Tuesday, July 29

What can one do in Pittsburgh?

I’m in Pittsburgh this week for the 3rd time. No, not my third trip, but my third group of trips. I first came out to Pittsburgh several times in 2003-2004. Then again in 2006 (several times). Now the newspaper is upgrading their computer system, and they requested (I think) that I come back. Which is good because there are several people I love at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Bobs, for example. The IT department at the newspaper includes 3 gentlemen named Bob – Old Bob (younger than my sister, I’m sorry to say – not really, I find it quite funny), Grumpy Bob (who is hilarious), and Young Bob (who is, I’m HAPPY to say, older than I am). In addition, contrary to what my preconceived images were, the city is quite beautiful – especially where the three rivers converge (the Monongahela River from the south, the Allegheny River from the north join the Ohio going West).

Anywho – in all the time I’ve spent in Pittsburgh, I’ve never been to a sporting event, which is sad, really, since there are three professional teams that play in Pittsburgh. The Pirates – baseball, the Steelers – football, and the Penguins – hockey. Since my hotel is right across the street from PNC Park, home of the Pirates, I decided to go to a game this week. The Pirates played the Colorado Rockies last night, and I was there. The Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 8-4, and I was there.

Amanda says I’m a “height-ist” and maybe I am, but I was amazed at how tall the Rockies were (the players, not the mountains). Almost every player for the Rockies was at least 6’1” or 6’2” (one was 6’4”, and he was kind of a hottie). The starting players for the Pirates were 5’11”, or maybe 6’. Yes, 5’11” is almost 6’, but remember, “height-ist.”

Again, I digress. The game was a lot of fun (especially since the Pirates won). I, of course, had a hot dog and a pretzel. I refrained from having beer (joke), although all the freakishly young looking people sitting around me had enough for everyone. Crap, now I talk like an old person. Digressing. I really liked the pierogi race between innings (pierogi: eastern European – a small dough envelope filled with mashed potato, meat, cheese or vegetables, crimped to seal the edge and then boiled or fried, typically served with sour cream or onions – VERY popular in Pittsburgh).

pierogi race

I’ve never been to a professional baseball game in my life, and now I’ve been to 2 in the same month. Take me out to the ballgame. One of these times I’ll have to buy some Cracker Jacks (as I don’t like peanuts).

Friday, July 25


sap1 [sap] –noun
Slang. a fool; dupe; Katie

Sunday, July 20

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

OK, as many of you know, I am a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly - all creations of Joss Whedon. What a creative mind. Anyway, as I was browsing through the iTunes music store, I came across Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, written by Joss Whedon. It's a musical (one of the most clever BtVS episodes was the musical) AND it stars Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Nathan Fillion (Firefly, BtVS) and Felicia Day (BtVS). It is HILARIOUS! I totally loved it.

It's in three parts, each one less than 15 minutes.

You can view it for free at http://www.drhorrible.com/. I'm not sure when the free preview ends, but I highly recommend watching it while you can.

Monday, July 14

What a difference an “S” makes

I flew to Houston, TX today, and like all good travelers, I printed out driving directions from the airport to my hotel. I was feeling quite proud of myself as I found the exit for N. Main Street off of the 601. However, pride quickly turned to apprehension as I drove down N. Main Street. It really didn’t look like the kind of neighborhood for a Marriott hotel and it REALLY didn’t look like a neighborhood I should be in. Then, after reaching the street number I was looking for and NOT seeing a Residence Inn, something had to be done. Pulling over to call for directions was out of the question, so I called Marriott’s 1-800 number as I drove around looking for an interstate. After speaking with a very nice Marriott representative, I discovered that the hotel was on 7710 S. Main Street, not 7710 N. Main Street (I’m not quite sure where I got the “N.” from – I went back and checked my email and it was correct). Anywho, I tried to use my awesome phone to get driving directions from my Current location to the corrected address – but it couldn’t calculate my current location. The horror. After driving for a few more minutes, I found a nicer looking area (more populated, at least) and pulled over – trying to give my phone a stationary location to pinpoint. Finally, success! I LOVE my phone.

I am now sitting safely in my 2-story hotel room (yes, my hotel room has a loft – why don’t I get hotel rooms like this when I’m staying for a week or more instead of only two days?).

What do they say? Pride cometh before the fall?

Sunday, July 13

Saturday, July 5th

Danielle wasn’t feeling well the night of July 4th, so the two of us spent the night at a nearby hotel while Amanda stayed at her parents (with her sister and her sister’s family and her brother and her brother’s family). Danielle told us her flight from Spokane was at 3 p.m., so we were planning on leaving Pasco at 11:30 (Pasco is 135 miles from Spokane).

