Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bonnie and Aidan!

March 30 is Bonnie's 30th birthday--hard to believe I have two daughters in their 30's now! Where have the years gone?? Happy birthday, Bonnie! We love and miss you and hope you had a fabulous day. March 31 is Aidan's 8th birthday. What's even harder to believe than two girls in their 30's is a grandson turning 8! Aidan is my first grandchild and Sarah and Bonnie's first nephew and has broken us all in--he was everyone's boy from day one. Now he's playing baseball (and hit in a run the other day--woohoo!) and riding dirt bikes and playing videogames and keeping busy being a boy. We love and miss you, Aidan and hope your day is lots of fun. Can't wait to see you both in July! xoxoxxo

Walking to Coit Tower and the Parrots of Telegraph Hill

After strolling through Chinatown, we continued across a small slice of Little Italy and up, up, up toward Coit Tower. We've been doing a LOT of walking and my muscles were feeling it. There sure are lots of hills in San Francisco, in case you were not aware of that fact. :)
People were out enjoying the sunshine in the park.

Coit Tower--we're getting closer! The tower was built as a tribute to Lillie Hitchcock Coit, quite an unusual woman in San Francisco's history. Read about her here.

More steps to climb
Looking back on the city

The view on the way up

Walking and more walking!

Some views from the top of the tower

Lombard Street--"the crookedest street in the world."


Sara and Rich

We left the tower and took a different trail back down. We kept hearing lots of birds and wondered if the sounds were coming from the famous parrots of Telegraph Hill. As we climbed down some steps, sure enough, we spied a whole slew of the brightly colored birds. If you are not familiar with them, you can read about them by clicking here.

Rich and I were both shooting photo after photo with two different cameras but here are just a few. The parrots were so cute! They were flying around, playing with each other and perching on the trees above us. Then they all took off and landed on another tree further down, where we were able to get more pictures of them sitting in a big group together.

After oohing and ahhing over the parrots for a bit, we walked down to the Ferry Building and wandered around since Sara had never been there. Then we caught the bus back to our hotel to rest our weary feet. Another fun day!

Shopping, Sara comes to visit, Chinatown

We've been busy, busy, busy. I have a bunch of photos but don't want to bore you with a super long entry so I am going to break things up into several posts. Tuesday we went out in the morning but stuck close to our hotel since Rich's stepdaughter Sara was going to drive in to spend some time with us. Our hotel was near Union Square and lots of shopping so we walked around in the sunshine, hit the stores, did some browsing and made a few purchases. Sara arrived in the afternoon and we decided to walk to Chinatown, then up to Coit Tower. We always enjoy the various Chinatowns in the cities we visit--the crowded streets, the colorful markets and the culture all around.

Street lamp
Laundry hanging out windows

I love this picture of a worker taking a meal break, captured by Rich (actually, all these photos are his).

It was a long, steep walk up to Coit Tower and worked out my already sore legs! I'll post more about it but wanted to include this photo of Sara. We were really happy that she came to visit us, staying overnight and part of the day today. We had lots of fun catching up and hanging out. Sara lives in Mariposa and has three adorable children, Hayden, and twins Cody and Emily. We will be going to see them sometime next week, along with the rest of Rich's "ex-family," with whom we are, thankfully, very friendly. :)

The weather has been fabulous! I am thrilled!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It doesn't get any better than this

