Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Team Loyalty:

Just a few words on football as we enter the 2014 season:

1. I cheer for the Seahawks.  Every game, no exceptions.  Win, lose or draw, they are my team.  (Unless they do something stupid like hire the player to be named in #2).

2. I will never cheer for Michael Vick or any team that hires him.  Ever.  I actually sent a letter to the Eagles organization scolding them for hiring him.  

3. I don’t cheer for the Broncos.  Ever.  (I cheered for Tim Tebow when he was there, but not the team).

4. I cheer for Peyton Manning; no matter where he plays.

5. I cheer for the Rams unless they’re playing the Seahawks.  This is because I love my cousin, Rich.

6. I cheer for the Arizona Cardinals unless they’re playing the Seahawks.  This is because I love my nephew, Ryan.

7. I don’t cheer for Colin Kaepernick or Johnny Manziel.  Ever.

8. I used to be, but no longer am a Pittsburg Steelers fan.  I’m also no longer a Terry Bradshaw fan.  

9. I understand enough about football to follow the game, understand the rules and enjoy the game.  

10. I don’t follow stats, or the history of the game. 

11. I don’t have enough room in my head to remember who all the Superbowl champs have been in the history of the game.  That’s what the internet is for.

12. My “rules” for who I like and don’t like don’t have to make sense.  They’re my rules.

13. Numbers 9-12 are why I really suck at fantasy football leagues.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

25th Anniversary Trip -- Days 3 and 4

Day 3 – Butchart Gardens, The Ledge, Fiamo

Coffee to go at Murchies, then we walked downtown to catch our city bus to Butchart Gardens.  We thought the bus left near the Legislature building, but it turns out we needed to move to the block behind the Empress Hotel so we hustled and made it to the stop (we didn’t need to hustle but who knew if the BC buses are on time or will wait for their stop?)

The Italian Garden
Russ rubbing the lucky boar's snout
This particular route fortunately changes directly into the bus we needed to ‘transfer’ to for Butchart, so we didn’t have to change buses.  However, it’s the milk run and stops everywhere along the way so it’s almost an hour to get there.  No matter, we get a nice view of the city and outlying areas along the way.

Butchart is just getting a couple of tour buses arriving so it’s not too crowded, but they’re all following the same map, so…we decided to go ‘backwards’ to the sunken garden exhibits instead of winding our way down as everyone else is going.  Beautiful flowers and plants and fountains and trees everywhere.  Not too hot, not chilly but nice weather for a stroll.  After the sunken gardens, we go through the rose gardens.  So many beautiful roses (and a LOT of people).  On our way to the Japanese gardens, we talk to an older couple taking photos.  I ask if I can take a photo of them together and she says they’re out of film – I’m wondering if they were shooting video instead because of that.  I offer to take one of them on my phone and email it to them.  They were touched and I took a couple and then sent them out during our evening in the hotel.  

Japanese gardens were lovely, filled with ponds and benches and running water and stepping stones.  After the Japanese gardens it’s through the Italian garden and we’re done.  About an hour-and-a-half to tour it all, plus a bit of time in the gift shop and then we wait for our bus back to the city.  The bus ride back is much shorter as it’s an express line which drops us off to the side of the Legislature building. 

Legislature Building "The Ledge"

The bus driver says the Legislature building is affectionately called “The Ledge” so we use that and feel quite un-touristy for a few minutes.  We’re early for the next tour, so we get our tickets and roam around the grounds outside for a bit.  They offer free tours on the hour every day so we’re able to catch the 2:40 tour.  In addition to the guided tour, they have actors portraying historical characters of the time.  They’re in costume and speak in British accents and stay in character throughout the tour. 

After our tour of “The Ledge” we decide to walk a bit around the harbor and check into procedure for leaving in the morning.  I booked a reservation for the M.V. Coho through the Blackball Ferry line which will take us from Victoria, B.C. to Port Angeles, WA on Monday morning.  Of course, there’s a Starbucks on the way, so we ‘refuel’ a bit.  We walk along the harbor and see some Sunday street vendors including Native American artists, some street performers and oddly enough, a guy with his male bearded dragon. 

