Friday, April 30, 2010

Who Wants to Transcribe an Interview?!

We finally got some form of April showers! Fire danger in the area is currently considered “extreme.” We just need another week of showers (no wind) and maybe there will be moss in the forest that actually squelches when you step on it instead of making an ominous “snap, crackle, pop” noise.

I went into the studio yesterday to record a commentary and to get some work done on the radio documentary I’m producing. After about six hours of work (I had expected to work for about four hours) I had one 45 minute interview about ¾ transcribed and I had conducted and recorded another hour-long interview for the project. I should mention that I have another hour-long interview that needs to be transcribed and on Tuesday, I will conduct another lengthy interview. I’m accumulating long interviews for the project at a frightful pace, so frightful that I’m not sure how I’m going to transcribe them all (someone told me Wednesday that transcription takes abut 5x the length of the actual interview, and I believe them!) and produce the first documentary for June broadcast.

I might just become the schmuck who makes the summer intern do the majority of my transcribing. As a former intern of the organization, I would have jumped at the chance to take on this tedious and time consuming task. Okay, so that’s a lie.

But . . . I also know, that as an intern, people often overestimated the amount of time it takes for assigned tasks to be completed and that a large portion of time is always spent nervously twiddling thumbs in your work space while you pray that someone will remember you and give you something to do. It was always nice to have to have “something to do” to fill the times when you ran out of actual interesting tasks.

At least, that’s how I’m justifying it.

When you spend as much time as I did yesterday in a teeny production studio which really just a glorified way of saying “ill-ventilated closet,” you start to get a little twitchy. Yesterday, as I typed away, stopping and starting recording over and over again, I kept feeling something: a twitch, a tickling on my upper thigh. The sensation came from near my pocket where I kept my keys and chapstick. Probably just those objects shifting around, I told myself.

But, although it had been several months since I’d had a feeling like this, I had my suspicions about what it really was. Finally, I pinched a bit of my jeans fabric together. I felt something small and hard trapped between my thumb and forefinger. I reached into my pants and pulled out a wood tick.

Turns out transcribing does give you ticks!

And yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s tick season. Those hateful, awful little insects are out there lurking in the tall, dead grass, waiting for you to pass through so they can jump on your pant leg and subsequently, suck your blood. I apologize for the gross imagery, but I have long harbored a deep dislike of ticks, so much so that I once wrote a little ditty called “Ode to a Tick.” It went something like: Ode to a tick. You are an ‘ick.’ Probably not my best effort, but I never claimed to be a poet.

Years ago, this region of the world was free ticks, but it seems the warmer, dryer summer we’ve been having seem to have brought them in droves. They’re one of the most disgusting harbingers of spring, but there’s also not a whole lot you can do about them.

Now that I've grossed you all out, here’s this month’s travel, in album form.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Will Buy You A Garden

“I made you something,” Andy said when I got back to the Shack on Sunday. Cranky from my five-hour drive back from the Twin Cities and feeling (somewhat melodramatically) as though I’d arrived up at the very end of the world, I raised my eyebrow.

“Yeah? What?” I asked.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe, a necklace made out of bubble gum wrappers?

It turned out to be a lot better than a bubble gum wrapper necklace.

While I gallivanted in New York City, Andy constructed a raised garden bed at the cabin where we’ll be spending the summer. My mother gave me some flower seeds for my birthday in March and at the time, I didn’t know quite what to do with the seeds. While I’ve been dreaming of a garden all winter, the Shack is located in a shady valley that doesn’t appear particularly agriculturally viable. But my new summer job has lead to shift in residencies for the summer where the raised bed Andy built as well as the pre-existing terraced beds with warrant plenty of digging in the dirt this summer.

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

Now that the means exist to have a bit of a garden, we’re faced with the dilemma of deciding what to plant. Although it’ll still be awhile before any seedlings can be put out in the garden, we’re a little behind on starting seedlings. I really don’t want to bite off more than we can chew when it comes to garden maintenance, so I want to be as smart about this project as possible. One of my concerns is that the garden is as sustainable as possible.

