Friday, July 31, 2015

Pacific Northwest Trip, Part Nine

The next day we headed towards Juneau, stopping first to spend several hours at Mendenhall Glacier. The weather was about the worst we had had -- a steady rain. Mindful of the illness that had run through the ship the previous week, I decided to spend all my Mendenhall Glacier time at the visitors' center. Joe was undaunted by the rain, and headed off to explore and even to walk on the glacier.

We both took pictures.
A less-than-terrific view of the glacier, photographed through the window at the visitors' center.

Another beautiful part of Mendenhall.

The visitors' center kept me occupied for quite some time. Who could resist this invitation?

200-year-old ice.

There was quite the emphasis on ecology and living responsibly; this area invited people to say what they were going to do differently after learning about climate change.

And then we were off to Juneau. A town somewhat bigger than we were used to in Alaska, Juneau had several streets thick with retail opportunities.

Joe was having some trouble with his camera in Juneau; we spent some time looking for a camera shop to seek advice. This didn't yield anything, so it was kind of up to me to be the photographer for a short time using my iPhone. Once we got back to the ship and a drier atmosphere, Joe's camera recovered, so we attributed the problem to all of the moisture at Mendenhall.

We were hungry and decided to give the Red Dog Saloon a try. I must confess that I absolutely loved it!

There was sawdust all over the floor, the place was packed,  and big game antlers and all manner of artifacts covered the walls.

The honky-tonk piano player was terrific; he had several different tip jars atop his piano. I chose to make a deposit into his Viagra Fund.

Our somewhat scantily-clad waitress was good-natured and efficient. She seemed to take a shine to Joe, who enjoyed a reindeer sausage sandwich while I partook of a rockfish sandwich. Both were just delicious!
When we finished lunch the rain had pretty well cleared, so we visited some of the shops, but didn't make any purchases. We'd been without internet for a few days and learned that the Juneau Public Library had computers that we could use without charge for thirty minutes each. So we caught up on our email and read the news. Soon it was time to go look for our bus.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Comment Amnesty Time!

My mailbox is bulging.

Re-entry from our Alaska trip was difficult. I was very sick for a week after we returned and then I was back to work and only somewhat sick.

There's been a few other things going on. And I'm trying to sew some each day to keep body and soul together.

All this by way of saying, "I need to empty my  mailbox. I had hoped I would respond to your comments, but I just can't do it right now."

I know you understand. Thank you.

Got a Few Things on my Mind

Some of this stuff has been building up. Some of it is recent. We haven't had a COW* post in some time so you may have thought I've mellowed. No, I've just been practicing restraint.

So here goes:

 Dentist vs. Lion. You know the names. You know the circumstances. Unless you've been on another planet this week. Well, of course the dentist shouldn't have shot that particular lion. IMNSHO, nobody should be shooting any lion at all (or any other wild animal) unless it is for food or population control, so I don't think the dentist should be shooting any lions at all. People are incensed. Some are calling for him to be tortured or killed. Uh, I don't think so. Paying a huge fine (apparently he has plenty of money) or perhaps having to do community service in some relevant way, yes; but he doesn't need to have his life threatened because he did a dumb thing.

Dentist vs. Public Outrage. I've been meaning to rant about these goofy shrines that appear on the side of the highway or on a front lawn, you know, the flowers and stuffed animals. But I haven't gotten around to it. While I don't get it -- these shrines, I mean -- in general, I do kind of like this impromptu that has begun to appear in front of the dentist's office!

I'm peeved at those who are twisting this thing around. One news source noted that the dentist made a contribution to the Romney campaign. What the hamfat (as my late mother was wont to say) does that have to do with anything? And others are posting outrage that people are grieving the lion when they should be campaigning against Planned Parenthood. Hello? And other details of the dentist's life, details that normally wouldn't be known by his neighbors much less the entire literate world, are coming to light, details that don't have anything to do with a great big error in judgment vis-a-vis hunting. Come on, people: Focus!

The Candidates. Let's just say that some of them appear to be somewhat saner than others. And some supporters seem to have lost their presence of mind. An otherwise normally very bright friend of mine is crazy about Christie. And while no one has admitted it to me personally, apparently there are a whole slew of people who actually think that a certain reality TV star -- that's right, I'm not going to mention his name here -- who bears more than a slight resemblance to a lhasa apso should be our next Commander-In-Chief. My personal belief right now is that the election is Hillary's to lose and that's unfortunate -- not because she's an unworthy candidate, but because I would love to return to the years when I actually had reasons to think hard about which candidate -- the Republican or the Democrat -- would make the better President.