We walked up to Fiamo and were seated for dinner.  They’re barely open so we have a pretty good selection of seats.  Alissa talks to us some more and the wait staff is again, awesome.  Food is delicious and perfect for the evening.



Tired, so we walk to the hotel and relax for our last night.

Day 4 – Victoria, B.C. to Redmond

Showered, packed, checked-out by 8.  We stop by Murchies for espressos and pastries.  Served on a silver tray!  We drive to the Coho terminal and arrive about 8:45.  They check our passports (no detaining this time!), give us our tickets and we wait for the 10:30 sailing.  A few last photos of the harbor and Victoria, then it’s time to board.

Goodbye Victoria!

We drive off at Port Angeles and have to go through customs again.  Drive to Kingston, then ferry to Edmonds and then home.  It seemed to take FOREVER to get back to Redmond and we’re only a bit late picking up Blake from football camp.

Home and Mustang is beside himself to see us back!  Now it’s unpacking, laundry, and back to the regular life. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

25th Anniversary Trip -- Day 2-

Craigdarroch Castle, Red Fish Blue Fish, sight-seeing

Started the morning with Starbucks then we walked to “The Swan” for breakfast.  Should have ordered a half order of the PNW Benedict (Salmon) but it was delicious!  We walked to Craigdarroch Castle and then toured through it, returning to the room about noon.  Rested, downloaded photos, Russ took a nap and then we headed out again.  Booked our passage home for Monday on the Coho (through Port Angeles), and bought a day pass for the BC bus system to go to Butchart Gardens tomorrow.  Much easier than paying to park and having to find our way there and back!  

St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral
On the walk back we found another St. Andrews -- this time a Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Found “Red Fish, Blue Fish”…really just a container turned into a fry shack that makes delicious fish and chips and other sea fried yummies.  The line was about 30 minutes long, but well worth it!  Sat on the dock and watched the sea-planes come and go and the Coho leave for the day out of the harbor.  

Walked back to the car and drove to the Fort Rodd Lighthouse; made it just in time for a quick tour through and back to the parking lot!  The light-keepers house was bigger than I expected; I guess I’m thinking of the description of the book I just finished about a lighthouse (“Point of Direction”) and all the other light-keepers houses I’ve seen in the past.  

Fort Rodd Lighthouse, Esquimalt

 Weather has been windy and sunny then rainy then sunny.  We toured through China Town, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  Quite a few restaurants and a nice Chinese gate, but other than that not impressive.

Dinner was at “The Bard and Banker”; our waitress was a lovely girl (woman?) whose family was originally from Newfoundland.  Her last name is Norman.  She recommended “Fiamo” for dessert for tiramisu, so we walked there and met…

“Russ” our waiter and Alissa, the manager.  Love this place!  We had tiramisu and mochas and we’re planning on coming back for dinner tomorrow night.

Tiramisu at "Fiamo"
Walked over 15,000 steps today, so it’s not so bad that we’ve eaten our way through the day.  Tomorrow is Butchart Gardens.

Statue outside of Chinatown, Victoria, B.C.

I have no idea what this sign means...

The straps on my purse un-stitched, so we fixed them with First Aid tape...

Friday, July 4, 2014

25th Anniversary Trip – Day 1

 – Day 1
Redmond to Victoria, B.C.

Peace Arch

Pretty uneventful drive up to Blaine; a bit of rain but we made good time.  I’ve never been to the Peace Arch – in fact, this will be only my third time in Canada ever in my life.  

We were asked to park and walk inside the Custom’s building at Blaine.  This is a bit scary because, well, it just is.  All kinds of things go through your mind...mistaken identity?  Do I need an attorney?  Random American pick? We grab our Passports and wait.  The agent asks us why we’re in Canada and if we’ve ever been before.  He walks off with our Passports and tells us to sit down.

