Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I have a stamp collection from my childhood, and I have no idea why.

Recently Jeff and I went to the storage unit to grab a few things, including my childhood stamp collection. I have a craft project I'm working on involving stamps, and have a way larger collection than I remember! I know some of them came from Grama & Grampa, or their friends. Some came from a "stamp collectors show" in the basement of an old building in Ottawa that I got my mom to take me to even though it was kind grungy looking and smelled old and I was too shy to talk to people or even really look at all the stamp collecting stuff. And a lot of the stamps were purchased sets from a mail-order company.

I don't know how I started collecting stamps. Was it:

Me: "Mom, can I start a stamp collection?"
Mom: "Sure."


Mom: "Hey Kristin, how would you like to collect stamps?"
Me: "Sure."

I don't recall. I know that I must have been in about junior high, maybe as early as 4th grade. I very distinctly remember we lived in the house near Triumph, because I remember laying on the living room floor looking at the stamp sets and figuring out which ones I wanted to buy.

Where the money came from for stamp collecting, I really don't know. Those stamp sets weren't cheap, and I also had 3 books to put stamps in, as well as the hinges.  Just a guess here, but I would say at least $100 was spent on the collection I have under my bed, and that's an amount I never could have earned in allowance...
I've tried over the years to give my stamp collection away.  I would think of someone and say "Oh, I bet he/she/they would like my stamp collection!" only to be told, no, thank you, not interested.  I've read online that there are tons of unwanted stamp collections out there.  Back in the day, before everyone was fully immersed in their on-line/couch-potato lives, a few things were true:
  • You received a lot more communications via postal service, and with a real stamp.
  • People were bored and looked for things to do to keep them busy.
  • And people had either lived through or were being raised by people who had lived through the Great Depression, and therefore knew not to throw things away.
So someone looked at all their mail/envelopes that kept accumulating, and they had a light bulb moment.  A HA!  I will take these stamps off of the envelopes and put them into a book!  And then later, I can open the book and look at the stamps, all put together, in a collection!  A Stamp Collection!
Apparently just about everyone had a stamp collection (kinda like the sticker collections that every 3rd grade girl had in 1985), especially in the eastern European countries where fun was scarce and therefore rationed.  Now that the kids these days are more worried about how many likes their status got or how angry the birds are, there is no one to pass the stamps down to.  You can't sell them for much; the law of supply & demand and all.  The ones I have sure aren't worth anything, or at least worth less than the gas it would take me to drive them from home to the stamp place, if there even is such a place... 
Rhy was excited to see my collection, saying she had always wanted a stamp collection.  I gave her a few marine mammal stamps, since that's her favorite, but I don't know that she's interested in actually having a collection, since soon she'll have her drivers license and that really cuts down on the time you have for things like stamp collections.
So, once I'm done with this fun craft project (details to come once it's done), I'll have to decide what to do with the rest of the collection. I've gotten rid of the collecting books, except for the few pages that held stamps.  There's just so many stamps, I don't know that I really want to go through and look at them.  There are not a whole lot of postage stamp craft ideas on the interwebs to inspire me.
Which brings me to this:
  • Would you like some of my stamps?  Any particular color or interest so I can pair you well?
  • Any ideas on postage stamp crafts?  Also, once I reveal what I'm working on, there'll be info about either me making you one or me sending you stamps to make your own.
  • Any charitable organizations or schools that you think might want them?  I know a co-workers church sends them somewhere and gets paid, but I'd like to spread the wealth if I go this direction.
Did you have a childhood stamp collection?  Do you still have it?  If not, what happened to it?

The newest marketing acronym?

WYSIWYG, pronounced "wissywig", means "What you see is what you get."  A lot of people know that one.  And it's fun to say.  Say it a few times, and if it's not fun to say, well, then I owe you a cookie or a beer or something.

Lately one of the local car dealerships has been running TV and radio ads saying "the price you see is the price you get."*

Does that make the new marketing acronym PYSIPYG?  Say it!  Out loud!  PYSIPYG! 