So, at about 10:00 a.m., Danielle and I were on our way over to the Weikum’s (we had taken Amanda’s car) – Danielle decided to check her plane ticket (she checked in on-line and had printed her ticket the previous night). The next thing I hear from the passenger seat is “Oh, !” Danielle just realized that her flight was at 12:53, not 3:30 as she previously thought. Let me remind you that we were in Pasco – 135 miles from Spokane. Keeping a calm head (which I’ve been known to do occasionally), I calmly told her to call Amanda so she could start getting ready. In the meantime, we stopped to get Danielle breakfast, fill up the car with gas, etc.

Amanda took the quickest shower in history (at least her quickest shower), and we left Pasco at 10:45-ish. Have I mentioned that Spokane is 135 miles from Pasco? Amanda broke the speed of sound and got Danielle to the airport at 12:20-ish. Danielle made her flight and, even more amazingly, her luggage made the flight.

After dropping Danielle at the airport, Amanda and I met up with Jeff in Coeur d’Alene. Coeur d’Alene and Spokane are also VERY beautiful places. Jeff took us to the Wolf Lodge Steakhouse where he said we’d eat the world’s best steaks– and he was right. Yummy!!

My vacation came to an end on Sunday, July 6th. I hope you enjoyed the stories half as much as I enjoyed the vacation.

Friday, July 4th

We celebrated Independence Day with two AWESOME barbecues. As we drove from Seattle back to Amanda’s parents in Pasco, we stopped off in Snoqualmie to see my nephew Matt and his family. Amanda, Danielle and I enjoyed Matt and Heather’s kind hospitality, along with delicious food. It also gave me a chance to see my great-nephews (that’s still so weird for me to say – I’m too young to be a great-aunt, although I’m a GREAT aunt): Cannon, Luke, Henry and Matthew.

After spending all too little time with Matt and Heather (and after getting growled at by Luke for trying to hug him), we drove on to the Weikum’s, for another great barbecue.

That night we sat in front of the Weikum’s and watched the LONGEST fireworks show I’ve ever seen. Not that I’m complaining – most of the time people complain that they’re too short. It was hilarious – every time we thought we were watching the finale it kept going.

One more day...

Saturday, July 12

Thursday, July 3rd

On Thursday morning we drove to Forks, Washington. For those of you who don’t know, Forks is where the vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer take place. Amanda and I are big fans of the Twilight series, so we thought we’d stop by. My nephew, Matt, thought this was hilarious, but it’s all part of the fun. What’s really interesting is that Stephenie Meyer wrote at least the first book without ever having been to Forks. We found the Chamber of Commerce, and it was a treat. The small town (I mean SMALL town) of Forks is really taking advantage of their newfound publicity – and why shouldn’t they? The Chamber of Commerce has a tourist packet dedicated just to the Twilight books. It includes maps to the locations from the books, sand from First Beach (a location in the book), etc. Forks has declared September 13th (Bella Swan’s birthday – Bella is the main character in the books) to be Stephenie Meyer day. The local hospital has assigned a parking space to Dr. Cullen (also a character in the book). The local Subway has a Twilight Sandwich and a burger place serves a Bella burger. It was really cute. I felt like I did when I was in London for the opening of the 1st Harry Potter movie, and King’s Cross Station was all decked out with Hogwarts stuff. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any hot (cold, actually), sexy vampires.

Forks is also home of the SLOWEST gas station in the world.

We continued on to Seattle. What gorgeous scenery. As we hit the suburbs of Seattle, Danielle sighed – I think she was glad to make it back to “civilization.” We stayed at a “real” hotel – a Residence Inn, and it had a TV AND a phone. AND we had cell phone reception.

Thursday night we went to a Mariners game. I ate a ballpark brat, and almost bought some Cracker Jacks. This was my first professional ball game, and it was so much fun, but would have been better if not for two things:

  1. The Mariners (we like to pronounce Marine – ers – inside joke) are the worst team in the league. We left at the top of the 9th inning when the Mariners were down 8-2 (they were playing the Detroit Tigers).
  2. I had laryngitis (which has since turned into full-fledged bronchitis), so I couldn’t cheer, scream or anything.

Tune in tomorrow (or maybe later)…

Thursday, July 10

Wednesday, July 2nd

On Wednesday, July 2nd, we tearfully bid adieu to our campsite (well, maybe not tearfully). Amanda’s parent drove home with the kids while Amanda, Danielle and I worked our way up the Oregon/Washington coast. Have I mentioned that the scenery is majestic?

On our way up the coast, we drove through Tillamook – home of the Tillamook Cheeseheads, I mean Cheesemakers.

We visited the Tillamook Cheese factory and bought some cheese curds and ate some YUMMY ice cream. How come I can get Tillamook cheese in Utah but not Tillamook ice cream? The injustice of it all!

We also stopped in Astoria, OR (of The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop fame). For some reason, almost every building we drove by looked like the school in Kindergarten Cop (at least according to Amanda). Totally gorgeous (Astoria, not the school buildings). Then we crossed the bridge into Washington.

