Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I'm SOOOOOOOOO not ready for this school year.  My job has "evolved" into FIVE full-time jobs, and I'm having a REALLLLY hard time adjusting. 

In addition to running all THREE media centers in the district (.2 at each school), I'm also "officially" a .4 reading intervention teacher, and part of the PYP coordinating team.


job 1...elementary school media specialist (original school in the district)
job 2...elementary school media specialist (the "other" elementary school)
job 3...middle school/high school media specialist
job 4... .4 reading intervention teacher (technically a "less than half time" position, but since I've never DONE IT BEFORE...there'll be a HUGE learning curve...)
job 5...1/4th of the PYP coordinator team...responsible for resources/literacy

I'm ASSUMING that bursting into tears at the slightest "provocation" is probably not a good thing...

I also auditioned for "Children of Eden", and got cast as ADAM, which will add an ENTIRELY different level of stress, but, it was my choice (needed SOMETHING to "distract" me from my job), so I can't really count it...

Is it JUNE yet????

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baltic Sea Cruise; Part V

I'm completely SAD to be blogging the final full day of our trip to Scandanavia and Russia, and I'm completely SAD to not still be on the ship...what a GREAT experience it was!

Our final day started with an early breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe. We were in the first group to disembark upon arriving in Stockholm, so gathered up our stuff, and headed to deck ONE, where we met Gary and Daryl, who were ALSO in the first group to leave the ship. 

After all the friendliness and courtesy of the crew up to this point, leaving the ship was a bit of a let down.  The crew was very brief in their dealings with us, and we were off the ship VERY quickly.  I'm sure the fact that they had 2,500 people to get off the ship, and FIVE HOURS to clean the rooms and reset for the NEXT group that would be arriving to cruise to Estonia, had something to do with it...!

We had decided that, since we only got to see Stockholm from the window of the cab upon arrival, we would take an extra day at the end of the cruise to spend more time there. We got through passport control easily, and headed to the taxi queue to get a cab. 

Gary and Daryl were in front of us, and we SHOULD have been right behind them, except a REALLY rude Italian guy and his family cut under the ropes, and pushed in front of us.  I HAVE to say at this point that I have NO IDEA where the term "ugly American" fits into international travel.  From my experiences on this cruise, the Italians won that title...hands down! 

Caveat...I'm SURE not ALL Italians are pushy and seemingly clueless of the concept of standing in a line to get to the buffet (as opposed to just pushing your way in to get what you want), but those that we encountered were, as a general rule, rude...obnoxious...and really arrogant...

Anyway...the Italian family cut in front of us in the taxi queue, but, luckily, Gary got a cab that would take the four of us to our two different hotels, and I was able to HAPPILY push my way past the family and, while loudly stating "EXCUSE ME! COMING THROUGH! GOOD BYE!", get in the cab and head into Stockholm. (As I looked back, they were still standing in the taxi queue and, if there IS ANY JUSTICE IN THE UNIVERSE, are still standing there now...).

Deep breath...

After a short cab ride, and a quick exchange of cell phone numbers so that we could meet up with Gary and Daryl after checking in, Duane and I entered the Radisson Blu Strand Hotel next to the Harbor.  It was a BEAUTIFUL old hotel (recommended by a work friend of Duane's), complete with a lovely tower.

Unfortunately, we got there REAAALLLLYYYY early, so our room wasn't ready yet.  We dropped off our luggage, and decided to explore the neighborhood.  I texted Gary to figure out our agenda for the day, then we headed out to look around.  The desk clerk told us about a tourist information kiosk located in a shopping center nearby.  Shopping was all we needed to hear, so started walking.

On our way to the tourist information center we passed some REALLY cool department stores (which weren't open yet), and I found a sweater that I TOTALLY wanted to buy at a boutique: FABULOUS would I look in this??!!

The boutique was closed and, when we went back later, looked through the ENTIRE store and didn't see the sweater anywhere inside.  Oh was $150 US, so I couldn't afford it anyway.  Maybe I'll start knitting again, and make it for myself!

We also passed a really cool church, St. Clara's, so went to look around.  It was closed (??), so we only got a view of the outside, but it was very beautiful...

We then continued working our way down the street, and eventually found the tourist information booth.  We had expected to hear from Gary and Daryl by this point, but still hadn't, so got a map of the city, explored the possibility of a "Stockholm Card", which would let us ride public transportation and would get us into many of the museums in the city.  We ended up NOT getting one, because everything looked "walkable".

We went back to the hotel to see if our room was ready by this time (it wasn't), so decided to go back to the department stores and look around.  After a couple of hours of shopping, we decided to go on ahead to the Vasa Museum, where we had planned to meet Gary and Daryl at noon (before exchanging phone numbers and trying to get there earlier...which wasn't working out).

We bought a "Hop On/Hop Off" boat pass, since it would take us to the Vasa, and we could then get back on and see the rest of the harbor on the other stops it made after touring the museum.  UNFORTUNATELY, we could have spent 80 kroner on a "one stop to the Vasa" ticket, and walked back, but THOUGHT the 24 hour pass would allow us to get back on the boat after 5:00 pm (which it didn't), so instead spent 200 kroner and were only on the boat to the Vasa...sigh...

