Monday, December 22, 2008

'Twas a week before Christmas...

This little tale that I'm telling to you, is based in pure fact, yes, it's pretty much true! It's cobbled together like a poorly made quilt; but I don't care, I don't feel any guilt. Enjoy the story, that's my true aim, I know it won't bring any fortune or fame. It's pretty silly, but what can I say, it's just my life, it's an average day...

'Twas a week before Christmas, and I could not believe

that no baking was done so close to the Eve;

The stockings were hung and a gift or two wrapped,

Still too much to do and my energy's zapped.

Most people were sleeping all snug in their beds,

while I, with the stress, thought of upping my meds;

A present for Dad is still left to buy,

"but what do I get him?" I thought with a sigh,

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter,

I ran from the kitchen to see what was the matter.

The screeching was loud, a thud then a thump

and it sounded like something was fixin'* to tump*,

The ice on the road was as black as the night

and gave all the drivers a terrible fright

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a bus in the ditch by the queer,

With an old lady driver confused in the seat

she'd run over the mailbox without missing a beat.

Skidding and sliding and stopped with a thud,

I could see that her bus was now stuck in the mud,

"Excuse me, I'm sorry, I ran quite off course !"

"Oh, and for your mailbox...I give my remorse..."

"It's alright I said, it'll stand back up straight,"

"I'm just happy you avoided a slightly worse fate."

As rain swirled about, (no we just don't get snow,)

We pondered on how to get her bus to go,

After much consternation, unstuck she came,

And no we did not file an insurance claim,

Then, there she went, quickly down the road,

Driving away in her over-sized load,

As I waved goodbye and was turning around,

I heard from inside a slight ringing sound.

The cookies I'd left in the oven to bake!

I'd forgotten about them! What a mess this would make!

The smell of burned baked goods soon filled my nose,

And smoke from the oven, oh how it rose,

A Christmas time fire, my that seems merry,

Unless it's unplanned, and then it's just scary!

I threw on my mitt and the oven door braved

And thought to myself, "can these cookies be saved?"

"I'll ice them," I said, "then they'll be fine,"

That slight smoky flavor will be nice with wine,

Of course the frosting would just be a cinch,

Except there's no sugar, who's been here? The Grinch?

"Ah the old standby" I said satisfied,

as canned Betty Crocker I quickly applied,

A sprinkle or two and no one would know,

of my near disaster with sugary dough,

I packaged them up and took them to work,

everyone liked them, from the boss to the clerk,

With crumbs just remaining, the office well fed,

my holiday plans had not ended in dread,

A few days to go I thought with a smirk,

Me, I'm just ready to head home from work,

"BYE!" I exclaim, as I drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, bake some cookies tonight."

*thems is Southern words y'all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more."

" It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags!" He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore...then, the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. "Maybe Christmas..." he thought "doesn't come from a store? Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more?"What is it about that day that makes the harshness of the world soften a bit? The Grinch learned that the joy of Christmas was something that couldn't be purchased, and even better, something that couldn't be stolen. You see, Christmas, doesn't come from a store...yes, Christmas in fact, means a little bit more.

It is a time to gather in with family and friends. It's a time to be full of glad tidings and cheer and a time to relish in that sense of magic that eludes us most of the year.

We see the dreary world with new eyes. Lights glow a little brighter, fires seem a little warmer, and charity spreads its wings from pocketbooks and bank accounts that know a new generosity. Still...the glitter of the gifts, the sparkle of the tree, and the love of kith and kin are only shadows of Christmas. Christmas still means just a little bit more...

Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"

*Lights please*
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Merry Christmas to all. May the true Joy of Christmas be found in your
heart on this and every day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sweaters and Santas and freshly cut trees...

...these are a few of my favorite things! I love Christmas. I love all things associated with Christmas. I'm a sucker for anything to do with the holiday! Come December, my world turns red and green. (Of course I'm always hoping for a little white to be thrown in there; but well, when you live in the Deep South, white Christmases are far and few between.) Still, regardless of the weatherman's predictions, I say throw on that overly decorated Christmas Sweater, grab that mug of hot cider, and get in the spirit.

