Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A visit to our Nation's Capitol Building!

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol building with a group of women from my church congregation. One of them is the niece of Senator Bob Bennet (R, UT) and he had agreed to take us on a tour.

I was also lucky to be accompanied by a male! Yes. The only male. But, I should mention that he is about 9 inches tall and is flat. Yes, flat.

Have you ever heard of Flat Stanley? You can read more about him here but long story short, he was flattened by a bulletin board falling on him and decides to take advantage of his flattened
state... by sliding under doors, etc. Well, he can also go through the mail, so my friend's daughters class sent him all over the country/world this year to see what knew experiences he could have. They asked his hosts to take pictures with him and send them back with some additional information about their town. What better place to take him in DC than the U.S. Capitol!

And, here he is.
He was very polite and well-behaved
the entire time!

This is another cool picture of the Capitol and the Washington Monument I found online and wanted to post.

Well, more women showed up than expected (over 80 of us!), so we had to split into two groups. But, before we split, Senator Bennet shared with us some of his favorite memories of working in that building. His is retiring from government service at the end of this term (in January), so it was really neat to hear from him because he has served in government for so long! He shared stories such as... remembering exactly where he was on the Senate side of the building when he found out that President Kennedy has been shot. He also had the privilege of escorting President Bush and Cheney out of the Capitol building in front of 4 million watching viewers during the inauguration of President Obama.

Here are some of the cool things I learned and saw:

The Rotunda: It is a circular space that serves as a gallery of paintings and sculpture of American historical figures and events.

Picture of the upper walls.
Very intricate art detail.
The apotheses. The very top of the ceiling.
Everything painted has meaning.
Learn more about it here.
The Senate and House literally split the rotunda right down the middle. Both have control over who lies there for viewing after their death and I thought it was really cool that they lean the casket to one side if a member of senate/house!

Brigham Young Statue: For UTAH!

The concept of a National Statuary Hall originated in the middle 19th century, even before the completion of the present House wing in 1857. At that time, the House of Representatives moved into its new larger chamber and the old vacant chamber became a thoroughfare between the Rotunda and the House wing.

It was decided that all the States would provide and furnish two statues, in marble or bronze, of deceased persons who were citizens thereof, and historically renown or distinguished for their civic or military services

All state statues were placed in National Statuary Hall. However, the aesthetic appearance of the Hall began to suffer from overcrowding after 65 statues were put in there… so then they decided to spread them out in other areas of the Capitol. I was born the year Ronald Regan started his presidency and I have always admired him even though I didn't know much about what he did while he was serving his two terms! I saw this statue and I had to take a picture. But then, our tour guide told us his statue was unique in that a layer on the bottom contained some of the pieces of the Berlin Wall because he played a significant role in that coming down. If you look closely in the picture, you can see the change in color near the top. It was also neat to say that I touched part of the Berlin Wall on this trip!
We also saw the Old Supreme Court room which is located in the Capitol. It was used from 1810-1860
Finally, this is a picture of the room where Congress meets
although, I didn't take this picture!
Some other cool, cool facts I learned about the Capitol Building!

1. Construction began in 1793 and the original building was finished in 1826, but it was being used long before that. The first Congress met on November 17, 1800

2. No building in DC can be more than 13 stories high! There is a law stating this because they want to be able to always have a view of the Capitol and the Washington monument. The top of the U.S. Capitol is 209 feet lower than the Washington Monument.

3. No one is buried in the Capitol, but there was a tomb area created for George Washington's body! However, after reviewing his will they knew his expressed wish was to be buried at Mount Vernon. So much for all that work to create the tomb. Lesson learned to check things first!

It was awesome to have this opportunity! I am so glad to live so close to our nation's capital! Flat Stanley enjoyed it as well and is now on his way back to some 2nd graders in Arizona with pictures from his visit!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A sad farewell... and a new beginning...

To my ever faithful, hardworking, humble

Toaster Oven

You've lived through the past few years with me, traveled through many states, worked hard for me at all hours of the day and you have never failed me.

But, the time has come. Not necessarily by my wish, or plan, for you. It seems too soon. I was given you by a fabulous roommate in Boston, after you served her well for so many years. I knew I could always count on you to toast my bread to perfection, and reheat my pizza better than any microwave could ever do.

