Sunday, January 31, 2010

I just finished painting the tall accent wall that divides my kitchen from the living and dining rooms. The one with the breakfast bar attached. I would show you a picture, but I currently have no camera (one is out on loan and the other is being de-peed), so you will have to visualize it.

Visualize my upstairs.....painted.

The color is green, of course. It is called Grasshopper Wing, but that sounds so stupid, we are going witn Dried Basil, which is another Behr color that looks EXACTLY the same, to me. So we painted it dried basil. Beautiful.

Monday, January 25, 2010

If you asked someone who knows me, I am sure they will tell you that I am a mild mannered, kind sort of person. Go ahead--ask. It has recently come to my attention that I can come across as a ferocious bitch in the written-area of communication. I am good with that.

I am shy. Very few people understand this, because I have pretty good coping skills, but I am. Shy. If you asked people at work to describe me, I doubt a single one would use the word shy, however. If you asked them specifically if I *am* shy, I am sure you would hear 'no'. But I am, nonetheless. I am just very comfortable there. Just about 10 years, with nearly the same people every day makes a girl comfortable. At least it makes *me* comfortable. I know where things are and who people are and what my role is and what to pretty much expect. All good.

In my public life, I am Clark Kent. Mild mannered, etc, etc, etc. But I do have those moments when I step into that telephone booth and out comes passionate, screaming Superman. Or something like that. Sadly enough, up until now, Superman only converses within my own head. Or via email or some other written form of communication. Sometimes on the phone. I can be bitchy on the phone at times, too. Not in real life, though. Me no likey confrontation. At least not directly. I love it via written forms. So.

At home, when I am absolutely comfortable, I *am* superman. Not to say that I am not nice and caring and all the good Clark Kent things, but I am also comfortable enough to express myself. Which doesn't really happen elsewhere. SOmetimes at work, but not always. Mostly, I have heated discussions at home with Ethan, or in my own head, because I was too chicken to say anything to someone in the moment when I wanted to say it. I have great zingers, and LOTS of opinions. Anyway....

I. Am a passionate person. I care deeply about things. Many things. Among them: issues of race and racism. Deeply. Not because I married someone of a different ethnicity, not because it is currently a 'popular' issue (what with the anti Haiti people out there spewing). Because I care.

Yes, marrying outside my same racial background got me started, all those years ago, on thinking about people who are not the same as I am. But I feel so much more. Ethan and I are FAR more similar than we are different. I truly don't see his skin, unless it is through the eyes of someone else (via a comment, a look, etc).

I have taken many cultural awareness and history classes. I love reading about different cultures and countries and people of all sorts. I am blessed with coworkers from dozens of different backgrounds, each with their own stories about their heritage, their country of origin. I love hearing non-American names bestowed on their children, and hearing what those names mean in their native languages. I love trying different foods (except seafood. You know I have to put my foot down on seafood) that I had never heard of before. I love the richness that comes with a multicultural group.

I am currently all irritated with the yahoos who think we shouldn't be helping out in Haiti, since there are so many problems here in the US. And it irritates the hell out of me.

All of this rambling *does* have something of a point to it, I swear.

This is your warning/advance notice that I have decided to go ahead and unleash 'Superman'. Meaning that I am not going to try to be PC or nice or let things go. On the internet, that is. Or the phone. Shyness is not something you just 'stop', so I will continue in my mild-manneredness in my actual nice. But I have discovered that I CAN express myself, I CAN say what I want if I am typing, and I am going to do so. I am sure there will be some stepped on toes (and I will keep the cursing to a minimum. After all-my MOM and GRAMMIE read this blog. And are facebook friends!!). But I am not going to worry about that so much.

Please welcome Alyca to the internet.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Issues of funding

Written in mid-November

We always go on vacation, have a wonderful time....then come home to the massive credit card bills that we racked up on our trip.

Not this time.

We started a fund through a while back, where we put in a certain amount of money each month automatically from our paychecks. It earns about 2.5% interest, and we don't have to think about it and remember to put money in--it does it for us. This works for us. We are notoriously bad savers. We make twice the money we did 6-7 years ago, but other than the bigger mortgage, we don't really have any more 'stuff'. But we still have the same amount of spending money, it seems, and we are always broke. The more we make, the more we piddle away. So we started with Smarty Pig and now have funds for home repairs, savings, a new car (in a couple years), travel, and season tickets. Works for us.