Now, if there's one thing I love, it's a Christmas party, especially when it has a theme. I say all parties should have themes...actually, I think most regular days should have themes. Sadly, the theme for most days is "disgruntled office employee" but not Dec 6th. You see, every year my best friend Jenny-Lyn throws a party known as "The Ornament Exchange" where a bunch of us girls get together, eat an obscene amount of sweets, hang out and talk, and exchange ornaments a la Dirty Santa. This year however, I suggested we mix it up just a little and throw in the theme of "Christmas Sweaters." Now, this idea isn't exactly new, but it's guaranteed to be hilarious...and really, that's my only requirement. I wondered if the others would be as enthusiastic as I...let me just say, the girls didn't disappoint.

The food! (This table basically = the immediate onset of "the diabeetus.")

The fashion! (Now, a few of the girls didn't participate in Sweaterpalooza, but here are those of us who did. Notice if you will, the variety of styles...we've got the classic, the 80's, the Modern and even the Mom vest!)

After the festivus of eating and sweater admiration, we decided it was time for the ornament swap. It's always an eclectic assortment of items. You never know what you're going to get. It could be a tap dancing snowman, could be some delicate bejeweled treasure, could be a pig in a matter what it's always fun!

That's some pig! (I'm rather proud of bringing him..Jenny was happy to have him. Also, yes, that is a huge Bozo the clown doll hanging from Jenny's tree and trust me, TRUST ME, you do not want to question her choice to include it on there!)

Everyone had a great time and there were no dud ornaments! After the extravaganza, it was off to the tree farm! The tree farm's a pretty good time. Free cider and hot chocolate, acres of trees, reindeer, and wagon rides! We pretty much conquered all of it. We even entertained the crowds of people when we decided to offer them the luxury of our beautiful voices* through Christmas carols. Surprisingly one man even asked if he owed us any money for the songs. I took it as a complement, but I'm sure he meant it more as "there's no way I'm supposed to tip these people for 'singing,' right?"

It's a whole little section of trees just for me!

This guy here is "Gimpsy" the reindeer, he didn't quite make Santa's requirements, so he hangs out at the farm.

*sigh* I guess what happens on the farm doesn't always stay on the farm. (Now relax, she's got a shirt on under that sweater! However, don't you love the absolute indignation and horror on Jenny's face? She really sells it and Jen's devil may care posture really makes it look does Tammy's distant confusion and Beck's complete avoidance of the situation.) Nice one ladies.

Where's Gimpsy when you need him? (Would you look at that sky!!!)

...And thus ended The ornament exchange 2008. It was a good time had by all. Next year, we've decided to turn the sweater theme into a competition. "Build your own Christmas Sweater" I've already started on mine!

Now, I know that seems like a great stopping point, but who am I to tell the birds not to fly or the fish not to swim? You see, later that night, the fun continued! It was time for a good ol' fashioned family other people to whom we are not related. (say that with a Forrest Gump accent and it's kind of funny)

Here is "diabeetus table part deux" I don't know if the plates are half full or half empty at this point...all I know is that it was amazingly good.

Santa even showed up this year! I guess I got away with it I've been good after all!

Well, leave it to Jenny to discover the truth behind the beard!
Here's the fam getting ready to rip into that pile of gifts. Dirty Santa is the highlight of the party and you'd be amazed to see the elaborate schemes and games of "strategery" that go into making sure you get that Christmas pillow you've always so desperately wanted! (It's like watching the military plan a war!) Family Christmas is a great time and I'd have more pictures, but at this point, I was full of tiny pies of various sorts, wassail, and quite busy trying to figure out how to steal a "build-it-yourself" gingerbread house kit from my cousin. I've got a pretty great family and I love them all! Also, I can't wait to build that gingerbread house!

