Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is It Possible We Crossed Paths in Alaska?

Sunday, August 10, we were in Juneau, Alaska -- walking around the town, eating in the Red Dog Saloon, and participating in an exciting whale watch. Getting to the bay where we boarded the boat, we passed the new Wal*Mart which our hostess was so proud to point out. This bus ride was about 5 miles away from the city center. Is it possible we crossed paths with Sarah Palin, the newly announced vice presidential candidate, by presidential candidate John McCain that day? Could be.

Or, is it possible we walked past Sarah and her husband while we were docked in Skagway on Monday, August 11? After all, her parents moved to Skagway in 1964 to teach school. Perhaps they still live there. Who knows?

It's fun to wonder. . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday, Aurelia!

Tonight I was privileged to attend Aurelia's 1st birthday and oh, what fun it was! She is such a sweet, happy, smart little girl. It seems like she is older than one as she has been walking - walking very well - for over three months. For darling photos and an excellent video of her first year, check out Sarah's blog here.

Aurelia loved opening her gifts, especially the toys. She had pizza for dinner and ate a good-sized piece of cake all by herself.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sarah to the Rescue!

A big THANKS to Sarah for solving my problem with getting my blog entries in the order I want them to appear. I wish I would have talked to her before this project because then I would have our cruise in chronological order. Oh well.

I sure enjoyed our trip and it has been fun to relive it by journaling the daily events.

Pike Place Market

Candied apples

So pretty

I can't imagine catching one of these!
Original Starbuck's

Linda and Heidi

Top row, small covered dish in the front center is now proudly displayed in my home.

Today, even though the temperature was 94 degrees, Janet, Linda, Heidi and I went to downtown Seattle to stroll through Pike Place Market. This was Linda's first visit to Seattle, so we thought she would enjoy seeing this.
As always, there were crowds of people and the shops were busy. I am always amazed at the gorgeous bouquets of flowers and their very low prices. It's fun to watch them being put together so effortlessly. Linda also wanted to see the original Starbucks store, which is directly across the street from the market.

Do they still throw the fish at the fish stand? Yes. It draws quite a crowd.

Even though we didn't buy any candy or candied apples, it's always fun to look.

My favorite store in the market is the Polish Pottery store. As I always say, "You can never have too many dishes!" Anyway, I bought one piece. This I added to my small collection of 5 pieces total. I bought my first piece here, one piece in Salzburg, and 2 in Germany. Each piece I have is a different shape and pattern.

Fun Find in Seattle

This is primarily for Rachel's information, but Friday Heidi took Jerry, Janet, Linda and me to a Japanese store called Daiso - the same store as in Yokosuka. In Japan it was referred to as the 100 Yen store (the same as our dollar stores). Here everything is priced $1.50 in American money. It was so much fun, and we three gals bought things. Three things I was excited about were paper weights: 2 polar bears and one oval shape (like an egg) with bubbles inside. They are beautiful! And such a bargain. I bought some little cobalt blue glass cups too.

Linda asked if there was a store like this in Chicago and the clerk said no, only in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Jerry had one of my polar bears in his carry-on and it set off the signal at security in the Seattle airport on Sunday. Could the bear contain lead? No one knows. But once the guard checked it, Jerry was allowed to bring it through. Poor Jerry.

Random Photos

Sandy and Jim

Jim and Lil

Aunt Liz, Linda, Sarah, and Barb

Sarah's parents, Barb and Ken

My dinner mates part 1:
Darcy, Gloria, Jim, Sandy, Jim, Lil

My dinner mates, part 2: Denny, me, Pat, Jerry, Darcy, Gloria

Yours truly, Heidi, and Janet

My first "hands-on" with a Bald Eagle

Peder and Aurelia

Sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

Jerry with one of the many towel creations made by the crew.

Aurelia enjoying a piece of pizza.

Pat said, "This dessert is so delicious, I could lick the plate!" I told her to go ahead. :-)

Day 7 of Our Cruise

Aurelia was not fond of her birthday hat.

"Birthday Cakes" at Aurelia's little birthday party on the ship.

I love this photo of Peder!

Heidi was treated to a pedicure. Isn't she cute?

Me with two of my favorite people

Before we cruised, someone suggested we should give Aurelia a birthday party on the ship. Sarah got wind of it and said it would be fine, but she didn't want Aurelia to have any cake until her actual birthday, which is August 23.

Pat and Linda decided they would like to host it and gave invitations to everyone on Tuesday. The party would be Thursday in the Champagne Bar, where we held Heidi's surprise baby shower.

The two hosts got pretty creative. They borrowed the ceiling decorations I had used for the shower. For a "cake," Pat stuffed into her purse 20 cups of yogurt from the Windjammer lounge after breakfast. She arranged them on the tray from our room which held our ice bucket. Poked into each cup top was a plastic candle holder and candle that Pat bought at the dollar store the day before in Prince Rupert, B. C. It was really a cute "cake."

