Monday, February 08, 2010

Howard Family Blog moved to

Hi everyone, it appears that after reading lots and lots of pages about what is happening to Blogger's discontinuation of FTP for publishing blogs, it appears that for now, we need to announce that our blog has officially moved to  Thus, those that are reading this blog via a blog reader, will need to go that page and resubscribe (select that RSS feed icon in the URL line) or just change your subscription to utilize:

Currently the old pages will continue to reside at the previous URL ( but I believe that only the new URL will continue to be updated.  Blogger is suppose to have some tool available in a few weeks that will help in some of this migration so things might be a bit easier later but for now, you will have to resubscribe.  Sorry.

If this is all utterly confusing and you have no idea what I'm talking about send me a note and I'll help you get setup correctly.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Migrating blog to a new domain name

Blogger (the blogging service we use) had decided to discontinue the use of FTP. This is what we use to publish our blog to our hosting provider. Thus for the next little while, our blog may not be working properly (hopefully no one will notice). Ultimately the new URL to our new blog will be rather than the old If you go to the new blog, you should be redirected automatically (which should include RSS feeds as well). We'll see how it all turns out.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Christmas Newsletter

Yes, it's finally here! We didn't get it out before Christmas, or New Year's, but almost got it out before our Tree got put away....since the boxes aren't actually in the attic yet, this might count, right? This year it's the thought that counts! We have been asking our kids what the high point and low point of their day has been. We've had better discussions this year than in most years, and way better than the typical, "How was your day?", "Fine" conversation. So we thought we'd translate that to our Christmas letter and let you know how our year went.


Winter 09

  • High Point – Inner Tubing w/cub Scouts - this is an annual event with his pack. It's free for all the boys who help sell popcorn during their fundraiser in the fall.

  • Low Point – Going to see Ilea’s concert with Grass Lake Gator Singers Kent District Choir Night- This was a long night, with choirs from all over the district. While each one was pretty good, they all had to march up, sing a few songs, then march off, and the next one came up. It was quite a production, and a very long time for anyone to sit in pretty uncomfortable chairs. This turned out to Ilea's low point too, and she was performing in it!

Spring 09

  • High Point - Mom N’ Me Camp - This was a good weekend for Kyler and Mom, at least better for mom than the weekend with rain. There was sun, and lots of activities. I'm sure we'll both always remember this.

  • Low Point – Cub Scout Activity/Pool Night - Kyler didn’t have much fun because there wasn’t any play time (they learned about swimming and safety, earned a badge, I think).

Summer 09

  • High point – Cruise to Alaska & Church camp - It was Kyler's first time at camp, which was from Wed to Sat. He had a great time, despite this picture. It was Ilea's last time at Jr Camp, and the only time they will be together until 6th and 9th grades. Next year Kyler will be on his own.

  • Low point – when Mom & Dad went on a hot air balloon ride without the kids :(

Fall 09

  • high point – Macy’s parade (we were in it - the costumes are above) & Cub scout winter camp

  • Low point - Ilea going to girl scout camp because he missed her - Isn't that sweet? She went away for 2 nights.


Winter 09

  • High Point – Snow - We started Winter with record snow, and it was wonderful. All day last Christmas it snowed and it was so beautiful. Lots of things were canceled, including a few days of school.

  • Low Point – Singing at the Kent District Choir night with Grass lake Gator Singers

Spring 09

  • High Point – Plane ride and End of School - For Father's Day Jenny got Kipp a ride on a small plane, won at a silent auction. It was fun. The kids were able to go up with him. They flew over our house, and down to Olympia and back.

  • Low Point – Cub scout rocket launch day - Fun for the 2 seconds you get to light off your rocket (which Ilea didn't get to do - it was just for the scouts), not so fun for the rest of the time...

Summer 09

  • high point - Cruise to Alaska - we all had a fantastic trip. The weather was great, food was awesome, and it was very relaxing. Couldn't have asked for a better week.

  • Low point – Heat in Fresno - It's great to spend one-on-one time with Grandma and Grandpa, but the temp did hit upwards of 110 last summer. Lots of pool time and air conditioned activities!

