Friday, July 29, 2016

Cruise to Alaska Day 02: Cruising the Inside Passage

This day had the second most beautiful scenery of our cruise (you'll see the MOST beautiful scenery when I show you the Hubbard Glacier!), but you'll notice that I only took one photo of it. Real photographers see more deeply when they look through the camera lens, I think, but as for me, I think that I have to choose whether to look deeply at something or take pictures of it--a memory doesn't feel as real to me if I've only seen it through the camera. So for much of the trip, I chose whether I wanted to look at it or photograph it, and on this day, I clearly wanted to look!

Our first indulgent breakfast! Matt is eating a cooked-to-order eggs benedict and a sweet roll, and I am surely eating either bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted tomato or salami, raw salmon, and fresh tomato on a croissant. I did not discover chocolate croissants until our third day on ship, more's the pity.
White-sided dolphins from our cruise ship! After breakfast, I bundled up and sat out on deck most of the day, alternating binoculars and Hamilton. 
This isn't the last time that we saw white-sided dolphins, but I believe that it's the only time that I photographed them.
Ditto with the sea lions!

I was pretty excited about the lecturers on the ship--we had a naturalist and an oceanographer. I brought my travel journal along to each lecture and took notes.

Here's our naturalist.

See? Notes! People commented on my note-taking, and once, as I was casing one of the fifth floor lounges for the best spot to watch the string quartet, an older gentleman in a track suit waved me over to him solely because he'd seen me taking notes at that day's lecture and wanted to discuss it with me. One of my favorite things about this cruise was adult conversation--very little talk about kids, but lots of talk about books, movies, travel, and history!

Even though the scenery was majestic--we were cruising the most narrow part of the Inside Passage, including the Seymour Narrows, a part so treacherous that it requires its own pilot--this is the only photo that I took of it on this day, and even this is at the very end of the day, when the fog is coming in and I'm on my way down to our room to dress up for a reception.
Okay, I sat in our window and read for a little while longer before I got dressed.
We went to the Captain's Reception, where the ship's officers all introduced themselves and there was free champagne and nibblies.
And then we hit the martini bar, because the entire ship had an open bar in honor of the Captain's Reception! It turns out that I love myself a dirty martini. I'd meant to try as many different cocktails as possible while everything was free, but instead I had two dirty martinis.
So obviously we then hit up the super fancy restaurant while we were nice and drunk. Thank goodness for the bread basket!
You can't see it, but we're sitting next to a large window and we have a gorgeous view.
Our cruise included all the food, even the fancy food at the fancy restaurants, and my philosophy was that if there was something on the menu that I'd never eaten before, then by god, I was going to eat that thing! Here I'm eating my first caviar.
And that's how I know that I love caviar!
Not pictured: the whales that we also saw (my first whales!!!), the blanket burrito that I spent most of the day happily in after an attendant thought that I looked cold and brought me THREE fleece blankets, the captain, whose biography informed us that his career at see began when he ran away from home as a teenager(!!!), or the cruise director, who gazed at the captain with stars in her eyes during his welcome speech.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cruise to Alaska Day 01: Indiana to Seattle to the Sea!

Matt and I are just two days back from our cruise, and as happy as I am to be home, I'm also really missing it! Nobody is serving me flank steak here in my own house, or asking me if I'd like an after-dinner cappuccino, or offering me a blanket because I look cold. Nobody put a chocolate on my pillow last night! It's HOT here, and there are no dolphins frolicking outside!

As you might have guessed from that, Matt and I had a wonderful time on our cruise. It was the first cruise for each of us, and I can definitely see how people go on cruise after cruise after cruise. And it's not just the way that you're pampered or the fancy food at every meal, although that's certainly awesome. My favorite aspect of the cruise is how we got to our room, unpacked once, and then every day, we opened the door to leave that room and found an entirely new place to discover. It's a magic hotel room that does all of your traveling for you, and all you have to do is disembark and go explore! And the at-sea days are days at a fancy resort, where you can lie on a lounge chair by the pool, drink a milkshake, and watch for sea lions through your binoculars.

Oh, and the lecturers! And the musicians! And the nice people whom you meet and then get to hang out with all the time, because they're on the same ship as you!

So yeah, we liked it. I don't think that the kids would have enjoyed this particular cruise, on this smaller ship with fewer kid-friendly amenities than the larger ship, but we certainly enjoyed the familiarity with everyone that our smaller ship provided, and the adult-focused amenities and activities.