Another scheme they came up with was a gift bag for everyone. Pat raided the room service cart in our hallway, taking bars of soap and chocolates, which she stuffed into feminine disposal paper bags. She also deposited a questionable candy in each: a mint wrapped with cellophane, picturing a donkey and stating VOTE DEMOCRAT. My friend, Lil, said, "I'm not sure I can eat this." While at the dollar store in Prince Rupert, she also bought a Pin the Tail on the Donkey game (I'm seeing a theme here.) and party hats. Jerry won the game and his prize was a roll of toilet paper - also taken from the cart.

Aurelia seemed to have fun opening her gifts. It's hard to believe she is turning one already.

Rainy Day in Prince Rupert, B. C.

Our ship at pier in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada.

Kitchen inside Prince Rupert Train Museum.

Waiting for the show to start.

Roel, from The Phillipines, our waiter in the Edelweiss Dining Room.

Julia, from Russia, our head waitress in the casual dining lounge.

This day we woke to a chilly, rainy setting in Prince Rupert, B. C., Canada. There really weren't any excursions here that we felt like doing, so Jerry and I decided to brave the elements and walk around the town a little. He had a desire to tour the train museum, so that sounded good to me. We found it to be a charming little building with a small waiting room for guests and a kitchen, dining room, and a bed room for the workers. I especially liked the kitchen. It was cheerfully painted which we learned was important since Prince Rupert is the 3rd rainiest city in all of Canada. Jerry has loved trains most all of his life. I think it makes him happy that Josiah also shares this interest.

From the museum we walked up a long hill to the mall. This small city reminded me of Duluth with its hills. The mall ended up being a big disappointment. The only store I would have like to have seen was now closed. So we headed up the hill a bit further to the dollar store. Funny, but we didn't run into Pat there. We did see Sarah's parents on the sidewalk outside the store, however. It's hard to believe that I was in a foreign country and couldn't find one single thing I want to buy - not even in the Salvation Army store. If there were nicer stores, we didn't see them.

But I felt like my luck changed when we finally found the public library. Shaking out my umbrella, which had blown inside out three times, and hanging up my wet coat and purse on a chair, I was ready to sit at a real live computer to check email, a couple of news sources, stocks, and perhaps make an entry on my blog. I learned the first half hour was "free" and each additional half hour only $1 - a bargain.

Jerry and I found a great little restaurant right down the sidewalk from where our ship was tied up. It was called Peg Leg and had a pirate theme. We each had delicious burgers and fries. What a treat.

On a different note, we had extremely nice waiters in the dining rooms. Two of my favorites were Roel and Julia. I loved it when Julia would say in her darling Russian accent, It's my pleasure. She was a delight to talk to.

The Cast

This was one time when everyone from our reunion gathered for a group photo. Missing is Lil's husband, Jim. On a big ship such as this, there were always many events happening simultaneously. Perhaps Jim was in the pool or taking a nap. You will need to double click on the photo to enlarge it.

Endicott Glacier

Approaching the glacier.

Crew member watching for large chunks of ice.

Endicott Glacier

The ice here is about 100 feet high.

On our itinerary, we were to sail through the Tracy Arm fjord, but due to huge chunks of ice, it is too dangerous. The captain instead took us to the Endicott Glacier in Endicott Arm. He directed the ship in very well, moving slowly. The water in this area is 1,000' deep and of course, very cold. Once we got in as close as safety would allow, the captain turned the boat about 90 degrees to give everyone a good chance to see it. A small rubber boat with crew members tried to capture a big piece of ice to bring on board for all to see and touch, but the current began to get too swift so the captain gave the order for them to return to the ship. It was a beautiful sight.


Outside gift shop in Skagway.

Heidi outside gift shop.

Wonderful setting for our special lunch.

Note the glass leaves among the flowers.

Blow, Donna. Blow!

Janet's paper-weight, getting the final spurt of white-hot glass for its base.

This entire port was fun - and beautiful - from beginning to end.

This was probably my most favorite excursion on this trip. Heidi has a friend named Heather who decided to take a summer job at the Jewel Gardens in Skagway, Alaska. When she learned we were coming to Alaska on a cruise and stopping in Skagway, Heather invited Heidi to bring two guests to have lunch in the tea room, tour the gardens, and partake in the glass-blowing. I have always wanted to watch a glass blower, but never dreamed I would get the chance to try it myself.

First we had lunch. It was incredible! Everything they serve was grown on the property. We had cream of cauliflower soup garnished with nasturtiums. Next we were served spinach pie and salad greens. For dessert we had delicious rhubarb cake with rhubarb sauce. It was all beautifully presented.

