Sunday, July 22, 2007

Busy Weekend

We wore Kelly out this weekend. We spent time Friday night in Madison with my sister and stayed up late to see some cool fireworks. Saturday we were in Milwaukee to visit with my family and hang out friends. Kelly learned how to play bocci ball, croquet, and ladder golf. She was really excited when she saw Erika had found a movie starring her favorite Chinese singer (Curse of the Golden Flower). We watched that Saturday night. Sunday morning we introduced her to kayaking on Lake Michigan. Then we took in the Brewer game from the 9th row, right behind home plate. (Woo hoo for tickets from Kyle's work!!) Everyone is now exhausted. We're hitting the hay early to try to recover for a busy week ahead.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Plutonians for Peace

My (in her 80's) Grand- mother was in Juneau, Alaska at the same time we were in Anchorage. She was visiting my beloved (albeit slightly crazy in a wonderful way!) aunt and uncle who live there. They volunteer at the Marie Drake Planetarium and marched to keep Pluto a planet in this year's 4th of July parade. Grandma is the one on the left in the group shot. No kidding! She walked over 2 miles in that suit. Crazy must be genetic! Aunt Dolly says: "She was PROTESTING the fact that the PLUTONIANS have lost "PLANET STATUS" and she is hopping mad !!!!"

Shift

Kelly, our Chinese exchange student, arrived this week. In 99% of the ways this can be examined, it's a positive, wonderful thing. In one way, it's terrible. Kyle drives her and another student home from class each afternoon. Kyle's Ford Ranger seats only two people. Kyle stole my car.

That left me driving the manual transmission Ranger. I don't drive vehicles with manual transmissions.

Stats for the last 72 hours:
# of times I've killed the engine: 5
# of times I drove 2 blocks with the parking brake on: 1
# of pedestrians who have turned around to look at me funny: 2
# of times I've stalled while parking at work (who builds a parking lot with a damn incline into each space?): 3
# of contractors at work who have laughed at me trying to park: 7

I'm now trying to time arriving and departing work so that there are no witnesses. I have developed other coping mechanisms, too. To enter the interstate, I need to make a left turn at a (sometimes) busy intersection on a steep hill. If the light is red or there's oncoming traffic, I have learned that I can instead turn RIGHT without stopping, circle around a (flat) parking lot, and then hit the intersection straight on. No turning. No hills. This prevents me from rolling a half mile backwards into any and all obstacles while I fail to get the truck into first gear. Woo hoo.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

July flowers

The mosquitoes are finally out by the hundreds in our back yard, so I can't really be out to enjoy our flowers. But the hollyhocks, cone flowers, and phlox are all blooming and looking nice. This is the first year in at least 3 that our phlox has bloomed. It was suffering from some sort of disease and I was being lazy about pulling it all out. But there is no sign of it this year, so I'm rewarded for my procrastination.

All for naught

The afternoon that I "rescued" the baby robin (after being the cause of it's peril), I checked back in on the nest. It was empty again. I had worried about the silly thing for nothing. She's been hanging around the yard as an awkward fledgling ever since. I still see the parents around, and according to information I found on the internet, are probably still feeding her and helping her learn to fly and seek shelter.

I almost stepped on her tonight because I didn't see her as I was looking for raspberries. But she "flew" off, although she only made it a few feet and couldn't get high to reach a tree branch. She tried to hang on to the trunk, but couldn't get a good hold and fluttered back to the ground. Hopefully she'll catch on to her wings soon.

Blueberries

Meredith's new house has three huge blueberry bushes that are so full of berries, she can't keep up with picking the ripe ones. I helped her out today and picked a few cups. Hopefully, we'll have blueberry muffins later this week.

As Ewan put it, "Those blueberry bushes make the house worth at least $20,000 more". I like his thinking. And they let me pick as many as I wanted. Mmmmm.... next time I'll attack their raspberries.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Backyard terror

I almost killed the baby bird in the robin's nest this morning. It was fairly traumatic for all involved, and I might have my eyes pecked out the next time I leave the house.

I was taking a picture of Baby (more like ungainly adolescent, now) and I got too close. It's my own fault. The bird panicked and tried to fly, but only made it to a patch of lawn a few feet away, under the grape vine where she had been hidden.

Mom started SCREAMING at me unrelentingly. She put out the alarm, because suddenly there were at least a dozen other birds - cardinals, wrens, sparrows, and chickadees - from all corners of the yard, that descended on the bush Mom was sitting on. They all joined in on the tirade, chirping and squawking, to make me feel even more terrible than I already did. It was eerie, and I've never seen that happen before.

I watched Baby from a distance, and she just sat there for a long time. Eventually she hopped awkwardly and took cover under the peonies. She didn't look very steady on her feet, and wasn't flying at all. I was pretty unsure about whether she was old enough to survive on her own yet. Judging from Mom's racket, I was guessing not. I wasn't sure what to do, not wanting to make things worse, but really not wanting to just leave her on the ground. I got out my leather gardening gloves and walked over to her slowly, fully expecting an air assault from the tons of birds all still quite vocal in their anger at me. I nervously tried to pick up Baby, but didn't cup my hands enough and she struggled free. She didn't make it more than 6 inches further, however, and definitely wasn't flying, so I decided if I could get close enough to pick her up and she wasn't flying off, she really needed to be back in her nest. I got a better grip on the second try, forming a gentle cage around her with my fingers. I tucked her back into the nest. She looked at me and opened her mouth to ask for some bugs.

Mom was pretty pissed, to put it mildly. I high tailed it out of the yard and I think I'll leave them alone now. This picture is from far, far away. Ah, the beauty of the zoom lens. I have learned my lesson.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fireweed

The flowers on a stalk of fireweed bloom from the bottom up. They say, in Alaska, that when the top of the fireweed blooms, there are only 6 weeks until winter / the first snow.

The fireweed in Alaska lines roads everywhere. I even got to try fireweed ice cream. Not bad. (Charlene had "polar bear", for which no bears were harmed.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Amazing Alaska

Kyle and I just returned from 8 incredible days in Alaska. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Charlene and Ford, who made our trip possible, and to Sharon and Kev, who graciously took us all in, fed us, and showed us more of Alaska than I bet half of native Alaskans ever see! It was great to visit with them.

I can't begin to pick favorite pictures to post (we took more than 600!). Here are five from our second full day. We drove to Seward and hiked up along Exit glacier not quite to the Harding ice field. I could blame the "almost" on not having the right shoes to continue into the snow, but I'd be lying - I was beat! It was a really tall mountain! But I think we did well and got pretty high before I wussed out. The stream crossing pic is for Dad's benefit. Look how bravely I'm standing in the middle there. Sure, there's planks across, but I'm a super huge chicken when it comes to crossing rivers. We saw a mamma black bear and her 2 cubs cross the trail on this hike. We were TERRIFIED, but it makes a good story now. See Kyle's - oops - Punkin's blog for a picture. =)