Even though we were in the car for a LONG time, we found ways to entertain ourselves – we’re hilarious. We especially had fun singing old 80’s music. Earlier in the trip we were talking about music and Danielle mentioned that she didn’t know or listen to any 80’s music. Oddly enough, though, as we listened to the 80’s station on Amanda’s satellite radio, Danielle was singing several songs, almost word for word. Hmmm… I don’t know any 80’s songs? Whatever.

As we drove through some small Washington towns, one question BEGGED to be asked: Where do they get the names for these towns? Cosmopolis (sounds like it should be a big ‘metropolis’ but, um, no) and Humptulips are just two examples.

We spent the night at Kalaloch Lodge near Forks, WA (more on Forks later). Two great stories came from this stay – well, I think they’re great, anyway, and since this is my blog, that’s all that matters.

Story 1: We were really hungry by the time we reached Kalaloch (pronounced Clay-lock), and were quite pleased to discover that the Lodge had a restaurant. When I checked in, I was told that they were full and that we should make reservations for dinner. No reservations were available until much later, and as I mentioned, we were hungry. So, I took a menu back to our room so we could order take out. The first thing I noticed about the room was that there wasn’t a TV (good thing Jeff didn’t come with us – he would have HATED not having a TV). That wasn’t TOO serious, we had books to read AND we were tired after spending 3-days in a tent. However, as we looked around for a phone to call in our take out order, we couldn’t find one. We couldn’t even find a phone jack. But then I found a card that said:

There seems to be a problem.
Drop this card at the front desk…blah, blah.
If this is urgent, please call ‘0’ and we will resolve your problem immediately.”
Call ‘0’ with what? Oh well, no worries, I’ll just call the lodge with my cell phone. But wait, we have no cell reception. Huh. So, I drive up to the lodge to put in our take-out order, but decided to stop by the front desk and ask about the phone situation.

Receptionist: “None of our units have phones.”
Me: “OK, why does this card tell me to dial “0” in an emergency?”
Receptionist: “We get those cards from a warehouse.”
Whatever that means. Luckily we didn’t run into an emergency.

Story 2: As I was waiting in line to order take out I overheard the following conversation between the guy in front of me and a restaurant employee.

Guy (looking to order the pasta dish): “What’s Pomodoro sauce?”
Employee: “Pomodoro’s just a fancy French word for Marinara sauce.”
Fancy French word? Pomodoro? For all the pasta dishes the French are so famous for? I was totally laughing. Although, according to wikianswers.com, most Italians do consider the two sauces the same.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 9

Camping – Day 3

Tuesday (July 1st): Danielle received a campfire “recipe” from our friend Carol-Lyn, in which you hollow out oranges, place biscuits inside the peel, and (we assumed) wrap them in tin foil to be placed in the campfire. A little like orange rolls. So, this morning we thought we’d give it a try. They weren’t quite what we expected, but they weren’t bad.

After breakfast, Amanda, Danielle and I again drove to the nearby campground to “borrow” their showers. However, this morning we did not go undetected. When we got back to Amanda’s care, there was a ticket for the $17/night camp fee. Ugh! But her dad found the silver lining – since we paid for a full night of camping, we could use the shower legally the next morning. This was not to be. When we went to shower Wednesday morning and told the ranger (a different ranger) the situation, he said that we had been charged for the previous night – ah, the humanity. But then he said the campground charges non-campers $2/shower. So, the ranger from Tuesday charged us a full night camping when the campground has a policy to charge $2/shower? Crazy.

We drove south on the coast today – again, majestic and stunning. We visited Cape Perpetua, the sea lion caves, and the Heceta Head lighthouse. See for yourself.

Same bat time, same bat channel…

Tuesday, July 8

Camping – Day 2

The first thing I did Monday morning (June 30th) was sing praises to my air mattress (inwardly, of course). I felt nary a rock, bump or crag during the night. After hanging out in my pjs, flip-flops and fleece for a while, Amanda and I drove to a nearby campground to “borrow” their showers (our campground didn’t have a shower). The showers actually had hot water… and bugs. As I was stepping into my shower stall, the woman who was in there before me mentioned that she had seen an earwig and hopefully had killed it. Yeah, I hoped so, too. Ugh!

After the shower adventure, we drove up to Depoe Bay for some fun in the… not sun. Amanda told us that the world’s best salt-water taffy is made in Depoe Bay, Ainslee's Salt Water Taffy, to be exact. As you can see from the pictures below, the kids thoroughly enjoyed watching the taffy being made. It was really cool, but the coolest thing about it was that the guy making the taffy was on his cell phone the whole time. We’re talking 15-20 minutes, at least. My neck would totally be killing me after keeping a phone to my ear for that long. We went back later in the day and I bought some taffy, flavors include: Cheesecake, Eggnog, Extreme Cinnamon, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Watermelon and Piña Colada, to name a few. Yummy!!