Anyway, we figure we will have $1700 built up in our travel fund by April. We plan to exchange that for Euros and take it with us to Europe. The hotels we are staying at offer discounts if you pay with cash, so we are planning to do that.

Other ways we are working to NOT be in debt when we come home--we have already booked our main flight--it is paid for, months and months ahead of time. We are trying to spread things out so they are not all paid at the same time and lingering on our credit card. I think that is the beauty of planning a vacation so far ahead of time--you can slowly pay for things over time and not get hit all at once.

In January, we will book and pay for our big train tickets from Germany to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to Paris.

That leaves February and March for purchasing prebooked tickets to the Anne Frank House and the Eiffel Tower, among other attractions. There are new systems in place that allow you to book ahead of time, and avoid the notoriously long lines at the attractions themselves. We will pay a small service fee for the convenience, but we (mostly Ethan...), are NOT line waiters, and it is worth it to us. I think we will also prebook for the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel and maybe the Roma pass, which is a great discount program for Rome--there are over a dozen places that take the Roma pass, and whichever two you do first are totally free, then you get discounts on the rest that you visit. It totally pays for itself if you make sure to go to the spendiest attractions first--mainly the Colosseum.

The downside to pre-booking/pre-paying for attractions is that you must choose exactly WHEN you will do them--the Anne Frank House gives you a one-hour window to arrive, as does the Eiffel Tower. But, in the long run, I think we can handle having to be at ONE place at a specific time. Not planning out our entire days with a set schedule, just making sure we hit THOSE places at a set time. We will see. Maybe this WON'T work and I will be back on here saying NOT to do this. But, I think we will be fine.

After all this pre-paying, and handing over Euros to pay for our hotels, we should have a couple hundred Euros left out of our vacation savings to use for small train trips in Germany, meals, trains/metro in Paris and Rome, other attractions, etc. I am SURE we will end up needing more money than we have, but at least a big portion will already have been accounted for.


We haven't done a whole lot more. Well, *I* haven't. Let it be known that I am the planner, and Ethan is the supportive, encouraging person who just wants to know what time the plane leaves. Not exactly, but something like that...

We are planning to book our Paris Hotel (Hotel Tourisme) next week, as well as the plane tickets from Paris to Rome. We went ahead and decided to take the early morning (7am) flight from Paris, because this gives us almost an entire day in Rome, whereas if we wait for the 1pm flight, we only have from about 3pm to do any looking around. And, lets face it--if we leave at 1pm, that entire morning will be us piddling around, waiting for our flight. Or waiting for it to be time to go to the airport. Or something like that. It is not like we will be doing touristy things. A wasted day.

We (I, remember??) have decided on a hotel for Germany. We are going to stay in Bacharach, along the Rhine river. The hotel is Im Malerwinkel, which means 'painters corner'. This particular area was popular in years past as a place to sit and paint the beautiful scenery. Gorgeous, and only a 5-10 minute walk from the train station.

Now, I am just waiting for this hotel to send me a confirmation email, and we are set. I have seen pictures taken by other travellers in Bacharach in early May (we are there the last week of April), and it is just so fairybook beautiful, I almost can't stand it. I finally sent my camera (my baby) off for cleaning, and expect it back in 6-8 weeks. I need to go buy some ginormous memory cards to bring with me, because I am SURE I will take a billion pictures every day. Even though I CAN download them to my laptop nightly. Nothing worse than a full memory card when you are out and about!!

So, there we are. Will have hotels/flight booked on the 26th of January, and will start booking the trains as each 90 day window comes up (can only book 90 days ahead of time--first one will be January 27, then the 30th, etc).

Almost for the fun part--what activities we will do. So much to choose little time to see/do it all!
Since I *am* striving to update this blog, I have decided to not have my other (unread) travel blog going as well. One is plenty. So, here is info (mostly) copied from that blog, with, of course a few updates.

