Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In like a Lion, Out like a Lion

So much for March coming in like a lion and out like a lamb. For the 31st of March, it was another wet and blustery day in the northern Puget Sound area. Our lights at work even blinked a few times due to wind gusts.

Puh-leeze, Mother Nature, send Spring our way!

I did get to watch the hummingbirds dance around the feeder late this afternoon. However, they are just too fast for me to capture in a picture. Only when one stopped to rest in the tree could I snap a few photos.

I love to watch the hummers chase each other around the yard. They'll rise swiftly skyward and then zoom straight down towards the earth, all the while doing their little chirping noises. They'll pause in mid-air, their wings beating a mile a minute, before they swoop off for another go-round with each other.

No wonder they need all of that food energy from the feeder. There aren't many blossoms yet for them to gather nectar, but it won't be long now.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

More Signs of Spring

I made another trip to Burien earlier today that also gave me the opportunity for some photography.

I went to Eagle Landing Park that is right on Puget Sound. After a short hike in from the road, I reached the top of the steps. Not just a few steps, but 257 of them.

What goes down, must come up!

View of Puget Sound near the top of the stairs

I started down a couple of flights and then happened to see a pair of bald eagles in a tree off to the side and behind me.

I tried to get a better angle on them but no such luck. So you'll have to settle for this.

Look closely and you'll see two eagles

I decided to skip the trip down the rest of the steps to the Sound and instead headed for a park near SeaTac airport, but not before seeing more signs of Spring.

Currant blooms

What is it? I'm not sure so post a comment if you know.

I felt like I hit paydirt at Moshier Memorial Park. The first jet I saw soon after parking the car was an Eva Air 747 cargo plane taking off.

Eva Air Cargo
Boeing 747

Then several smaller ones including these two.

Southwest Airlines
Boeing 737

Air Canada Jazz
Bombardier Dash 8-300

Then yet another jumbo cargo jet. All in a short amount of time.

Asiana Cargo
Boeing 747

It was great fun seeing these colorful aircraft. Sorry Alaska Air - I skipped taking pictures of your plain white planes.

Then it was time to head home.

This evening we had 5 hummingbirds on our new feeder. This is the most we have seen. I wish I could have gotten pictures, but maybe another day.

And to my sis - I'm proud of you! Three more days!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sure Signs of Spring

Springtime has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Here are a few things that signal Spring has arrived.

The hummingbirds are back

My daffodils are in bloom

My lilac bush is starting to bud

I just love Spring. How about you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Skywatch Friday #37 - Seattle, WA

I had to make a trip yesterday to Burien which is south of Seattle. As I was driving home, the sun was slowly creeping towards the horizon.

The buildings in the downtown area were lit up like crazy. By the time I made the decision to exit the freeway and find a place to park and take pictures, the light had changed. I still was able to get some decent pictures any way before the sun ducked behind a large cloud bank.

Flying Away

Seattle Skyline

Twin Stadiums (Safeco Field-Home of the Seattle Mariners and Qwest Field- Home of the Seattle Seahawks)

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Taste of Washington

I'm contributing a basket to the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Truck Camper Rally being held in Sanford, VA next month. I used to live about an hour away from where the rally is being held and wish I could attend. I figured this was the next best thing to being there.

The theme of my basket is "A Taste of Washington".

Becoming a Happy Camper

I've got a bottle of Washington Merlot from Columbia Crest vineyards in Patterson, smoked salmon from Seattle, Whidbey Island coffee out of Clinton, Seattle Chocolates (dark and Rainier Cherry chocolate bars) and the closest thing I could find to Applets & Cotlets -- Fruit Delights from Liberty Orchards in Cashmere.

I hope the winner enjoys it as much as I did putting it all together.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Life in the Cube Farm

After spending almost 10 years in a hardwall office with a door, as of today I now reside in the cube farm.

Wow! This will be an adjustment for me but I can deal with it. I still have a paycheck coming in...for the time being.

I have my iPod ready in case I need to shut out the noises around me. Before I could shut the door. No more cranking up the radio either.

