd take him out for a nice dinner. He chose a nearby steak and seafood restaurant, and this evening I met him there.

The restaurant's menu was extensive, but what really caught my eye was the early evening specials, which offered choices of select starters, entrees, side dishes, desserts, and drinks for a set price.  I chose a Caesar salad and Salmon Dijon with a baked potato. Tony ordered a house salad, filet Mignon, and potato.

It didn't take long for the waiter to bring our drinks.  A couple of minutes later the busser set bread and butter on the table, and our first course came out shortly after that.  Based on the traditional menu items I didn't expect any surprises with the salads, and I was correct.  Both were as expected-fresh greens lightly tossed with dressing and garnished appropriately.  The waiter offered freshly ground pepper before he left us to enjoy our food.

After the salad plates were taken away we sat and talked until the entrees came.  My large salmon filet (which covered half of the plate) was topped with a lightly toasted mixture of bread crumbs and Dijon mustard.  The other half of the plate held a perfectly-cooked baked potato.  Nestled in between the two items was half of a lemon.  At first I thought its rind had been cut decoratively, but when I looked closer I discovered the fruit end was covered by a small mesh net. The edges of the net were elasticized, making it look like a very small shower cap.

I was still puzzled about the reason for the net until I picked up the lemon to squeeze juice over my fish, and realized it kept the seeds from falling out onto my food .  What a great idea!

Both of us polished off all our food.  When the waiter came back for our dessert orders I asked for raspberry sorbet, and Tony ordered creme brulee. The sweets came and we ate all of them, too.  I can't speak for Tony, but when I left the restaurant I felt like I was waddling.

Five years ago today: Blink And You'll Miss It

Monday, September 11, 2017

Did You Know?

A friend who knows I'm a sucker for trivia sent me a link to a fun article called "29 Interesting Facts About The Internet You Really Need To Know"

Some of my favorite facts: 
  • Approximately 3.2 billion people use the internet. Of those, 1.7 billion are Asians.
  • China has treatment camps for internet addicts.
  • 30,000 websites are hacked every day.
  • The first webcam was created at the University Of Cambridge to monitor the Trojan coffee pot.
  • ”Gangnam Style ” by PSY is still the most viewed videos of all time (with more than 2,840,000,000 views).
  • The first tweet was sent by Jack Dorsey on March 21, 2006, and the first YouTube video (“Meet At Zoo”) was uploaded by Jawed Karim at 8:27 p.m. on April 23, 2005.
  • Approximately 9 Million adults in Britain and one-third of Italians have never used the internet.
  • The term ‘surfing’ the internet originated in 1992, courtesy of a New York librarian whose name was Jean Armour Polly.
  • In 2010 Finland became the first country to make the internet access a legal right.
  • Almost half of the world’s population are internet users, and nearly half of them have Facebook accounts.
  • Every minute 72 hours of YouTube video content is being uploaded.
Five years ago today: Midwest Special

Thursday, September 7, 2017

It's All In The Presentation

Just a couple of days ago it felt like summer. Then, on Monday night when a cold front came through we turned the air conditioner off and opened up the windows. It's been wonderful to fall asleep to the sounds of the crickets at night and wake up to the birds chirping in the coolness of the early morning.

This weekend I will be attending an event that includes a basket raffle fundraiser.  A group of us decided to donate a gift card and collected money to buy a certificate to a local grocery store.  However, by itself the card looked boring and I was afraid it would be overlooked. 

I went shopping at the craft store, where I found a cute scarecrow.  I brought it home, tucked the gift card under its arm, and secured it with a couple of pins.  I think it has more 'oomph' now, don't you?

Monday, September 4, 2017

The End Of Another Season

Non Sequitur
Labor Day is considered the ceremonial end of the summer season.  Hubby Tony and I had several commitments that kept us in town this weekend, but we managed to fit in a nice combination of 'have tos' and 'want tos' that made it feel like a holiday.

On Saturday, we ate lunch at Blues Fired Pizza, a new-to-us food truck with a drive-through brick and mortar location  not far from where Sons Brian and Donald went to high school. (The building used to be a coffee stand.)  As we arrived, we saw the truck backed up to one end of the building. We walked up to the window, placed our order, then had a seat at one of the nicely-shaded tables. Several minutes later we smelled our pizza cooking.  Less than five minutes later our pizzas and salads were ready.  The pizzas were single serving sized, and there were no leftovers to take home.