Thanks to a nice young woman named Kayla, Rich and I were able to sit together on the plane from Anchorage to Portland. The AK Air ticket agent paged her and asked if she'd mind trading seats. She was all for it. Thanks, Kayla. :) The flight was packed and I could not fall asleep for anything. I almost finished reading my book and tried listening to my ipod for awhile. Honestly, I think I slept for 20 minutes total, if that. We were a little bit delayed leaving and had a quick turnaround in Portland so got in with no time to spare. Arrived at our next gate and our flight to San Francisco was boarding. Not only that, it was nearly empty and the flight attendant said we could spread out. Hurray! Rich and I each claimed our own row of seats and I prepared to lie down and sleep. We had mechanical delays but were soon on our way. I was out like a light within minutes of takeoff. Sweet! We arrived in San Francisco around 9 AM, not the best time for checking into a hotel! Caught a cab to Le Meridien in the financial district and upgraded to a beautiful jr. suite so we could check in early. Unfortunately our luggage did not make it with us so we couldn't change clothes but we did brush our teeth and wash up before heading out onto the street. We wandered around and eventually found ourselves near the Ferry Market so decided to browse through the shops there and get a late breakfast/early lunch. We love the Ferry Market! Outside, it was a little chilly and reminded me of Unalaska weather. But we'd heard the forecast was for temperatures up to 80 degrees later in the week. Yes! After shopping, eating and walking around, we came back to the room for a nap. We were completely off schedule with being up all night and I quickly went to sleep but woke up a couple of hours later with a massive headache. Ugh. We decided that it was a transition day and maybe we'd just stay in and have room service for dinner. Sunday we were up early and had to check out of the hotel since we'd only pricelined one night and had the Parc 55 waiting for us for the next two. Thankfully my headache was gone and it looked like a beautiful, sunny day outside. We caught a cab to the next hotel, where the staff were super friendly and allowed us to check in early. We dropped our bags (which had arrived the night before) and caught the bus bound for Haight Ashbury, with plans to see the Cole Valley neighborhood. Haight Ashbury
Jane waits at the iconic intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. After wandering down Haight Street for awhile, we turned on Cole and headed up the hill. We'd read that one of the best views of the city was at the top of Tank Hill, necessitating a climb up some pretty steep streets. But before that, we stopped in at La Boulange Cafe and Bakery for brunch. We loved this place! I had French toast that was more like bread pudding--delicious--and some nice fresh fruit. Rich had tomato soup and a beautiful beet salad. We were very, very happy with our meal. :)

The climb was not bad and we were rewarded with a lovely view of the city.

After enjoying the sunshine and the view, we returned to the neighborhood, spying a vegetable garden at the local elementary school. Here are their rules:

This is the "angel of hope" which was carved into a tree trunk in the Cole Valley neighborhood.

Back to Haight Ashbury for a stroll toward Alamo Square
I happened to look up and saw this sign on a tree. It did make me smile! I love the house and its big peace sign, further down the street.

Another steep climb took us into Alamo Square Park, where we could see the Timex Building in the distance.

The "Painted Ladies," seven Victorian homes all in a row

We were enjoying our day and the shining sun so decided we'd walk all the way back to the hotel instead of catching the bus. I am really glad we did because we walked right past the Warfield Theater, where we saw this sign:

Oh my gosh! What is today's date? Are they really here? Tonight?! I was beside myself! We stopped at the box office but the theater was all locked up. We continued to the hotel, which was only a few blocks away--very convenient! I got on the internet and found tickets for sale but damned Ticketmaster wanted $12.50 service charge for EACH ticket, on top of the price. What a rip-off! We said forget that, we will take our chances at the door!

After a dinner of Chinese food around the corner, we headed over to the theater and got in line for tickets. It took forever but we finally got inside, purchased our "balcony is all that's left" tickets and found our seats. The Warfield is a very cool old theater that reminded me of the Paramount in Abilene. It's a small venue so really had no "bad" seats and we were perfectly content where we were. Here's a look at the inside of the theater before the show, and a picture of Graham and David onstage.

I was really excited to see these guys, such a blast from my past. On the other hand, I was a little worried that they would not even be able to sing any more and it would be a terrible embarrassment and a disappointment all the way around. I knew Rich liked CSNY but I think he was mostly humoring me and I didn't want him to feel that this was all a terrible waste of time and money. But, NO worries whatsoever. These guys are still AMAZING. Their voices are strong, they can still harmonize like no one else and they are still having big fun singing and playing. It all seemed quite serendipitous for us to spend the first part of the day in Haight Ashbury, home of the Summer of Love, and end it in concert with two of the icons from that era. And some of the local residents still think it's the 60's, I believe. I had to smile at the old fogies in their tie-dye and Rich was laughing at me early in the evening when he asked me if I smelled marijuana and I innocently said, "well, it must just be on someone's clothes because there's no smoking allowed in here." Let me tell you, as soon as the lights went down, people were firing up all over the place. Between the patchouli and the pot, I think we were transported back to 1968, no lie. :) And the music brought back so many memories-- "Wooden Ships" and "Guinevere" and "Almost Cut My Hair" and "Eight Miles High" and "Marrakesh Express" and "Military Madness" and we are all singing "we can change the world...." and it's my best day in San Francisco, ever.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Let the Vacation Begin!