However, the time has come for us to move on from each other... basically because my mom thinks you're going to burn down my apartment one day (she doesn't know you as well as I do and she never learned the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover.")... and because it did smell like smoke in our hallway when I used you this past week (but I think that was most likely coming from a neighbors apartment since I'll never lose faith in you!!)

You've served me well and I will truly miss you. Thank you for helping to make so many yummy meals for me! I hope you enjoy your rest and find friends you knew from your manufacturing days as you join them in the junkyard.

Moving on...

Meet my new friend! We haven't had the chance to bond yet over a meal, but will later on today.

The Cuisinart® Convection/Broiler Toaster Oven features the convenience of Total Touch® touchpad controls, consistent shade control, and an Exact Heat™ sensor to maintain precise oven temperature. And its large enough to fit a 12" pizza!

I'm excited to learn what "consistent shade control" means for when I toast my bread because I never knew light was a factor in getting the perfect toast! I am also excited for the muscles I will build lifting my new friend when I put it away after each use because it weighs 22.8 lds... but here's to roasting my first small chicken! ... and maybe now I'll be inspired to actually cook something :)

Past roommates and family will understand why I just wrote that! :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010


This has taken me too long to post!!! But, this was such an amazing trip. Here's the first post.

Sunday - Seattle, WA
Monday - The Alaskan Inside Passage, AK
Tuesday - Juneau, AK


PORT: SEATTLE, Washington

I had never been on a cruise, and despite all I had heard from friends, I was still a BIT skeptical as to

WHAT I would do all day??!

I am an active person and I like to transition from something to something and not doing one thing all day long. For instance, I can NOT sit on a beach all day and read. Give me one hour and then something else to do. AHDH? Yep - I have self-diagnosed this for me! So, a little nervous about the cruise before we left!

My mom and I had plenty of time to get to the boat before we had to board, but we heard it was fun to get on early and enjoy the buffet lunch (not like we wouldn’t have it for the next seven days!!), and to get acquainted with the ship before we left. So, we had a leisurely breakfast in my favorite hotel in Bellevue and headed into the city mid-morning. (we didn't have to be on board till 3 or something.)

It was an overcast/cloudy morning with a little drizzle. Not an ideal situation, but the best of our options... I dropped my mom off at the cruise with all our luggage. It was a madhouse at the port! I will never forget the totally illegal turn I made in the middle of the street while a cop stared at me, and I held up traffic on both sides, just so I didn’t get stuck in the madhouse traffic (mind you, this is after stopping in the street to let me mom out and unload our luggage!)


Anyway, I left her there so I could drive about 12 blocks away and return the car (straight uphill! As noted in previous post, I couldn’t believe how steep it was!). Well, I was lucky enough with my timing, that just as I was returning the car it decided to start to drizzle, so I ran the 12 blocks in the rain (fortunately mostly downhill) to meet my mom who was also standing in the rain! Whew. Somehow we both remained cheerful during all of this! By the time I got there I was also sweating and wet… so much for looking cute when I got onboard!

We waited in long lines to board the ship, and I loved this because I am such a people watcher. I love making up stories in my head of how everyone is related, where they’re from and why did they choose to go on this cruise! We were surrounded by people of all ages, and some of the kids kept trying to butt in front of others (while dragging their suitcases) so they could move faster in the line… that got slightly annoying, but I had to remember the excitement I felt as a child with certain things and how hard it was to WAIT!

I also felt like a fish out of water because everyone seemed to know what they were doing, but my mom and I were SO confused! Fortunately, we learned early on, that EVERYONE who works for a cruiseline is there to MEET and EXCEED your needs! So, we had very helpful, and patient people help us along the check-in process!

Around the time we got on, the sun decided to show its face! We made our way to the Garden CafĂ© (the buffet!!) and I was shocked! I had been worried they wouldn’t have any healthy food… or food I liked, but OH MY WORD! It was the largest buffet I have ever seen of foods from ALL around the world and a huge salad bar with anything I could imagine putting on my salad! I was IN heaven! Literally, I think I went to the buffet three or four times (Why? I ask myself now that now!! It’s not like they wouldn’t have that EVERY day, ALL day for the next seven days. But this didn’t dawn on me then!)