Next we went to the glassblowing where 9 other tourist joined us. I volunteered to go first. I decided to make a paper weight in cranberry glass. It was really fun. After all 12 had made their paper weight/ornament, the glass blower informed me mine had cracked. He noticed it as he was quickly placing it in the cooling chamber. So he asked me if I would like to make another. I jumped at the chance. While watching the others, I had changed my mind and thought I would rather have an ornament. I changed my colors to white and cranberry. With my experience from the first attempt, I knew to blow more air into my second globe.

The ornaments or paper weights were mailed to us. Mine was delivered this past Monday and it is beautiful.

Feeling elated from that experience, it was hard to imagine anything else could top this day, but then we walked through the gardens. I have included only a few of the photos I took. It was just so beautiful. I never expected to see flowers like this in Alaska.

If you ever go to Alaska, try to go to Skagway. And don't miss the Jewel Gardens.

Whale Watching

A pod of about 12 whales surfacing 25 feet from our boat.

This whale was 10 feet from my open window. My, did he have bad breath!!

For this day, Chad, Peder and I had booked a helicopter to land on an ice berg where for 30 minutes we would don boots with cleats and walk around on the surface. We may even fly over some whales if any were spotted. Well, to our dismay, while waiting for the bus to pick us up, we learned the excursion had been canceled due to the nasty weather. It was drizzly and foggy - not a good day to fly. So what to do? Heidi, Chad and I decided to walk into town - Juneau - to see what we could find. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a Golden Retriever next to a whale excursion booth. I pointed him out to Heidi and Chad, and since they missed their dog, Brian, they walked over to see him and talk to his owner. The dog's name was Echo. His master told us about the boat and the experts who are the commentators for it. The driver and the narrator have studied whales for years. They have been featured on the Discovery Channel and other national programs. He went on to tell us we would be guaranteed to see whales or our money would be refunded. Well, it didn't take much for us to decide to book it.

The time of the excursion was 3 pm, so that meant we had time to eat and shop a little. Echo's master recommended the Red Dog Saloon. We walked right to it, and as luck would have it, we got 3 of the last stools at the counter. The saloon was loaded with memorabilia - and I mean LOADED. Saw dust covered the floor. Huge mirrors had dollar bills mounted all around them with signatures written on them. There was a honky-tonk pianist who sang lots of fun songs. The handles on the beverage taps were dolphins. And the food - I ordered batter-fried halibut and Cole slaw and it was DELICIOUS! Plus, the servings were huge. This was really fun.

After shopping a little while, it was time to get to the meeting place to start our whale expedition.
We rode in a bus about 5 or 6 miles away from Juneau. I enjoyed that too as it was really the first time I had been "in Alaska." Somehow this made it feel "real."

The tour boat held about 24 passengers plus the driver, a crew member, and the narrator. We left the pier and sailed about 15 or 20 minutes when we spotted about 5 signals of whales blowing. Our driver slowed down the engine and we continued to see more spouts rising. Then there were tails coming from the water. We watched and watched, and then we saw many heads rising. Our narrator told us they had been watching this particular pod of 12 whales for the past 5 weeks. They estimated the pod would stay near this location for another week and then start the long journey to Maui, Hawaii, where they will mate and give birth to a calves.

Our driver cut the engine and we drifted in the area for about an hour. It was chilly because we had all of the windows open. I was lucky to be sitting right next to one while several of the whales neared our boat. They were about 25 feet away when their heads surfaced. They were huge! Our driver dropped a microphone into the water and we got to hear the whales communicating. When they got within 15 feet, he pulled the microphone up and we could hear the whales on our own. They were swimming toward our boat. I was concerned they would capsize our vessel. If successful, would they try to eat us?! The narrator calmed my fear when he said the whales know where we were and would leave us alone.

All of a sudden, I saw the back of a large whale surface really close to my open window! He was no more than 10 feet away. Wow! Did he stink. Our entire boat could smell him.

This was an awesome trip. Chad, Heidi and I loved it. When we returned to the ship later that night, we learned my cousin Linda was on a boat about 25 yards from us. She was witnessing the same whale display! How cool is that?!

Baby Shower for My Next Grand Child

Centerpiece Cake (made with Pampers)

Heidi's first glimpse of the shower.

I love her smile.

Aurelia's other grandma - aka Nana

My Aunt Liz

Me and my baby.

Saturday morning at 9:30 we began decorating the Champagne Bar for Heidi's baby shower. No, we did not serve champagne. At 10 the guests began to arrive. Peder was to fetch Heidi and Chad at 10:15 and persuade them to join him in an activity. A little after 10:30, Peder and Heidi arrived - but no Chad. Some how he managed to duck out. The first thing I remember Heidi saying was, "I knew my mom would do this at some point during the cruise." Why can't I surprise my kids??

Heidi and Chad got so many nice gifts. It was the first time our group had actually joined together since we embarked, so that was nice.