We're sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting for our 1 AM flight to Portland. Rich is reading magazines and I am....well, you know...on the internet, of course. We brought some snacks with us--semi healthy--so we'd avoid the fast food nearby. I've been munching on cheese and toasted sesame flatbreads. I did have to stop at Starbucks for a venti black iced tea, though. You knew I would. The week flew by and I had such a good feeling that I was all caught up at work and had nothing hanging over my head. That is SO unusual. I have spent my life worrying about all the things I didn't get done before vacation, all the things that COULD happen while I was gone, all the things that someone will need or ask about that I forgot to handle. My desk and my office were even clean when I walked out the door. Now I have probably jinxed myself big time and something major will go wrong while I am out of town. It's been snowy and windy and several planes did not get in or out yesterday, though I know at least one finally did. Then we heard that Alaska Air had a system wide computer failure and lots of flights were cancelled altogether. Funny, I mentioned last night that I wasn't sure why we waited till Saturday to leave when we could have gone Friday after work. Good thing we didn't or we would have been in the mix with all the other poor souls whose flights were cancelled. Today was a beautiful clear and sunny day, perfect flying weather. We left on time and arrived in Anchorage at 8:30 PM. When we checked in in Unalaska, we realized that we were not seated together on the flight from Anchorage to Portland and, even worse, we're both in middle seats. Ugh. When we got to Anchorage, we stopped by the AK Air counter to see if there was an off chance that some different seats might now be available. The agent did find one window seat which I'll be sweet and give to Rich since he hates the middle even more than I do. She then told us that the person on the window next to me is traveling alone so we should seek her out and ask if she will trade her window seat for Rich's so we can sit together. It's still early but we will be stalking this poor person as soon as people start checking in. We know her name. I'm sure she will think we are a little bit weird. And I wonder if it's okay for AK Air to give out another passenger's name. I've been in social work too long and think that everything is more confidential than it really is, maybe. Our next order of business was to priceline a room in San Francisco for tomorrow night. We have learned the hard way that it's not always a good idea to priceline the first night before leaving home, just in case we have issues and don't get out. No refunds on priceline, no matter what. As I noted in my last post, we'd been looking for a room for the 2nd and 3rd nights but were not having much luck finding a bargain. In fact, we did finally get one and had to pay more than we wanted. Bummer. So tonight, after going through Security, we settled in with our snacks and laptop and Rich pricelined a 4 star hotel for $75 right off the bat. Now we are wishing we'd waited on the other nights, too. Two more hours to kill. Okay, I really did write this in paragraphs but Blogger keeps putting it all in one long stream of consciousness post. I've gone back in twice and spaced it back out but it apparently does not approve. Have fun reading!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Random Stuff without Photos

We've been having exciting weather--high winds pretty much all weekend. Not just high winds, hurricane force winds, up to 115 mph. It's sort of lame to say because it's been repeated so much, but I still like the comment (said with pride, of course) "down south, they'd give that a name, but here we just call it Saturday." :) There was some damage done but no one was hurt, thankfully. I didn't even want to leave the house but I am newly appointed to the board of USAFV (Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence) and our annual Soup Off fundraiser was being held on Saturday night. I kept reading comments on Facebook about people getting knocked around by the wind and some saying "don't go outside" and "don't drive." We have a bunch of steps that we have to climb to get up to our house or down to the parking lot and I was kinda worried that I might get blown over. Rich was working but took pity on me, came to get me and dropped me off across town at the high school.

The fundraiser was good--we had a nice turnout despite the howling winds, though more than one person came in drenched and several noted that their soup entries sloshed out of their pots between the parking lot and the gym. Rich came over after he got off, we enjoyed lots of tasty soups, watched contestants get their awards, and stayed for the fundraising auction.

We've been planning our vacation and I am very excited about leaving on Saturday. We tried to priceline a room in San Francisco but can't seem to get one for the bargain price(s) we are proposing. Guess we will have to go up a bit more. Also looking for rental cars, another hassle. :) It will all come together in the next few days, though, I am sure! Now I am onto my next dilemma, which is my usual one: what clothes to take. I really want to pare down and mix & match and layer and not bring a stack of things I never actually wear. I always think "but I might need that." And, of course, I am not sure what the weather will be like. I wish I could be more like those folks who throw two outfits in a backpack and still feel like they've overdone it.

Since we've been to San Francisco a few times already, we've decided we are going to concentrate our activities by visiting different areas of the city that we haven't seen before. So we've been reading up on various neighborhoods, making notes of restaurants and shops and things to see and do. We plan to get in lots of walking (unless, as I whined to Rich, "it's too cold or rainy"--yes, I can be a little wimpy).