Nearly 6 months away, but my mind is FILLED with thoughts of Europe!!
I get all involved with finding a hotel to stay in in Paris, then I get all interested in which river town to stay in while in Germany. Then thoughts of Roman ruins run through my head and I am all about Italy. I really cannot say which part of our upcoming trip excites me the most.

All together, we will be in Europe for about 340 hours....and I am sure I will spend at LEAST that much time either on the computer planning this trip, talking about options with Ethan, or reading guidebooks.

So far, I am using the Rick Steves books--I have the 2010 versions for Rome, Paris and Amsterdam, and older versions of his Europe through the back door and Best of Europe. I am trying to NOT do a cookie cutter trip following his advice to the dot--sounds like many people do, and they miss out on a lot!

At this point, this is what we have done:

We booked tickets from Seattle to Frankfurt and from Rome back to Seattle using airline miles. Because our trip puts us in Amsterdam during Koninginnedag, which is a national holiday celebrating the Queen's official birthday, we booked that hotel first.

We will be staying at Hotel Aspen in Amsterdam--located really close to the Anne Frank House and the Jordaan neighborhood, and only a few blocks from Dam Square, right in the heart of the city.

Nothing else is booked yet...but that is mostly because we are too far out to book them!

In Paris, I am pretty confident that we will be staying at The Tourisme Hotel, which is located very near the Eiffel Tower. There are a couple hotels in this area I am considering, but this is my favorite right now...

In Rome, we are staying at The Beehive, located a few blocks from the main Termini train station. Great rate, wonderful location....and free wifi, which is a must for all our hotels. We are bringing the laptop with us so I can download pictures off my memory cards for my cameras, and Ethan can stay updated with work issues.

In Germany.....we are still deciding. I really want to go here, but it is not located very conveniently to any of the small towns we are thinking of staying in--we land in Frankfurt, then will take a train to the Rhine river and stay in either Bacharach or Sankt Goar...or maybe somewhere else??? Rick Steves suggests staying in Bacharach, which looks just beautiful--bit it *is* the furthest south/farthest away from other sites. Such dilemmas.....

Overal plans:
Arrive in Germany, see lots of castles, taste wine and cheese, relax. We will be here for 3 nights, but as I mentioned--we are not yet sure where we will be staying. We will do at least 2 castle tours--probably Rheinfels and Marksburg. Definitely taking a K-D river cruise at some point. We shall see if Burg Eltz makes it into our plans..

We are here for 4 nights. So far, we know we want to do a bike tour, and go to the Anne Frank House. Not sure what will be happening on the big celebration on April 30th...but we will go with the flow.

We are in Paris for 3 nights. We arrive on Labour Day, so we are crossing our fingers that the French do not have a notorious strike on that day, and our train arrives on time.. We get here on a Saturday, and the next day (Sunday) is the first Sunday of the month, so many museums are free. We are not overly museum-y we will take advantage of the free-ness. I definitely want to check out the Louvre, and the Orsay, maybe l'Orangerie to see Monet's famous water lilies....
We are absolutely doing this tour--it is one of the things I am most looking forward to! Probably do that our first evening in Paris. I want to see everything there is to see architecturally--Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, St. Chapelle, etc. And, of course, the Eiffel Tower....

Rome is going to be awesome--3 nights here. We will definitely see the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica one day...gotta do the Colosseum/Forum/Capitol Hill/Pantheon...maybe check out some catacombs...Rick Steves has some do-it-yourself walks past some great areas--Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, etc. I also want to do the Borghese Gallery and the National Museum of Rome. So much to do, so little time....

So, here we are!! The next thing I will probably be doing is book a flight from Paris to Rome. THey are about 36 euros each through for a mid-day/mid-week flight. Can't book our train tickets until we are 90 days or less out, and can't book the hotels for another few more planning and looking and dreaming for me!

Written in early NOvember...

Monday, January 11, 2010

It cracked *me* up, anyway...although I am sure the math is a bit off...

The Population of this country is 300 million.

160 million are retired.

That leaves 140 million to do the work.

There are 85 million in school.

Which leaves 55 million to do the work.

Of this there are 35 million employed by the federal government.

Leaving 20 million to do the work.

2.8 million are in the armed forces preoccupied with killing Osama Bin-Laden.

Which leaves 17.2 million to do the work.