Fall 09

  • high point – Birthday & Girl Scout Encampment - For Ilea's birthday we went Bowling with 6 or 7 other girls. We forgot the camera and don't even have any pictures! Luckily her girl scout leader, Jane, remembered it when she took the troop to Camp this fall. They went up to Carnation, in the mountains, and had great weather.

  • Low point - Hitting Kyler with the Clarinet case in the face at the end of a bad week. It was a really bad week.


Winter 09

  • High Point – Snow! I loved it.

  • Low Point – Kyler’s Star Wars Slumber party with 5 boys – never again!

Spring 09

  • High Point – 17 yrs of marriage to Kipp - We did end up celebrating our actual anniversary at a Mariners Game, in the pouring rain, but I still love him.

  • Low Point – Gorgeous flowers out back, and then they got knocked down by a wind storm

Summer 09

Fall 09

  • high point – Hot air Balloon Ride

  • Low point - Kent District teacher strike - The kids ended up starting school 10 days late, and we were all ready. We're paying for it now with missed vacation during Christmas break, and shortened mid-winter and Spring breaks (only 1 day).


Winter 09

  • High Point - Snow

  • Low Point – Getting the cat declawed - We got new couches, and finally decided we had enough of her scratches. She has literally scratched every piece of furniture we own, and so we got her front claws removed. It was tough on us - she caught a cold on top of everything else, and recovery was slow.

Spring 09

  • High Point – Father’s day air plane trip

  • Low Point – Telling everyone that their jobs are going away because of outsourcing to India - It was rough even before that, because Kipp knew and couldn't tell them. Then you have to tell your friends the bad news, and that they have to train their replacements before they can get their severance packages. It was a rough six months.


  • High Point - Cruise to Alaska

  • Low point – Knowledge transfer/training people from India, and losing friends and co-workers as the termination dates were reached.

Fall 09

  • high point – Hot air balloon trip

  • Low point - Because Kipp got shingles in Aug, the virus made him ineligible to donate blood anymore. Kipp had donated around 96 pints of blood, and really enjoyed donating on a regular basis.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Burger King, Here we come!

OK, We haven't had very many good meals since, oh, um, Christmas, and I actually planned out the entire weeks menus. I got all the groceries. I even started tonight's meal LAST night, brining the meat in the fridge. I got this gourmet recipe from the chef at the Space Needle, and the simple recipe was called Mocha Braised Short Ribs. It was featured on the New Year's Eve special which I saw in my PJ's since Ilea and I were sick and we had to cancel our New Year's Eve party. The recipe seemed pretty simple, and I'm a reasonably good cook. I bought the meat, and I had the rest of the ingredients. I brined the meat in water, coffee, and salt all night. This afternoon I took the meat out, browned it, removed from pan, sauted onion and garlic, added wine and broth, put back the meat, bay leaves, sprinkled some chocolate chips, put a lid on it, and placed it in the oven like the recipe said, for 3 hours at 350. At 5:15 we came home and it smelled good even out in the garage! The kids were even excited! I put some potatoes in the oven, later added some bread, and at 6 we all excitedly took the pan out of the oven and took the lid off to find this:I think Kipp's reaction says it all.... Kyler wanted to know if we were really going to eat the leaves, which at this point, were the least of the problems....I tried to find the meatiest piece of shoeleather, I mean meat, to see what it tasted like....And we were off to Burger King! What a bummer! I may try again someday. Kipp is currently trying to save my cookware. At least the potatoes and rolls can be used tomorrow.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pride Goeth before a fall?

Hopefully it wasn't my pride that caused this panel to fall, but I did love it!

We thought this was in place pretty well. We had to squeeze it in, and thought it was tight enough to just stay up without anything else holding it. Lesson learned. This was the first of 2 panels of similar design which I made, and are in opposite sides of our dining and living rooms. The other is currently being held up by silly putty, and we may pick up some moulding today...

