Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mar·i·time (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

The day after all the graduation party celebrations were over it was time for us to go our separate ways. Son Brian and family left for the airport before Hubby Tony and I rolled out of bed. It was strange to walk around in a quiet house. Tony and I dressed, ate breakfast, and put our things in the car. On our way out we detoured to a nearby church for Mass, then let Google Maps direct us to the car rental facility. Once the car was returned we took the shuttle back to the airport. However, our ultimate destination was not a plane. Instead, we walked over to a cruise ship desk and checked in for the shuttle to the Emerald Princess, our cruise ship home for the next week.

Right after we purchased the airline tickets we started talking about what else we could do while we were in the area.  We had visited Seattle and Vancouver in the summer of 2010 and felt like we had 'done' those cities.  However, an Alaska cruise has been on my bucket list for years.  When I threw out the idea Tony thought it was an excellent one.  I emailed our travel agent friend for suggestions, and a week later we were booked.
Tony and I have been on five other cruises.  The first one was in 1980 (for our honeymoon).  There were two with the entire family in the 1990s (organized by our travel agent friend), and two this decade (one with Son Brian and DIL Nicole, and one for our 35th anniversary). But they never get old.
Sailing away (thanks, Kenya!)
The transfer from the airport to the ship went smoothly. By 2:00 we were checking out our room, then we left the room to explore the ship.  That was easy, because this was not a new ship to us; we had cruised the Mediterranean on it in 2015!  Somewhere along the line it had re-positioned itself.

When we got back our luggage had arrived and it was time to unpack. I'm proud of the fact that I travel light, but even though I brought clothes that could mix and match, this time I toted a very full suitcase, since I had to bring clothes (and shoes) for pre-cruise events, casual ship time, formal nights, and chilly port excursions.

Based on what we've learned from previous cruises, I brought extra hangars, Ziploc bags, and dollar store laundry hooks for hanging the clothes I washed out in the sink.  Because I remembered that the room was short on electrical outlets, Tony brought a power strip to charge our electronics.  The room had plenty of storage areas for two people.  We divided the closet and closed storage areas in half.  Tony set his things out on the small bathroom shelves, but my toiletries were in a bag that could hang on the closet rod when not in use.

This cruise had four stops: Ketchikan (Alaska), Juneau (Alaska), Skagway (Alaska), and Victoria (British Columbia).  We also spent one morning sailing up a scenic fjord.   Surprisingly, the week before we left I found out that Kenya Johnson of Sporadically Yours was going to be on the same ship the week before us.  During her trip she sent me helpful emails from different ports giving us some tips on what was good to see and do.  Now that she's back I've enjoyed reading her posts on her experience.  (You should check them out.)

Five years ago today: Who Needs A Sauna...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Celebrations All Around (The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017)

Originally Hubby Tony and I thought we would be the only members of our family attending our niece's college graduation in Olympia.  We booked a flight into Seattle, and Tony arranged for a rental car at the airport and reserved a generic chain hotel in Tacoma ( halfway in between the two cities).  However, at the beginning of April we were thrilled beyond words to find out that Son Brian, DIL Nicole, and Grandbaby Jay were also planning to be there. When we received a text from Nicole letting us know they had found an Airbnb house big enough for all of us right on Puget Sound we quickly cancelled our generic digs.

We left for Seattle on Thursday night. The flight was scheduled to arrive at 9:30 PM, and we figured we'd be at the house a couple of hours after that.  However, nothing went according to plan, and we pulled into the parking area at 1:45 AM.  Everything was dark and it was a little tricky to find the right door to go in, but once we figured that out it didn't take us long to fall into bed.

The house was arranged on two levels, with Brian and family on the floor above us.  A staircase connected the two.  That meant we could all have our privacy, but still spend as much time as possible cuddling with this cutie:

There he goes!
The college's original plan was to hold the graduation on campus in Olympia, but at the last minute thy changed the location to a stadium in Tacoma.  That worked out well for us, since it was a lot closer to our house.  However, there wasn't enough room in the lot for all the cars and we had to park several blocks away.  The line to get into the stadium was long, and once we got inside we couldn't find the other family members who were saving us seats.  But it all worked out, and we were able to watch Michelle walk across the stage and accept her diploma.

