Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Peep for President

When I was in Seattle, Kai mentioned the local paper was running a Peeps photo contest. Several days later, when Dan's friend hiked up Mt. Si with us, she and I discussed what she was planning on doing to enter the contest. She even sent me a picture of what she submitted. I happened to be perusing our local paper last week, and what do I see? A "Primp Your Peep" photo contest! I promptly decided to enter and spent several days mulling over what to do. Peeps are not the easiest medium to work with. They are sticky and sugar gets everywhere. Markers, glue and paint tends to melt them. It was a challenge to come up with an idea, and then a way to make it work, but I loved it!

Ultimately I met with success and designed a "Peep for President" political rally. I am very proud of my photo. The contest ends today, so wish me luck in my first ever photo contest!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Floors

It's done!! All that's left to do is lay the quarter round (edging) and clean! I can't believe how wonderful it looks. Compliments will be accepted at my standard email address. :)

I'm not planning on doing the edging until Memorial Day because I need to paint it all before it's installed. Hopefully the cleaning and putting furniture back will be accomplished by the end of the week.
Tomorrow night I'm going to Aunt Jean's to help her out for a while. Saturday I'll take grandma on her usual shopping excursion, then to lunch at Jean's.
For now - to bed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Carpet's Dead

I did it! I successfully ripped out all the carpeting from my dining room. Let me just say - eeeewwwwww. It was disgusting, and I'm very glad it's gone. It wasn't nearly as difficult to do as I thought it would be. For one brief, shining moment I thought I had beautiful floors under the carpet. Turns out it was glue on laminate and not in great shape. Michael was even kind enough to pick up all the old carpet and take it to his dumpster.

Sidebar - We've finally made peace with each other and our differences. We are simply not meant to be together. Thank you to Dan for giving me the final knock up side the head I needed to see it, and be finally be ok with it.

I pulled up all the tack strips, and Michael helped me lay the underlayment in preparation for putting down the laminate . We couldn't finish because I needed a saw with a special blade that I didn't own. Dad has one though, and he's bringing it today. With any luck I'll have a brand new floor tonight!

Dad is coming in to take my grandma to the doctor. Aunt Jean handles all of this normally, but true to form, when it rains it pours. Grandma's health is really going downhill. She is having trouble breathing and the fainting spells are increasing. She's afraid to leave the house to even get the paper. (Of course, no one mentioned this to me until yesterday.)

Normally, Jean stops over every day after work and makes sure grandma's ok. Last night, she called me in tears. She had just fallen down her steps and thought she broke her ankle. Her husband was at the store, but she thought he'd be home soon. I did find the phone number for the store he was at and had him paged. Unfortunately (fortunately??) he had already left and was en route home. Mostly she was concerned that I get a hold of dad and make sure he could take grandma to the doctor today.

After a visit to the ER visit it turns out she broke her left ankle, sprained her right, and tore some ligaments in her right. She is not allowed to put any weight on her feet for at least 7 days. She's pretty upset about the whole thing - and worried about grandma. Her husband got a wheelchair and a shower seat, and has arranged with his work to be with her for the first week or so. They meet with the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow so we'll have a better idea of how long she'll be down.

In the meantime, I have grandma duty. I'm going to stop by every night after work to see how she's doing - not matter if she says I don't need to or not!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Reclaiming My Yard

Whew - busy day! I took a class this morning at the community college on how to survive a power outage. I know - I probably could have taught it, but I did learn a few new things. It's also nice to have someone confirm what I thought I knew, and offere a few tricks I hadn't thought of. The best tip I got today is regarding frozen food safety. Keep an ice cube tray in your freezer. When your power goes out, immediately lay a penny on top of the frozen tray. When your power comes back on, you can see how far the penny sank into the ice. If it's at the bottom - throw out all your frozen foods.

I also spent the day trying to reclaim my yard from Mother Nature. I made quite a bit of progress, including getting the pond clean and running again. The hyacinth in the picture is one that is growing along my driveway. The backyard has about a dozen more in pink, purple and white. I love my backyard. I'm itching to start planting!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rock Climbing

I tried my hand at the local vertical gym last night - it was awesome! Ok, not as awesome as Seattle. I plan on going back a few more times to see if I find a group out there.