Police Officers. And please don't say "cops." I just think that is disrespectful. Yes, there have been a number of truly unfortunate incidents. And on the surface, some of these seem to have a racial component. But there's developed a sort of baby-with-the-bathwater mentality, collectively labeling all police officers as power hungry, racist, and other unpleasant things.

In my work as a hospital chaplain, there is not a shift that goes by that I do not interact with a police officer or two. Or more. Patients that come into the hospital as Trauma cases are often accompanied by police officers. Who are without exception, professional, courteous, helpful, concerned, compassionate, clear-thinking men and women. From several different police departments. I cannot say enough good about my interactions with these officers. I'm well aware that there have been some bad apples in the news. But these are definitely the exceptions, not the norm.

Okay. I feel a little better now. I'll get back to Alaska in the next post. Seriously.

*Cranky Old Woman

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nancia and the Frog

We have a winner for the froggy mug rug.

That winner is nancia who wrote: ". . . one thing i love about summer is the heat. spent 24 years in texas and there's nothing better than going from hot (outside)to cold (ac inside), and vice versa. love it!"

Nancia, if you will email me your snail mail address, I'll put your prize in the mail the very next day! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Froggy Mug Rugs

I've been making potholders lately. See, I'm not confident or very skilled at machine quilting, and making the potholders is improving my work and building my confidence. Potholders are a nice hostess gift, and there are a couple of potential recipients on my Christmas gift list.

These are two that I made last week and like enormously. It think they represent the very end of the froggy fabric, darn it.

But I got distracted while I was working, and forgot the Insul-Brite layer. Realized that when I started to hand-sew the binding.

So they aren't pot holders any more! They're mug rugs!

I got to thinking that we haven't had a give-away around here Near Philadelphia in quite some time.

One of these mug rugs has a recipient. But the other doesn't. If you would like to have it, leave me a comment about one thing you really like about summer. I'll draw a name on Wednesday afternoon and with any luck it will be in the mail on Thursday.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pacific Northwest Trip, Part Eight

On our first full day after boarding the ship, we sailed around Icy Straits. Some participants chose to go kayaking and some went ashore for a hike.

The next day we sailed to Bartlett Cove, where we spent most of the day visiting Glacier Bay National Park.

The first and longest part of the day we were aboard a boat operated by the park service; it was able to get very close to two immense glaciers.

In addition to our own naturalist guides, we benefitted by two park rangers and a Tlingit woman who provided education about glaciers, animals that we saw, and Tlingit culture.

We brought along box lunches prepared by our own ship's kitchen.

We were fascinated by the abundance of wildlife that we saw in their natural habitat.

Several of our group were avid birders and they were tremendously excited to add new birds to their lists.

I liked this island with sea lions just heaped all over it. There were several islands like this.

Sea otters, always a favorite.

We tried to be very quiet around the glaciers so that we could hear them "calve," the word used for icebergs breaking off.

We weren't the only people aboard the park service boat. At one point we stopped to pick up a group who had spent several days camping and kayaking in the park.

We were all delighted to see Mrs. Bear and her triplets along the coast. Mrs. B was teaching the cubs how to catch and open mussels. The third cub was much smaller than the other two, and constantly struggled to keep up. The naturalists told us that it was unlikely that this cub would amass enough fat to last through the next winter.

Mrs. Bear, up close and personal.

After the boat trip, we had the opportunity to spent time at the Visitor's Center of Glacier Bay National Park. Of course I wanted to see the orientation film and of course it did not disappoint. We did a little shopping their bookstore, and soon it was time to return to Admiralty Dream -- it was almost Cookie Time!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Want to Make a Dress?

Let's interrupt the Alaska travelogue for a post or two.

When I'm away from home on vacation, I have a tendency to get reflective.

I had many hours of relaxation on my recent trip, and one of the things I reflected on was, "Do I give enough?"