I have to say that the Vasa COULD be one of my favorite museums EVER!  The Vasa was a warship that was built in the 17th century, and sailed the seas...for approximately 20 minutes...before being "done in" by a gust of wind.  The ship had two gun decks, and was REALLY top heavy, so listed to the side, then sank.  Because of the brackishness of the harbor water, and the lower salt content, the ship, and items inside were REMARKABLY well preserved. 

The ship sat, undisturbed in the mud and clay of the harbor, for 333 years.  It was discovered in 1956, and raised in 1961.  An AMAZING museum was built to house it in 1990. 

The stern (back) of the ship (above) was, apparently, brightly painted and very ornate.  The powders below were used to paint it, and the photo following that shows examples of some of the ornamentation.

A model of the Vasa (aft)

A model of the Vasa (stern)

Painstakingly restored, 95% of the wood of the ship is original.  Items found on board when it was raised included hats, boots, clothing, pottery...and skeletons (13, I believe).  Things were so well preserved, that the skeletons still had their clothing!

A reconstruction from the skull of "Gustav", one of the skeletons found on the ship

A reconstruction of one of the two female skeletons found on the ship

More reconstructions of victims of the sinking

We DID run into Gary and Daryl as we were coming out of the theater, in which we watched a movie describing how the Vasa was raised and restored.  It turns out Gary's phone wouldn't work in Sweden.

We spent a little more time looking at the various exhibits...

The Vasa being built in the harbor

 Duane would NOT have done well on board!

Personal effects found on the ship

Backgammon sets found in the ship

After a quick run through the gift shop, we left the museum, walked along the harbor...

...and headed to Skansen, described by Rick Steves as "Europe's first and best open-air folk museum, with more than 150 old homes, churches, shops, and schools from all over Sweden." Skansen is also the model for most other open-air museums in Europe.

We started our tour of the park in "Old Stockholm"...a collection of buildings which included a glass shop, a school, a general store, and a bakery.  I had a DELIGHTFUL small round loaf of light rye bread.  The others had sweeter varieties of breads and rolls...which looked REALLY good!

After touring some of the shops, we headed to the rose garden for a LOVELY view of the city:

We even spotted our former cruise ship WAAAAAAY off in the distance!

After the "scenic overlook", we wandered through various farmsteads, churches, manor houses, garden houses, and shops.  It was very well done, and the architecture was lovely...

Seglora Church, from Vastergatland.  Erected in 1730.  Moved to Skansen in 1916.  One of Sweden's most POPULAR places for weddings

Me on the dock at the Oktorp Farmsted

Duane on the dock

the Oktorp Farmsted

the wood pile

A windmill, also built in Vastergatland, in 1750

A summerhouse from Bellmansgatan, Sodermalm, built around 1700

After touring the grounds for a couple of hours, we walked back to our hotel, via the harbor...

The Swedish Folklore Museum

Cheery flowers on a dreary day

GORGEOUS penthouses along the harbor

Daryl and Gary went back to their hotel for dinner, and Duane and I were FINALLY able to check into our hotel.  We "regrouped", then met Daryl and Gary again for a walk around Gamla Stan...Stockholm's Old Town.

We walked around the Royal Palace, Tyska Kyrkan (German Church), and shopped some of the touristy stores on one of the quaint side streets.

We then had to say goodbye to our AWESOME new friends, and headed back to the hotel to go to bed, so that we could begin the long, TEDIOUS journey home the next morning.  Luckily, our flight wasn't until 11:00 a.m.  Gary and Daryl weren't QUITE as fortunate, with their 4:00 a.m. departure from the hotel!

We hadn't had dinner, so before we went back to the hotel we stopped at MAX, a McDonald's-like fast food place in the shopping district. 

I had the GREATEST taco had salsa, a creamy sauce, and tortilla chips on top of the burger...complete with bun...YUM!!!!!!!

The next day, we had an AWESOME breakfast in the hotel lobby (included in the price of the room!).  There were LOTS of great things to eat, including bacon, eggs, cheeses, salmon (I passed), pastries, cereal, juices, smoothies, assorted meats, and!

We then checked out, walked to central station, took the Arlanda Express to the airport, and, FABULOUS SURPRISE...ran into Venessa, Sarunas, and Teddy at the gate...we were on the same flight, and had a LOVELY mini-reunion!

It worked out that we were able to get business class to New York (after intense efforts to do so at the ticket which they had no idea what our travel class status was, or whether we were able to upgrade...but they were very helpful and patient, and it all worked out in the end). 

It was an AWESOME flight back to the states!!  We flew over Iceland, which was cloudless, and could see icebergs in the water around it, and the mountains covered with snow across the continent...breathtaking!  We also had an AMAZING flight crew working the cabin.  One in particular(Nichole) was one of the BEST flight attendants I've ever encountered.  We bonded so closely, in fact, that we hugged, and kissed cheeks on the way off the flight in New York!  She was AMAZING!!!

So...that's it for the blog posts on the Baltic Sea Cruise/Trip.  It was TRULY a wondrous adventure!  We saw AMAZING sights!!!  Met FABULOUS people!!  Enjoyed the trip of a LIFETIME!!!!!!!

Here's hoping YOU recently spent time exploring parts of this wonderful planet too!!!