On Sunday we went to the Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. This is the 100th Annual festival, and it's always well attended. Tony and I toured the church and the gift shop, then went through the dinner line. We each got a salad, and shared a plate of pork kebabs with rice pilaf so there would be room for dessert. It was tempting to get one of every pastry they had for sale, but we controlled ourselves and bought a piece of baklava and a kataifi (a shredded filo roll with chopped nuts and honey). We brought them home, brewed some tea, and shared them halfies. Both were excellent.

Today we purchased a new mattress and box spring set for one of the spare bedrooms. Rather than have it delivered, we tied the pieces securely to the roof of my car, then took a scenic route home that kept us on residential streets 95 percent of the time. Every time I went over 20 miles an hour the plastic wrapping on the mattress started flapping in the breeze and I was convinced the pieces were going to slide off; I was really glad to pull into the driveway. For dinner Tony cooked bratwurst and corn on the cob and I contributed braised red cabbage. We finished off the meal, and ended summer with perfectly ripened seasonal fruit.

Five years ago today: It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Happy Brthday, Eugene Field

Children’s poet Eugene Field was born in St. Louis on September 2,1850. In honor of the day, here's a version of his poem "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" that combines the original Walt Disney Silly Symphony animation with the music of Donovan.

Five years ago today: Weed Through

Friday, September 1, 2017

Stairwell Inspiration

I had a doctor's appointment this afternoon. From past experience I knew that parking for the building can be an issue, so I left the house plenty early. As it turns out it was no problem to find an open space, and I walked into the lobby with ten minutes to spare.  With my extra time I decided to work on my step count for the day and walk up the stairs to the fourth floor doctor's office.  When I entered the stairwell I saw a laminated motivational poster on the back of the door.

I guess I wasn't the first one to think using the stairs was a good idea!  The motivation continued as I climbed.  At the top of every flight of stairs there was another poster on the door, and sometimes an additional one hanging on the wall next to the door.  The sayings drew from many genres.  My favorites were:
  • One good wish changes nothing, one good decision changes everything.  (Anonymous)
  • You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. (Wayne Gretzky)
  • Eighty percent of success is showing up. (Woody Allen)
  • If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. (Yogi Berra)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clean Out The Crud

We are a coffee drinking family.

Each morning after he's had his fill, Hubby Tony makes sure there's enough for me left in the insulated carafe of our Mr. Coffee.  I have one cup with my breakfast and another mid-afternoon. It's nice that the coffee is still nice and hot when I drink it, but the design of the carafe (with a top opening so small I can't fit my hand inside) makes it hard to clean.  The best I can do is stick a washcloth in there and twirl it around before I rinse it out, and run the deep cleaning program when the "Clean" button tells me to.

Last month when Son Donald was home the coffee consumption increased proportionally.  Both he and his dad drink a lot of coffee.  The carafe was rarely empty, and I don't think it was thoroughly cleaned for weeks.  When our cups started having brown flakes of crud in them I  took a good look inside the carafe, and discovered there was a layer of brown caked onto the sides.


I used a bottle brush on the sides, but couldn't get to all the surfaces.  It was enough to knock off some of the deposits, and we didn't have any more flakes in the coffee, but I figured it was time to do something more drastic.

I Googled "clean thermal coffee carafe" and clicked through on the first hit, a post called How To Clean a Stainless Coffee Pot.  It sounded like an easy job to get the carafe back to new condition, so I decided to give it a try. Following the directions, I threw a pod of dishwasher detergent into the pot, then filled it with boiling water and let it sit while we ate dinner. The next time I looked, the top of the water looked scummy.  When I emptied it out, it was so brown it could have been actual coffee! 

Don't drink this.
All of the caked-on residue had melted away, and the inside of the carafe gleamed. 

The next morning my morning cup of coffee tasted amazing, with a mild flavor and fruity notes that had been missing just the day before.

Five years ago today: Welcome, Welcome, Welcome

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bag It

In my opinion, Sunday afternoon is one of the worst times to go to Costco. But Hubby Tony and I were out of spinach and mushrooms (which are essential ingredients in our house). Costco has the best prices on the items, so to Costco I went.