Because of Jay's schedule we passed on the after-graduation group dinner, but were able to find a good Mexican restaurant not too far from the house.  The graduation party wasn't until Saturday night, so we had most of the day to relax.  The celebration was hosted by the parents of one of Michelle's friends (and fellow graduate).  The family is Hawaiian by heritage, which gave the event an exotic feel.  In addition to large pans of white rice and macaroni salad, the buffet line included:
  • Kalua pua'a (roast pork)
  • Chicken Long Rice (almost like a soup with noodles)
  • Lau Lau (steamed pork wrapped in taro leaves)
  • Poi (boiled taro root mixed with water until it reaches a smooth consistency)
  • Poke (bite-sized pieces of raw fish garnished with salt, onions, and sesame oil)
  • Squid Luau (squid and luau leaves cooked in coconut milk and pureed)
  • Lomilomi salmon. (small pieces of salmon mixed with tomatoes and onions)
I'm an adventurous eater, so I tried a little bit of everything.  Some I really liked; some I can cross off my bucket list and not eat again.  After dinner a small band of relatives played Hawaiian tunes, then a group of hula dancers got up and performed several numbers.

When the show was over the graduates cut and served the cake. By this time Jay was getting tired, so we said our goodbyes.  It had been a very full weekend, and wonderful first part of our adventure.

Five years ago today: Half Baked

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure of 2017

For the past four years our niece Michelle has gone to college in Olympia, Washington (just a couple of hours from Seattle).  Last Christmas she reminded Hubby Tony and me that she would be graduating this June, and extended an invitation to attend the ceremony.

Tony and I talked about it, decided it would be a good idea, and at the end of January booked our flight.  Since the tickets to Seattle were a little pricey we started talking about other activities we could do while we were in the area.  Soon a plan began to take shape......

Five years ago today: Save Some Time To Dream

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Virtual Crayons

Some time back I decided I needed an adult coloring book app for my iPad. There were almost a dozen in the App store, so I randomly chose one (appropriately) called Adult Coloring Book to download. I'm sure all the other options are equally fun, but I'm happy with my choice.

Several nights a week I open up the app when I'm zoning out in front of the TV.  There are multiple books to choose from, and also a special Daily Design. The app is easy to use. You pick a color and then tap the shape to fill it in. There's an undo button if you don't like the results.  Another handy option is the ability to zoom in, which makes filling in very small shapes easy.

When the picture is finished you can add a texture or a frame.  There's an option to share your creation via text or email, and a gallery where you can see how other artists have colored their pictures.  The app itself is free, and comes with a set of what they call 'Essential Colors'. You can subscribe to unlimited access to all the books and the color palettes, but I didn't bother.  Every once in a while I'll open up the app and be surprised that they've thrown an additional set of  colors my way.

One of my latest masterpieces
Five years ago today: Hot In Herre

Friday, June 16, 2017

Frog Fear

The other day I was moving around the potted plants that summer on the deck.  The large container of ginger sits on plastic feet, which raise it about a half inch off the ground.  When I picked up the pot this guy was underneath:

The frog looked at me.  I looked at him, then I pulled out my camera.  He posed nicely while I took his portrait. The photo is deceptive; this little guy was only about an inch long.  I went on about my moving plants business and the next time I looked he was gone.

After I finished my work I came inside and posted the photo on Facebook.  One of my friends made a comment that if she had seen the frog she would have "freaked and dropped the pot, because (even though she doesn't mind snakes, spiders or bugs ) she was petrified of frogs".  I'd never heard of frog phobia, but I  know there's a name for everything.  It only took a couple of seconds for Google to tell me that a fear of frogs and toads is ranidaphobia.

Now we all know.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thanks For The Help, But I'm Good

I decided not to plant a garden this year, but when I was buying my annuals one grape tomato plant jumped into the basket. I came home and put the small plant in a five-gallon bucket.  Now that the weather has heated up it's been growing nicely, and has a dozen small green fruits and many more flowers.

Originally I thought the plant was going to be a bush variety, but yesterday I noticed it was getting tall and gangly, which means it's an indeterminate type that will keep growing taller all season. I staked the stems, and briefly thought about removing the highest growing tips so the plant would bush out, but I was short on time.  This morning I noticed 'something' had done the topping for me!

Those stems used to be a lot longer

The damage was over three feet off the ground, but based on the nice clean cuts I suspected a rabbit. This isn't the first time Bugs has noshed on our plants, so I was ready. I pulled out a spray bottle of a natural garden pest control, which contains a lovely combination of putrescent egg solids, castor, garlic, and fish oils, and urea.  The mixture stinks to high heaven but does the trick.