Oh, funny.

*Okay, maybe they say "they price you see is the price you pay," but it just wouldn't have been as funny...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Happy Birthday Wish to my Best Cousin...

*I would just like to note that I had no idea "Best Cousin" has a definition until the Google told me.  So, if you found this based on a Google search, a.) eww, and b.) no.*

Do you have a Best Cousin?  A Best Cousin is short for Best Cousin Friend or Best Friend Cousin.  I'm not sure when, but I started calling my cousin Susana my Best Cousin long long ago.

Susana is about 11 months older than me, and she lived close enough that we got to play, hang out, have sleep overs often enough.  We were even pen pals for a while - you know the age, when you think getting mail addressed to you is just about the best thing ever?  And oh, man, did we play Barbies.  We played Barbies so hard...  We used Del Monte yogurt covered raisins as Barbie food, and now I'm so sick of yogurt covered raisins - I don't even like plain raisins anymore!

Well, yesterday I missed my Best Cousin's birthday.  *sadface*  I have a tenancy to catch that just a few days late - and I hate that my brain can't wrap around Susana's birthday.  So, mi prima, Happy Belated Birthday!  I hope it was one of much joy and happiness, or, if nothing else, a really nice meal with your family.

And, since I seem to be having problems figuring out the scanning this morning...  I give you a picture of multiple cousins...

Rebekah, me, Tina, Leah, & Susana - taken at Paul & Trinity's wedding reception in 2005
And a bonus little kid cousins picture...
me, Marcos Alan, Tina, Becky (who now goes by the grown-up Rebekah), & Susana
I love you chica!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I learned on our Alaskan Honeymoon.

After every experience you probably learned at least a little something, right?  Well, after a 15 day honeymoon in Alaska, I would say that I learned a lot.  I know what I liked, what I would never do again, and what I would like to do differently next time.  Yes, next time.  Jeff's already planning, or at least daydreaming...

1.)  Airplanes suck.  Bad.  They're so small.  The seats are so narrow.  They're just plain uncomfortable.  Problem is, we used a travel agent to book our airplane flights, so we have no idea what else was available.  Next time, we will book our own flights, and then maybe we would have a wider plane.  Also, by booking our own flights, we could check into buying 3 seats instead of 2, simply because it would be more comfortable.  Also, I would rather not fly.  But, it's just kind of inevitable when you're headed to Alaska and you live in Wisconsin.

2.)  Don't assume you have to book a "tour" in order to go to the place you want to stay/visit/experience.  If you think you HAVE to take the tour from the tour company, then it's called marketing.  Get on the interwebs, look up that place that you want to say/visit/experience, and call them.  Even if you have to organize your own transportation, you will be okay.

3.)  Try it, you might like it!  I am not outdoorsy.  But the BackCountry Lodge was perfect for us.  The name could have scared us me off.  The fact that there is no TV/Cell Phone could scare people off.  But we ended up loving it.  All except the mosquitoes.

4.)  Often times "touristy" things in Alaska cater to Cruise Lines.  AVOID if possible.  Take more time to search and you might find a great B&B in a train or a small one-day cruise captained by the owner.  And you'll be able to avoid the huge crowds of people.

5.)  If you do the "touristy" things, consider your timing.  We went up to the Arctic Circle for midnight on the Summer Solstice.  We knew that a tour bus would be up there at midnight as well.  So we decided to take our picture with the sign as soon as we got there because we knew we would not be able to get a pic, just us, at midnight.  Find out when the tour groups will be places and go at a different time.  I guess that means you should look into group tour stuff so that you have that information.

6.)  Don't always count on the transportation you've arranged; have a backup plan.  Sometimes the ferry breaks down.  Either have a back-up plan (if we'd been in a car we would have just driven to Valdez) or someone who can make a back-up plan materialize in no time.  We are still very thankful to Pia for her amazing work getting us a hotel room and train tickets when we ended up stuck in Whittier.

