Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Moving BITES!!

Hi All!

I haven't dropped off the face of the planet, or forgotten my blogger password...I've just been CRAZY busy with summer school AND the big move.

To say that I have WAY too much stuff would be a GROSS understatement. After THIRTEEN car loads of miscellaneous junk from my storage unit and apartment, EIGHT people lugging boxes of books and furniture and junk Friday evening, and me going over again and again the last few days to pack up the bathroom and kitchen stuff (and bringing another three or four carloads over), all of my stuff is FINALLY in one place. It's not organized, and I'm already TIRED of stepping over stuff, but at least it's all together now!

The new place is a SHAMBLES, since I've been trying to get the walls primed for painting at the old place (back to BORING old white), and spent most of today cleaning everything (it's practically "move in" clean over there!). It's BEGINNING to take shape over here, and now I can focus on getting the new place organized, as I OFFICIALLY turned in my keys, parking "car tags", and laundry card at Ballantrae this afternoon.

I wasn't NEARLY as sad to leave Ballantrae as I was when I left the apartment on Main Street in Fairfield...probably because the move from Fairfield was so traumatic. New job, new apartment, new life...the "adventure" was SO complete and scary. Here, I just left a NICE apartment in a somewhat "dumpy" complex for a WAY better place, closer to Duane.

I MUST pause for a moment and give a HUGE "shout out" to dad, Duane, David, Robin, Emilie, Abigail, Linda S., Linda D., Pat S., and Kelly for all of their help moving everything out of the old place Friday night, and moving everything into the new place. What a bunch of troupers...they REALLY "worked it", and "worked it" hard!!!!

Also a BIG thank you GOD for rain in the morning, but a sunny, dry afternoon!!!

Here are a couple of pictures of how things are shaping up. I'll post more after I get things "situated"...which could be awhile!!!

Hope all is well in YOUR part of the country/world!!!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Staying Positive in a Negative World

I found this post on the web while "stumble-ing" (if you don't know about "stumble", we MUST's cool), and found that it REALLY applies. I'm feeling a little negative now (in the intense throes of moving...what a CRAP-FEST...EIGHT carloads to a garage that LEAKS when it rains, and I haven't really even STARTED moving the stuff from my actual apartment...the other stuff was junk in STORAGE...ACK!)!

I actually have the Albright quote (below) posted on the door to my office at work...we have A LOT of whiny, negative people at school, and the quote makes me smile!

The following is by "Mystical Whitewolf" (I have NO IDEA who this is), posted on, June 23, 2008:

"A Positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." - Herm Albright (1876 - 1944)

I came across this saying today and thought it was great and wanted to share it with others who might be finding it hard to remain positive when there is so much negativity around them, or in their life.

People have said that depression is alive and well, but ask yourself this question, ‘What are you doing to combat depression in your life?' I, for one, believe we have to set our mind on the positive side of life or we would all remain depressed, as life does not always show us its kinder self. We are hit with day to day problems, coming at us from every direction, all at once.

I have found that if we focus on the positive things in our life, the negative things become smaller and easier to manage from one day to the next. It is when we focus on the negative that so many of us become overwhelmed, and can not seem to find our way out of the pit we have allowed ourselves to be put in.

Maybe the quote from Herm Albright will help others find their way out of the darkness that has enclosed them. This is what negativity will do to people. It can swallow a person whole, and then we must find reasons to carry on in life. So, if staying positive annoys enough people maybe they too will focus on the positive in their life. If not, at least they will not bring you down with them as they will not want to hear your positive attitude all the time. This allows you to remain positive.

There will be the odd person who can not stand that your spirits are higher than theirs, and will try to bring you down to their level, but that is when you tell them your spirit soars no matter what the mood that ‘THEY' have chosen to remain in. It will not effect how you have chosen to feel today.

And who knows, showing a much more positive side to them, you might lift them up, too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

North (west) to Alaska!