*The writer of this blog does not confirm, endorse, or jokingly even consider the validity of this statement.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bahama Mamas

What goes better with Thanksgiving than cold weather, good times with family, and a meal that could feed a third world country for a month? Turns out a cruise to the Bahamas ranks right up there. That's right! After the traditional family gorge-a-thon, my sister and I packed our bags and headed out to sunny Port Canaveral to hop aboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. (Now, I'll spare you the details of the drive, which included my brother-in-law, niece, and nephew...all in all, a lot of fun, until taco bell got involved.) After parting ways with the fam , Rhonda and I drove on down to the ship...there she floated in all her glory...ready to take on a fresh herd of cattle load of passengers!

The beautiful Monarch of the Seas anchored off Coco Cay

Once aboard we did what any good cruiser does...we headed to the trough er, buffet. Now, that doesn't mean we ate an entire pizza topped with hamburgers. You see, a cruise ship ain't Vegas and what happens on a cruise ship often doesn't stay on the cruise ship. Yeah, I'm talking poundage. Really, the veggies, seafood, and fruit were the best offerings anyway, so we had our fill of that while everyone else loaded up on deep fried mashed potatoes and butter cheese bacon fritters. Although, I'd give somebody's right arm to have the recipe for that lamb curry!

I decided against eating that brown fried...thing.

"Comedy's a dead art tragedy...that's funny!" -Bender.
Humor was the order of the day on the Monarch. The ship offered two different comedians, both of which were actually extremely funny. I'll admit I wasn't holding out a lot of hope, but yes, my sides actually ached from laughing. The acts ran the comedy gauntlet from impressions to race relations... "Hey, I have a white friend! See white people, do you see how stupid that sounds?" Nice. The final night, the singers and dancers performed...I love the production numbers, as does Rhonda...she's a former musical theater gal and I'm just a big ham that loves the spotlight...nothing like living vicariously. We sat there and sang-a-long and judged the choreography and cheered when those high notes were landed.

This girl glowed...literally. Every single picture I took of her, she's literally phosphorescent!

Ports of call...
This was a short cruise and we only had two ports of call, but once you've seen one tropical island, you've seen them all...or so I hear...I'd like to find out for myself. Nassau was fine, we really didn't explore the city itself, we tendered over to Paradise Island and toured the Atlantis Hotel. The aquarium was really the highlight of the tour and the gorgeous Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. The aquarium housed giant Manta rays, huge sawfish, serious looking...tuna? and some piranha that looked as if they'd like to have you over for some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Chihuly's "The Sun"

Glowing Jellyfish...friends of the singer on the ship?

Hello Clarice...

After the "Atlantis experience," we walked around the island a bit, played in the surf, realized we hadn't eaten since breakfast, many, many, many hours earlier and decided to head back to the ship...besides, we didn't want to miss the dance party. I'll start with dinner and work my way back to dance party. Rhonda and I enjoy the formal dining room for dinner...there's just something nice about having someone pull out your chair for you, drape your napkin in you lap, and offer you more bread than all of France on Bastille day. The meals were fine...nothing spectacular, nothing bad...but this isn't about the's more about the company. Our dinner companions seemed nice enough...a slightly older couple, well traveled, well read...a medical researcher and former Secret Service agent. We enjoyed them, even if ...we'll just call him "Mr. Smith" was a bit of a bloviater. All was well...until "Mr. Smith" announced that he just didn't like "the black people." How do you even respond to that?!? I sat there slack jawed...Rhonda, wide eyed...we listened to a few more of his absurd assumptions about various subjects, said our goodbyes and left in a state of complete confoundation. He also hated our "lazy, unambitious, bum of a...." kayak excursion leader...if that was his definition of a lazy, unambitious bum, where do I sign up?

Apparently the people of 422 preferred a more casual setting.