I had just come into the kitchen from the garage, and the kids and Kipp were already in the kitchen when we all heard a whump and some glass tinkling. I was trying to figure out what ornaments we could have that were over there, and realized that there weren't any. It took Kipp a few seconds also, and then we all ran over to look. Kyler saw it first. He said, "Well Mom, at least it's not your favorite one!" (I do like the second one I made a little better). The bad news about our new carpet is it's really thick and really holds glass shards well! My panel went from about 20 pieces to 120 pieces, and we picked up what we could and vacuumed the rest. The good news is I now have a new window to fill!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ilea the photographer

Ilea just won the best photograph at her school for Reflections program with the theme of "Beauty is...". Her picture goes to the district level now and we are very proud of her.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Kyler's Church Camp Adventure

One of the tasks that Kyler has to do for his cub scout bear badge is to write a story about something he has done. Below is Kyler's story:
In the summer I went to church camp. We did stuff like art, swimming, sports, and cabin time. My team was the green team. On the first night we played capture the flag. I got close to my opponents flag.

On the second night we played counselor hide and seek. My team found 1 counselor. The way we found him was he was howling. The one that we found was are own counselor.

On the very last night one counselor from every team was stolen without anyone knowing . Then at chapel a note came. It had 5 tasks and after finishing each task we got some puzzle pieces that made a map. After doing all the tasks, we could get the final puzzle piece. The tasks were archery, obstacle course, making a bridge, getting fake armor, and a slip-and-slid. Then we went to the chapel and got the final piece with the X and found where Andrew was. We found our counselor first so we won!



Sunday, December 06, 2009

Ilea's Prayer of Thanksgiving

Ilea wrote this:

I thanks the Lord for all I see,
for He has gone and made it for me,
and every blade of grass is precious to me.
I love Him and He loves me.

(below was a picture of cooked turkey. It was great, and we used it for our Thanksgiving prayer this year).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Newest Masterpiece!

OK, I really loved the last piece I made for myself. It's the one above with hills and a sunset (which still looks way better in person). But I did the hills wrong, and I wanted more sunset, and more layers of color.
So I made another! It's even better! Boy was it hard though....I went to Big M Stained Glass on Mon and got some glass, then back on Wed because I needed more of the zinc came to frame it. I was working Wed night, so excited, and hoping I could finish it that night. As I was framing it, I used a horseshoe nail to keep the pieces in place. But I forgot to put a little piece of lead as a bumper on the the top right sunset piece, and as I pounded the nail in it scraped along the piece and broke it right in half! I was so mad! I didn't have any more glass big enough to cut another. I was trying to break it up into a few pieces, and see if it would look good, and while I was doing that my elbow leaned too hard on that green triangle on the right, below the lavender, and I broke that one too! Now I was hopping mad! Maybe spitting mad! I couldn't beleive it! I've never broken a piece assembling a window! I DID have enough green, so I fixed that, and finally decided the extra pieces in the pink just wouldn't look right anyway. So Thrs I went back to Big M.....and they were OUT of my glass! Hundreds of pieces, but not the color I needed. So they added it to their order, and told me it would be in Mon. Now, I had lots of free time on Thrs, Fri, Sat, even some on Sun, but Mon was crazy busy day, morning to night, as was Tues....So it wasn't until Wed afternoon/eve that I was able to work on the panel. It took about 2 hours, and it was done! But now there was no light. So today I finally got to see the real thing. I love it! The pictures don't do it justice, so come on over to visit!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Glass Panel

So here is what I risked life and limb for...well, at least limb! I've had it in my head to do something like this for a long time. The pic just doesn't do it justice! I think the light from the surrounding windows washed out the picture (click on the pic to make it larger, that might help). It's 45'' x 20.5", and I put it up in our living room. The trees are made of a vinyl sticker, and I love them! One thing I particularly love in the PNW are the beautiful sunsets with the trees silhouetted, and I wanted to try to recreate this. You can't see the panel at all from the front of the house (it's behind our lace leaf maple), so you need to come visit! It's above where I do my daily quiet time, so I will be able to see it light up as the sunsets get later in the winter. I am really going to enjoy this!

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Ilea went to a birthday party where they had an amazing face painter! She used the colors in Ilea's shirt, pink, white and lt orange to match her face in wonderful swirls. She also used silver sparkles to give it some pizazz. She looked great, and got lots of double looks for the rest of the day! And even after a shower, there were sparkles on her face the next morning!