We ate and then walked around a bit more before they called out on the loudspeaker that our room was ready. Here are some pictures of the ship and our room… Some places we loved that didn’t make the cut for pictures was the workout room which had a fabulous view of the water, the library, and man,… just the entire ship was beautiful!

The Norwegian Pearl (in Ketchican, Alaska)
Mom and I in the Garden Cafe!
Our 2nd Home and Meeting Place on Board!

On a side note: Ships do everything they can to prevent the spread of illness or disease. I can imagine if one gets sick, ALL get sick! So, they had a rule that anytime you entered one of the dining areas you got a little squeeze of anti-bacterial soap! They called it "washy-washy!" It became such a common phrase and something that made you smile each and every time you heard it! We also made good friends with one of the girl "washy-washy" crew members. **** She always asked me or my mom how we were and where the other was if we were coming in alone. She had a constant smile on her face and such a positive happy attitude. It made me smile just to see her!
Things we never got to use! Some of the kids braved
the temps though when it got sunny and went swimming!
This was my mom's favorite place to go and read.
The Spinnaker Lounge.
We also enjoyed some of the evening entertainment
from these comfy couches!
Our cabin. I have to say I was very surprised by the size when I first saw it. I didn't know how I would live in such a small thing all week long! But, I got used to it quickly and we actually didn't spend too much time in there! Surprisingly, it also had a lot of storage space for all our stuff!! And, this was a four person room. I can't imagine having more than 2!!!
The other half of our cabin. There was a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet to the left.

After putting some of our stuff away, we went up on deck to enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the view as we left the port.

Mom enjoying the sunshine on the top deck!
leaving Seattle

We spent the rest of the evening, going back to the buffet for dinner (!!) and enjoying the evening show! FUN!!!


Monday was our day where we spent all day on board as we sailed all the way to one of our top destinations in Alaska, Juneau. It was a rainy, overcast day. We had heard this might be the weather everyday… so we were prepared… and fortunately we could stay inside the ship all day!

I woke up crazy early because I was still on east coast time and because we gained an hour by going to Alaska (had no idea they were 4 hours behind EST!). But, I’ll take an hour whenever I can get it! So, I got up and worked out (which I did EVERY day on this trip because 1. I had the time; 2. I ate SO much food!!) I didn’t realize how hard running could be on a boat rocking back and forth! Fortunately, our trip was smooth for the most part, or maybe I just grew accustomed to it, but I do remember this morning being hard to run so I had to hold on to the treadmill! I joined my mom at the buffet for breakfast and we planned out our day after reviewing the ship's daily schedule! We had some fun classes to attend and activities galore! Everything from health and beauty, to fitness, to informational classes about the towns we would visit, to organized family games, etc. Endless! And, of course the buffet was open all day long… just in case you had that strong urge for ice cream or a cookie! It was hilarious because I think I saw some of the same kids with ice creams in their hands all day long the first two days. It must have been dessert heaven for them too!

Norwegian is different in that it does freestyle dining. Meaning, you can dine whenever you want, and wherever you want. I loved this option because I didn’t want to be tied down to a certain time to eat if there was something I wanted to do onboard at that time as well. There was always the buffet, but you could also make reservations at some of the special restaurants as well. We did that only one night… simply because the buffet had more options and was just so dang good! And, I am not a formal diner anyway. Well, I think I loved the buffet more than my mom… but she was so patient with me on this trip and she is very easy to please!

I thought it was so funny how that even in the specialty restaurants, you could order whatever you wanted, as many orders as you wanted, and just endless amounts of food. If you wanted five desserts – Cool! No questions asked! I also thought it was amazing to watch the mounds of food that people would pile on their plates.

I was also just so surprised and impressed by the staff. Companies should learn how to train their staff like cruise lines do. These people were so friendly, nice, helpful, and just a pleasure! I was also just amazed and in awe of how a cruise ship runs. Where do the staff go when not on duty? Where do they eat? They just seemed to appear and disappear - like they vanished in the wind when not on duty!

I was also surprised at how well the security remained unseen… except when there was a problem. For instance, one day right before meeting my mom for lunch I heard “Code Alpha” being spoken over the loudspeaker. Hmm… what does that mean, I thought? Ten minutes later, I heard “Code Alpha Stand Down” as I walked to meet my mom in the buffet. Well, when I got there, I was SHOCKED at the number of security and medical people surrounding one woman who had fainted, but seemed to be OK. I thought… where do all these people hang out when there’s no emergency!! I was dying to see the inside workings of the cruise ship, but when the tour was offered later in the week it cost $50 to go on… so I opted to just remain curious!