I sprayed the mixture heavily to the leaves and stems. The smell will be undetectable to a human nose after several house, but the spray has an ingredient that allows it to stick to the plant surfaces.  That means that going forward, even if the smell doesn't deter the critter the taste will.

Five years ago today: Size Me Up!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Six-Tea Day

June 11 is always a big day for Hubby Tony, but this year it was extra special; the clock rolled over into a new decade for him.  When we woke up I asked Tony how he felt.  His reply was "At least a day older."

Two organizations that Tony belongs to both scheduled breakfast at the nearby American Legion post after Mass today.  Before we left church a 'little bird' told one of Tony's friends that it was his birthday.   During breakfast that person announced it to the entire room, who sang Happy Birthday to him. Then, for the next 45 minutes people took the opportunity to wish him a good day.

For a present I bought Tony tickets to a St. Louis Symphony concert entitled "Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and the Ladies of Swing".  The event started at 3:00, so after we fed the cats we got in the car and drove to Powell Hall.  We followed the stream of people into the beautiful hall and took our seats.  The concert was wonderful!  I think I enjoyed it as much or more than Tony did.

Earlier in the week I had told Tony to pick a restaurant to go to for dinner.  It looked like he had a great time researching options and finally making a choice.  After the concert we drove in that direction, got lost, then pulled up the information on Google and discovered the restaurant was closed on Sunday anyway.

We ended up at an Ethiopian restaurant in Grand Center, where we shared an appetizer of sambosas and  a vegetarian combo plate.  At the end of the meal, when the waitress came by and heard it was Tony's birthday, she announced, "We celebrate".  Several minutes later she returned carrying a piece of baklava drizzled with chocolate sauce, holding a single lit candle. When she reached the table she put the plate in front of Tony and we sang in his honor.

Tony's "card"

Five years ago today: Comments, Please

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Am I Blue?

The internet is filled with diversions. Today it told me What Is The True Color Of Your Personality?

Like every web-based  test I've taken this one had several 'pick which you like the best' questions.  After I told them everything they wanted to know, the answer came back that I belonged to the Blue color family.

Their explanation:
The color psychology quiz tells us that like those blue colors that you subconsciously most relate to, you're deep, comforting, emotional and naturally intuitive. You've always had a sixth sense or gut feeling that never leads you astray. Rely on your intuition; it will never fail you! But, you probably already know that. Others may perceive you as overly emotional, and you may even have a reputation for being a bit sensitive or touchy, but you actually just have an incredibly high emotional intelligence. You can be a bit melancholy at times, and you need time and space to recharge your emotional energies.
Were they right in their assessment?  I'd give them a 50%.  However, I really liked the photo that accompanied it!

Five years ago today: The Sights And Sounds of Nature

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Walking Is Just Slow Running, Right?

I learned from Shirley that today was Global Running Day.  The holiday was new to me, but according to the Global Running Day website, it is "a day for people around the world to celebrate the joys of running."  To participate, all you had to do is take part in some type of running activity.  Shirley changed up the requirements by substituting a nice brisk walk.  Reading her post, I realized that based on her standards I had celebrated too.

Today I had some jobs that took me to the Central West End, a beautiful old neighborhood that has a nice mix of restaurants, retail, and stately mansions dating back to the early 1900s. After I parked my car (at the parking garage of a historic hotel) I walked down the street, people watching and admiring the elegant clothes featured in the boutique windows I passed. The weather was beautiful--in the high 70s, with a sunny sky and low humidity.

In one of the stores I stopped to try on the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen.  It was pale striped rayon crepe with a high-low hem which hit me at just the right place in the front and the back.  The front had a half placket with delicate-looking buttons.  The back was gathered at the bottom of the yoke and draped just right.  The long sleeves were just right for rolling up or leaving down. The only downside was the cost...the shirt was definitely selling for a designer boutique price.  More than I've ever spent for an item of everyday clothing.

Of course the sales associate told me the shirt looked fantastic on me, and went out of her way to highlight all the ways I could wear it.  It could be dressy!  It could be casual!  It would look great with a tank under it when the weather got cool!  She threw so many suggestions at me that they started to make sense, and I decided to throw my budget to the wind and buy the shirt.  The sales associate followed me to the cash register, where she rung up my purchase, wrapped it in tissue paper secured with a fancy sticker, and placed it in a tote bag.  On my way out the door she said she was confident I would love the shirt.