I think I've mentioned before that Kyler is one of the luckiest kids I know? While we were at the skating rink, a boy whom he'd just met gave him 50 cents. Since he couldn't buy any food for 50 cents, he went to the coin machines. His broke, and started spilling out 9 or 10 little containers with toys in them. Some had rubber animals and some had tattoos. Kyler had one of these small rubber animals before, a pig, and now he had a bunch more. 2 dogs, a pig, a cow, a hippo, a monkey, a bear, and an elephant. So he decided to make a home for them. He realized he needed 2 environments, and made one for each group. He put little platforms on the trees for the monkey to sit on, and vines hanging down. There is even a pond for the hippo and elephant, and mud hole for the pig. He always surprises me with how creative he can be!

Z is for....

Zip Zap Races! And Again, I am totally copying our friends! In fact, we even borrowed one of their cars to use! These remote controlled cars are called Zip Zaps. The kids enjoyed setting up the obstacle course and had fun with the cars even though the charges don't last long. Sorry these posts are so late...we did finish our alphabet activities last week, since that was supposed to be the last week of summer....we should be starting school next week, and hopefully things will get back to normal!

Y is for...

Yarn Eggs! I saw a fantastic book on Easter eggs in the library. We picked Yarn eggs for Y-day of course. We'll keep them until spring. They are blown first, and then just use glue and yarn. It was a little hard because your fingers got sticky from the glue and then stuck to the yarn. The kids made 1 each. If you use toothpicks to help keep the yarn in place, it's a little bit easier, and 2 people helps. I ended up helping Kyler and it came out fine. They look great, and will be a great addition if they make it until next April!

X is for...

X Shaped Pancakes! Yes, I am shamelessly copying our friends the Littles with thier idea for X day! The kids didn't want to do anything that really started with 'e', like extra, excite, extreme, and we didn't have access to a xylophone or x-ray. So here goes.

Also, as a follow up to Vinegar experiments, we played with our 'rubber' egg a little bit. It is a fun experiment. About 1 second after I snapped the picture the egg popped! They both did get to hold it and feel it, and maybe if we left it in the vinegar longer it would have been stronger. They were interested in how it could transform so much! It was a good idea, even if it took a few days to finish.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

W is for...

Waterpark! No pictures cause I didn't want to bring the camera and get it wet, but if you haven't been to the Renton Waterpark (Henry Moses Aquatic Center), you should check it out. We had great weather and both kids got their fill of fun. There is a lazy river, wave pool, shallow pool with playthings for younger kids, 2 big slides, and a regular pool. It was a fun way to end the summer!

V is for...

Vigorous hopping while simultaneously shaking hands in 30 seconds and Vinegar Science! Over the weekend, we discovered the Universal Record Database, which also would have been helpful for U day. Their philosophy is that there are plenty of creative records to be set out there. You need to submit a video and have a quantifiable measurement for your record. So Ilea and Kyler Vigorously Hopped and Shook Hands. They made 142 hops total. We have submitted it to the database, and are waiting for it to be published.

We also did Vinegar science. Trying to find something besides blowing up a balloon with Vinegar and Baking Soda, I went for the Rubber Egg in Vinegar. The first egg must have had something wrong with it! In the morning the yolk was sitting in the bottom of a rather nasty jar of shell, vinegar, and foamy stuff. So I emptied it out and tried again. Stay tuned to see the results of our Vinegar Science.


U is for...

Unique Stationery and Umbrella art! Fri we attempted to do U day. That's a hard one! I saw a craft online (Martha Stewart, I think), where she took a few leaves and spray painted the cardstock and got these great pictures with perfect outlines of the leaves, and very artistic droplets of paint. It doesn't work quite that way....first, the leaves blew away from the spray paint, so we had to use rubber cement to glue them down. Then, the paint doesn't make these pretty droplets, it fills the whole thing. OK. So we worked with our Unique art. We actually did make a few cards, and Ilea made a face. So desperate, I found an example of Umbrella art. The kids made some great pictures!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

T is for....