So, some pictures from Day 01, wherein we left home before sunrise, flew across the country, found our ship, and launched from Seattle into the sea:

Pre Muster Drill: Trying our life jackets on for size.
We were explicitly told to NOT form our faces into this expression of panic in the case of an emergency.
We are packed in like mackerel, as we will be into our life boats.
I've never been to Seattle, and I'm not really there this time, either, unless you count the airport, highway, and port, which I don't.
It IS a lovely view from port, though!
And at least I've SEEN the Space Needle in person now!
See? Space Needle!
Matt's the host for our alumni group traveling on this cruise, and like a good host, he brought everyone cookies!
We didn't even eat at the Grand Dining Room this night, just the buffet, and our food is STILL super fancy! I'm having flank steak and mushrooms, and Matt is eating a freaking LOBSTER! And sure, it's a buffet, but it's, like, a *nice* buffet, where your waiter puts your napkin on your lap for you and the waitstaff serves all the food so that you don't have to get your germs on it. Also? They are VERY generous with the bacon.
Not pictured: the ship's library, where I checked out a copy of Hamilton to read, the decks, where we walked around afterwards and watched sea lions, our room, where a bottle of wine, a fruit basket, and a flower arrangement waited for us, or the gorgeous scenery, which I sat in our window and watched until I practically keeled over, I was so tired.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Taste of Our Town

Every town has its random little festivals and events and weird things that make it unique. My hometown, for instance, doesn't have an Independence Day parade but a Memorial Day parade, and it begins with a genuine Wild West-style shoot-out right on Garrison Ave.

Our town has an Independence Day parade, and an event where people eat soup, and a bicycle race modeled on the Indianapolis 500, and an entire month of chocolate-themed activities, and this particular event that we all went to a few weeks ago, in which a bunch of our local restaurants and food trucks gather at City Hall so that we can eat something from all of them at the same time.

People in our town like to eat.

We fit right in here:
Our deal is that anyone can choose anything that catches their eye, but everyone shares it. That doesn't so much seem to stop Will throwing some shade at Matt while he takes a big bite of her lime gelato, however.

The kids shared the mint truffle on the left, and Matt and I shared the bourbon one on the right. Nom!

Sooo... this is my favorite thing. And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, it IS a grilled cheese sandwich made with macaroni and cheese inside. It's the specialty of a food truck that only makes grilled cheese sandwiches, and it's my secret boyfriend. Don't judge me.
Garlic cheese fries! The expression on Will's face is there because we're listening to a polka band, and I'm getting super into it. It turns out that there are worse things than having your mother breathing in public right next to you--she could be dancing. And singing along. To a POLKA BAND.
Smoothies! Our Will is a child of unabashed appetites, a girl who isn't afraid to let everyone know how much she deeply adores food, and she was in her own personal heaven at having an entire smorgasbord of every type of cuisine ever created to choose from.
And yes, after the smoothie, we did share a gyro.
There was also a taco in there somewhere, and raspberry ice pops, and some kind of kebab. It's a wonder nobody puked in the bounce house.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Homeschool Field Trip: Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Just in case you were happy, be forewarned that I'm in kind of a bummer mood today. I miss Mac so deeply, all the time, that I get used to it, until I have something that I want to tell him, or something happens that he'd think was funny. Fugazi comes on my Spotify. Someone else shares a memory or a photograph on his Facebook. Or maybe nothing happens to instigate it; maybe I just miss him desperately all of a sudden.

Sometimes, then, I make a mental list of all the people whom I would rather have had a brain tumor instead of Mac. It starts off easy. Evil people, for sure. Donald Trump. That guy who shot Trayvon Martin. And then I add all the people whom I hate. My former next door neighbor. Most of my former bosses.

The trick is to distract myself and move away from the activity before I go much farther, because my best friend from seventh grade? Sure, I’d sacrifice her for Mac. That cousin whom I really like but also haven’t really seen in a few years? I could do without her, if I could have Mac instead. It’s a stupid game, because I love Mac more than almost anyone else, and it’s stupid that you can’t actually burn the world down to get back someone whom you love.

Of course, if one could do that, we’d all be dead a thousand times over from the people who would happily sacrifice us to save their own precious ones.

Okay, deep breath, because I have a lot to do today, and I really don't have time to grieve until I've gotten four people packed for two completely different vacations in two different climate zones, partly with clothing that we do not yet own. Also, we need to mow the lawn, clean out the chicken coop and yard, and I need to write something like six Crafting a Green World posts and adjust the shipping times on every one of my etsy items...

Argh, this is not better! Another deep breath...