Just spent a LOVELY week in Alaska with Duane! We boarded the plane on Monday afternoon, and arrived just TWO HOURS LATER (with FIVE hours of flight time) in Anchorage. This was our THIRD trip to Anchorage. It's such a great place to visit.

Me outside the Bank of Alaska!

A totem pole outside the courthouse in Anchorage

After picking up our rental car, we headed to Alaska House of Jade, the bed and breakfast that we "stumbled upon" on our first trip, when trying to get into another one down the street that was full. We've stayed at this bed and breakfast, with Dee and Yves, each time we've been in was GOOD to see them again.

Dee, Yves, and Duane

We were initially going to just stay the first night, as Dee was booked for the rest of the week, but, someone from Tennessee, who was trying to fly standby, wasn't able to get on their flight (we know how THAT goes!), so a room was available for our entire time there.

Monday night we drove around town a bit, found our FAVORITE grocery store (Fred Meyer), tried to figure out where everything WAS again (we haven't been back to Alaska since 2002!), and turned in early (the sun not going down until after midnight makes for a REALLY crazy first couple of days of "acclimating" to the place).

Tuesday morning, we got up, had a FABULOUS breakfast (Dee is an AMAZING cook)...scrambled eggs, reindeer sausage, fresh fruit, blueberry/pecan pancakes, and Dee's fresh rhubarb sauce...amazing!

After breakfast, we headed to a REALLY COOL bookstore that we saw the previous night, called "Title Wave". What a HOOT! Mostly new books, with some vintage stuff thrown in, as well. Lots of cool "Knick knacks", book-y gifts, novelties, an AMAZING cookbook section, etc. I found a vintage cookbook, circa 1979, called "Alaska's Cooking", published by the Anchorage Woman's Club, and a savory tart cookbook, as well as a COOL thing for part of Amy's Christmas present (can't say WHAT, because she's one of the FOUR people who actually read my blog!).

After TWO HOURS at the book store, we headed downtown and had lunch at the Glacier Brewhouse. We shopped for awhile, but didn't find anything. One of the highlights for me in Anchorage is ALWAYS seeing the visitor's information center (see picture below). The plants and flowers that they have planted around and ON the building are SO amazing!

The Anchorage Visitor's Center

After that, we headed off to various antique stores around the city. I wanted to find a recipe box (WITH recipes) for my collection, but didn't. In fact, I didn't find ANYTHING at any of the antique stores that we went to...sigh. Oh well...I'd just have had to figure out where to stuff it in my luggage!

After antiquing for awhile, we went back to the House of Jade to "regroup", then drove outside the city to climb Flattop mountain. We'd never been to Flattop before, and I'm glad Dee suggested was CRAZY COOL! We TOTALLY got a workout though...higher elevation and steep slopes make for LOTS of work! I never realized how FLAT Minnesota is!

Flattop Mountain

Me BEFORE all the climbing (you don't get to see the AFTER pictures...NOT a pretty sight!)

Duane on the way up Flattop Mountain

The view near the point at which we turned around (we didn't go all the way up!)

After a couple of hours at Flattop, we headed back to Anchorage, found a CARL'S JR. (!!!) at which to eat, found a BASKIN ROBBINS for ice cream, then headed back to the B&B and collapsed into bed.

Wednesday morning, we got up, had another AMAZING breakfast (Dee said that at the bed and breakfast we were going to have to move to, they only serve a "continental breakfast", so we were REALLY glad that we got to stay!). Dee made an egg and green chile souffle, grape and rosemary foccacia, pecan sticky rolls, fresh fruit, and more reindeer sausage (as well as brats, and pork sausage).

After that AMAZING breakfast, we "waddled" to the rental car, and drove down the Seward Highway. Before leaving Anchorage, we stopped at Potter Marsh, and took the boardwalk out into the marsh. They've renovated, and built additional walkways, so we got to see some new parts of the marsh. We didn't see much wildlife, as it's too early for the salmon to spawn. We DID see two eagles perched in a tree in the distance, and there were a FEW red salmon (small ones) beginning the swim upstream, but definitely not the HUNDREDS of salmon we've seen jumping upstream in years past.