Like most of the people I know, I give to my church and to organizations and charities that speak to me. I make quilts to donate to charity auctions and baby quilts for a project that provides layette items to new babies who are born into poverty. My little hand-sewing group usually does a charitable project each summer; this year, like last, we are making lap quilts for wheelchair-bound Veterans. But I wondered if that was enough. I didn't think it was. I prayed about this question, and just after coming home my wonderful niece posted on Facebook that it would be nice if people whose children were no longer in school might buy and fill a backpack for a child whose family is struggling financially. I was off to Staples in a flash where I had a great time choosing and filling a high-school age backpack that I'll give to Susan next week; she's a teacher in an area where, unfortunately, she'll have no trouble finding a recipient.

And now this! My friend Lori is going on her second mission trip to Central/South America this autumn. She wants to take a supply of "pillowcase" dresses with her, and invited her blog readers to participate. A little more than twenty years ago I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala with my church; our mission was building a playground on the property of a nutrition center for malnourished Ixil Indian children. For years I thought hoped I would return to Guatemala for a second mission experience. More and more it looks as though that will not be the case.

But Lori is going to Bolivia and I can go with her in spirit! I've committed to making and sending Lori a little dress or two. Do you want to?

Local peeps, those Near Philadelphia, if you make a little dress and get it to me by August 18 (yup, that's Guild night!), along with a one dollar bill for postage, I'll send a package out to Lori on August 20.

If you're not local, go visit Lori's blog and see if she'll give you an address to send to (I can't imagine that she won't).

Have fun perusing Pinterest boards and googling "pillowcase dresses" if you like. Or just go to one of these places and you can start your dress today -- I'm sure you have a yard of fabric just waiting for a wonderful use!

If you are going to be giving me a little dress, please leave a comment so I'll know what to expect.

Now I gotta go and start cutting . . . .

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pacific Northwest Trip, Part Seven

Admiralty Dream was to be our home for a week.

We had thought of cruising in Alaska before, but our only cruising experience had been aboard Star Flyer or Royal Clipper, each holding a maximum of 150 or 225 passengers, respectively. And neither was ever totally full. We weren't sure we would be comfortable on a huge vessel holding 1000 or even more passengers. Perhaps we are ship snobs.

This trip through Orbridge was offered by my husband's university alumni association, and when we learned that there would be fewer than 70 passengers, Joe jumped at the chance. We were in Cabin 204, located on the lowest passenger deck between the lounge and the dining room. The cabin was very, very tiny -- we were happiest when only one of us was trying to move around at a time. What we really liked, though, was that we could leave our window curtains open all the time. The other two decks had slightly bigger cabins, but opened out directly onto the deck -- people could walk by at any time and peer into the room. We never had that problem! I was to spend a fair amount of time in the lounge, and it was nice to be so near to it. The kitchen is just on the other side of the dining room; the ship's baker worked the graveyard shift, and many nights I would awaken around two o'clock to the enticing smell of vanilla!

Those of us who had done the pre-trip in Denali were joined by about thirty new faces in Sitka; it didn't take long for assimilation to take place.

Everyone was provided with boots and rain parkas and rain pants as well as a personal set of binoculars. There were binoculars here and there throughout the ship, too. The food was delicious and ample; in addition to the regular three meals each day, Cooky Time took place around three o'clock each afternoon and lovely hors d'oeuvres at 5:30.

Turnaround for the ship had to be efficient. It would dock around 7 or 8 on a Friday morning and had to be ready to sail out at 5:00 in the evening. Supplies had to be loaded and everything had to be cleaned. When we came aboard and had our initial meeting with the Captain, he said to us, "You'll have to excuse me -- I've been up since 4:00." To which we all replied, "So have we!"

We were delighted to have Lynette and Sue, two naturalists, as our guides. They shared so much information with us, and also led hikes and kayaking for those who wanted those activities.

Saturday was mostly spent settling in, getting to know each other, and experiencing the newness of Alaska as we traveled through Icy Strait. We spent a lot of time on deck and were excited to spot whales, otters, and a variety of arctic birds. The guides teased us with a daily forecast: "In the low 60s with 50 percent chance of variable weather!" and it did rain for a short time every afternoon and/or evening -- we had experienced this at Denali, also.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pacific Northwest Trip, Part Six

Our flight took us to Sitka, and if there is a tinier airport anywhere, I've certainly not seen it! We arrived mid-morning, and really didn't know what was in store for us. We were scheduled to board our ship in the late afternoon. We needn't have worried (not that we did, actually). Two women from Orbridge were at that tiny airport to meet us, and very quickly we were on a bus that took us into downtown Sitka.