What really will be an irritant is the new door bell that was installed. We used to have a receptionist, but that position ends this week. Now if someone comes into the lobby, there is a doorbell that can be rung. OMG! It is soooooo obnoxious and loud, and about 25 feet from my cubicle. I about came unglued when someone pushed it today. I will be talking to our site manager and see if the volume can be toned down. I am sure I am not the only unhappy person with this change.

There are a few others in our new engineering group making this same transition. We've changed floors so the old Engineering floor can be shut down as part of the overall closing of our location.

This Friday will be another hard day for many of us that are staying on. It will be the final day for the balance of the crew that are not continuing with the parent company. I know of at least 12-18 people who finish up this week. Talk about sadness. Good thing I stocked up on the Kleenex. I have a feeling they will be needed.

I'm still experiencing some survivor's guilt over all of this. Why me when there are so many other talented people who will no longer be employed after Friday. I'm hoping after this last exodus, it will ease up a bit.

But hey! It didn't rain earlier today. So all it not lost. :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ain't it Nifty? Timmy's Fifty!

Yesterday we celebrated the 50th birthday of one of our closest friends, Tim. His birthday was earlier in the week but Saturday was the party.

Many of Tim's friends showed up for the party. Tim's mom from Minnesota and his older brother from California also flew in to be there.

There was plenty of food including Hot Cheesy Chicken sandwiches - an authentic Minnesota hot dish. Oh yum, yum.

Karl got the fire going early in the evening. As long as there isn't a burn ban, this group always enjoys having a fire going whatever the occasion.

The Fire Master

Later on, a few tricksters decided to play a joke on Tim. It involved a couple of pickets from the deck rail that Tim has spent a lot of time building and staining and some old scrap wood that looked similar in shape to the pickets.

The pickets were unscrewed from the railing when Tim wasn't looking and hidden from sight. Then the scrap wood was tossed into the fire.

Picket, Picket, Who's Got the Pickets?

A New Kind of Firewood?

"Hey Tim, we were running out of wood so we used a couple of your deck pickets!" The look on Tim's face was a keeper. He was not thrilled at all. About 20 minutes passed before Tim was let in on the joke.

Luckily, the pickets are easy to reinstall, just not in the dark. Hopefully today all was made right with the deck rail.

It was good spending the evening with Tim and his family who treat us like part of theirs, as well as hanging with friends that we haven't seen in a while.

Happy Birthday, Tim! Hope you had a great time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

It has rained off and on all week. From light, drizzling rain to downpours. Toss in some wind and now I know Spring has arrived. In like a lamb and out like a lion. Yup.

Today was no exception.

These pics could almost be Skywatch Friday Round 2 this week. Just when the sun came out and I saw blue sky, I looked westward and saw this coming in swiftly with the winds.

Storm Clouds Approaching

As I got closer into to Stanwood, you could see clear skies again. I think it must have been the rain shadow from the Olympics.

Is that a clear sky I see?

The weather forecast for tomorrow? I do believe we might be able to escape the rain for a day. Yippee!

[To my sister, if you are reading this, I'm thinking about you. Love you, brat girl! I'll talk to you in a few days.]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Skywatch Friday #36 - Loomis, WA

This was taken two years ago during vacation that included an overnight stop at Spectacle Lake near Loomis, WA.

Setting Moon after Sunrise
August 2007

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Poland - Adventures in Getting Home

The day arrived when we were due to fly home. Hooray! After two weeks in Poland, I think we were all ready to go home and get away from each other. We practically were together the entire time as a group from 7 a.m. each day until 9 p.m. No wonder we got on each others' nerves.

View of the Warsaw Airport from my hotel room

The plan was to meet for breakfast at 7 a.m. and then head to the airport across the street for a 10:10 a.m. departure to Copenhagen. Only things didn't go according to plan.

We did meet for breakfast only to learn that SAS canceled our trip home. The boss found this out the night before and had been working with our travel agency to rebook flights home.

The latest update was that we tentatively were on a LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Chicago leaving at noon and then on a United flight to Seattle. But we would need to leave for the airport immediately after breakfast to pick up the new tickets.