When I pulled into the parking lot and saw all the cars, I knew the store would be packed with customers.  However, I've come up with a way to get through the store relatively quickly. If I only need a couple of items I bring in a shopping bag and skip the cart. That way I can maneuver around the people who stop in the middle of the aisle to look at something, and children who aren't watching out for other people. At the sample stand it's easier to collect my goodies, because without a cart I don't take up much space.

Then, after I have all my items I can zip past the laden baskets headed towards the checkouts. It's easier to survey the lines and pick a short one when all you have is a cloth bag hanging over your arm, and without a cart I'm not blocking the aisle for people trying to get through.

After I've paid for my purchases and head for the exit I can walk briskly past the slowpokes who are examining their receipt to make sure they were charged correctly for their items.  Finally, I don't have to push the unwieldy basket through the parking lot full of cars backing up without looking to see if anyone is behind them.

Five years ago today: Why? Just Because

Friday, August 25, 2017

National Banana Split Day

The sign on the door said it all:

I was alerted yesterday to the fact that August 25th was National Banana Split Day. Our local Culver's restaurant had a promotion on the treats, so after dinner Hubby Tony and I walked up there (because the steps we took would help burn off the calories we were going to ingest). 

Ready for eating
We both ordered a split and we both polished it off.   Then we walked home a less direct way. Those banana splits have a lot of calories!

Five years ago today: Can You Believe I Ate The Whole Thing?

Monday, August 21, 2017

In The Shadow

Perhaps you've heard there was an eclipse across much of the United States today?  Hubby Tony and I were lucky to live in the 70-mile wide path of totality, and decided we wanted to watch the once-in-a-lifetime event with people. When we heard about an opportunity to volunteer for a viewing party at a local retreat center we decided to sign up.  In exchange for our time, the center offered a t-shirt, lunch and (the all important) viewing glasses.

Even saints got into the eclipse mood
Our instructions were to arrive by 10 AM to receive our shirts and instructions.  La Salle Retreat Center is only ten miles from our house.  However, after breakfast was cleaned up we were antsy and decided to get on the road, arriving forty five minutes before the designated time.  We figured we'd use the extra time to walk around the beautiful grounds.  When we pulled in we saw the tents that had been set up for selling eclipse glasses, bottled water, and cookies.  We parked the car, got our shirts, then staked out an area on the lawn with our chairs and a blanket for later.

There were already people arriving, though, so instead of having time to walk we were pressed into service. Tony's job was to help direct cars.  I was assigned to sell Cosmic Cookies (several varieties, all freshly-made in the center's kitchen).  The cookies weren't ready, so I had the chance to chat with some of the other volunteers while I waited.

The retreat center sits at the top of a large hill.  There were two viewing areas; the main one at the crest of the hill by the building's front door, and a second one at the bottom.  A wide variety of people arrived to watch.  Most of them were older, but there was  a large group of middle school students who arrived in school buses and used the event as an educational experience. I also talked to several parents who let their children skip school so they could watch the event together.

Eventually a shave ice truck arrived and parked at one end of the main viewing area.  A group of astronomers set up two huge telescopes. When the cookies arrived, sales were brisk.  The event turned into a great party.

Ready to look into the sky
In the days leading up to today the weather people couldn't decide if it was going to be sunny or cloudy. All they knew for certain was that it would be late-August hot and humid. Fortunately, the clouds stayed away.  The heat didn't, but I was working under a tent and had shade. 

The moon entered the sun's path at 11:49 am and continued for the next two hours and 54 minutes. Ten minutes before totality began the astronomers gave us a warning, and offered another a couple of minutes before. They sounded an alarm when it was safe to take off our glasses, and a reminder when it was time to put the glasses back on.

The total eclipse started at 1:16pm and lasted for 2 minutes 8.3seconds.  Shortly before totality the shadows on the ground started to look very strange. Night insects started chirping.  The temperature dropped, and the cars turned their headlights on.  At totality, the ghostly moon silhouette passed directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona.  As inspiring as the totality was, the first peek of the sun afterwards was almost more awesome.