After Potter Marsh, we headed down the highway. We stopped at a few viewing areas along the bay, POSSIBLY saw a humpback whale out in the water, saw a moose along a streambed, and made a stop to take the tram up Mount Alyeska. It's evidentally been a cool summer so far...when we've gone up in years past, we've been able to hike further up the mountain from the tram. This year, it was covered with snow...deep snow...snow that we couldn't climb on...crazy. Part of it is the fact that we were there a month earlier than "normal", but the weather has been a factor too, I think. While we were there, the temperature never got above 61 degrees! It was AWESOME (but chilly!).

The tram to get to the top of Alyeska


It was very cloudy on Alyeska, so the view wasn't as gorgeous as usual, but it made for some interesting photographs! We also got to watch a few people "hang glide" (or "parasail"...I can't tell the difference) from the ski lift area (Alyeska was home to the 2002 skiiing competitions of the Winter Olympics).

The hang glider/para sailer!

After Alyeska, we drove on to Seward. Seward is a "quaint" little town where LOTS of cruise ships dock...many people then catch the train from there to Anchorage. We walked around the docks for a little while, and had a hard time finding a place to eat. We settled on a "mexican" restaurant (which wasn't very good), and, as we were heading out to Exit Glacier, decided to drive the opposite way down the highway, only to discover the actual "downtown" area. There were some FUN touristy shops, like "Once in a Blue Moose", and some WAY better restaurants...sigh...oh well...we'll know better next time...

One thing that always strikes me as "curious" about Alaska is that they produce oil, right there, but have some of the HIGHEST gas prices in the country. The driver from House of Jade told us that it's because they pump it there, but have to send it to the "lower 48" to be processed, so by the time it gets back to Alaska, it's WAY expensive. In Seward, a gallon of gas was $4.95!!!! Ouch!

We went to Exit Glacier after touring the "downtown" area. The glacier has receded a bit...even since our last visit! One of the coolest things (besides the FREEZING breeze off the glacier) is that the park has posted markers along the drive/walk to view the glacier. Each marker has a year printed on it, and this designates where the glacier reached at that time.

The earliest marker is "1816", and the glacier was ENORMOUSLY much larger than it is now. At present, the viewing area is a fair distance away from the glacier, so we couldn't actually touch it this time (I don't think we could last time either, but we were able to go down onto the "debris field" and pick up pieces of ice that had "calved" off the main glacier, which was COOL!).

Exit Glacier

We headed back to Anchorage after walking around a little while longer, and, when we got back, took the rental car to the airport (at 10:30, when it was still COMPLETELY light out...comparable to about 8:00 p.m. in Minnesota), then collapsed into bed again.

Thursday morning, we got up, had french toast, and scrambled eggs EARLY, then headed to the trian station for the eight hour ride to Denali National Park. What can I say? The train ride was a BLAST! We had assigned seats, but didn't spend much time in them. The train had "viewing bubbles" in several cars, in which you could go up, find a seat, and get a lovely 360 degree view of the countryside. The seats in the "bubble" weren't assigned, so you were only supposed to spend about 20 minutes at a time there (so others could take advantage of the scenery).

The train also had a "snack car", a dining car, a gift shop, and, my favorite part, half doors between the cars, so that you could lean out, get fresh air, take photos, and enjoy the breeze. We met a couple of really fun people from Atlanta and North Carolina, and a grandmother who was showing Alaska to her grandson...FUN people!

The scenery was GORGEOUS, but, like the rest of our stay in Alaska this trip- CLOUDY! The sun DID finally come out, just before we got to Denali, and the mountains were even MORE gorgeous in the sunlight!

Once the train arrived, we headed to our lodge, just outside the park. We took the shuttle into the "town" of Denali (really just a couple of gift shops, a few restaurants, and a hotel), had dinner at the "World Famous Salmon Bake", and then went back to the lodge to sleep (all of that fresh air COMPLETELY exhausted me!).