Changing the subject: I've met the nicest people on I've mentioned before that I've struck up an ongoing correspondence with a few of them. One day last week Rich called to say that I had a box in the mail at the hotel. I hadn't ordered anything and couldn't think of what it could be but Raelyn, a postcrossing friend from New Zealand, had sent a whole box of sweet presents for Emery after learning about her story. What a very nice thing to do for a perfect stranger. I think we just have to look around to realize that most people have kind hearts and only want the best for each other. Well, that's what I choose to believe, anyway. Thanks, Raelyn!

One of my other fairly regular correspondents lives in Nara, Japan. I looked it up on the map and it doesn't seem like an area that's been affected by the horrors there; at least I hope not. I sent Noriko an email but I have no idea if communication is even getting through. I hope she and her loved ones are all okay. It certainly seems like the world is spinning out of control right now with the effects of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor disasters in Japan along with the fighting in Libya and other countries. I could get into a big political dissertation right now but I don't have the emotional energy for it. I suppose my thoughts can be summed up like this:

I don't want us to get into another war.
I thought we didn't have any money and the country was going broke.
If we can't pay teachers and government workers, why are we going to get into another overseas adventure?

Very discouraging.

We still have to do our taxes before we leave. We started them weeks ago but were still waiting for some documents from our investment accounts before we could wrap it up. Those arrived awhile back and we can't seem to get motivated to resume the process. We've made a pact that we will finish tomorrow. That's postponed from our agreement that we would do it tonight.

I've been a big insomniac again lately. Last night I was up till 4 AM reading. Then I slept really late this morning so now, of course, I am not tired. Ugh. It's a vicious cycle. I wish we didn't need sleep. :)

On the other hand, I am really happy about this: My houseplants are thriving. I love seeing them every day, nice and green and getting bigger all the time. Those of you who know my history with plants will be amazed and astonished. I have been accused of having a "brown thumb" and never, ever, ever had success growing plants in the house or flowers outside. It's funny how thrilled and excited I am about this. I have a daily ritual now, checking each of them like they're my little children. Is this one too dry? Does that one need to be pruned a little bit? Would the other one prefer being turned in a different direction? (Do I have too much time on my hands?)

Well, friends, have a good Tuesday and if I don't post before we leave, I'll catch up with you from California!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Forward

I'm not a big fan of the time change. Rich and I went to bed around 11:30, knowing it was "really" 12:30 and he has to get up early for Sunday Brunch. I think I drifted off for a short while but woke back up and could not sleep. SO I am at the computer, after sitting at the table writing birthday cards and snail mail notes for a little bit. Haven't blogged lately so thought I might as well catch up.

Rich was out in the yard earlier today when these flowers caught his eye. We think it's a little early for them to be blooming, but maybe not. Nevertheless, we were excited to see them popping up. Hopefully spring is on its way.

So sad about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan--watching the devastation on TV is shocking, even as it's replayed constantly. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones there. We had a little bit of excitement here as we were under a tsunami warning for several hours early Friday morning. Our general manager was out of town so I was "acting" and ended up staying up for quite a bit of the night in coordination with our TV and radio staff, who were keeping updated messages broadcasting from Public Safety. Thankfully, it passed us by and we didn't have to evacuate. Those who have been here a long time said that there has never been an issue on the Bering Sea side so most people were not overly concerned. Still, it gives you pause for a few moments when you're told that you're in the danger zone and to be prepared to move to higher ground.

I can't even remember everything that's gone on since my last post. Our cute and sweet little granddaughter Ally had her 4th birthday on the 8th--she is growing up too fast! Hated to miss her party, complete with a Barbie cake, but it sounds like she had lots of fun. Someday we will be close enough to pop in on birthday parties and various other events.

Last night I met friends for sushi and lots of laughs--we were going to have another fondue night but the hostess' daughter was sick so we decided to go out instead. Tonight was our annual membership meeting at my job so I spent several hours today getting ready for that and then attending tonight. It was followed by another drive in movie, "Mega Mind," in the parking lot but I didn't stay since we'd seen it with the grandkids when we were down south. The drive-in is a big hit since we don't have a movie theater here--another great idea from my coworker, Pipa (Ms. Creativity).

Rich and I are getting ready for our next vacation--we leave on the 26th for a few weeks in California, visiting his sister, his stepkids and grandkids, his cousin and family, who all live there, and my niece who is attending Santa Clara U. We'll spend a few days in San Francisco (one of our favorite places!) and then make the rounds. Yes, we love vacations!