Trading spaces! My kids don't like Tea, and we didn't have a rope for Tug-of-War (besides there were only 2 of them...). Kyler did have Tae Kwon Do today, and we had Thai Peanut sauce with pasta, which is one of their favorites. In the morning we thought about Trading spaces. We did it for lunch and dinner, all sitting at different places at our table, but the big Trade was going to come at night. They switched rooms. Kyler wasn't really that excited, but Ilea has been kind of wanted to sleep on Kyler's bunk bed since he got it! So we switched. Kyler took 6 animals with him, and his pillow. Ilea just took her pillow. Luckily they both made it through the night!

M again!

We were unable to go into Meeker Mansion last time we tried. But Facebook is amazing! One of my friends was reading our post while her daughter was there, and her daughter has been a volunteer at Meeker Mansion for almost 20 years! She contacted us and offered to give us a tour! So on Sat our whole family got to go. It was a fun place, with beautiful stained glass, painted ceilings, and wonderful woodwork. Joanna was a great guide, with lots of information. We enjoyed our peek into history! Thanks Barb and Joanna!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ship Highlights

This post is mostly pictures of the ship.

This is the Crow's Nest, on the very top deck. It had a great view out the front of the ship. At night there was dancing in here.

All over the ship were windows with art displays, statues, and art on the walls. The stairwells would have themes in them. One had different ship/sailing pictures, one had flowers and botanicals, and one had different Escher pictures. One section of the ship had Egyptian artifacts (well, replicas), and this section had Napoleonic things.

This is the outside part of the Lido deck, by the pool. We spent a lot of time here. just down the hall, where that guy in the white T-shirt is, is an entrance to the cafeteria area, with more seating.
Another picture of the Lido deck, from the same end. In the middle were the 2 hot tubs and the pool.
This is the Mandorian Lounge. There was a balcony, and seating on the lower level as well. This is where all the shows were, and infomation sessions too.
This is one of the lounges. There were many around. In the evening there would be a string quartet playing, or if there was a piano at different times of the day there would be someone playing, anything from classical music to jazz. The seats were usually pretty comfortable, with small tables scattered around.
This is the library. They had books you could check out for the week, and games in cabinets also. They had lounging chairs, a large table with felt on top for puzzles, some tables with large New York Times Crossowords under glass and you could check out a dry erase pen to do the puzzle. They also had larger tables around. It was a great area, and we used it a lot for meeting. It was right behind the coffee bar.

This is the Rotterdam Dining Room. It was in the back of the ship. There was assigned seating on this floor, which we used mostly. There were huge chandeliers in the middle, and it was open to the floor below which was more informal seating. There were windows on the sides and back, so you could see out while you ate. It was very beautiful.

This is from our kitchen tour. The kitchen areas are quite large, with multiple huge walk in fridge/freezers, tons of ranges, ovens etc. It was amazing.
This was what they called the Atrium, near the middle/front end of the boat. This large "organ" went up 3 stories with circular stairs around it. It was one of the first things you saw when you came on the ship.

The only thing we forgot to get pictures of was our room! It was larger than we thought, and was fine for us. Since we didn't have any windows, we usually relaxed on one of the other decks. We highly recommend Holland America! Let us know if you want to go on a cruise!

Friday, August 14, 2009

S is for...

School Supply Shopping! Yes, I made them go to the store and pick out their stuff. No one was excited, but it’s got to be done. We also had a Seafood dinner - Shrimp Cocktails and Salmon. I’m sure missing that 5-star cuisine on the Ship!

R is for...

Ribbon craft, Reading, and Rest. We made a variety of ribbon crafts today. I remembered some old Christmas Candy Ribbon crafts that I had (I think I bought them for my MOPS table and we never used them). I also looked on the web. There were Ribbon Dragons, which both kids made (Kyler’s is small, and is on his shoulder). Kyler made one of the Christmas candy ribbons with me. And I also made some Ribbon Fish. I thought the kids would love these, but they thought they were too hard, so I ended up making 2 myself. They were really cute. We all read for a while, and I’m ready to Rest.