Speaking of kayak guy, whose name I can't recall, but he did have a lovely South African accent. *sigh!* He was a resident of our other port of call, Royal Caribbean's private island "Coco Cay." It was a beautiful island...gorgeous clear water, white sugar sand, and hammocks on every tree. We proceeded to our excursion station and took up our paddles and life vests for a nice relaxing kayak tour...or so we thought. Turns out Neptune had other plans...what started out as calm seas with clear waters quickly turned into 3-4 foot waves and gray skies...and I'll admit, a heck of a lot of fun. I've only kayaked in Alaska a few times and it was never in rough water so this was a new adventure...especially when Rhonda and I took a (I'm gonna say "rogue wave" for the dramatic effect) rogue wave that knocked us clear out of the boat! We were out a couple hundred yards from the shore, but the water was still only waist level and warm. Sadly, there was a old secondary digital camera...tucked into my life vest for a few fun shots...little did I know the wrath of the ocean...she be a harsh mistress indeed.

The last picture my little camera ever took. Godspeed little C340 easyshare...Godspeed.

The rest of the time on the island consisted of us proving we fail at hammocking (I declare that a word.) how we do not fail at falling asleep on beach chairs, a nature walk, and lunch. Lunch...a beach bbq, very nice, ribs, chicken, regular fare...and cookies. I decided I wanted a cookie and surprisingly, there was only one left when I got up there, well lucky me...or so I thought. As I reached for the tongs, I see a puffy, red nailed hand practically lunge at the tray, grab the tongs and snatch the last cookie. I stood there in a mix of confusion and irritation (did I mention I really like cookies?) as this woman, this garish, badly permed, cookie stealing woman looks at me and says "*sigh* It's not even what I wanted" as she shoves it in her mouth akin to a blue furry monster that could tell you how to get to Sesame Street. I whisper under my breath as she lumbers off, "well, it's what some of us wanted." Oh well...better on her hips than mine.

I'm convinced this is what I was meant to do.

Now that's entertainment!
...and we're back at dance party. We walked into the main stairway of the ship, a huge spiraling thing descends from all directions, each tier was packed with people clapping and shouting and staring down at the bottom level of the landing. In that landing was cruise director Chris, sporting a huge afro and sunglasses, also in attendance was a glittered up, singing, dancing sailor, more afro wig wearers, and the YMCA boys. Well, Rhonda and I stealthily maneuvered our way into the thick of things, and before I knew it, I was dancing with a greased up policeman, Rhonda with the sailor, and then, sailor, she, and I started what would become the second oddest conga line I've ever been privileged to join. Speaking of conga lines...this brings me to "Quest." Quest was the late night game show on the ship and while Rhonda and I chose not to participate, we did decide to watch. C.D. Chris was there again, sans afro wig. This time he would call out commands to teams and they'd race to be the first to show him what he wanted..."a man with his pants on backwards," or, "a thong! '...very nice ladies, but all I was looking for was a flip-flop'." At the end of this game, 20 grown men wearing women's ..."attire" congaed around the lounge...without question, the #1 most interesting conga line in which I was not involved!

Here's the main staircase from which I believe everyone on the ship watched our dance party...

...and here's a bad photo with our glittery companion post conga line!

In the end, it was great to spend time with my sister. Given that she's 17 years older than me, we didn't really get the chance to grow up together so...carpe diem, because that's what we've got...and that pretty much sums up the most interesting parts of the trip...the rest was packing, leaving, and the desire to avoid all the things of Monday that loomed on the horizon.

I'm not still here why?

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Ultimate Cakewalk

Sometimes, you get inspired. Sometimes you'll see something that just touches your very soul. This thing, this new found sense of wonder instills in you a desire to be better, achieve greater things, stand out amongst the crowd...and sometimes, it takes nothing more than some poorly applied frosting to do so. Now if you have no idea what I'm talking about, your life is missing a little something...a little something called "Cake Wrecks"

Now, I don't think many bakers aspire to be a member of the Cake Wrecks club, but oh the gems they afford when they do! I think of them as "beautiful disasters." However, on Sundays, there really are some lovely cakes posted on the site and that is where the inspiration for my latest baking adventure sprang. However, this blog really isn't about cakes or cookies on dowels or my secret desire to be featured as a cake wrecker despite my non professional baker standing. No, this blog is about my best friend and her birthday adventure...a cake just happens to be included.