So off we trundle to the airport at 7:30 a.m. and locate the SAS ticketing counter. After dealing with the agent, tickets in hand, we now had to wait until 9:00 a.m. to check our luggage at the LOT counter. Plus there would be another 2-1/2 hours until boarding after that.

Let me tell you, there is not much to do in the airport in Warsaw, especially while waiting to check luggage. The boss spent much of the time back in line at the SAS counter ensuring we had first class seats from Chicago to Seattle. The rest of us sat around and talked shop in the mean time.

The inside of the new Terminal 2 in Warsaw

Upon the clock reaching the 9 o'clock hour, we approached the LOT counter to check our bags. Nope, not yet. First we have to get our documents (passport) checked and stamped. Not through Customs mind you, but something with LOT airlines. Luckily there isn't a line and we quickly did the passport thing and returned to the baggage counter.

Now our tickets are handwritten and all five of us are on one piece of paper which we entrusted to the boss. One by one we handed over our passports again to the agent at the baggage counter as our luggage was weighed and tagged. Surprisingly enough, I had one of the lightest suitcases out of our crew. Me, the sole woman! Guess those guys don't know how to pack light for two weeks on the road. :-)

Next up was clearing Security. Again, a very short line due to priority boarding passes and it didn't take us all long to get through.

We all paid a visit to the duty free shop. I was looking for a specific brand of Belgian chocolates per a recommendation from another employee who spent three years in our Brussels office. No such luck so I picked up some Swiss chocolate instead. I also got a bag of peanut M&M's for on the airplane just in case LOT was lacking in on-board amenities that we had on the SAS flight over to Denmark. I also picked up a small souvenir for Karl.

I would have bought a bottle of the Wyborowa vodka but I didn't want to deal with Customs in Chicago and trying to bring it on board the plane.

Shopping complete, off we went to find the restaurant to use the vouchers SAS had given us for food. Hey, we had a couple of hours yet to kill before boarding.

Looking Back at the Hotel

When it gets close to our boarding time, we head for the gate. But wait, we have to go through Customs first. Get out those passports!

We find a place to sit near our gate and I am amazed by how many people are waiting for this flight. Looks like it will be a full one. Our flight over from Seattle was not crowded at all. No wonder SAS dropped the route.

We wait and wait, and then wait some more. Boarding time comes and goes. If they are making announcements, it is in Polish and we don't understand them. Finally we hear an announcement in English saying the flight is delayed and another announcement will be made in ten minutes.

When the ten minutes are up, sure enough, another announcement. Only now it is the boarding call. Wow! The waiting crowd just floods the gate area. No priority boarding. Just a mass of people funneling into a single line at the gate. I lead our group to what should be the business class line and we push through to board the aircraft.

We are just over an hour late pushing back from the gate. This gives us some cause for concern because originally we had just over two hours once reaching Chicago to make our connection. Our boss lets us know if we miss our connecting flight, there are two other flights leaving Chicago at later times for Seattle.

I wish I would have taken a picture of the interior of the plane. Blue and orange seats. Ewww. Not very pleasing to the eye at all unless you are a Denver Bronco fan. You can also tell this is an older Boeing 767 plane and it wasn't as nice as the SAS one. No individual in-seat entertainment systems but instead a personal hand-held unit. But in all fairness to LOT, the seats were comfortable, food was halfway decent and the flight attendants were nice. We certainly didn't starve on the flight.

It was neat flying during the daylight hours over the frozen waters near Canada. You could see the cracks in the ice and it just looked bitter cold.

View from the air coming into Canada

After a ten hour flight, we land at O'Hare. Thankfully there is good weather in Chicago.

The plan now is to get through Customs, retrieve our luggage, re-check it through and get to the new gate in another terminal. Nobody told me to wear running shoes!

Our gate in the International terminal has to be as far away from Customs as possible. We did a brisk walk to Customs and my shins started cramping up midway there. Suck it up and keep going, Sally.

Our group is directed to a lane to wait to clear Customs. There is a gentleman ahead of us that is having issues getting through. Tick, tick, tick goes the clock.

Finally we can start processing through. One, two, three people are done. Just as the fourth team member starts to approach the counter, we are put on hold. A serviceman is coming through and he has priority. I have no issue with this, but the guy didn't have his documents ready. Tick, tick, tick...