It didn't take long for enough of the sun to become visible again to put things in nature back to normal.  Once things were bright out again people began packing their things up to move out.  Tony and I stayed around long enough to help tear down the tents and carry some things into the center, then we headed to our car, taking our memories of a lifetime with us.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

From One Cat Lover To Another

Do you remember just a couple of days ago, when I showed you pictures of my cats as tiny kittens?   Strayer, of Cat Eyes---A Cat Woman's Photos commented that "I'd love to see side by sides of your cats as kittens, then as they are now."

Post more photos of my 'boys'? Twist my arm!

I wanted to come up with just the right images, though.  First I asked the cats nicely if they would like to recreate their earlier poses. They declined. Next  I tried to catch them off guard with my camera, but they weren't having any of that, either.  Finally, I dug into my archive of cat images.

So Strayer, here you are.  Cats young and mature.

Pepper on the left, Jackson on the right

Five years ago today: Mouthy

Friday, August 18, 2017

I'm A Guardian of Magnificent Wisdom

Monday, of course, is a solar eclipse in much of the United States. In honor of the day, here's a cute meme that can help you find your Eclipse identity.
Five years ago today: My Favorite Walk Yet!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Age Has Its Privileges

Today was Pepper Cat's and Jackson Cat's annual vet visit.  They don't enjoy leaving the house, and getting them there is always a big deal (you can read about the procedure here and here), but this year went smoothly, thanks to Son Donald's assistance.

Once they made it into the examination room the tech scooped them out of their carriers (which they were quite reluctant to leave) and weighed them, then let them retreat back to their solitude while we waited for the vet.  The vet did the dirty work of poking, prodding, and vaccinating.  At the end of each cat's exam, she pronounced them in good shape "for as old as they are." 

Where did the years go?  We brought the cats home in June, 2002, shortly after they were weaned, and arbitrarily decided that their birthday was May 15th.  That means they're now 15 years old! 

Back in the day
I was curious about how a cat's age correlated to a humans.  I asked the vet, who said there's no hard and fast rule. That surprised me, so I came home and did some Internet research. Animal Planet told me:
An indoor cat's world is a safe, cozy haven, with tasty meals dished up on time, and protection from the changeable weather. Her only experience with a predator is probably a zealous owner who wants to groom her coat or trim her claws. Life with a clean litter box, a private place to catnap and attention from one or more humans who offer affection and care -- what more could a cat want for a stress-free existence? If she's grown up indoors, she'll likely have no interest in exploring the great outdoors, especially with stimulating playtime and toys to keep her stalking instincts keen. With routine vaccinations and vet checkups, plus a spaying or neutering can cause an indoor cat to easily thrive into her teens or beyond. The average life span is 12 to 15 years.
Wow! I guess my cats deserve the extra time it takes them to get up the stairs now and then. Our previous cat lived into his 20s, though, so I'm hopeful we'll have Pepper and Jackson around for a long time.

Five years ago today: The Choice Is Mine

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cheap! Cheap!

Last night Hubby Tony and I decided to go downtown for a Blues at the Arch concert. Because there was also a baseball game scheduled we knew there would be a lot of people trying to find a parking space.  The parking garages would have their higher event rates in place, so our plan was to first try and find a parking meter. 

We get downtown several times a year, and know the drill.  A lot of the streets have rush hour parking restrictions, but those end at 6 PM. The parking meters are operational until 7 PM.  So, if you're lucky enough to find an empty spot it doesn't cost much to use it.

We arrived in the area at 6:15, and Tony only had to drive up and down a couple of blocks before he found that magic empty spot and pulled in before we realized that neither one of us had change to feed the meter.  However, the fancy new ones the city recently installed accept charge cards, so I told him I would take care of it.

I found the pay station, input the parking spot number, and inserted my card to pay.  It wasn't until I got the receipt that I realized just how cheap our parking would be:

Yes, I put a whopping twenty five cents on my card.  I looked around, but there was no explanation of why there was a 6:30 expiration time.  Maybe it was my lucky day?

Five years ago today: What a Crock

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Last night St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Kansas City Royals.  In the sixth inning of the game a bit of future baseball lore unfolded. The Cardinals were down by one run, but the bases were loaded.  Somehow, a cat got onto the field as Yadier Molina was at the plate. Yadi pointed his bat towards the cat, and play stopped. It took a couple of minutes for the kitty to amble across the field and get captured. (It was none too pleased to be carried out; the grounds crew member got clawed and bit in the process.) Once the game resumed Yadi hit a grand slam right towards where he had been pointing his bat. The Cardinals won the game.