Best Friends!

The day all begins with a team and a dream. College football is a passion in the south, some say darn near a religion, and while I don't hold it to that standard, we do bleed crimson for a reason. Alabama has been at the crest of its Roll Tide wave this year, and like any good fan, the stadium is the place to be on any given Saturday. Well, the Bama, Ole Miss game just happened to fall right before Jenny's birthday, so what better place to celebrate? Jenny, our friend Allison, and I loaded up in my car, cake and gifts in tow and headed down to T-town...Tuscaloosa for you uninitiated folks, and got ready to cheer on the team. (You realize it's we fans that actually spur the team to victory right? It's not really all that coaching and practice...) Well, this season, has been monumental...if you follow college ball at all, you know Bama has come from the depths of despair in the past few years to being 11-0 and #1 in the SEC and the Nation at the posting of this blog. If that doesn't get your rammer jammer going, nothing will! Well, we settled into the game, screamed at the first recognition of "Sweet Home Alabama" every one of the hundreds of times it was played, (that's in the rules of the "Livin' in Alabama" handbook) and agreed that every call against the team was surely because the zebras were crooked! Thankfully, Bama took into consideration that it would spoil a very special birthday if they lost. Final: Alabama 30 Mississippi State 7. Roll Tide Roll.

That band is probably like...a million dollars worth of band or something...

With spirits high and stomachs growling, we trekked the mile or so back to the car, grabbed the cake and headed to Jenny's cousin's RV for a wee bit o' tailgating fun! Well, the walk from the car to the camper that's where the ultimate cakewalk comes into play. It was an odd processional, me, leading the way, cake in hand, Jenny loaded with bags, and Allison bringing up the rear. It's an odd feeling to be walking down one of the main drags of Tuscaloosa, opposite the flow of the foot traffic, knowing everyone wants a piece of what you got...stop it now...I'm talking about the cake. Jenny also decided that it would be a good idea to take pictures with the cake a la senior portrait style. Here we see...contemplate/hopeful future, con cake!

Everyone wants a piece of that...cake.

"OK, now look off into the distance like you're believing your dreams into being..."

Back at the camper there was chili, potato soup, cornbread, and pigs in request of the birthday girl. Also, a smattering of desserts in addition to the cake, just to insure the fat and sugar overload would be complete. One of the players came by to talk too...and now I know all about red shirting, black shirting, Nick Saban, and what I'm not allowed to say about any of it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

...How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have a black thumb. I admit it. I kill plants, I'm a horticultural's not that I want to be or try to be; I'm just naturally gifted at being ungifted naturally. Over the years, many a plant has met its demise through my hands. There were the ferns who ended their pathetic lives on the porch, wilted and brown. The sundry varieties of tomato plants that produced one small sickly tomato, unfit for consumption by man or beast. The Forget-Me-Nots that never grew enough to forget in the first place, scads of others...RIP. The one plant I've managed to keep alive, my forsaken little rose bush, has been through the ringer...burned, frozen, flooded, even run over by a truck! I count its survival to its own will to live, because I surely haven't been any help to it. There's a metaphor for life in there somewhere...but I think Bret Michaels already wrote about that... Despite these past forays into failure, I am however, the eternal optimist. I always imagine my future efforts will be more fruitful than futile, but seemingly
my delusions of grandure...i.e

are always brought back to inevitable reality...i.e

Now, my purpose for writing this isn't simply to confess my horrific crimes of floracide. It's because, yesterday, as I walked into the office, I was informed that there was half a truckload of flower bulbs for the taking in the warehouse. This is not that unusual of a circumstance actually. We often get freebies at work from various are a few in my collection: iron furniture, a fireplace mantle, umbrellas, jumper cables, 40 pairs of socks, a George Foreman Grill (knock out the fat!) and much, much more. Well, never one to pass up a bargain and always sure that the next time will yield better results, I sauntered back to the loading bay. Imagine my delight as there were literally thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of bulbs back there and people were grabbing them by the box full! Everyone scrambling to procure the finest assortment of Spring's future glory. I gathered up a fairly small box and shoved it full of tulips, daffodils, irises, hyacinth, and various other future disappointments. $200 worth of bulbs later, I was back at my desk, dreaming of trowels and miracle grow...because trust me, it'll take a miracle. a baby supposed to be involved?