Q is for

Quest! This was a pretty fun day. On Tues I went around the neighborhood and took pictures of things the kids should recognize. Sent them off to Costco and picked them up a few hours later and I was ready. I planned out the route, then went around the neighborhood taping Ziploc bags with the pictures inside to light poles, mailboxes, and other public things. To start the Quest I gave them the first picture. It was of their friend Victoria’s house. Off they went to find the next clue. I think there were 12 in all. It took them about 40 minutes to find them all and make their way back home. For a reward I got them some Frozen Yogurt from Costco. I wonder what we can do next year?

P is for....

This was an easy day. Ilea had her friend Sammy over to play.

We tried to get a play-date for Kyler as well, but everyone was busy or out of town.So he was allowed the most wonderful treats, to play his Pokemon Platinum on his DS. For dinner we had pizza. Pretty easy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 7 - Cruise

Last day. The time zone changed back, so we lost an hour, but we were at sea and there was no real schedule. We slept in, and ate in the nice dining room for the last time. Most of the day was at sea. We swam, relaxed, and took pictures of the ship. Lunch at the Lido deck. We arrived in Victoria by 5:30 or 6pm. We had our Last Supper early that night, 5pm. Then we were told that we would have to wait 30 minutes for another ship to get out of our parking space..uh, dock. Then we waited another 30 min or so for it to actually leave. We finally got in about 5pm. We watched the ship dock and the people to prepare the dock for us. They lined up the ramp, and brought over a beautiful lamppost with flowers on it, and an extension cord to plug in the light, and a red carpet. It was kind of funny. Finally people could get off. I felt really sorry for the ones going up to Butchart Gardens - it's about 45min-1 hr drive, and there is so much to see! It was getting dark soon, and they are pretty pricey. I would hate to have to run through the whole thing trying to see it all before dark.

After a bit we finally got off. We were a number of blocks over from the harbor, which is where Kipp and I thought we were going to dock. We showed the kids where Kipp and I had stayed before, and walked around the harbor. We went down into the shopping, but mostly we looked for a Starbucks. As we walked we found these Eagles all painted differently. It was fun to find them.

As we were coming back we enjoyed some street performers playing some fun music with xylophones (4 sets!), and drums. The kids danced, and it was neat music. We wandered back to the harbor.
By this time most of the tourist shops were closing and only the pubs were open. We had a long walk back to the ship. We were going to go in the hot tub, but it was about 10pm already. We had to pack up our suitcases and leave them outside the door. Our last towel creature was a crab. We put the kids to bed and went up to the Crow's Nest, a lounge on the very top floor with windows on the front of the ship. We watched the city for a bit, and then went to bed.

Day 6 - Cruise

On Wednesday we were in Ketchikan. This day we did have a tour set up, so we had to actually wake up, eat, and leave the ship by 8:15 or so. The kids have been wanting to take the Duck tour in Seattle for a long time, but we haven't been willing to pay the price. So we decided to surprise them with a trip. Ketchikan is the first stops for the ships that used to go north. It's a pretty town, and our good friend, Janice Montrey comes from there (her son Lucas is Kyler's friend)! So we took a 9am tour. It was fun and good to do. We drove around town first, learning about the history, and then got to go into the water to see the canneries and other waterfront buildings. We again had beautiful upper 70s weather.

When we got back from the tour we explored around some more. I had some letterbox clues I wanted to try to find. We headed out to find the first one, and while we were looking, someone gave us 4 tickets to a tram that we didn't even know about. We tried to find the first letterbox, but it wasn't there. So we used the tram tickets, which took us up to where the 2nd clue was. It would have been a long uphill hike otherwise! It was a nice view too.

Luckily the letterbox was there! I was excited!

We went back down the hill, and spent some time shopping and looking in art galleries again. There is a river with tons of salmon in it, which was fun to watch. We pushed Kipp's comfort level and got back in the last 1/2 hr before the ship was supposed to leave, around 1:10 (the ship was leaving at 1:30). We were hungry, so off to the Lido deck to eat lunch and swim for the rest of the afternoon. The ship had a long sailing time now, from Ketchikan to Victoria BC late the next day.

When Kyler ran into our room he got a surprise!