I quickly learned that many things on board are free, but that they also charge an arm and a leg for many, many other things! They lost money on my mom and I, I think… because we didn’t drink, didn’t gamble, didn’t use the spa, and didn’t shop on board! I was amazed how the onboard casino was packed all hours of the day and how many people just ordered whatever they wanted to drink and signed the bill away. I would have loved to see their bills at the end of the cruise! It’s so easy for money to quickly add up on a cruise if you’re not careful.

Anyway, we had a fabulous day on board and didn’t find ourselves with a lack of stuff to do. We also read some, took a little nap, and just enjoyed relaxing. I also enjoyed just people watching!

Our cruise director, Andy, would come on the loudspeaker and announce what was going on, and he had more energy and enthusiasm than the energizer bunny! I don’t know when he slept… cause he was always awake when I was and I know he stayed up late at the parties they had until 1 or 2 AM!

Here are some pics from Monday as we cruised up Alaska…it was a cloudy day... better pictures of this beautiful state come later in the week.

You can see some of the land through the clouds

Fun facts about Juneau – No road in or out and state capital… only sea and air!!!

The area is larger that Rhode Island and Delaware individually and almost larger than both combined! And has a whopping 30,000 people with ONE MILLION coming in each summer on cruise ships!

Tuesday – We didn’t arrive in Juneau until 1 or 2 PM, so we had a nice relaxing morning. It was still overcast so we prepped ourselves with raingear and chose what adventures we wanted to do when we got off the ship. I had done a lot of research, so I knew that we could book an excursion for cheaper when we got off board. The top excursions were: 1. Mt Roberts Tramway (but everyone said to not book that till you got there in case it was cloudy and you wouldn’t be able to see anything… which it was so we didn’t do that!); 2. Dog Sled Tour (way fun, but not in the rain); 3. Zipline (but again, not in the rain); 4. The Red Dog Saloon … ummm not really that appealing; 5. The Mendenhall Glacier – which is what we did!! My mom and I chose to book a roundtrip bus tour to the Mendenhall Glacier which also happened to stop by Homestead Park and some salmon locks. Homestead Park is a scenic outlook across the river from the main part of Juneau. It is a series of stairs leading down to the scenic outlook. A little slippery when wet, but we did get pictures!

Me at Homestead Park.
The main part of Juneau is across the river
Enjoying the view from the other side of the city!

Our ship from a distance
This was the salmon locke we stopped at. Can you see them? They blended in with the rocks in the river, but there were a TON of salmon!
The river the salmon were coming down

Our featured destination of the Mendenhall Glacier was AMAZING! Because of the rain and amount of time we had there, we didn’t walk all the way to the closest viewing point, but we did get some good pictures and enjoyed touring the museam!

Info about the glacier is here :

It was beautiful!!

Tuesday night it was back on board for buffet dinner and some awesome entertainment!

Speaking of entertainment, I was TOTALLY impressed! We had comedian David Naster, who I thought was funny, but also LOVED that he did some workshops during the day for kids who wanted help in dealing with bullies. (I attended and basically it was giving them tools on how to turn around what a bully says to make it funny, etc). He also did a class on finding laughter and happiness even when things are not looking good.

Then there was Shark Bait, two guys who used to be clowns with Ringling Brothers, but left to do highly entertaining shows on NCL with juggling and similar stunts. AND, if that wasn’t enough we also had the group called “Oh What a Night!” … 4 guys who were perform in tribute to “Frankie Valli and The Four Season”. They were incredible! Most of the songs from this original group were produced in the 60s and 70s, but I was amazed at how good they sounded as well as how many I recognized!

Alaska PART 2

Wednesday - Skagway, AK

Overnight we went the short distance from Juneau to Skagway and were allowed off the ship at 7 AM. But, were my mom and I up at 7 ready to walk off the ship? Ha! NOPE!!

The sun had started to show it’s face that morning, so we were very excited about that.