Gardening seems the ultimate sustainable act, but gardening can generate a ton of largely unusable plastic waste. Just think of all the dinky little plastic 4/6-pack containers you accumulate on a trip to the greenhouse. Molly over at the Snyder 5 has a great idea on how to use egg cartons to start seedlings: Composting for Newbies. That’s so smart! I need to pick up some potting soil from my parents’ house tomorrow and then I plan to start a batch of flowers in an egg carton tomorrow evening.

We plopped a few tulip bulbs – excess favors from coworkers’ wedding last September – in the perennial garden last fall. Like most things you “plop” in the ground, I promptly forgot about them. So it’s fun to see all three tulips poking up now.

I have a cold, probably just travel fatigue catching up with me. We’re also in the process of moving out of the Shack for the summer. Our bedroom currently looks like a suitcase vomited in it and my desk space is a teetering cityscape of notebook towers and paperclip ponds. I should spend the evening organizing, but I’m more keen to plant my sweet pea seeds in the far corner of the raised bed.

I’ve gotten back to work. I have some calls out for an article that needs to be done by the end of the week and as long as I actually get some calls back, I think it has potential to be a really good article. I’m also in the process of setting up some interviews for my radio project and my current priority needs to be hammering out a draft of a commentary.

Speaking of commentaries, here’s my recent effort.

A college colleague got in touch with me yesterday regarding a freelance opportunity for the website he edits. My interest is piqued, but I need more details before I make a commitment to any more work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Stirring in My Soul

I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdictless life: Am I living it right?
-- John Mayer

 

Fifteen years ago, my family took our first major family trip. We hopped on the train in Chicago, riding overnight and most of the next day out to Newark to spend a week with a great uncle. We explored the Delaware Gap and one day, we spent in New York City. That day, I viewed the city with wide ten-year-old eyes and promptly decided the city life was the life for me. As an English major, I assumed I’d eventually make my way to the East Coast. But when it came time to chose a college, I went with the only in-state option I’d considered (a wise decision when it came to student debt) and a trip to London shifted my focus to the far side of the Atlantic.

Any good trip forces you to ask questions of yourself and the life you lead and so it has been with this month of travel that came to a close yesterday. Although the “day after Christmas” feelings of yesterday have passed, there remains the quiet suspicion that my ten-year-old soul was of a braver, truer sort than this current soul of mine.
New York was just as fabulous as I remembered it. While I’m old enough to realize that everything that appears “fabulous” comes with its own unique upside and downside, we had such a wonderful week in the Big Apple that it’s hard not to wish for just “one more day.” My credit card bill, stuffed up sinuses and a heap of correspondence and deadlines dictate that it’s time to come home. But before I make a full return to this life of woods and words, here’s a recap in snapshots of the past week.
After being an MTV devotee in my teenage years, I finally made it to Times Square.


 We went to the beautiful New York Public Library with Carrie Bradshaw on our minds and found the original Winnie the Pooh and Friends.

In the end, we didn't cross paths with Carrie, but Burger and his wife (Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt) did stroll past us on Bleecker Street in the West Village while we were waiting for the Sex and the City tour to resume on Wednesday.
What could be better than a hot dog from Nathan's in Coney Island?

Maybe having a Brooklyn native tell you to "fuggedaboutit" or a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery. . .
Swung by Tiffany's to take a peep at my favorite engagement ring.



It's soooo pretty. . . . So out of an appropriate price range. . . .



















One of my most vivid memories from my last visit to New York City is seeing the WTC towers from the Empire State Building observation deck. We stopped to see the progress being made on the new tower and the memorial at the World Trade Center. Almost nine years later and no one's still sure what to say.

I've always had a soft spot for Lady Liberty. It was good to see her again.

After going strong as tourists for a week, on Saturday we took a moment to take in some of the quieter wonders of Manhattan before our flights back to Minneapolis.  

 We saw the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and spent a bit of time in the Met's Cloisters.


















Lovely, lovely, lovely.