Friday, we got up, packed, had breakfast at the lodge, walked along the river bed and found some COOL rocks, and took the shuttle to the train station. We had about five hours to kill before our train to Fairbanks, so toured the visitors center, had coffee, had lunch, took a shuttle up to the Savage River to look around (saw a caribou), hiked a trail, and shopped at the visitor's center bookstore.

Me on the Savage River bus

We boarded the trian around 4:00, enjoyed more FABULOUS scenery and the amenities of the train (this one, instead of a "snack car", had the "Tiki BarCar"...complete with palm trees, grass huts, and other "native" frills...WAY cool)!

We spent more time in the gift shop, and met a LOVELY lady named Nancy, who was working the car. She's actually from Arkansas, but comes up every summer to work on the railroad. She was a hoot, and very sweet. I bought a pair of Alaska Railway pajama bottoms, and she tried her "darndest" to get me to model them in the onboard giftshop fashion show". I didn't...!!!

Nancy and me in the "gift shop"!

We got to Fairbanks around 8:00, hustled into a taxi to the airport, and were able to get first class seats back to Minneapolis/St. Paul. UNFORTUNATELY, it was a "redeye", so after a few drinks, dinner, and a little reading, we ATTEMPTED to sleep on the plane...COMPLETELY uncomfortable...I think I got about an hour of sleep total!

We arrived in Minneapolis at 5:30 Saturday morning, and I've spent the last couple of days trying to catch up on the sleep that I missed on the plane, and trying to readjust to the time's only three hours, but it really messes you up when it should be 8:30 p,m,, and it's really 11:30, and vice versa!

FABULOUS trip, but I'm a little sad that this might have been our last trip to Alaska...with the Delta/Northwest merger in the works, NO ONE knows what the "perks" will be for employees of the new airline, and (more importantly to me) the flight benefits for "spouses/partners" of those employees. Time will tell, I guess.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July Weekend at the Lake!

Just got back from a LOVELY final 4th of July weekend at the lake. I say final, because, it appears, the lake home REALLY is going to be sold sometime in the next few months. Can't TELL you how sad this makes me...we've been going to Doris and Charles lake home for the last THIRTY years, and, now we're counting down to Labor Day Weekend, which appears to be the FINAL visit to Sun Valley.

I did a little "guesstamating" today, and...if you figure we've been going to the lake for each of the major summer holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day) for a total of THREE days each weekend for THIRY years...that equals A YEAR total (plus a few days!) that we've spent there. You could take away a few days (when I was in Japan, and Robin and David lived in California), and it would STILL be safe to say that we've all spent approximately THREE QUARTERS of a year of our lives!

I'll get WAY more maudlin in September...for's how the weekend "played out":

We arrived around 10:00 P.M. on Thursday (at mom and dad's), and IMMEDIATELY went to bed (having had a LONG 5 1/2 hour drive, only interrupted by a dinner break at Carlos O'Kelly's in Storm Lake).

Friday morning, we headed to the lake, and had a LOVELY early morning (well...okay...9-ish, so not so very early) ride in the speed boat. We try to go early in the morning, or later in the evening, on the 4th of July weekend, since there is SO MUCH BOAT TRAFFIC on the lake.

Abigail, mom, and Emilie

An interesting aside: there are a BUNCH of "newbies" on the lake. Very odd...there are the "oldies" (I guess you'd call them) who have been on the lake for 30 years, and have been there since the begining (and only paid about $30,000.00 for their lots AND houses), and the "newbies", who, because of the SKYROCKETING price of lots and houses on the lake, have ended up paying about $500,00.00 for their lots.