He calls Russ (only Russ) back up and questions him a bit more.  Apparently, my husband traveled into Toronto 30 years ago (about 27 by our calculations) on a work trip for Honeywell Marine Systems.  He was supposed to be training the Canadians he was working with on a new system.  The "friendly" French-Canadian agent at that time gave him grief (and detained him for FOUR HOURS) because he was doing a "Canadian’s job".  Odd that in 27 years he’s never, ever been contacted about it…

Anyway, the agent in 2014 gets Russ’ story and says “well, you don’t look like a terrorist” and hands him back our passports.  Off we drive, 30 minutes later…but we missed our reserved ferry time so we need to change the time for our afternoon tea reservation at the Empress.

I've been joking with Russ ever since that I didn't know I was married to an "International Criminal"...

We make it for the 1 PM ferry and have a rainy, windy, yet uneventful passage.  Canadian ferries are much nicer and larger than WA state ferries; however, MUCH MORE expensive (even with exchange rates!)  Sunshine as we get off the ferry and we head towards Victoria.

Darth Vader apparently has an off-season gig in Victoria...

Parking is a bit of a challenge; or at least different than we’re used to.  Russ checks in, leaves me at the hotel and parks the car.  Up to the room and then it’s off to the Empress at the Fairmont.  Windy now, but sunny.  We get a table by the window overlooking the harbor (or is that harbour).  It’s a beautiful place.
The "Sticky Wicket"

Russ’s parents spent one night at the Fairmont for their honeymoon 73 years ago (April 3, 1941) and we’re feeling a bit nostalgic watching the handsome cabs, pedi-cabs and tourist buses and boats.  After a delicious and very filling tea, we head back to the room to plan out our next day’s adventures.  We stop by the Royal British Museum and see the oldest elevator in the PNW. We’ll stop back tomorrow for the actual tour.  (we never did actually take the tour...)

Back out after posting photos on Facebook (of course) and changing clothes for something a bit warmer. The wind has picked up and the sun is going down, so shorts are a bit chilly...
We walked around; had a beer at “The Sticky Wicket” and then a late dinner at “The Irish Times”.  In between Russ lit up the cigar he bought at the oldest cigar/tobacco store and we took more photos and stopped at Roger’s Chocolates.  I also got a picture with “Sully”. 
25th Anniversary Tea at the Empress

Sully begged for a photo with me; I graciously agreed.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church

We met a nice couple with long-haired Weimaraner – didn’t even know those existed.  They recommended we take the Coho Ferry back through Port Angeles on our return trip.  Less expensive and quicker in their estimation.  (not really when you add in the Kingston to Edmonds ferry too...)

Even with the exchange rate, I’m kind of surprised how expensive everything is.  But, it’s vacation, right?  Back to the room, charging phones and posting on FB.  Ready to call it a night and do it all over again tomorrow!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday Morning

Thursday morning.

I have suspended the housecleaners for the summer and I decide to vacuum this morning.

Find the vacuum cleaner, plug it in, move a bit of furniture.  Turn on the vacuum.

Turn off the vacuum because the dog is barking at it.  It's a toy.  I'd forgotten this.  Put the dog upstairs and shut the door.  Turn the vacuum back on.

Finish vacuuming the tile and move to the bedroom.  Turn off the vacuum to move the unfolded BOYS laundry (not my job to fold and put away -- their clothing, their job).  Turn on vacuum and vacuum the carpet around the bed.  Turn off vacuum because the NEW CARPET has unraveled and is now wrapped around the beater bar of the vacuum.

Go upstairs.  Find the business card for the carpet company.  Find the payment information on Quicken.  Look up the business hours – have to wait an hour before they’re open to call them and complain about my NEW CARPET that is fraying.

Go back downstairs.  Decide to take a photo of the damage; back upstairs.  Find the phone, back downstairs and take a couple of photos.  Back upstairs because if I don’t put my phone where I can find it, I will never find it.