Just to make sure that our out of town children had heard about the event, this morning I sent out a link on our family chat group, titling it "Yadier Meowlina". Then I left for the gym. My phone dinged a couple of times while I was driving. I ignored it. When I came out of the gym this is what awaited me:

I guess they thought my link was the cat's meow.

Five years ago today: Who, Me? Not Me!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Driving The Future

Every once in a while I get to do something really cool. Recently I was invited to drive a Tesla electric car.  I thought about the invitation for approximately three and a half seconds before I said 'Yes'.

Electric cars are getting more and more popular, but they're still a novelty on the roads in my neighborhood.  The sedan I drove, a Model S, came with all the bells and whistles.  On the outside there was a automatic keyless entry system, retracting lighted door handles, and folding heated side mirrors. The space where the engine would be on a conventional car was extra trunk space.  Inside, in addition to the normal goodies that new luxury vehicles have, like USB ports, power outlets, hands free talking capability, and backup cameras, this car had Internet connectivity, voice activated controls, and streaming radio.

When I sat in the twelve way power adjustable, heated driver's seat, the first thing I noticed was the giant touch screen in the center of the control panel, which controlled everything in the car.  In addition to all of the normal information you'd expect to find on the instrument panel, you could also see how long you could go until the next charge.

I got to drive on both surface streets and highways.  On the highway I was able to try out the autopilot, which uses sensors and cameras to steer the vehicle.  It was creepy to let the car control itself, and I didn't do a good job of it.  Instead, I kept turning the steering wheel such that the autopilot would disengage.  I bet with practice I could get used to it, though.  At the end of my drive I got to try out the car's perpendicular auto-park feature.  I pulled up to a spot, put the car in reverse, took my hands off the wheel, engaged the auto-park, and watched in amazement as the car maneuvered itself into the spot.

If I had enough money I would head straight to the nearest Tesla dealer to purchase one for myself.  Unfortunately, my bank account balance says that won't be happening anytime soon.  However, if the car's price ever comes down I'd certainly think hard about it.

Five years ago today: Bike Maintenance Basics

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wonders All Around

Today in one of my meditation books I read:
"This is a day which God has given into my hands...I will notice interesting things."
And in the next paragraph, it said:
"Today there are wonders all around me, if I will open my eyes and enjoy them."
Reading those words of wisdom gave me the motivation to be extra observant.  I'm glad I was.  Otherwise I would have missed the small bunny scurrying to hide in a hole under the front porch slab.  And the two spotted fawns frolicking in a yard while during my evening walk.  And the beautiful patch of Black-eyed Susan I saw growing though a fence.

Five years ago today: Now That's Service!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Texas, Thanks To Tony

This week Hubby Tony had a training class scheduled in Dallas, Texas, and asked me if I wanted to join him for part of it.  I flew out of St. Louis Tuesday morning and arrived back home this afternoon.  Thanks to some new-to-me work assignments I also picked up along the way, it was a whirlwind two and a half days.

All of the people in town for Tony's training class stayed at the Magnolia Hotel. The beautiful historic building was originally the headquarters for the Magnolia Petroleum Company. The company trademark was a Pegasus,  and this was the first thing I saw when I walked into the lobby:

Tony told me there were about two dozen people in his class.  They weren't the only group, though.  We got to share the hotel with swarms of Mary Kay Cosmetic ladies, who were in town for their annual convention.  Everywhere I looked there were representatives.  Even if they weren't wearing their official convention lanyard it was easy to spot them, because most had on distinctive apparel or branded items.  The ones I talked with were very friendly, but I didn't want to get too close, for fear of being roped into a sales presentation.

I enjoyed spending time with Tony at breakfast and after work hours, but he wasn't the only family member I got to hang out with.  You may remember that Son Tony now lives in the Dallas area, and Son Donald (who finished his university summer semester and is free until the next classes start in mid-August) was there paying his brother a visit.  It was an unplanned mini family reunion!