I suppose next comes the planting and the sooner, the better. Funny how flowers can smell so sweet while the bulbs smell...well, not so sweet. Actually, they smell rather strongly of uric acid. That's right...pee, they smell like pee. Now, I didn't discover this little secret in the large open warehouse, no, no, I didn't find this out until I let them sit in my car for a few hours while I finished out the they my car...reeking of my car. That was not a pleasant ride home. What is it though, we all suffer for beauty? Well, hopefully anyway! Come Spring, I'm hoping to update this blog with pictures of glorious flowers blooming forth in all their natural glory...but, until then, I'm not holding my breath...well, unless I'm driving.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A River Runs Through It...

4's quiet. The moon hangs low in the chill of the early October morning. A few weary people begin to rouse themselves from a heavy slumber. Backpacks are filled with water, extra clothes, and granola bars. Hair is quickly twisted into ponytail holders, tennis shoes are slipped on and jackets are grabbed as they race out the door. In a few short hours, the weeks of planning would finally culminate...

but not for me...

You see, I should be preparing for a white water rafting trip right about now with a group of my friends. A trip I conceived of, planned, and paid for. (reimbursements from friends pending of course) Instead it seems I've decided I should develop a fairly serious kidney infection...oh, and a head cold...I wouldn't forget about you head cold. You're the icing on my illness cake!

Now I know a kidney infection sounds like fun, but let me tell you, it's not, IT'S NOT! It's not one of those " I need a break from work, oh, how convenient, the sniffles!" kind of things. It's one of those "quit hitting me in the back with that baseball bat!" kind of things. Of course there's a whole other treasure trove of symptoms that go along with this but I'll spare you. Suffice to say my bladder and kidneys are no longer on speaking terms. Oh, the head cold, yeah, I've contacted Guinness...I figure I must be setting some kind of record for Kleenex usage.

Now, this isn't to say you can't have some fun while possibly dying*. If you aren't suffering from the probable side effects of confusion and disorientation (yep) movies are always a good..actually, depending on the movie, it might be better under the effects of confusion and disorientation...but I digress. Thanks to Netflix, I received quality entertainment in my mailbox for only pennies a day or so they tell me. Well, anyway, a bunch of Lost Boys found their way into my mailbox that day. Surprisingly enough, I'd never seen Lost Boys before but I had faith that the 80s wouldn't disappoint me. I must say, two Coreys, a Sutherland, and copious quantities of fake blood later, I was laughing it up. I do love a good vampire flick and teamed with the campy nostalgia of the 1980s, I was feeling better in no time...for about 5 minutes. Time to look for greener pastures. This brings me to my favorite sick bed activity...naps.

Napping when you're sick is a true joy. There's something about that fevered sleep that is like no other. It's the waking up that kind of sucks. You know what I'm talking about, (and this is all you head cold.) that nice puddle of drool, the snots, the whole "were am I" sensation. I know, sexy right? Oh, and the chills, those are sexy too. However, the sleeping itself is great. A good solid two hour nap, it's like kicking sickness in the butt! You don't know you're sick at all while you're sleeping and...AND you get those awesome freak dreams from the combination of antibiotics, pain killers, and cough syrup! Where else can you ride a flying surfboard on a wave made of rainbows? That's the kind of entertainment only Blue Cross and Blue Shield can provide! Alas, naps only last so long.

Of course, there's that great bastion of misinformation...the internet...the sick person's best friend...the golden retriever of all technology! It all starts out innocently enough, read a few blogs, laugh at an lolcat, and facebook or myspace completely pointless messages to all of your friends. Of course, that's until you decide to google your condition and all of its potential if ridiculously rare side effects...when the words "failure, loss of, and death" start popping up, you decide it's time to head back to Still, eventually, even the internet gets a little boring and repetitive...