Dan and the gang are headed to Vegas for Eric's birthday weekend. Have a great time guys! Spin the roulette wheel for me - $5 on 12. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Great Book Recommendation

Work began at the ungodly hour of 6:00am. Who gets up that early?!? We were all here around 5:30am to get organized, and promptly at 6 the annual inventory count began. Once a year the whole company shuts down and we count every nut, bolt, bearing and roller in the entire place. With luck, it's a one day process. The company feeds us breakfast, lunch and (if necessary) dinner to help keep everyone on track. Our customers are less than thrilled about us being closed, but it's a necessary evil. We close our fiscal year 3/31.

I've been reading the most amazing book Dan gave me called "What Should I Do With My Life?" by Po Bronson. It may even be worthy of the Captain Canuck reading list. The book is, essentially, a collection of short autobiographies. He explores his premise, that "nothing is braver than people facing up to their own identity," as an anthropologist and autobiographer. He tackles thorny, nuanced issues about self-determination. Among them: paradoxes of money and meaning, authorship and destiny, brain candy and novelty versus soul food. Bronson’s stories, limited to professional people and complete with photos, are gems. They include a Los Angeles lawyer who became a priest, a Harvard MBA catfish farmer turned biotech executive, and a Silicon Valley real estate agent who opened a leather crafts factory in Costa Rica. I highly recommend everyone read this book - it is that good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Again

After a long and arduous process at the airport, I am once again in good ole St. Louis. Dan dropped me at the airport on his way to work, where I planned on just hanging out until my 1:00pm flight. The flight was overbooked - and I volunteered to be bumped. The next flight was at (possibly) 5:00pm or for sure at 7:00pm. For my inconvenience I received a first class upgrade, a $10 dinner voucher for that day, and a $300 voucher towards a future ticket. Yeah me!! Free travel!! Little did I know. The 5pm flight was re-routed to Dallas, and I could have been on it, but there was no guarantee of a flight out of Dallas until the next day. The 7pm flight was cancelled. Good grief. After many phone calls to Dan (in case I needed a place to sleep) and Michael (who was picking me up in STL) they finally got us out sometime after 7.

The flight turned out to be awesome. There were a total of 16 stranded passengers, so we got the ENTIRE plane to ourselves. Of course, the airline re-booked us all in first class, so the the whole coach section was empty. A glass of wine before lift-off. Warm nuts and a cocktail, followed by a warm cloth to wipe our faces. Dinner with real dishes, brie, crackers, wine and linen napkins. Warm cookies with milk for dessert, followed by coffee and liquor. At the end of the flight we were offered a champagne flute of M&Ms. And of course, roomy seats with lots of leg room. Craziest flight I've ever been on, but it was AWESOME!!!

I was sad to leave Dan and Seattle, but with my free ticket, hopefully we'll see each other soon. My final days there were a whirlwind of activity. Friday night (after returning from Lacey) we went to a vertical gym to go rock climbing with a friend of Dan's. I loved it - and didn't do to badly either. My stomach was pretty upset for some reason, but I ignored it as best I could in the face of having a safety harness winched around me. After climbing we headed to a cute outdoor cafe for dinner. As we waited for a table, my stomach all out revolted. Standing on the edge of the street in downtown Seattle I completely lost it. I would have been embarrassed if I hadn't felt so crappy. Dan helped clean me up, then drove me to his place to rest. He and his friend went back out for food after they had me settled.

Saturday I still felt a little queasy, so food for the day consisted of hot tea. Kai joined us for breakfast at Dan's favorite cinnamon roll place. Afterwords we headed to an art festival, which was awesome, then the traditional St. Patty's Day dinner of sushi. Don't ask. It was really good sushi though. (Obviously I was feeling much better by this point.)

Sunday Dan and I headed to the mountains. We hiked Mount Si just south of Seattle. It is four miles to the top, with a grade of about 22% all the way. For us flatlanders, that means it is VERY STEEP. We ran into a friend of Dan's en route up the mountain (it's the Seattle equivalent of running into someone at the gym) and she hiked the rest of the way with us. Once at the top any pain of the climb is forgotten as you look out over the amazing views. Of course, then you have to go down. Not as tough, but my legs were shaking by the time we hit the Jeep. I was pretty sure I was going to sleep in the Jeep because I wouldn't be able to move. After a great steak dinner, though, I felt good as new.