Five years ago today: The Art Of Sleeping In Public

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Do Nothing Challenge

When I try to do too much on the computer I get grumpy and out of sorts.  That's when I know it's time to Do Nothing For Two Minutes.

The URL takes you to a screen with a photograph of the ocean at sunset and the sound of waves crashing on a beach. It asks you to relax and listen to waves for 2 minutes. The site's developer takes relaxation seriously.  If you touch your mouse or keyboard the time starts over.

If you try it, let me know how you did.

Five years ago today: Birthday Bash 2012

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Virtual Rack Woes

How was I supposed to make a word with these letters?

Hubby Tony and I are usually pretty well matched at Words With Friends.  This game, though, I had rotten luck the entire time and he ended up winning by more than 100 points. I was so glad to have it be over!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Concentated Banana Goodness

Yesterday at the store they had some bananas for fifty cents a bunch.  A bunch jumped into my bag.

My default need-to-eat banana recipe is bread or muffins, but when I got home I realized that it was really too hot to turn on the oven.  I started thinking creatively, and wondered if it was possible to dry the fruit for later.  A quick Google search revealed that not only was it possible, it was easy.

I started out by weighing the bananas to see what I had... a little over 3 1/2 pounds of gooness:

After I peeled and sliced the fruit, I tossed it with lemon juice and arranged the slices on dehydrator trays,

then started up the dehydrator and waited.

The process took longer than I anticipated.  At bed time the bananas were still moist.  Before I turned in I lowered the dehydrator thermostat as far as it would go (so the slices wouldn't finish in the middle of the night).  This morning things were still dampish, so I turned the thermostat back up.  Two hours later I had this:

These slices are chewier than banana chips (which are actually fried) and have an intense banana flavor.  I put them in a container in the pantry, but since I've already gotten into it several times I suspect it won't take long before the bananas are gone.

Five years ago today: The Same, But Different

Sunday, July 23, 2017

No Ice Cream For You!

This morning Hubby Tony and I put the bikes in the car and drove to an organized bike ride in Edwardsville, Illinois. The ride had four options (14 miles, 23 miles, 41 miles, and 50 miles).  They all started at the same place and ended up at an ice cream store.

Right after we checked in, a man standing next to the table asked if we would like to join a group that was riding together. Tony and I had planned on doing the 14 mile route.  This group was riding 23 miles, but we agreed. It's always nice to meet new people.  After everyone was ready we headed out.  Eventually some of the group decided they wanted to go faster and left, but Bill, the organizer, was nice enough to stay with me and Tony the entire way.  

Most of the ride was on nice, flat reclaimed rail lines.  The street riding in between the trails was on safe quiet streets. There were only a couple of hills, and they were doable. It should have been a very easy ride.  However, last night a strong storm had come through the area, and the trails were scattered with tree debris.  We had to dodge several large branches dangling over the trail, and carry our bikes over a pile of greenery that completely covered it.

However, very close to the end of the ride we came upon a pile of branches over the trail that was about three feet tall.  We stopped and looked at it, looked at each other, then decided to turn back.  Bill was familiar with the area, and told us about a different ice cream store we could drive to.  We thanked him for the information, but instead, on the way home we stopped at a cafe/donut store for lunch and a different kind of sweet.

Five years ago today: Don't Worry

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Worth Getting In The Car

I work as an Independent Contractor for multiple companies.  That means that if I want money to come into my bank account first I have to find the jobs to do.  Sometimes that's easier said than done.  Especially this week, when the extreme heat and excess humidity has sapped all my ambition:
Yesterday I saw an assignment that looked appealing.   However, it was halfway across town and didn't pay enough to justify the driving I'd have to do. Another company had a job just a couple of blocks away from the first, but (again) the pay wasn't enough to get me in the car.  This morning I sent an email to both, explaining that I would do the work if it could be assigned to me for tomorrow.  It took a couple of hours, but I eventually got responses from both companies that the jobs were mine.  Success!  I added another errand along the way and all of a sudden the day was looking productive.

Productive, but not filled up.  I'm going to continue to look; you never know when opportunities could present themselves.

Five years ago today: It Might Be...It Could Be...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Deals And Steals

What do you do when you find a pair of Clarks sandals at a thrift store for six dollars?