7.)  Do something or stay somewhere that makes you feel at home.  Vacation can really be a lot for some people.  Moving around from hotel to hotel got really exhausting, so staying at the Anchorage Grand, basically in a small apartment, at the end of our trip, and cooking at "home" and staying in watching TV felt good.  It was relaxing to not HAVE to be Doing Something all the time.

8.)  Pack light.  If you're going to be in more than one hotel, definitely pack light.  You'll be happy in the end that you only have one shoulder bag and a small wheely-backpack with you.  Schlepping sucks.

9.)  Look at the map.  When you're told to take a taxi from point A to point B, you might find out that those points are only 3 blocks away, or you'll find a hotel close to your transportation.  Seriously, people, look at the freaking map.

10.)  I almost forgot this one.  Going to Alaska does not require going on a cruise.  If you like cruising, by all means, go that route.  But if you're not going to Alaska to enjoy the amenities of a cruise ship within the majestic surroundings of Alaska, then skip the cruise.  Google sometimes makes us think that "travel to Alaska" = "cruise to Alaska".  Be bold and think outside the cruise ship!

In the end, as long as you enjoyed yourself and the people/person you were with, it was successful, right?  Now, if you end up heading to Alaska, let me know!  Ask me in advance for info/recommendations!  If you've already been, add your thoughts in the comments!  (Loretta, I'm looking at you!)

This was our last view of Alaska...
That's Mt. McKinley, above the clouds, from the airplane.  We didn't have a window seat, so a big Thank You to the college student from LSU that Jeff leaned over to get the shot.

Don't worry - we'll be back.

See the full itinerary here...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Introducing... the Party Cup Box! It's gonna be a thing!

I'm the HR Chick at my job.  There is only the VP of HR, HR Manager, and me.  So I get the lower end jobs.  Like Retirement Parties.  Retirement Parties are one of the best parts of my job because it's a happy time.

We don't go over the top on Retirement Parties.  The retiree decides if s/he wants a company-wide party or a department party, and we go from there.  It's always at lunch time, or breakfast if it's a night shifter...  so we (the retiree & I) select what kind of food and I go from there.  Sometimes I order pizza, or subs, or I use the local Hy-Vee grocery store* and get the party catered.  All have been popular choices.

But no matter what the food is, we always have to figure out drinks.  For the smaller parties, I buy pop (or soda, or pop, or coke, depending on what part of the country you're from...) in 2-liter bottles.  The problem has always been that there is a bottle-neck at the drinks.  It takes time to pour those drinks.  And the 2-liters are never cold...

So at the last party, this spring, I was putting ice in the cups and pouring pop when people were arriving for the party.  I felt very behind, like I didn't have enough done by the time the party started.  So yesterday I invented...

the Party Cup Box!

I took a paper ream box - luckily one was almost empty - and put cups in the bottom, filled the cups with ice about 1/3 full, put more cups in, the ice, one more layer of cups, and filled with ice one last time.

I used the smaller 12 ounce cups we have at work, and was able to get 45 cups into that box, and it used one bag of ice (but I don't know how big the bag was...).  I covered the cups with the plastic shopping bag, just in case the lid of the box was dirty, and put the lid on.  There was room in the ice freezer, and I popped the box right in there.  Ice stayed frozen, and it bought me a good 15 minutes before the party started, so I was able to get the pop poured before the employees arrived.

This worked out so great for me; I'll definitely be doing it again at future parties where I know I have freezer space to put the Party Cup Box.  Anything to make Party Day easier, amiright?

*Fun Fact:  Hy-Vee catered our wedding.  We had a taco bar, 3 Chinese entree choices, ham, and fish.  Yum!  And it cost us about $8 per person.  Best choice for taste, best choice for price!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ahhhh, puffins......

Since we didn't see many sea animals on our little cruise, we knew we wanted to head down to Seward to the Alaska SeaLife Center.  It was a great drive down the Kenai Peninsula with some beautiful scenery.
Of course after a bit the window was covered with the remnants of mosquitoes, so not a whole lot of good pictures out the windshield...