Back downstairs.  Vacuum everywhere except the frayed part of the carpet.  Move to the media room; move furniture.  Notice the garbage hasn’t been emptied even though Tuesday’s job is to EMPTY all the inside garbage cans into the outside receptacles because WEDNESDAY is garbage day.  Empty the garbage.

Turn the vacuum back on and vacuum the media room, returning all the furniture to its correct position.  Vacuum the stairs.

Mentally note that I started the carpet removal project on the stairs four years ago and they are still only half finished.

Mentally note that the hole in the landing at the front door is getting bigger.

Mentally note that I’ll need the ladder to dust the entry way (this will likely never get done).

Mentally note that the un-carpeted part of the stairs needs to be cleaned, sanded, stained and sealed.  (This will likely never get done).

Decide to blog about this.  Actually, I was going to post it on Facebook, but it’s too long so I open a Word Document and blog about it.

Finish the stairs.  One toddler is crying because of the vacuum noise.  Phone alarm goes off; it’s time to take one kid to camp training.  Find phone, keys, purse, and wallet.  Drive to drop-off.

Return home, put things on floor up on the counter, remind 4 year old to go potty and start to vacuum again.  Toddler crying about vacuum.  Move couch and ask toddler to put the toys away that were under the couch.  Vacuum living room.  Toddler STILL crying about vacuum.  Send them all outside to play.

Now I need to make snack.  Wait.  I should call the carpet guy first.  Its 9:06 no one answers.  I leave a voicemail.  I hate voicemail.  Now I have to remember to follow up.

Snack.  I’ll pick strawberries from the garden.  Strawberries are mushy from too much rain.  Get enough for snack.  Have to clean them.  Toddler needs to go potty, can’t find her underwear and swears her cloths are too small.

Carpet guy calls back.  He can’t fit me in until July 1st.  When I tell him it’s likely a full fix and the guys didn’t leave any carpet pieces or my hemmed remnant (as promised), he has to call me back to reschedule.  I need to send him a photo of the damage.

Open up OneDrive to transfer photos for email.  Download, rotate and email photos.  Text husband to see if there are carpet scraps.  There are.  Wait for return phone call from carpet guy.

Snacks downstairs, outside.  Play in-and-out with dog who can’t decide where he wants to be.
Go downstairs, get clean couch throw.  Put couch throw over couch upstairs.  Remember I need to wash other cover; but I have to wait in line for laundry because someone’s load is in the wash.

Move dining room furniture to vacuum. Vacuum, then remember to move all the cords and toys that are left out.

Mentally note that I need to come up with lunch.

Two hours later and I’ve vacuumed the media room, bedroom, stairs, hallway, living dining and kitchen and nothing much else.

This is why I pay for housekeeping.  This is why my house always looks half-cleaned.  This is why I complete nothing.

***Very few dust bunnies were harmed in the creation of this post.  Those that are still alive will replicate and expand until it's no longer noticeable that I've even cleaned within 24 hours.***

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Activity Day

I’m not sure I understand the purpose of school anymore.  Today, my son is home from school (with my knowledge and approval) because it’s “Activity Day” due to EOC testing.  End of Course exams for freshman who didn’t pass the 8th grade math/Algebra 1 EOC or those students who took Biology or Geometry and need to pass the EOC for that course.  The students that don’t need to take these exams have Activity Day.

When my son attended the Activity Day last semester, he was hoping to get some finals study in, help with class issues, workshops or sheets to work on for classes he was struggling in.  Instead they played games and then had field day on the football field.  Clearly a good use of pre-finals time for students.

My son passed the 8th grade Math EOC in 8th grade.  He didn’t take Biology this year – it’s mostly a 10th grade class.  Currently his grade in 9th grade Algebra is a C-; in English a D and a C in French 1.  The other grades are A’s and B’s (Band, PE and Science).  He’s a freshman in High School.