Dan and I ended up staying up all night looking at pictures, talking and burning music CDs. I figured I'd sleep on the plane then go to bed early. (See beginning of post to see how that turned out!) I did feel bad that Dan had to go to work on no sleep, but we were having so much fun. Of course, he caught my stomach bug yesterday, but I think he feels better today.

Michael picked me up from the airport at 1:30am, and we talked about my adventures until about 3:30am - I was too keyed up to sleep anyway. Actually, by this point I think I was just overtired and beyond exhaustion. So I'm at work, running on about 3 hours of sleep over the course of the last 48. Ouch.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Work Is Over, Let the Fun Resume

I just arrived back in Seattle from my three day stint in Olympia/Lacey. As you may (or may not) know, the entire reason I was able to take this fabulous sojourn was because my office needed some of us in Lacey to work the new Target IW job. Lacey isn't that big, so we stayed at a hotel in Olympia - right on the Puget Sound. As you can imagine, the seafood was beyond divine. Salmon, oysters, shrimp - I was in heaven!! The state capital building was across the sound from us, and the overall atmosphere was lazy and nice. The hotel was great - huge rooms, nice breakfast, and a pool that we never had time to use.

It was a good thing the food, wine and company was good (I enjoy the folks I work with) because the work itself was a little rough. Things got off to a slow start. Things the IW should have had done before we got there weren't even started. We spent the first 3 hours doing their work. That put us very far behind schedule. We had anticipated finishing everything and being out of there by 2:00pm yesterday - at the latest. Instead we were still there at 7:00 last night. We all left exhausted and a little cranky, but we got the job done.

Working in any warehouse is manual and very dirty. It's a nice change of pace from my typical workday. Sore muscles and aching feet - not to mention dirt and grime streaked clothing - usually don't accompany 8 hours in front of a computer.

My team headed for home today, and dropped me back at Dan's place. He's at work at the moment, so I've hijacked the washer and dryer to do laundry. Next on the agenda is a nap - it's sunny and nice, but I'm beat. I have a sinus infection and am on some nice drugs for it. I feel good, but they are making me sleepy. I'm not sure what's on the agenda for tonight. More later though...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Heading Off to Work

Yesterday Dan had to go work, so he handed me the keys to the apartment, a map and told me to have fun. He would have let me drive the Jeep, but decided I needed to walk to train for the Nashville 1/2 marathon (he was right).

I walked to Seattle city center, which is approximately 3 miles from Dan's place - if you go the most direct route. I didn't. I wandered all over the neighborhoods while making my way down there. Some was deliberate, some was my streets kept quitting before I got where I wanted to be. Once there I toured the Science Fiction Museum and the Experience Music Project. If you make it to Seattle - add that to your Must See list. They were awesome. The Science Fiction Museum was all things Sci Fi - books, movies, fanzines - if it related at all it was there. It was very well done and quite impressive. They'll even email you a list of the books they have on display throughout the museum. I guess a lot of people (myself included) want to read the books they mentioned, and it takes too long to write them all down. The EMP is a giant music museum/recording studio/disneyland for music addicts. They have galleries dedicated to musicians and industry pioneers (Jimi Hendrix, Disney). They have a story corps-type set-up with hundreds of brief interviews with musicians, movie directors, authors, anyone with a story to tell. They have computer-assisted instruments that teach you to play - guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. It is really awesome. There was a band performing there later in the evening and they were on stage doing a sound check the entire time I was there. They were good.

Dan is introducing me to some great new music. I'm not sure who the artists are, but he seems to have narrowed in on what I like (beyond my normal country western stuff) and has been playing some really great stuff.

After wandering through the entire city center area, including the Space Needle, a park and a cool fountain that plays to music, I started walking home. It was getting colder though, so I stopped at a cute coffee house to warm up. Good choice - the barista was awesome! It was called Cafe Bella. I was the only customer so she and I sat and talked for almost and hour. Various people would come and go, but we had a wonderful time. It was pushing 8, so Dan came looking for me and we headed to dinner.

Dinner was a restaurant he had never been to (not an easy thing to find - Dan is a restaurant guru) and an ethnicity neither of us had had before - Afghan. We ordered a kabob platter for 2 - and it was delish! I didn't care for the drink - a yogurt/mint blend that was salty. It cut the spice but was just too weird - like drinking alka selzer with your meal. Everything else was really good though.