The dinner again was formal. It was fun to get dressed up, and the food was delicious. Kyler went to Kids club, and Ilea joined us for the last show, which was Broadway Love songs. It was fun. The costumes were great, and the singing and dancing was pretty good. We wandered around a bit, and finally went to bed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 5 - Cruise

Day 5 so it must be Sitka! We arrived here by 8am or so. No rush, as we were to be here all day. We had breakfast by 8:30 or so. This was one of the days where our ship was not able to dock, and we had to take tenders to the shore. They carried quite a few people, and they had multiple boats running, so there was no line by the time we got ready to go ashore. This was one place we didn't have any excursions planned for. We just spent the time visiting around the town. It's a Russian based town, and many of the shops have Faberge eggs, royal blue and white china, and other Russian crafts. The first thing we came to was a 50-ft native american long boat. There is a "famous" Russian church, but we chose not to go in it. We had fun looking at all the gift stores and art galleries. There was a fur shop that we went into. The kids haven't seen real fur like this before. The sheared fur won me over, and while Ilea didn't like the idea of killing animals for their fur, she figured that if they were already dead it was OK to wear it. So she still needs to solidify her ethics! But they were sure lovely to touch.
We found this huge totem pole, in a park, with some statues also. The town is not very big. There is a bridge which leads to more town. Sitka looks like the San Juan Islands on steroids. Same islands and channels everywhere, but the mountains are all very tall and craggy. Everywhere around us was very beautiful. We walked back through town and found a grocery store and got something to drink. Being a little cheap, we weren't paying for soda on the ship, so Kipp and I shared a big Coke, and we got a bottle of water for the kids (we forgot to bring our water that day, and it was warm - around 80). On this side of town there was a park along the waterfront, and we went down to a large State park. On the way was a salmon hatchery, and boy were they jumping. It was fun to watch them. Kyler found a hermit crab to hold in his hand, and we rested there a bit.

By 1pm or so, we were hot and tired, and decided to go back to the ship. You can see one of the other tenders loading on the side. By the way, our room was on deck 2. Deck 3 is the biggest deck, with the rails below the lifeboats and the open space on the front. We spent the afternoon swimming and enjoying the sun. The ship left about 4pm I think.

When we came to get ready for dinner we had a towel dog. Tonight's dinner was special. It was a Chef's extravaganza. Everyone had chef's toque's to wear, and the food was a little more formal. There were dancers and singers in between the courses. It was fun, and the food was great as always. After dinner Kyler went to the kids club, but Ilea wasn't interested and came with Kipp and I to the show. It was a magician/comedy show. I think he spent too much time on comedy, but Ilea enjoyed it, and some of the tricks were pretty good. He also had a small dog, a Coton de Toulear, which Kyler desperately wants. It's being taken under consideration.

After the magic show, the highlight of the night was a Chef's Dessert Extravaganza. There were tables lining both sides of the pool on the Lido deck, fresh crepe suzette, a chocolate fountain with fruits and things to dip, pastry, pretty much anything you can think of! It was amazing. While we were waiting for the desserts to be set up, we were at a small table by the pool. There was a huge chess set near us, with knee-high pieces. A girl and guy about 18 yrs old or so were playing a game. The guy knew how to play, but the girl didn't know very much. Kyler just couldn't help himself, and watched for a few minutes, and then asked her if she wanted help. She said yes. They started winning, but then the guy got an older friend to help him, and the guys finally turned it around. But Kyler had fun, and the girl was very sweet to him. They did pretty well. The other guy said that Kyler doesn't think far enough and goes for the obvious move, but didn't do too badly for an 8 yr old! At 10pm they finally opened up the treats, and we all found something good to eat, or 2, or 3...

Day 4 - Cruise

Day 4 was different for us. We went from Juneau north a bit to Glacier Bay. They let a Park Ranger and a local liason for the native peoples on the ship to share information, answers questions, etc. We spent the whole day on the ship. We arrived at Glacier National park around 7am, but didn't arrive to the first glacier until about 10:30am.
The day was sunny, but a little windy on the deck. Everyone went out on the front decks. We were early and got a great place at the very front, and had fun watching the glacier. There were lots of little icebergs in the water, which became more numerous as we got closer. There were mountains rising up on both sides of the channel, although it was hazy further out from the fires.