I was so excited when we got to the SeaLife Center that I was only a little deterred by the fact that there were a LOT of tourism buses up front.  There wasn't a wait at the door and we were able to get a view every where we went, so all was good.

And the best part of the Alaska SeaLife Center...


Oh, the puffins!  How cute were they!  I don't think I'd ever heard of puffins before getting on the Google before our honeymoon.  And then I just couldn't get enough...
tufted puffin

shy puffin

bathing puffin

horned puffin

two puffins

close-up puffin
Oh for cute!  I just want to squish their cheeks!  There were some other birds in their area, which, by the way, was open to people; if you were lucky you could probably touch one!  There was a puffin just a couple feet away from Jeff an a, well, not sure what it is, but this was just a couple feet away from me:

Finally Jeff was able to drag me out of the seabird area and we checked out the rest of the center (after using antibacterial hand stuff, anyway...)

do you have any idea how hard it is to photograph an octopus?

Seward is a very cute town, and the area near the SeaLife Center seemed based around the tourist trade.  But still cute!!  It's another one of those towns whose size is limited by the water and the mountains.  It seemed like the mountains grew right out of the water!

Seward is really a cute town.  One I would like to be able to visit more frequently than once every 35 years. But the population is less than 3000, and I didn't see a Target store anywhere...  so I don't think I could live there.  But man, I would like to visit again...

See the full itinerary here...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A weekend with the folks...

This past weekend was the Sweet Corn Festival in Mendota IL.  I was able to head down to my parents' house on Friday night, and Jeff & Rhy followed on Saturday after football practice.  It was nice to visit again since I hadn't been there since Easter and had only had brief visits with them.

I picked up Nate (my eldest nephew) on Saturday from football practice.
He's the first to ride in the new car that Jeff and I got the end of last month!  More on that in another post...

Tina & I took 4 kids to the Sweet Corn Festival.
Trekker (youngest nephew) had a corn dog (or a Lion Dog, since it was from the Lion's Club) and a lemon-aid.
We like to look around at the crafts & vendors.  There was some nice stuff there.  I bought a couple of towels from Mary Horn (neighbor when we were kids, makes baby & Barbie clothes, used to give us orange push 'ems, really nice person) and we had walking tacos made with Doritos at the Heiss's food stand.  I really wanted to stay longer, but my back had been giving me problems for a few days and it got to the point that it hurt too bad and I had to leave early.

Saturday night we had a cookout at Mom & Dad's.  Well, can it be called a "cookout" if we didn't actually cook anything outside?  Mom crock-potted a couple of different meats, made cooler sweet corn*, and we had various other side dishes and chocolate covered cherry cake (Thank You Tina!).

*Apparently People Who Camp know that you can put your shucked corn into a cooler, pour boiling/hot water on it, close the cooler for about an hour or 90 minutes, and your corn will be cooked.  Thank you, People Who Camp, for keeping this information to yourselves all these years!!!  What the heck!  Share the info sooner next time, would you?  This was awesome!*

Emily & Adam came by bringing their adorable little girl Brianna with them.  She's just too cute!  She doesn't so much like being held by others, but she sure did play with us.  By the end of the night she was teasing us! Pretending she would go to someone and then laughing when she turned away.  So much personality!
So. Much. Cute!
It was a really nice night for hanging out outside.
South from the house

West from the driveway - you know this place is for sale if you want to buy it...
The kids played on the property (3 girls and 1 boy - all teens and-preteens, plus the going-on-7-year-old Trekker), and Oreo enjoyed the extra attention.