You buy them, come home, and do a happy dance in your very comfortable new shoes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Remember You! Do You Remember Me?

My high school years were a very long time ago.  How long?  Last weekend I attended my 40th high school reunion.  It was an interesting experience.

Our class has had reunions every ten years. I went to the first two, but skipped the 30th.This one has been in the works for a while.  A year ago the planning committee created a Facebook page and website to share reunion information.  Eventually I found out the activities would stretch out over two days...a mixer on Friday, a group photo and tour of the school Saturday morning, and the main event Saturday night. In late June I sent in my registration (Hubby Tony didn't go).  Then I waited.

The week before the event the committee published a list of attendees. There were about 800 students in the graduating class, and approximately 100 of them planned on being there. There were just a few people I knew well, and large handful that I would consider acquaintances.  The rest of the names meant nothing to me, and I started second guessing my decision to go.  But then I decided this would be a good time to practice stepping out of my comfort zone.  I looked in my closet, planned my outfits, and got mentally ready.

On Friday night I walked into the very crowded event room of a local bar and saw a bunch of faces I didn't know.  Then some of them started looking familiar.  When I looked at people's name tags some of the names started to ring a bell.  I chatted with classmates I hadn't seen in decades.  Several people were nice enough to tell me I looked the same as I did forty years ago.

The group photo and school tours on Saturday were interesting, and helped me to talk with even more people.  By the time I entered the restaurant banquet room where the reunion was being held Saturday night I felt pretty comfortable. There was no way I could get around to everyone, but I was proud of the fact that I didn't spend the whole night just talking to people I knew. I even had conversations with people I had never crossed paths with in high school.  There was little discussion of jobs or accomplishments.  Instead, we chatted about if we still lived in the area (and if so, where) and if we had kids or grand kids.

At the end of the night the head of the organizing committee announced that from now on there are going to be yearly informal get togethers.  I think if my schedule permits I will attend.

Five years ago today: Course Of Action

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Forward And Backward Or Backward And Forward

It was brought to my attention today that this week every date (if you write them as month/day/year) are palindromes and read the same forwards and backwards

Five years ago today: Pain In The Neck

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Garden Beauty (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The last port of call before our Alaskan cruise finished was Victoria, British Columbia.  However, since the ship didn't  arrive until 7 PM (and departed at 11:59 PM) we  had another full day at sea.  In the morning Hubby Tony and I took a galley tour through one of the kitchens.  We got to see some of the staff working on menu items for that night's dinner and some impressive fruit carvings.

After lunch we packed our suitcases in preparation for the next day's debarkation.   Fortunately, all of the souvenirs fit easily into the bags, although we did have to expand the to their maximums.

The dining room opened early for dinner so people could eat and move on to their evening's activities.  Tony and I signed up for a bus trip to Butchart Gardens. I was really looking forward to my visit. We tried to go the gardens when we were in Vancouver in 2010, but at the last minute decided it was too far away.

When the boat docked, we left the ship and joined the stream of people heading off the dock.

There were a lot of people taking the same tour we were, and they filled several buses.  As each bus filled they left the parking lot.  Ours was the last in the caravan. The drive to the gardens was approximately an hour.  Along the way the driver told us a little bit about the history of the city. She promised that on the way back she would drive through the Chinatown area, where she would share more history.

At the garden the driver got out and picked up our tickets and garden brochures.  She handed them out as we exited the bus, and we followed the stream of people to the entrance.  Once in, we followed the suggested walking route through the beds.  Over the course of the night it got dark, but there was adequate lighting along the paths and the lights set among the plants gave the areas an exotic feel.

At the appointed time we headed back to the bus and took our seats.  Right on time the driver headed back to the dock.  However, by time we got to the Chinatown area it was dark and the stores were all closed.  That was OK, though.  I was tired and ready for my bed.

Five years ago today: Add A Little Irish To Your Game

Friday, July 7, 2017

All Aboard! (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

On Thursday, our Alaskan cruise ship docked in Skagway, where Hubby Tony and I took an awesome train trip through old gold rush territory on the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad.

Train depot as we were pulling away
Our tour bus was waiting for us when we got off the ship. After everyone was aboard, the driver (a gentleman who looked to be in his late 70s who told us he had been coming to the area for the past five summers to be a seasonal driver) who took us to the train depot where we boarded a restored passenger coach and settled in for the almost five-hour ride. 