Well friends and internet strangers alike, I raise my glass of gingerale and bid you adieu for this blog...hopefully I can keep myself out of the hospital. The first round of antibiotics didn't work so well you see but I like a, some amusing pictures that I hope you enjoy as much as I have...

Here I am just chillin' with an Ermine. (Oh yeah, photoshop is fun too!)

My gosh! Why didn't I know about these sooner? They fulfill all my action jean needs!

The Force is strong in this one ^

...and finally, some parenting advice from a non-parent expert!

*used for dramatic effect!

Friday, October 3, 2008

...and then there was Alaska

Well, here I am in the bright, shiny, new world of blogging. I suppose in a way this is like a personal diary...for all the world to see. I don't really know why anyone else would care to read the random ramblings of a quirky southern girl but if perchance you would...welcome aboard.

When I woke up this morning, it was the first time I've slept through the night in two weeks. Why you ask? I don't know, but I think it might have something to do with my most recent trip to Alaska. Something about that place just sticks with me...and the fact that this was a monumentally epic trip makes returning to the ordinary part of my extraordinary life much, much harder.

This was my second trip to that great land this year...the first being this July and also an adventure of magnificently epic proportions. The interior did not disappoint...but that's a blog for another day.

Most recently however, was simply for grins and shenanigans with my best friend in the southeast of AK. When we get a hankerin' for some good ol' fashioned glacial kayaking, cold water snorkeling, crab boat riding, eagle watching fun, we vacate the standard issue surroundings, pack the thermal shirts and the formal gowns and head out west to hop aboard the Celebrity Mercury. This was our sophomore season on the Mercury and just as the first trip two years ago, nothing but good times were had. We made new friends and saw old ones...who regardless of the thousands of passengers that passed through the gangways...remembered us as if we'd never left. We laughed, we ate, we drank, we flirted, we danced the night away. We adored the crew, especially our fabulous waiters Dragan and Serdar, they returned the favor. I won (for a night) $7000 worth of diamonds to drape around my neck. We dared to plunge our bodies into the glacial waters of the Hubbard for the polar bear challenge. We did ever so much more than could be listed in one little blog...and this is just on the ship.

Now, let me regress juuuuust a little. We decided to spend a little time in Seattle before we bolted for our departure in Vancouver. It was the best of was the...well, not the worst of times, but surely strange. Our first night in town, things didn't go exactly as planned and Jenny and I ended up walking the entire length of the city, finding ourselves at the Space Needle around 2 in the morning. We fearfully appreciated the random cat calls and whistles from various cars and narrowly avoided an SUV of what I'm assuming were nefarious scoundrels, who took it upon themselves to be our personal taxi thanks. Sketchy areas of Seattle at night...not the safest venture, but least it's a story. After bumming around for a bit and finding no suitable fun we bussed back to our hotel...but not before being treated to the delightful sight of a drunken man peeing in the alley. Oh Seattle! The next day however, was much, much better.

Through what I would describe as, ridiculous circumstances, I've been fortunate enough to come to know a few of the fisherman from "Deadliest Catch;" even more fortunate to have done some graphic design work for a couple of the boats. Well, Jenny, myself, and a couple of other friends headed down to the Pacific fisherman's terminal to see the ones I knew and meet the ones I didn't. Since they only had about a week before they left out for Dutch it was very nice of them to take the time. Hellos, hugs, and how are ya's were all exchanged. We toured around the Wizard (again for me), I hit my head hard enough to make me curse. Jenny "charted the crab"; and we all wondered and marveled at Arket's multi colored shoes. Lunch took place at The Matador where many photos and videos were taken...then we all dispersed to our random destinations. Jenny, myself, and our friends poked along in Pike Place Market and downtown Ballard, seeing all the things and doing all the things you do at Pike Place Market and downtown Ballard. Good times. Later that night, it was out with a couple of the Wizard guys, a friend of theirs and friend of ours for good conversation at some local watering hole. The next morning was off to Vancouver so I end this little regression and rejoin your Alaskan adventure, already in progress.