It was really great to get to spend some time with family away from the regular chores waiting at home, like dishes, laundry, etc.  I just wish I had felt better and could have gone to the festival on Sunday too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How a grizzly bear eats an orange... in 5 pictures

First, puncture the orange with your big ol' claws...
Next, partially peel the orange, using your big ol' claws...
After that, eat as many orange segments out of the orange as you can, while it's still on your big ol' claws...
Then, pick up the rest of the orange - which is easy since it's stuck on your big ol' claws - to pull off some of the peel with your teeth.  Make sure to spit out the peel.
Eat even more of the orange segments (yada yada big ol' claws blah blah blah)...
And then, when you're all done with the orange segments, then you can eat the orange peel.  Seriously, who saves the orange peel for last?  That's like the worst part!  I'd save the orange segments for last because they are awesome...

Okay, who else wants some orange slices right now?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We saw two real polar bears in Alaska!

Why, yes, we did go to the Alaska Zoo!  How did you know?

We had some time to kill the day we picked up the rental vehicle in Anchorage.  We had Burger King for lunch (Jeff likes it and has it as a rare treat sometimes b/c there aren't any convenient to us.  Did you know that they have Bacon Sundaes?  Just sounds gross), and were trying to decide what else to do, when we remembered the zoo!

The Alaska Zoo was really very easy to find and it's interesting.  It's not huge and crowded, like the Brookfield Zoo.  It's smaller, and with few enough people that you can see what you want and won't get crowded out.  Like the Vilas Zoo.  I liked that.

Apparently back in the 40s or 50s there was a contest where you could win money or an elephant - because the people who did the contest figured "No one will want an elephant!"  Wrong.  The winner wanted the elephant!  An elephant was found, and a few years later, after acquiring some other animals, the Alaska Zoo was born!  Hmmm, maybe I should have taken a picture of the sign of that story so I could have told it better here...  Next time.

A lot of the animals at the Alaska Zoo are rescue or hurt animals, which is cool.  What else is cool is that the zoo is in a wooded area.  Lot's of hills and bridges and trees.
this is in the zoo - so pretty!
I really liked it.  Too bad my feet didn't want to work that day.  Darn you Mother Nature and your monthly gift!

So, yes, we did see polar bears!

And snow owl...

And snow leopard...
hi kitty mow!

And bear...
look at him eating his cantaloupe!
And so many pretty flowers...

do you see the stamen on this flower?!?!?!  So freaking awesome!

taken just after a light rain shower and the sun came out

So, to sum up, you should put the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage on your "must visit Alaska" list.  :-)

See the full itinerary here...

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We've since moved to Alaska!  Read about Our Alaska Life here...

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hey, Happy Birthday Pete!

My cousin Pete has the coolest birthday ever!  8-8-88!  Awesome, right?  That means that today is his birthday!  So, everyone, raise a glass in honor of Pete!

Playing with the "cartoon" function on my phone...

I got a "smart phone" back in December.  I'm not sure what all makes it smart, other than the fact that I can use the internet as long as I have 3G service (which I didn't in Alaska.  EVER!).

It does what most cells phones these days do.  It makes calls (believe it or not), texts, takes photos...

And, I found out, you can even edit those photos you take!  One of the edit functions is called "cartoon" and it's freaking awesome!  If I ever get ambisious enough, I might make a cartoon strip for you.  That would probably take a lot of forethought and planning and writing funny stuff.  Hmmm, not sure I'm up for that...

But what I cartooned the other night was freaking awesome...

Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you...  Mt. McKinley - Cartooned!

See the full itinerary here...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Look what I saw on my way home today!

Is that Thomas the Tank Engine taking a ride down the interstate?

And why did I always think his name was Thomas the Train?

Survey! What do you want to hear about next?

Pretty soon I'll be all done telling you about our Alaskan Honeymoon.  In order to keep regular on this ol' blog here, I figure I need to know from you what you want the next Blog Series to be about.

So, please, in the comments, vote for your favorite topic (and these will be largely photo-based)...

1.)  2010 vacation to Washington DC
2.)  Our Wedding!  (the professional photos)
3.)  Various sporting events - from little kids to touring Lambeau Field.
4.) *** your suggestions?

And anything else would take a bunch of time b/c the other cool subjects are either on photo paper or slide.  I just listed what I have as digital photos.