Before the train got started the narrator gave us some directions and safety instructions, including how to access the platform of the rail car..  Then we were off!  We quickly gained altitude as the train wound up the mountain. The scenery was spectacular. 

Lake Bennett

Along the way the narrator told us about the history of the area.  He also alerted us to things to look for out of the windows.  I learned that the railroad began construction in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush. It stopped operations in 1982, but reopened for tourists in 1988.

The train made a stop at Bennett, British Columbia, which was a thriving town back in the gold rush days. Now there's an interpretive center,and a short self-guided walking tour.  Shortly after we got back on the train lunch arrived--turkey sandwiches, chips, fruit, and a blondie.

Because we were crossing into Canada, at the border the train stopped to let Customs agents board and check passports.  (On the return trip the bus driver also stopped at the border, but the officials only wanted to see his paperwork.)

Our trip ended at Carcross, Yukon, another gold rush town. The small area around the train depot had a handful of tourist stores mixed in among the historical buildings.  At the appointed time we found our bus driver, who had driven up to meet us, and began the trip back.  When we got back to Skagway the driver offered to drop us off so we could see a little bit of the city.  I enjoyed walking around the vintage Skagway business district.  We stopped in a couple of stores and bought souvenirs before walking back to the ship.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

At Sea And On Land (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The Wednesday of our Alaska cruise was unique. In the morning we sailed through a fjord. Later in the day, we docked in Juno, Alaska, where Hubby Tony and I went on a whale-watching adventure (complete with a salmon dinner) and got to see a glacier up close.

View from our balcony when I woke up
We didn't want to miss anything, so we ate breakfast early.  After breakfast we did a few laps on the ship's Promenade Deck, multitasking by getting exercise while watching the scenery go by. This was the only time I used my winter coat, but I was glad I did.  The wind was brisk, and it was cold enough for icebergs.

Iceberg calf
Originally the plan was to sail into Tracy Arm Fjord. However, several weeks before the cruise that changed because Tracy Arm had too much floating ice.  Instead, the ship was diverted to Endicott Arm. I just wanted to see the area up close, so the specific fjord didn't matter to me (and I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference).  While we sailed into the fjord the naturalist was on the ship's bridge, talking about what we were seeing.  You could hear her remarks from the speakers on several decks, but  they were also broadcast over the ship's TV.  Because we were fortunate to have a balcony, we saved the open decks for those without one, turned up the TV volume, and left the door open so we could hear.

The ship sailed in as close as it could get to the Dawes Glacier, where it turned around for the trip back out.  However, before it did the passengers who signed up for a glacier tour got off onto tender boats and we watched them sail away.  The naturalist had promised the ship would do a 360 degree turn so everyone could see everything.  However, it was a 540 degree turn to get the ship bow pointed in the right direction.

See the glacier in front of the mountains?
After the ship turned around we went back inside, and the rest of the morning and early afternoon was more 'at sea' time.  We docked at Juno mid-afternoon.  Tony and I had signed up for a tour that included a salmon dinner, whale watching, and a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier.  We left the ship and did some shopping before it was time to get on the shuttle bus for our tour. 

The bus drove us to a dock where we boarded a whale watching ship large enough to hold several dozen people.  Our first stop was Orca Point Lodge, where we had a lovely grilled salmon dinner.  Then we got back on the boat and headed out to find some whales.  The tour guaranteed we would see some, and offered a refund if they couldn't find any. At first it was slow going (and I was afraid we would be receiving the refund), but all of a sudden we came upon a pod.  The first indication was seeing a spout of exhaled air from the whale's blowhole, followed by its arching back, and then the fluking, where the tail rises up out of the water as the whale dives.  The whole procedure is awe-inspiring.  I was sad that I wasn't quick enough to get a good photo of the event.

After we returned to the dock it was time for the third part of our adventure.  Because of changes to the ship's schedule, we knew that by the time we arrived at the Mendenhall Glacier the visitor center would be closed, but we were still able to walk down to an observation point for some photos.  I have never seen a glacier in person, but now I can cross that off my bucket list.

Glacier selfie
Five years ago today: Sew It Then Throw It