Now, let's talk about port. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka. Now as far as the towns themselves, yeah, we browsed around a bit, shopped a little, did the tourist thing, but only the bare bones minimum...time fillers really. You see, the best part about Alaska is Alaska, so take advantage. In Ketchikan, we decided to take the Aleutian Ballad crab boat tour...after watching the guys on TV for so long and getting to know a few of them, we wanted to in some very, very small way experience what they do day in and day out. We were met by Capt. David at the dock and made our way down to the boat where we jogged out a few miles into the misty waters surrounding Ketchikan. There we watched as crewmen Kiwi and Terry brought in pots of crab, adorably dorky Ratfish, angry octopi, and eagles lured with fish. We handled the catch, feeling the sharp spines of the crab and slimy bodies of the fish. We interviewed the crew, I threw the hook and Jenny brought it in...we ran all around the boat, goofed off in the wheelhouse...and possibly made some interesting new business contacts. After our crabbing adventure, it was off to Orca Corn, a small establishment slightly off the main drag that makes the best caramel popcorn I've ever had.

Juneau, the state capital! Yes, I did see Sarah Palin's house...well, the Governor's, I could not see Russia from there. Jenny and I decided the order of the day should be some sweet, sweet kayaking so off we went! We hit Douglas, Alaska and the lake. Once we suited up in our raingear, we were, by we were off, I mean the current in the lake was very strong and steering the kayak was ridiculous for the first part of our journey. Once we got it under control, it became awesome. We were literally only feet away from eagles and harbor seals. Right across from us was Mendenhall astounding site. The cloud cover was heavy but not so heavy that it obscured the view. Overall, it was an amazing day on the water and we didn't even tump the boat! After that we invested a little time with Dragan and some other folks from the crew of our ship at the Viking Bar downtown. Juneau, it's a fun town, especially with the right activities and people.

Sitka. I loved Sitka. I don't know if it was the island aspect or the adventure, but I loved the place. I visited the surf shop, picked up a nice Euphoria shirt ("Euphoria-the first stage of hypothermia") and wondered around taking in some of the Russian atmosphere. When you think of Alaska, you naturally think of snorkeling right? Well, Jenny and I did. We did what is known as a "dry suit snorkel" in which, put on what has to be the most flattering outfit every to grace the human frame. It consists of a fleece onsie over your street clothes, and a waterproof insulated suit with enough bagginess to allow for movement...Stacy and Clinton would be so proud. Granted, if you want to survive your swim, you suck it up, suck it in, and put it on. The snorkeling was awesome. It was a classically gray Alaskan day with a slight wind, you could feel the chill in the water through the suit, but not badly. Once you dip your face below the surface, an entirely new world emerges filled with starfish the size of dinner plates, hermit crabs, kelp forests, nudibranches, abalone, and fish zipping here and there. I was surprised at the heft of the sunflower sea star but also at it's vibrant blues and pinks...who knew what lurked down there! (No salmon sharks or whales today though!)

Our last port of call left my beautiful Alaska behind and dropped us into Victoria B.C...Canada, eh! Victoria was GORGEOUS! The flowers and gardens everywhere were stunning. Now, Jenny and I made a great friend on the cruise named Emilie a Victoria local, and we just walked around town taking pictures and being again...ridiculous. We watched the Snowbirds, I'm not talking about a group of active senior citizens. The Snowbirds are Canada's answer to the USA's Blue Angels, and they were awesome with their aerial stunts. Also, as it turns out, after the failure of the Empire, Darth Vader has taken up fiddling on the main drag of downtown Victoria...who knew?

All in all, the trip was awesome and it left us with memories that we'll always cherish. Sad thing is, this is just the...if you'll pardon the phrase, the tip of the iceberg. We saw things few people will ever see, we did things few people will ever do and we let ourselves enjoy this grand old world that God gave so graciously gave us...who could ask for more than that?