While memories of NYC swirl about in my heart, now it's time to turn my mind to laundry, to-do lists, and packing up the Shack. I'm overwhelmed by all I'm meant to be getting done at this very moment. The only way to overcome that feeling is to actually start getting some things done.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Sea to Shining Sea

We've been keeping ourselves busy. Yesterday we took the subway (metro? I'm not sure what they call it in these parts, especially for the bits of track that are above ground) all the way out to Coney Island in the south of Brooklyn where we ate hot dogs and went to the New York Aquarium (The Seattle Aquarium is better, with considerable less school children.) The trip to beach in Brooklyn made it official: I've been from sea to shining sea this month.

We came back into Manhattan to get Broadway tickets, then stopped by Grand Central Terminal and the lobby of the Chrysler building, then grabbed a bite to eat and squeezed in some souvenir shopping before the evening's show.  I've developed an unnatural affinity for Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and as such, am beginning to look like one. 

We saw In the Heights on Broadway -- it was fine, not my favorite musical. I found some knowledge of the Spanish language necessary to full appreciate it. Unfortunately, I opted to take French in high school and college. In hindsight, that really wasn't my best choice, especially since my handle of French is so poor, I can barely understand a word of the French dialogue that swirls around me whenever we're at the hostel. 

The hostel is fine. Now that all the Europeans stranded by the volcano have gotten to go home, we have a fresh influx of French to take their place.

Today is the Sex and the City tour, then the Met, Central Park, and maybe some shopping. I have a dinner date with a hometown friend tonight as well.

The weather has been gorgeous. I think we're all a little sunburnt. It's been a great adventure so far. I fear the travel bug may be biting me again, hard.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happily Ever After in NYC

Just quick check-ins on the blog this week. We've successfully made it to NYC: today the shameless tourism begins. More later. . . .

Evening Update
It's certainly been a whirlwind. We really only have five full days in the City and we're planning to take advantage of every secnd of it. Luckily we're in the city that never sleeps and we obtained New York Passes today which give us access to a ton of touristy attractions. Today's tally for sights seen:

Empire State Building
NY Public Library
NBC Studio Tour
The Top of the Rock(efeller)
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Times Square
Madame Tussaud's
Magnolia Bakery -- the cupcakes are good and we didn't have to loop ourselves around the block to get our paws on them. 

The New York Pass (although pricey upfront) covers the cost for a lot of expensive tourist traps that I wouldn't otherwise even think about going into, so it's nice to have an excuse to go to some place like Madame Tussaud's which otherwise is truly not experience worth its cost.

I'm somewhat shocked by how much New York feels like London at time. It looks markedly different, but the rush of people and plethora of things to do and see is more than vaguely familiar. At times I find myself surprised that I'm surrounded by people who, when they do speak English, speak with my accent. Okay, it's a little different than my Midwestern inflections. . . .   

Pictures to come.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Once Upon A Time in London

Once upon a time in London, many, many (okay, two) years ago, three girls set off to work in London, England for half a year. One was from northern Minnesota; two were from western Canada. It turned out that they had more than a natural inclination for cold climates in common:
they all enjoyed a good cup of coffee,
Jane Austen, 
and, of course, new adventures. 

Most importantly, they all lived in house known as “Mrs. Bailey’s.”

Each morning, they set off to go their separate ways for the day. The Minnesotan and one Canadian worked in administrative assistant positions in the City. Naturally, they took the Tube together to work. The other Canuck worked as a barista.

When the three had free time, they did a lot of things together.

They made Princess Cakes. 

They pretended to be Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.
They went to tea at the Ritz. 
 Then April came, and the Minnesotan’s visa ran out. Before she headed home, the three made a vow. “NYC 2010!” they said. And so a reunion was planned.



Many travel plans never make it out of the gestation period. But tomorrow, the three will reunite at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. Images of Sex and the City may dance through our heads, and as much as we look forward to being nerdy tourists in city that’s basically brand new to all of us, the most exciting thing about this upcoming New York trip is that we’ll be together again.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Home Check In

Some things change when you return home from the Pacific Northwest. For one thing, all the trees seem so small here in the great Northwoods. And they’re really close together.