SUCH a difference between to two...the "newbies" are SO "priveledged" and CLUELESS! They don't understand that we DON'T care to hear their music blasted through their expensive sound systems all the way down the cove, and we DON'T care to hear them yelling to their other "newbie" buddies further down the cove, and we DON'T care to see their beer bottles and alcoholic beverage bottles thrown around their yards, and we DON'T care to see them walking through our yards to get to each other like they OWN the place, and we DON'T care to deal with their CLUELESS behavior on the lake (no flags when someone is in the water, going CLOCKWISE instead of COUNTERCLOCKWISE, as the rules state, filling their PRETENTIOUS big boats with WAY too many people, etc.)...what a bunch of CLUELESS simpletons!!! We HATE them (or it might just be me that hates them...LOSERS!).

Anyhoo...we spent MOST of the day just relaxing. I read a new book that I got for the media center. It's called "100 Cupboards", and was REALLY good. I'd tell you who wrote it, but Emilie took it when I was finished, and it's at her house right now so that she can read it.

We ate LOTS of great food, and had a lovely time just "hanging out" schedules, no agenda...just avoiding the (MANY!) gnats, and sitting around. I spent most of the day sticking ears of corn on the nails in the tree next to the deck, and watching chipmunks stuff their cheeks with kernels of corn to get them through the time between NOW, and when Doris and Charles come back again.

It was a REALLY interesting (??!!) experience. In the time that I observed, I saw TWO chipmunks, with ONE (larger chipmunk) bullying the other whenever it came back for more corn, and found the smaller one trying to load his cheeks. I saw a blue jay land, and steal a few kernels between chipmunks visits. I also saw a tiny wren "dive bomb" one of the chipmunks for no apparent reason...very INTERESTING (in a lame sort of way!).

The lake fireworks were Friday evening, and I ALWAYS love going out on the boat (with everyone ELSE on the lake), dropping anchor, and watching the "show" from the middle of the lake...SO cool! Lots of very DAZZLING bursts of color, and HOW COOL that we're in the middle of a lake in southwestern Iowa watching this!!!!

Saturday, was more of the same...lying around, reading, eating, and enjoying doing NOTHING. Started ANOTHER book...this one was called "Standard Hero Behavior" by John David Anderson (Emilie DIDN'T read this one, so I was able to find out who the author was!). It was REALLY good, and I recommend it HIGHLY...dragons, bards, bullies in drag...what a HOOT!

David, Emilie, and Robin riding the " tube"!

Emilie, Abigail, and I walked to the dam, and looked for fossils (in the rocks along the edge of the dam), took pictures of some of the wildflowers, and tossed sticks in the spillway to watch them float to the bottom. It was "warmish", but the humidity was VERY un-Iowa-like for early July...VERY delightful!!!

Today started with David and me moving furniture around in the living room for mom, and pulling up the carpet in dad's bathroom, so that we can TILE it over Labor Day. Isn't it INTERESTING that a simple project like pulling up carpet can manifest into a MAJOR ordeal??!!

I pulled up the carpet, only to find a HIDEOUS 70's design carpet underneath (that needed to be pulled up), only to find a LINOLEUM floor under that, only to find a base board layer under that. We (David and me) pulled it ALL up, to get to the original wood floor, so that we can lay down a NEW layer of plywood, then TILE the floor next month. What an ORDEAL!!!! I also had to use a crowbar (how butch!) to pry up all the wood, with nails sticking out of it, onto which the original carpet was attached...glad I got my tetanus shot last month...ouch!

We also decided that the wallpaper (above the TILE part of the lower wall) needed to go (with the intent of PAINTING the upper part of the wall), only to find that there was duct tape and LAYERS of old, hideous wallpaper underneath. So...instead of painting, we're going to RE-WALLPAPER with something a little less HIDEOUS!!!!


We DID eventually get to the lake, and TRIED to take the boat out, but only got a short way around before seeing lightning, so headed in, sat around, and, eventually, went out again (after the storm passed!).

We ate a quick lunch, then headed back to the cities. I sit...typing this, waiting for the washer and dryer downstairs to open up, so that I can wash everything to REPACK, because TOMORROW Duane and I are headed to Achorage, Alaska for a few days...oy!!!!