Here is the schedule for EOC testing on Wednesday, June 4th:
(From the LWSD website )

Wednesday, June 4 
EOC Biology 
Students will be tested in classrooms. We will be on an alternate bell schedule. 

EOC Exam 7:30 – 10:24 
Lunch 10:30 – 11:00 
Tutorial/Finals Prep 11:06 – 12:30 

For students not testing, the library and Career Center will be open, 7:30 – 

My heartburn with this is that’s it’s a waste of a school day just before finals.  Why not have the students who don’t need to take these tests in study hall or finals work-shops or; here’s a thought a regular learning day?

I know, those students who are testing will miss all the instruction for the one day and it gives the others an unfair advantage.  Well, that might be, but ACTIVITY DAY???

First of all, this is a Wednesday.  It’s already a short day in our District (LEAP Day – Learning Enhancement and Academic Planning).  Students are dismissed 1.5 hours earlier on every Wednesday in the district as a “teacher professional development day or a day of professional learning”.  Every.Wednesday. during the school year.  To make this work, the classes that are usually 50-55 minutes are reduced to 25 minutes.  Did I mention this was EVERY Wednesday in the school year?  EVERY level of school is included.

So, what are the teachers doing during the regular school hours (that they would usually be teaching classes) that they can’t hold regular classes?  Are there THAT many students in 9th grade math classes that the classrooms would be nearly empty?  Are there THAT many 8th graders that failed the 8th grade EOC?

I’ll renew my suggestion that instead of having a day that the students consider unnecessary, why not make it another regular school day but have them focus on studying for finals or working on class issues they haven’t understood or resolved yet?

And WHY wasn’t something sent home to the parents explaining this?  Allowing us the choice to opt out or ask questions?  How many students stayed home today because it was a waste of their time? According to my informal FB poll 5 parents kept their kids (9 total) home today (various grade levels) because of the lack of school classes.  During school hours.  On a school day.

Meanwhile, RHS is looking at changing the lunch schedule for the 2014-15 year to give students more time (30 minutes, once a week) to meet with teachers if they’re struggling.  They’re doing this because they want to reduce the almost 30% failure rate at the high school.  1 in 3 students are failing AT LEAST ONE course.  2500 (approximate) students at the school and roughly 800 of them are failing at least one course in a quarter.

But of course, let’s have them play games and have shortened class days because of testing.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Two movies and a book

The Hollow Crown (BBC production, on DVD, 4 disks)

This is a BBC production of three of Shakespeare’s plays about kings Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.  It’s filled with lots of old English speak and traditional Shakespearean writings so it’s a bit hard to follow.  However, the story line, political intrigue, costuming and acting was fantastic.  The first DVD is Richard II who is deposed by the man who becomes Henry IV.  This was the hardest play to follow as there were a lot of characters involved in the various plots.

In the second DVD, Henry the IV is played by Jeremy Irons who is wonderful in the part.  He’s kingly and just and more than a bit worried about his first heir, Prince Hal (soon to be Henry V).  Hal is played by Tom Hiddleston and he’s a rake at best and a playboy at worst.  He hangs out in bawdy houses with drunkards and thieves and prostitutes.  He even steals things himself and brags about his conquests.  His closest friends are a cousin and a major thief named Falstaff.  Falstaff is a fictional character, but he’s quite important in the plays to show the differing characters of Hal.  Towards the end of the 2nd DVD Henry IV dies and Prince Hal becomes Henry the V.

The third DVD is all Henry the V and he’s changed from a common thief and ne’er-do-well to a man who’s thrown off all the bad of his previous life and does everything he can to convince his advisors and subjects that he’s worthy of the crown.  He attempts to take over France, but instead signs a peace treaty with them and marries the French princess Catherine of Valois.

I really enjoyed the history, costuming and acting in all the episodes and, although I had a hard time following some of the plots and keeping track of the names and enemies and friends; with the help of the internet and several great history sites; I followed the stories and plot.