My mom and I had decided that we would take the excursion where you took a bus up the mountain into the Yukon Territory to Fraser, BC and take the White Pass Railroad back down. I was very excited about this because this would be my FIRST STAMP in my PASSPORT – EVER!!!! Cool!!!! The railroad also has a very interesting history. Click here to read about it!

We arrived at the bus depot early, so I decided to walk around town for a bit. It was so cute, but SO small! There was one main road with mostly shops, and the town was mapped out like a grid. It was a flat town so you could see basically to the other end of it!

Here are some pictures:

We boarded the bus and it was pretty much a straight shot right up the mountain… sometimes I wondered if we were driving a little too close to the edge! It was a far way down!

When we got to the top we had to wait in line to have our passports checked. I was in awe! This town consisted of ONLY the Canadian Customs people!! Ha, ha. There was their office, a small apt building for them to stay in, and a building for bathrooms for visitors. That’s IT! I hoped these customs people could rotate out their assignment because it would get VERY boring after a while and VERY cold there! The temperature had dropped about 20 or 30 degrees on our climb and it was just August! Imagine January. UGH. That would be a terrible assignment if I worked for Canadian customs.

Fortunately they accepted my passport :) We were allowed off the bus to take pictures and wait for the train to come up with its passengers. They would get off and take the bus down and we would take the train down. We got the better end of the deal. The train down had AMAZING views!

So, while we waited for the train, we took pictures.

The Canadian and US Flag on a peak by the
side of the road as we arrived in Fraser, BC
Then another one with the Canadian and British flag
This was the building with the bathrooms!
The lake that was up there. I thought the picture with the clouds in the background was pretty. The clouds were so low because we were high up o the mountain!
My mom and I by the same lake.
By now the clouds had lifted and the sun was out!
It was very, very chilly though!
So pretty!!
Me before boarding the train.
As we started down the mountain... clouds...

This was the river down below.
Literally, the train hugged the mountain.

My mom on the train! It was such a pretty ride down. As the clouds were breaking... we had such a great view. I am glad we didn't take the train up because the view on the way down was so much better! We even stopped and picked up some hikers along the way!
Ships at port as we come down the mountain

After we arrived back in town, I had a little bit of time before my ZIPLINE adventure. So back to the ship for lunch :) We could have had lunch in town, but there were four ships in port that day, and it was INCREDIBLY crowded in the small town. So, why not go back to the ship and enjoy lunch while still eating outside and the ship wouldn’t be very crowded at all!

I was a little nervous about my ZIPLINE adventure, but I am SO glad I did it and totally bonded with everyone on my excursion!! There was a family of two parents and two teenagers. The mom and I talked a lot while we waited about the trip so far, etc. Then, there was an older couple on their honeymoon on the cruise! And, finally, there were two hilarious married couples from the south so I loved their accent (A brother with his wife and a sister with her husband). They were so funny and lightened everything up!

We took a bus out of town a ways and met up with our two female group leaders who were true nature-loving people. You’d have to be to work in Alaska in the summer. There’s not much to do in town, so you either work, or on your days off you hike/camp/rock climb, etc! You also work rain or shine! Ha, ha… not a job for me! I did find out that a lot of BYU kids come up and work there in the summers! They love the Mormon summer crews up there!

The view was amazing. So beautiful! Everyone in our group was a bit nervous, but I was more nervous than I let on. I didn’t understand how this one rope was going to hold all my weight as I flew through the sky! I also didn’t like the first zipline they sent us on to get used to it. It was this tightrope walking thing that wobbled back and forth. So frustrating as I couldn’t keep my balance! After doing the first short zipline through the air, I realized I couldn’t think about what I was doing and just TRUST my guides and have FAITH in the rope!!

Well, I LIVED and LOVED it! However, they tried to get us to do silly things with our hands and feet as we flew through the air. I tried, but always ended up being too scared and holding on with my hands!!!

Here are some pics:

View from the mountain
The first one we went one. This rope was rediculously wobbly.
I felt like I could flop upside down on it!
Look at that. There's no room for a foot!
This was another wobbly one, but not as bad.
Do you see that tree and platform in the distance.
This was one of the shorter ziplines through the trees!!

I am so glad I did it though. But, I was glad to board the bus back to the safety of land and the ship!! Now it was off to dinner and some fun entertainment for the evening. Oh - and some ice cream and cookies too!!!