As we got closer we could really see more detail. This is Marjorie Glacier. The face is around 300 feet high, and there were lots of little pieces falling off. Your eye would catch movement, and sometimes you could see it, or sometimes just the splash where you missed it. There was a point, and just behind the point we all saw a huge, long splash! It was so frustrating! It happened again before we got close enough, and once we could see that far side, of course nothing happened. The ship sat by the glacier for about an hour, and it was great. There is one spot where you can see what looks like water boiling up right at the base of the glacier. They said that was the outflow of melting water coming out. It also stirred up a lot of silt, and fish, and there were tons of seagulls and other birds feeding. The glacier moves about 6 feet a day.

We enjoyed talking to everyone around us as we watched for the big drop of ice.

That morning we all got announcements of another type. There was a request from the captain to help locate a lady who had not been seen since midnight the night before. She did get on the boat in Juneau, but was missing. They had her picture on the TV's and screens. They continued with announcements about every half hour for the next 4 or 5 hours. Finally they announced that it was presumed that she was no longer on the boat and that the coast guard would take up the search. As we found out the next day, her body was found around 4:30pm on Monday, about 12 miles from Juneau. We do know she had been having problems with the person she was traveling with, and had been drinking heavily and had to be cut off at the bar. Bits and pieces of the story seemed to come together as people talked about what happened the rest of the week, and as we got news from outside the ship.

Around noon we left Marjorie Glacier and headed back out the park. We went to another place called Johns Hopkins Inlet, and saw a different glacier. It was a little dirtier - we could see more layers of the dirt the glacier picks up, but it was neat also. We were surprised at how jagged the glaciers are, and how there are holes and spires. I always imagined it was like an ice field, smooth on top, and just shear at the edge. But there were caves, and towers. The ship has so many decks with great windows, and we had plenty of time to view all the glaciers, and the mountains with snow and glaciers higher up also. In the picture you can see the hole where the melted water is pouring out on this one.
We had lunch, and swam some in the afternoon. It was about 80deg this day. We had to move out of the sun so we wouldn't get burned!

We eventually went to dinner and found out a little more about our waiter, Toto. He is from Indonesia, the island of Java. He has a 9 month old and a 5 year old, and has been working about 5 years on the ship. He works for 11-12 months, 7 days a week, 11 hours a day, and then gets a month off. This is the same for most of the kitchen, waitstaff, and cabin stewards. They double as bartenders, or cleaning the decks, or whatever needs to be done.

Our cabin steward made a cute elephant today, and included Jenny's sunglasses and Kyler's bear. The kids loved it. We went and saw Bolt this evening instead of the show. It was a comedian, and we weren't sure how "family-friendly" he would be. Bolt was fun, and we went on to bed.

O is for....

Orange Ooblek, Olympics, and Stir fry Orange Beef and stir-fry Orange Broccoli. We picked up Bartholomew Cubbins and the Ooblek from the library yesterday. Ilea read it out loud to Kyler. We haven't read that book in a long time! Then we made Orange Ooblek. It's 2 parts corn starch and 1 part water. Fun stuff (Oobleck is a type of non-Newtonian fluid called a dilatant)! They played with it longer than I would have thought. Even Kipp thought it was neat.

Later in the day the kids worked on thier Olympic competition. They created 20-30 games that they could do around our yard and have been competing with each other and keeping scores. They had started them earlier in the summer, and thought O day was a good day to work on them again. I think Kyler's ahead. Kipp jumped into this race, and almost won!

For dinner I pulled out an old recipe of Orange stir-fried beef and noodles, which was mostly tasteless. But I also tested a recipe for Cook's Illustrated of Stir Fry Orange Brocolli. Now I don't normally like brocolli, nor do I like the smell in my kitchen after cooking it. But this was delicious! I even had a large second helping, which is bizarre! It really helped the beef, and had a great orange-spicy flavor, and no usual broccoli smell. Too bad for the kids that I found a new veggie I like!