Okay, we are all through with our passports stamped for re-entry into the United States. Now it is off to the baggage carousel to retrieve our bags. Of course, it is the farthest one away!

I quickly locate mine and start searching for the rest of the team. I find two of them and am told that once I am through making my declarations at the next Customs checkpoint to wait for another team member to arrive who in turn will wait for the last guy to arrive. We don't want to leave anyone behind.

Mike arrives and now it is my turn to head for the United counter to re-check my bag. Wouldn't you know, it is not close to where I am standing. Suck it up, Sally. Those shins will hang in there.

I deposit my bag and start looking behind me for Mike and Steve to show up. We need them so we can show our passports to the United agent and receive our boarding passes for the Seattle flight. Tick, tick, tick...no Mike or Steve yet.

Just as I start heading back towards the last checkpoint, here comes Mike. Steve should be right behind him, he says. Steve's bags were pulled for a secondary screening and caused him to be delayed.

Finally, we are together to show our passports to the United agent and new boarding passes in hand, we race to find the tram to get to the other terminal.

This does mean we will have to clear Security again. Tick, tick, tick. We get in line and the TSA agent takes her good old time checking our passports and boarding passes. Then it's on to the next line to do the screening and what not.

We find a fairly short line but suddenly we notice that the bins are not going through the x-ray machine. What the heck? After a few minutes, one of the TSA employees tells us we will need to move to another line. The machine has stopped functioning.

Now it is less than thirty minutes until departure time. Not boarding time, departure. Yikes! And we still are not through Security. Tick, tick, tick. A few other travelers are ready to let us go ahead of them in line when a new line opens and we jump right in. Shoes, belts and jackets off, laptops out, briefcases or backpacks on the conveyor belt. Let's all get through this.

Thankfully nobody gets selected for additional screening and we scoop up our belongings and reassemble our bags. Then it is yet another rush to the gate which is waaaaay down at the other end of the terminal. Suck it up, Sally. Another few minutes of this and your shins can rest.

By now, I am also struggling to breathe because of the bronchitus as a result of the cold that I left home with. I practically fall into my seat, my hands are shaking, and I can't find my inhaler. I'm not getting back up to see if it is my bag in the overhead bin. I'm toast. We've been traveling for about seventeen hours now. I make a quick call on my cell to Karl to let him know I've made the Seattle flight and the plane is getting ready to leave the gate.

My poor seat mate is also sick so we are quite the pair, either sneezing or coughing or wheezing.

Sunset Leaving Chicago

I had every intention of staying awake on this flight so that I would be able to sleep once reaching home. However, shortly after dinner was served and the tray removed, I was out like a light. I probably slept for two hours as we jetted westward.

We landed in Seattle somewhere around 8:30 p.m. Now it was time to pick up our luggage and drive home. Just as I reached the baggage carousel, I heard our names being paged. I went to the counter and was informed that my bag did not make the flight and was due to come in on one of those later flights. We were told in Chicago that our bags might not make the flight. No big deal. United would deliver it to my house the next day and anything that was important I already had with me.

I filled out the necessary paperwork and in short order, I was on my way home where upon I promptly fell into bed exhausted.

BTW - my luggage arrived on my porch around 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. The delivery guy called my cell number, but I never heard it ring.

So when can I go again? :-)

I truly enjoyed my trip to Poland and hope to return in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Poland - The Kulig

Although our group worked out butts off during our visit to Poland, there was still time for some fun.

Twice we went on a kulig which is a horse-drawn sleigh ride. This is a popular Polish winter tradition anytime between Christmas and Ash Wednesday.

The first kulig was at night which is when you typically would do this. After being told to dress warmly, we arrived at the starting point near Wigierski Park Narodowy, or Wigry National Park. Our host for the evening was the company we had spent the past two days working with.

They handed out warm hats and gloves in case someone forgot to bring theirs. Then we loaded up the two sleighs and set off through the forest. We joked that whoever was sitting in the front seats were riding "economy class" because of looking at the horses' rear ends.

Getting Ready to Kulig

The "Big" Train Engine

We finished up our evening by having a sit-down dinner inside a rustic building. I had a great time!