That afternoon we went on a Whale Watching tour. We all sat on the bow of the boat and were totally wet within the first 2 minutes. Amanda’s 3-year-old nephew, Zane, was sitting on my lap, and after getting splashed, wanted to go into the cabin. As soon as we sat down he looked at me and said: “I want to go back now.” Poor guy, he was holding on to my sweatshirt for dear life. I had my arm around him, but at one point wanted to give him some room, so I moved my arm away. Zane immediately grabbed my hand and moved my arm back into place. So cute – it was nice to feel needed. We did get him outside the cabin a couple of times after that, but Zane’s not a fan of the boat ride – at least in the cold. We didn’t see any whales (isn’t that the point of a Whale Watching tour?), but the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. Again, I was struck by how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful world.

During the time I spent in the cabin with Zane, I overheard the following conversation (paraphrased, of course) between an older lady – she was probably in her 60’s or 70’s – and the captain’s two sons.

Boy 1: “Which one of us do you think is older?”
Lady (to Boy 1): “You are.”
Boy 2: “Everybody thinks that. I’m actually 2 years older.”
Boy 1: “How old do you think we are?”
Lady (to Boy 2): “You’re 32, which means [to Boy 1] that you’re 30.”
Let me interject here for a second. Both of these boys looked like they were 10 – OK, 10 might be an exaggeration, but they both looked like teenagers to me, so when she said 32 I about peed my pants.
Boy 1: “I’m 19.”

I was laughing so hard – on the inside.

And of course, part of the fun of camping is hanging around the campfire, eating s’mores, etc. However, I have a problem with s’mores. I love the ooey, gooey marshmallows. I’m not a big fan of graham crackers, but they are a vehicle for chocolate and the aforementioned ooey, gooey marshmallows. I need to figure out a way to get the chocolate as ooey and gooey as the marshmallows. I tried putting the chocolate and graham crackers in tin foil and set that on the fire (Danielle had tried this earlier with a Pop Tart), but for some reason, it didn’t melt. PLUS, I’m a chocolate snob and, next time, will invest in a better chocolate than Hershey’s wax, I mean chocolate. Maybe less waxy chocolate will melt better? Ideas?

But wait, there’s more…

Sunday, July 6

Camping - Day 1

Got back from vacation today – we had such a good time. To make it easier for readers to digest, I will break the vacation up into parts.

On Sunday, June 29th, Amanda, Danielle and I drove from Pasco, WA to the Oregon Coast.

We still had our awesome Trivial Pursuit cards – we found that many of the questions centered on golf, boxing, and Watergate. There was less card playing this day, however, as the drive was absolutely stunning. The only word I could think of as we drove through Oregon was “majestic.” God has blessed us with such a beautiful, diverse world – beaches, mountains, deserts, it’s all so gorgeous.

We met up with Amanda’s parents, her niece and her nephew (Kyah and Zane) to set up camp. I think it’s important to mention that I haven’t been camping since 1993, and haven’t been camping for more than one consecutive night probably since 1988. I’m not sure why that’s important, but I thought I’d mention it. Amanda, Danielle and I shared a tent, while Amanda’s parents shared with Kyah and Zane. Putting up the tents was an adventure – although I must say that putting up these new-fangled, modern tents is a lot easier than X+ years ago when I went to girls’ camp. And we did kind of cheat – we all brought air mattresses to sleep on – no way can I sleep on the ground. ☺ I really enjoyed the camping – I’ll now have to do it more often.

Our campground was right next to the beach – but the Oregon Coast beach, so it was freezing.

Amanda’s sister and her family (three cute boys, Lucas, Micah and David) joined us for the day and night activities, but since they have a 6-month old baby, they spent the nights at a nearby motel.

That first night we got a visit from a raccoon – whose name is still under discussion (is it Rocky? Rhonda? Rhoda?). The raccoon ate the majority of the food we brought (we, as in Amanda’s parents) – he (or she) opened coolers, boxes, etc. and ate raw chicken (how can that be good for anyone), pizza dough, Rhode’s dough, ham, cheese, and most of the chocolate for s’mores. We think the racoon’s lair (nest? den?) was in a grouping of bushes right by our camp because we could see the ½ eaten loaf of bread inside.

Why is it that the more difficult it is to get to the restroom during the night, the more often one has to go? I slept the furthest from the tent opening, so all I had to do was stand up, keep my balance without upsetting the air mattresses, crawl over Amanda – without bumping into Danielle – quietly unzip the door, find my shoes, and walk to the ladies room. Of course I’d have to repeat the process on the return trip. The first night, I tried and tried to NOT have to leave the tent, but sadly, it was not to be.

To be continued...