Take from that total the 15.8 million people who work for state and city governments

And that leaves 1.4 million to do the work.

At any given time there are 188,000 people in hospitals.

Leaving 1,212,000 to do the work.

Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons.

That leaves just two people to do the work.

You and me.

And there you are, sitting on your ass, at your computer, reading jokes.

Nice. Real nice.

Friday, January 08, 2010


Anyone else have sleeping issues?? I sure do. I have had a hard time FALLING asleep for years now. I am pretty good at now going to bed a little earlier, doing some reading, winding down before trying to sleep, etc. I do OK, and it is totally manageable. But now...for the last week or so, I fall asleep OK.....but I half wake up like 10 times each night. Very sucky. I wake up enough to realize that I am waking up, then roll over and try to get back to sleep. Not cool at all. Usually, once I am asleep......I am ASLEEP. Dead to the world until that alarm goes off at 0429. I have tried going to bed earlier the last couple nights (seriously--at 8:15pm), but that is not working out so well. I am getting irritable at work. I am sure that is well appreciated.

Anyway....any suggestions out there?? I am not willing to take meds, because I would have to take them at like 6pm or else they won't wear off in time for me to get up and not be fuzzy..

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Note to readers...the more you (legitimately) comment, the more I post.....

Updates, updates....we went to Avatar on IMAX 3D for New Years Eve, which was very good. It did give me a headache, and I can't STAND wearing glasses...but the movie is THAT good...

Had a lovely, laid back weekend at home with my husband, marred only by the ~6 hours we devoted to the last Seahawks game. Another no-go. We are in the running for a decent draft pick, at least. We always have a good time at the games--win or lose. More fun when we win, of course.....but fun nonetheless. I love the pre-game, where they announce the players and they run onto the field, and when the hawk flies out of the tunnel, and when they announce the raiser of the 12th man flag--this week, it was Ken Griffey Jr, and the stadium ROCKED. We always root to lose the coin toss, or to defer the win if we DO win it, so our defense can start out on the field. Everyone screams full force when the D is on the field, and you haven't LIVED until your voice joins with 70K others all in an attempt to screw up the opposing offense's plays.

This week was special because it was the first time I have ever been in a stadium where there was a successful 'wave'. You know...where people stand up and scream in a timed way so that it looks like a huge wave rippling through the crowd?? Never seen it go all the way around. This week, the fans were so bored (and fed up ), they made it around 6 times. It was epic. Have I mentioned that it brings a tear to my eye to see a crowd do the wave?? Even though they *did* do it while we were on offense....

So, the Seahawks season is finally over, and I now have my Sundays back. Not that I didn't enjoy the games, but they mean leaving the house around 930am, and not getting home until 430-5pm. It is a full day, and squeezes into my general lounging around time.

Elsewhere on the home front...we are working very hard to figure out where our money goes and make an actual budget. I have printouts from that we are going to analyze today to see which areas we can maybe cut back on. After seeing that we spend nearly the same amount on restaurants in a year as we do food/coffee at work.....we are going to start bringing lunches or at least snackage to work instead...

Also lots of (mental) planning for our upcoming Europe trip. Can I tell you how excited I am??? I even got a gym membership and am working with a trainer specifically in the area of stair climbing, since every gorgeous monument I want to see involves a lot of stair climbing, and I don't want to be the fat, lazy American tourist huffing and puffing and not making it to the top. We want to climb Notre Dame, the Arc du Triumphe, do some hiking to a castle in Germany, climb a bell tower in Amsterdam, go to the top of St Peter's, and climb through numerous ruins in Rome. Lots of stairs.

Still need to book a couple hotels and our little flight, and will be able to book the train portions later this month (can only book 90 days ahead of time). I bought the Rick Steves guide books for each area (except Germany), and have pored over each of them numerous times. Lots of excitement over this..

I am also making plans to have a niece come up to visit me for a long weekend this summer. I have secret plans of going to Wild Waves and maybe the Seattle Aquarium and some other fabulous things. Just need to talk the mama into sending her up......I think this will be awesome, and will try to get each neice/nephew as the get a little older and can hang out. Maybe two together??? Yeesh....maybe not...

Anyway.. that is where I am today..