Our next kulig was on a Sunday afternoon. This time we went to Plaska which is in the Puszcza Augustowska, or the Augustow Primeval Forest. Another company hosted this event for us.

Again, we loaded up our sleighs and off we went through the snow-covered forest.

Sleigh Ride Through the Forest

We stopped somewhere out in the forest to do the required "Nastrovia!" and then got back in the sleighs.

Two Horsepowered Sleigh Team

To start the journey back to the lodge, the dog that accompanied us ran and barked alongside the sleighs. "Come on, let's go," he barked! I was in the lead sleigh on the way back. I think the four-legged guy behind us was anxious to get to the barn because at one point I could reach behind me and practically touch him.

Heading Back to the Lodge

Then it was time to gather around the bonfire and cook our kielbasas and eat more bigos.

Kielbasas & Bigos

The lodge is located along another part of the Augustow Canal. They kept a small section cleared so that you could use the sauna, then run down and jump into the canal, and then go back to the sauna. We were offered the privilege of performing this ritual, but it required being in the buff in the sauna. Between that and the thought of going in the freezing cold water, I decided to pass.

On the Count of 3...Jump In!

Our evening ended by going inside the lodge for more authentic Polish food, drinks and dancing. There wasn't any escaping the dancing part but I refuse to post pictures of it. :-)

The kuligs were lots of fun and nothing that I've experienced stateside. If you ever get a chance to do this, GO FOR IT!

Next up, the return trip home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Poland - Roadside Sightings

I saw many interesting things along the roads during my travels in Poland.

First up - tiny windows. I'm still puzzled by these windows in the gable ends of the houses. They appear to be located in areas under the eaves which typically would be closed off.

Are they for additional light? I don't know. I do know they are not for ventilation. Many of them looked like they were fixed panes of glass.

Tiny windows in the gable walls

Maybe it is just a regional thing in northeastern Poland since I only saw them around Augustow and Olecko. I haven't been able to find any information about it on the web. If you know more about these windows, please email me. You can find my email address on the right.

Another interesting thing I saw were the stork nests. These things are HUGE! Apparently this area of Poland is home to a large population of storks, but not in the winter.

They were typically perched on top of a power pole. Many poles had a wire basket frame in which the nest was built.

Vacant stork nests

Speaking of power poles, they are not your typical American power pole. Most were made from concrete rather than wood and several were in a tripod configuration.

Concrete utility poles

One thing I noticed right off the bat is the amount of what I assume to be mistletoe in the trees. It is especially noticeable this time of year since the trees are bare.

Everywhere you looked you could find a tree with this fungus growing in it. One of the boat yard owners offered to send some home with me since I was so intrigued by it. I politely declined.


Yet another frequent roadside sighting are the shrines. These shrines are to publicly thank a saint or God for a benefit or blessing received. They are often located at the edge of a village. According to Polish folklore, another popular location for a shrine is at a crossroads where many people pass by and because crossroads were believed to be the haunts for evil spirits, who may be held in check by the influence of a sacred figure.

Smaller newer shrines may also mark the spot of a fatal accident.

Regardless of the reason, they are plentiful throughout Poland.

Roadside Shrines

Yet another interesting sighting was on the road between Augustow and Olecko near the village of Wilkasy. In the middle of the dense forest just along the side of the road was another cemetery. It was very different than the one I posted about yesterday.

This particular cemetery has 43 German and 42 Russian soldiers buried in it according to the plaque by the gate. It dates from World War I.

Soldiers' Cemetery

And finally, on our last trip back from Olecko, I happened to be sitting in the front passenger's seat in the van. (Hey, we didn't have a Polish driver at the time and I felt safe!)

Looking down the road, I saw a very strange sight. Upon reaching it, yep, I was right. A car perched on the guardrail. Nobody was around, but it sure looked like it was quite the step from the driver's door to the ground. We thought the driver came around the corner from the opposite direction we were traveling and lost control on the icy road. He slid up onto the guard rail and destroyed the front axle of the car. I suspect the vehicle is totaled due to the amount of damage on the other side.


To be continued...