As soon as I left the store I started regretting my purchase.   I spent twenty minutes walking up and down the tree-lined streets pondering what I should do.  On the one hand, the shirt was very versatile.  But did I really want to be seen wearing the same thing at every event?  For the money I had spent I could buy three or four nice non-designer shirts.  Eventually I took the shirt out of the bag to see it again, then lifted up the bottom hem to look at the care label (something I had neglected to do in the store) and learned that this shirt was Dry Clean Only. 

That sealed my decision.  I backtracked to the store, and told the sales associate I didn't want to be 'that woman' but I would be returning the purchase I had just made.  She was nice enough to say she understood, but I still felt bad.  The only positive on my end was the almost 7,500 steps I got.

Five years ago today: Funnies

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Old Shoe, New Shoe

Two summers ago I found a pair of New Balance flip flops at a discount shoe store. They had the best arch support of any summer shoes I've ever worn, and I slid them on whenever the weather was warm enough to go sockless.

This spring I noticed that the flip flops weren't as comfortable as they used to be. When I took a good look at them, I realized that the soles had deep foot indentations and the outside edges of the heels were showing a lot of wear.  It was time to find another pair.

I browsed at all the big box shoe stores around my house looked for  pair of comfortable flip flops or sandals, but couldn't find anything just right.  Last Friday I found myself within five miles of a dedicated New Balance store.  It was worth a slight detour to see if they had what I was looking for.

I walked into the store, briefly pursued their selection of warm-weather shoes, and selected a Renew Thong to try on.  Except for a couple of cosmetic differences they looked just like the ones I was replacing. The clerk brought out my size, along with a pair of sanitary socks.  I tried them on (a little difficult, because the socks didn't have a toe split), and ten minutes later I left the store with my new summer house shoes.

When I opened up the box at home I noticed a tag hanging from the right shoe strap that touted all the benefits of this style-good arch support, a flexible forefoot, heel cup, and gender specific foot bed.  The tag also said that since the foot bed fit like an orthotic there should be a break-in period. (It suggested two hours the first day, and then 1-2 additional hours each day.)  I figured that since I was used to the shoe I could ignore their suggestion.

I thought wrong.

I had greatly underestimated just how much the old pair had lost their support. At the end of two hours the both the ball and arch of my feet ached and I couldn't wait to take the new shoes off. But the instructions were spot on. Yesterday I wore the shoes all morning. Today the only time I took them off was when I put on shoes to go for a walk.  They were that comfortable

Based on my past experience, I'm looking forward to a long period of happy feet.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Good Concept, Bad Execution

I think that AMBER Alerts (the name is officially a acronym for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) are a good thing. They allow authorities to quickly get the word out about child abductions. However, the methods for getting that word out could use a little tweaking.

The alerts are distributed through radio stations, TV stations, and some social media websites.  At the beginning of  2013, they also started being sent to cell phone users that have the capability of receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts.  It's still all good, but the chosen alert method for cell phones is an extremely loud and blaring alarm.  It doesn't matter if you have the phone on Silent or Do Not Disturb; the sound still comes through.  The first time I heard it I was terrified.

In my area an AMBER alert is only issued once every few months.  The latest one happened in the middle of the night Tuesday, during the 2:00 hour. My phone was downstairs in the kitchen. The loud, piercing sound traveled down the hall, up the stairs, across another hall, and into the bedroom. I woke up in a panic when I heard it, but when I realized what it was I rolled over and went back to sleep. (The next morning I found out the alert had been issued for a possible abduction about a hundred miles to the southwest from my house. Fortunately, the girl was quickly found.)

In the past I've tried poking around on my phone to find a way to lower the alert volume, but I didn't have any luck. This time I decided to research the issue.  Sadly, I found out the alerts are all or nothing.  The only option is to disable the alert. 

After thinking about it for a while I decided that when future alerts are issued I'll hear about them through other channels, and turned off the AMBER alerts on my iPhone.  The process was simple.
  • Open Settings, then click on Notifications
  • Scroll all the way to the bottom to the Government Alerts section
  • Toggle the switch for AMBER Alerts OFF
I hope that sometime in the future they'll update the notification settings to make the alerts less strident.  If they did I would gladly turn them back on.