How about I show you some photos from the day that we spent at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis this week? We spent half of it in training, as we are now official volunteers of the museum and will be working in the Paleo Lab starting next month, and I know all the secret stairways, and can help you if you've lost your adult, and can lead you to evacuation in an emergency. The other half of the day, though, we spent happily exploring all the happy museum exhibits both old and new:
This is new! The museum has a new exhibit on the International Space Station, and it's awesome.

AND they have Gus Grissom's Liberty Bell 7 on long-term loan! You know what a space nerd I am, and I'm especially super stoked about this guy because this is the craft that almost drowned Grissom in the ocean when the hatch blew off of it before the rescue helicopters had reached him. There was suspicion for a while that Grissom had blown the hatch himself in error, but he always denied it, and I *think* the controversy has since been resolved in his favor. If you can check out video footage of the rescue operation, however, I highly recommend that you do, because it's absolutely harrowing: you can see the helicopter hook the Liberty Bell 7 and attempt to lift it, but because it's full of water it's too heavy, and you can actually see it drag the helicopter down with it, until the helicopter has to let it go. At the edge of the screen, the entire time this is occurring, is Gus Grissom, actively drowning. He was rescued, the Liberty Bell 7 was lost, and it was only recovered from the ocean floor decades later.

The Liberty Bell 7 exhibit is located in the former planetarium, and they've used the screen to make a show centered on the craft.

David Wolf is the museum's Astronaut-in-Residence, and this is his logbook from one of his missions.

It's kind of weird.

This is the elevator to the Treasures of the Earth exhibit, and it's a ride and show all on its own. We've seen it a hundred times, but we still love it, especially Syd, who has a fangirl crush of her own on Josh, the docent who was filmed for this and is also one of the hosts of This Week's WOW.
Terra Cotta Warriors!
I want to use this same electrolytic process in small scale to remove the gunk from some of the treasures that we find with our metal detector.

Not treasures like this, of course, but still treasures!

The museum's Chihuly sculpture is its centerpiece.
Just so I can end on a sad note as well: now that our plans to be regular volunteers at the museum are firmed up, I've made the difficult decision to quit our weekly volunteer job at the food pantry. I'm going to miss it a lot, but to be fair, this new job is probably going to be much closer to following the children's passions than the food pantry was. The kids are hard workers, but it's clear that after several years of labor at the pantry that the work isn't necessarily inspiring to them. Of course being of service isn't about you, the servant, but about the good that you do, but there are so many ways to be of service in this world that you might as well do something that brings you joy, if you can. Working towards food stability is crucial, but working to increase our collective knowledge and to provide extraordinary learning opportunities to children and their families is also pretty great. 

And also, can I just say? Dinosaurs. We'll be working with dinosaurs. There are worse ways to spend two hours on a Friday, I can 100% absolutely guarantee.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Homeschool Field Trip: The Tulip Trestle Beam Bridge

The kids really enjoyed the physics of bridges study that we did in honor of the Golden Gate Bridge. Although they're going to see (and possibly walk across!) that marvelous example of a suspension bridge later this summer, I knew that we have quite a marvelous example of a beam bridge right here in Indiana, so last weekend Matt and I forcibly shoved the children into the car and took them to see it!

This is the Tulip Trestle, a long train beam bridge in Indiana that spans an entire valley: 

Check out this view of it from directly below. From this perspective, you can see how little there actually is up there! Can you imagine crossing this bridge on a train? Shudder!

Although there is a pretty great Little Free Library--

--and some wildflowers just a short trespass away (ahem...)--

--there's little else to do at Tulip Trestle but simply admire it. One child in particular found this... unimpressive:

Self-Promotional Note: Do you follow me on Facebook? I wish you would!
But do not worry, Friends--mere minutes later, she'd been tempted into picking flowers with her sister, then testing her hypothesis that surely she could climb the outside of the Observation Deck without incident:

Conclusion: She could not.

You're not supposed to climb the Tulip Trestle--I mean, obviously--but there is a gravel parking lot just at the base of one of the supports, so...

We only climbed it a little:

This kid who is NOT into having her picture taken was VERY interested in having her picture taken on rusty metal beams (!) sprayed with graffiti. She insisted that she wasn't going to smile, however. Oh, child...

This one enjoyed tromping around, too, even if she wasn't quite as into the particular industrial stylings of her environment:

This was an especially good field trip because all of the study materials that we used for our bridge unit were very clear that beam bridges are the shortest and least strong of bridge types. From that, it's easy to fall into the misunderstanding that beam bridges are only used for very short spans, like overpasses. It's important, then, to see some examples of really great beam bridges, to realize that they, too, can be impressive both structurally and architecturally.

Or, you know, if you're 11 years old, unimpressive. Whatever.


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