I completely recommend this series.  There was little blood and gore; no swearing, and only one nude scene (in the bawdy house as we’re introduced to Falstaff and he’s in bed with a woman.  We see her naked bottom).  The acting was wonderful and the actors themselves had quite a bit of dialogue to manage, in addition to learning a different language and staying in character as well as costume.

The down side for me was there were very few women in this series; the queens/consorts were hardly mentioned.  The other negative for me was Edward of York was played by a black man.  I find this disturbing because there were no black men during this period of time in England’s history and certainly none of peerage.  However; those are small issues and overall I thought the series was well done and worth watching.

The White Queen (Starz Channel, on DVD, 3 disks)

This series was based on three novels written by Philippa Gregory who is a writer of historical romance fiction.  This series differs in many ways from The Hollow Crown, but has its own merits.

First, let me cover the graphic nature of this series.  There was a LOT of nudity and sex in this series.  I really could have gotten the idea that they loved each other without having constant flashes of women’s breasts or men’s bottoms on screen several points throughout the series.

I also found the few fighting scenes hard to watch as there was blood flying and numerous beheadings with blood-dripping axes.  Again, I got the idea and didn’t need the visual.

Thirdly, this is not Shakespeare, so the story-telling was quite a contrast from my previous DVD.  There was little old-English speech; which helped as you weren’t confused by the language as you tried to keep up with the political intrigue and all the names swirling around.  It doesn’t help that people went by three or four different names during the series; changing names because of status or familiarity or importance in the story.  Again, the internet was helpful for me to keep track of the various characters and the parts they played in the history.

As for the historical part of the stories, I found them to follow the written history pretty closely.  There were a few quirks here and there (the boys in the tower and the death of some of Edward’s children); but overall the history and the story followed.  The series did play up Elizabeth’s rumored witchcraft and abilities to conjure things and spells and curses.  It also played up the love stories of all the people involved, which I suppose is to be expected in a movie made from a romance novel.

The acting was well-done; King Edward is played by Max Irons (son of Jeremy Irons).  All the actors were well-cast; it was easy to grow to like or hate the various players as necessary.  The second disk was far more interesting as far as history was concerned, but political intrigue and plots were standard throughout the entire series.

Costuming was beautiful and I found very little in error about the series at all, historically.  I will comment that the writer played a bit loose with the ‘boys in the tower’ story line and I found it a bit creepy the Richard III had an affair with his niece; even though she was promised to Henry Tudor (who would become Henry VII).

I would recommend this if you like your history liberally laced with romance and sex.   The women were more of the story line than in “Hollow Crown”, but the men had equal parts in the series.

The Book Thief (Hardcover book)

I borrowed this from our library in hopes that I would understand the movie better once I see it.  If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, there will be spoilers in this review, so you’ve been warned.

My only real complaint about this book is the writing style of the author.  I haven’t read anything else of his so I don’t know if this is his normal style or not, but I found it distracting that *he* kept making announcements throughout the book.  It made the reading a bit choppy for me.

I found it interesting that this book is written from the perspective of death.  It’s a dark book and takes place in WWII-era Germany.  Death talks about colors and souls and God, but I cannot imagine making this book into a movie based on the story-line alone.  It would be just too hard to follow the story and keep to the book and its tale.  There’s no real romance, no real ebb and flow and not even, to my liking, a real sufficient ending to the story.

There were some interesting insights regarding the Germans and the Jews, the Hitler Youth and the politics of the time.  Besides the choppiness of the writing, I found I enjoyed the book.  The characters were interesting (once he got around to bringing them all in – which took almost one-quarter of the book).  The inter-weaving of the different lives became more important as the book went along but, again, it was dark and sad and pretty unfulfilling as a story.  There were some sad parts and a few parts that made me smile, but overall this was a gloomy, depressing and sad story.

I definitely will not read this again and I won’t plan on watching the movie as I just cannot see how they could stay true to the book and make it an interesting movie.