I am working on more decorating around the house, including craft-how-to's, and High School Football starts in about a month, and you know I'll be documenting Rhy's games for you.

So, to sum up, vote for your favorite next Blog Series topic by leaving a comment.  In fact, leave comments just for the heck of it.  I like to know who's out there.  Hi Loretta!

I leave you with this...

a boy and his friend...

Monday, August 6, 2012

And now, the rest of the story...

We woke up that Wednesday morning, hoping to get on the ferry to Valdez and get on with our trip.  This little hiccup was not wanted, but we were dealing with it, even though it was taking a day out of our honeymoon.

Around 9 am we found out that, no, the ferry wasn't going anywhere.  And the other ferry going to Valdez from Whittier that day was booked solid.  No room for us.  Well, we had the day to kill as the train would leave from Whittier to Anchorage after 6 PM that night.  Pia, who was helping Jeff get things scheduled, got us tickets on that train as well as a glacier tour leaving from Whittier.

From here it gets a little ranty.  Should you wish to avoid said rant, go straight to the pictures.  Thanks.

We had found that tour on a pamphlet in the lobby of the hotel.  That should have been a red flag, but we didn't pay attention.  Getting on to the internet via the hotel's connection was spotty, so we weren't able to check out reviews before booking.  We went and had an unmemorable lunch, and got on the cruise.  I only give you the link so you can avoid it.

We were asked if we wanted lunch or dinner and what we wanted to eat.  There were hoards of people (remember all those people from the cruise ship?) there waiting to get on the Catamaran - which was huge - and get into their assigned seats.  We didn't get a window seat.  Our views were of other people.  Since we had said we wanted dinner, when they were bringing out lunch we went outside.  It's the one time in Alaska I was truly cold.  Weather was crappy, drizzly, overcast, but they said that it was perfect weather!  The overcast skies would make the glaciers even bluer!  They are all salesmen.  Oh, did I mention that they only served lunch, not dinner, so we paid for but did not receive a meal?

It took forever to get to any glaciers, we were told we wouldn't be going into College Fjiord because it was overcast, and ended up seeing about 10 (max) glaciers.  It was supposed to be a 26-glacier tour.  And I guess that was part of the problem.  I wanted a wildlife tour.  A glacier is a glacier is a glacier in my opinion.  I don't need that many.

In Anchorage I had heard the term "Combat Fishing."  It's where people are all lined up along the shore.  There are more people fishing than there are fish to be caught.  Well, on this tour, it was Combat Tourism.  You had to fight for a view.  And it was too cold and rainy outside to claim your spot and never give it up.  It got to the point where I was so over all of it, I didn't even try.  Apparently at one point there were some porpoises, but heck, the boat could have tipped over with all the people clamoring to that side to see them.  No thanks.  I don't want to have to fight for 5 hours just to see something that they had claimed would be up close and personal.

I don't know.  It was just really disappointing.  I wished we had been able to get to Valdez.  I wished we had given up and left Whittier that same day we got there.  It was the only real disappointment I felt on the entire 15-day trip, so I guess that's a good thing.  Luckily we did get some good pictures, even though I would have liked a less-overcast day, so enjoy...

sea lion


As soon as we were off that cruise I called ahead to Varley's and ordered a Greek Pizza (minus the olives) to pick up.  Jeff made his way to the train to confirm that we had tickets.  Seriously, the pizza was the number one part of going to Whittier.  Best.  Pizza.  Evar!

On the trip back to Anchorage, the engineer saw some Dall Sheep and actually stopped the train for a good 5+ minutes so we could watch them.  Apparently at that time of year (we were there in late June), the males go high up in the mountains and the females and young come down farther.  So we know that these are females and babies.  Look how cute!
these guys have no fear, just jumping around from rock to rock looking for a bite to eat...

awe, baby sheep!  

check out the exposed roots to the left of the sheep.  how do they walk around up there?

See the full itinerary here...