We spent another late night into early morning talking and catching up - he's probably thrilled I'm leaving for work today so he can get a decent night's sleep!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Feeling Slightly Moldy

Day3 in Seattle, and it's still raining. I have hopes that today will dry out a bit this afternoon. The sun - ok really just less gray cloud - is trying to poke through. I can see the sound from Dan's window again, which I couldn't yesterday because of the rain and fog. I now understand why they have 15 coffee houses per block - you need something warm and caffeinated to keep your spirits up!

We had fun yesterday. Kai spent the day bumming with us. We got off to a late start because of the time change and outright laziness. We went to the Blue Dog for wonderful breakfast of frittatas, toast and fruit - and of course coffee. We drove around a few neighborhoods then walked around Greenlake Park. It's about 2 miles around a beautiful lake with views of downtown Seattle on the far shores. There were a ton of people and dogs - this is a very doggy town. Businesses let you bring them in and everyone owns one. Dan pointed out the quintessential Seattle-ite: trench coat, cup of coffee and a dog on a leash. Hiking boots optional.

After the lake we ran an errand for Dan, then had coffee at one of the best coffee places - a tough title to claim in this city. The coffee was delish though - and the title is well deserved. We sat outside (it wasn't raining!!) and watched a man balance a chair on a pile of rocks, then play his harmonica and dance wildly around. I have no idea, but it was entertaining.

Next we went to the most beautiful beach - Golden something. It was windy and wild and amazing. Reminded me strongly of Ireland. This whole place does - everything is so green and hilly. We went to the locks where the spawning salmon swim upstream. It's not the right season, but it was still neat to see. They also have some gardens that run around the locks that are beautiful. I swear that had squirrels as big as Mickey! Fat little buggers.

It looks like the rain is clearing so I'm off to my next adventure. Dan and Kai are at work, so I'm preparing to tackle the city on my own (with a handy map and Dan's cell phone number!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Greetings from Seattle

This post comes straight from the rainy city of Seattle! I arrived late last night and am staying with Dan and his sweet roommate (and of course Otis and Tommy). I say sweet because she is, but also because he neglected to tell her I was coming until 10 minutes before he left to get me!! Anyway...

We spent today driving around Seattle seeing some of the various sites. We walked to the top of an old water tower that has a great view of the city. It's located right outside the Seattle Art Museum and is very pretty. The entire thing is encased in brick, with stairs leading to top. Once there you can look out the windows to get a great 360 view of the area. We wandered to West Seattle for coffee and window shopping. Then back to downtown Seattle to wander down the beach and a foray into Pike's Place Market. Yes, I saw the flying fish. The whole place was exactly like I remembered it. After that we went to a sculpture park. It was pouring down rain by this point, but it didn't matter - we still had fun. And since rain is the standard here, it doesn't phase anyone much.

We're taking a break to recharge now, then we'll head out to dinner and who knows what. Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Family Fun

Boy time sure flies when you’re having fun! I spent last weekend in Peoria. My cousin Brian got married to a wonderful woman, and the wedding reception was Saturday night. They had been married the week before in Las Vegas. Thea seems very sweet and will make a good addition to our family. She also has a 13 year old son, so now Tom and Nancy have eight grandsons. Wow – that’s a lot of boys.

It was wonderful to see everyone again. The majority of the family was there. The Colorado Clan couldn’t make it in, the Springfield contingent was worried about the bad weather and stayed home, and of course my dad wouldn’t go. The weather was very windy, and it snowed the entire trip, but the overall the roads were fine.

I couldn’t believe how much the kids have changed. They are growing, and if possible, becoming cuter. Even with all eight running around they were remarkably well behaved. I have no patience for annoying children, but these kids were great. Poor Nathan – I’m not sure his DNA was used in producing any of his kids – they all look exactly like our family! Funny how that works. I see that with Nora and Aidan too – although in that case Nora is her mother’s spitting image, and Aidan is his daddy through and through.

My poor pup is not quite up to snuff. He’s not as young as he was, or as tough. He got beat up pretty good at dad’s place. He has a broken ear (damaged cartilage) and a hematoma on his neck the size of my fist. Because his ear has been hurting him so bad he wouldn’t let me clean it, so he also has a severe yeast infection in it. He’s now on four antibiotics/anti-yeast medications. Poor puppy.

I head to Seattle for ten days on Friday. Send dry thoughts my way!