We were taken to the main drag where a storefront had been turned into a Hospitality Suite for Alaskan Dream Cruises. The thirty-four of us joined another fifty-or-so people. Some of those people were joining our group; the others had disembarked from this ship that morning and were waiting for their shuttles to their flights home. There was a secure place for luggage storage, a bathroom, games to borrow or purchase, computer and wifi, and an assortment of chairs and sofas.

There was coffee and there were water bottles, breakfast-y rolls, and we were told that lunch would be served at one o'clock. We noted the time and headed out to see what was to be seen in downtown Sitka.

Literally in the middle of town, in the middle of the street, even, was St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Church, an important piece of Sitka's history and pictured above. We walked around outside and thought about going to see the inside, but when we learned the cost was $5 per person, we crossed the street to another church, where we looked around for free, were offered a guided tour and a bag of popcorn! Feeling right at home, we declined the tour, but spent some pleasant time with the ELCA volunteer who showed us around.

One of our group took a stunning photograph of a bald eagle perched atop St. Michael's cross. He called it "Bird of Pray."

Then it was off to see the shops and experience some of the local color.

Joe had learned from some of the previous week's ship passengers that a terrible head cold had made the rounds; many passengers were sick and one even developed pneumonia. Eager to be prepared, my first stop was a drugstore where I purchased cold and cough medicine as well as a small supply of anti-germ wipes.

Then we wandered in and out of the shops. One place sold furs. We quickly understood that the prices marked were simply suggestions and that bargaining was welcomed. I spent some time stroking a sea otter scarf, truly the softest thing I'd ever touched. But we didn't purchase anything; I can eat meat, but don't think I can wear skins. Someone was selling books for children with a local theme, and we picked up a couple of those to put away for grandchildren and a few other very small items to save for Christmas.

There were a lot of shops, some more interesting than others.  One of our group returned to the Hospitality Suite sporting a University of Alaska sweatshirt he'd picked up in the local thrift shop.

We saw our first totem pole in Sitka.

People were pleasant, laid back, and helpful. Interestingly, the post office doubled as a shop for locally-made gifts.

Soon it was time to return to the Hospitality Suite. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and then consulted the scheduled that had been provided for us.

We still had three hours before we could board our ship, but every minute of that time was to be filled in the most interesting ways!
First, we walked about a third of a mild to the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Clan House, a property owned by the Tlingit people.

These lovely people in their gorgeous native outfits performed several traditional dances for us and also educated us about Tlingit culture.

One of the things we learned was that the Tlingits are separated into two parts, Eagle and Raven, and only inter-marry. An Eagle woman would marry a Raven man. Or vice versa.

After the dance performance, we were off to The Alaskan Raptor Center, home of a bald eagle hospital and raptor education center.

Injured eagles, hawks, owls and kestrels are treated at this wonderful place. If they are able to be completely healed, they are released back into the wild. If not, they either stay at the Center and are used for educational purposes or sent to other educational institutions.
Ever wonder about the term "eagle eye"? We learned that an eagle's vision is 800 times more acute than ours.

We saw many different raptors, some up close and very personal, others at a little more distance. They were beautiful.

The eagles were impressive. I like the idea that they are our national bird.

But I'm an owl kind of gal.
Inside the building were a pair of baby saw whet owls; we have had this kind of bird in our yard at home, and I loved getting so close to this one.

By the time we left the raptor center, we were tired. We'd been up since 4:30 and had been kept very busy. The day had passed so quickly! We were ready to crash, but there was still an hour until we could board the ship.

Not to worry! Just a short bus ride away from the raptor center was our last cultural stop of the day: Totem Park, part of the Sitka National Historical Park.

I always like the orientation videos at the National Parks, and this one was excellent. "The Voices of Sitka" told how the Tlingit, Russians, and other cultures came together in this area. There were displays on Tlingit clothing and Russian icons. It was excellent.

There was a whole wing in the museum devoted to how totem poles are made, and outside in the woods, there were many examples of totem poles. Our day in Sitka gave us a real feel for the Tlingits and for the way their culture had to blend in with other cultures.

And then we were off! As we came around the curve on the way to the dock, we could see the Admiralty Dream waiting for us!