Some things really change while you’re gone. When we left, ice still covered the majority of the lake. The ice went out completely the day after we left and today was the first time since December that we’ve seen the ripple of open water on the lake. Typically the ice goes out in early May. This irregular spring weather is discomfiting to the point of being scary since its turning the woods into a veritable tinderbox. Fire danger is currently “very high.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom on the home front. The bird feeders that I filled before leaving are empty and this afternoon I brought them in to retire them for the summer. The plant caretaker who stopped by the Shack a couple times to water the plants is worth her weight. Both the African Violet and the Christmas Cactus are showing off lovely blooms and the spider plant is getting ready to throw its first plant since I took in the little guy.
Of course, the house plants aren’t the only things that did some growing in the Shack while we were gone . . . .
Ick! I predict some bleach action in the future.

I had some good writing news waiting for me in my inbox this afternoon. A short story I wrote in December was accepted by my alma mater’s annual literary and artistic journal and actually won this year’s “best prose” award. On the flip side, the couple poems I also submitted were not accepted which reinforces my belief that my writing energy should not be wasted on poetry. I respect a good poet and I fear that good poets are far more talented wordsmiths than I will ever be. However, as someone who seeks to make her living with her writing, I do not have the time to develop my poetry to the extent that it needs development, nor has poetry ever proven especially lucrative.

Speaking of freelancing, I also had an article assignment waiting in my inbox. Am only mildly freaking out about the amount of work I’m supposed to complete upon my true return home at the end of the month.

Right now, writing is not the priority. Laundry and figuring out what to pack for New York City trip are at the forefront of my mind tonight. But first, after nearly two weeks straight of travel, I think a good night sleep in my own bed is in order.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Turning Towards Home

Today we pulled out of Portland, made a pit stop at a foggy Mt. St. Helens, before dropping our luggage at the night’s hotel and heading into downtown Seattle to return the rental car. After one last tour through Pike’s Place Market and impromptu stop at the Elliot Bay Bookstore Café, we took a somewhat shady bus ride back to the hotel and here we sit. Tomorrow we return to the Midwest: for me, it’s just a rest stop before next week’s NYC trip; for Andy, it’s the return to home and everyday life.

Saturday’s rest day proved highly effective: it’s been a busy couple days. On Sunday we had a chance to catch up with a friend. After brunch in a restored Victorian house, we headed out to the Multnomah Falls. Located about a half hour outside of in the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls attracts pretty much every Oregonian and their grandma on a sunny Sunday. On the ride out to the falls, we caught a great glimpse of Mt. Hood in the distance. Unfortunately, the pictures Andy snapped of the mountain turned out about as well as my pictures of Mt. Rainer from my Sept. 2008 trip to Seattle.

I swear, there are mountains in those pictures . . . somewhere.

While it certainly wasn’t meant as such, this trip’s turned into something of a Twilight trip. Multnomah Falls which plunges 542 ft and then another 69 ft makes a cameo appearance in the Twilight film during the baseball game.
It’s a steep mile-long hike with 11 switchbacks to get to the top of the cliff where the fall makes its dramatic drop. Wood sorrel and trillium dots the cliff's side.


Headed back to the guesthouse for a round of National Parks Monopoly and a cookout in the backyard.


We weren't quite done with the Columbia River Gorge. Yesterday we did a circle tour of sorts, out of Portland, down around Mt. Hood and back up into Portland via the Columbia River Gorge. Although it was apparently snowing on top of Mt. Hood - we didn't get spectacular views, we had some nice hikes in the Multnomah Falls: one at the Horsetail Falls where you actually get to hike underneath the rock the waterfall plunges off of and another short poke through a gorge.


Had a lovely dinner at Jake's Famous Crawfish in downtown Portland last night. Today we took a slight detour to see some Mt. St. Helens stop. It was far too foggy to see any of the blast zone (a real pea-souper, so to speak) but we had a nice stop at the interpretative center near Silver Lake. We will have to go back sometime when the view is better.

We've seen a ton over the last week and a half. I'm anxious for a chance to catch my breath, but there's a part of me that sad to see the trip end.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Trapped in a Moving Vehicle

Turns out Andy really is allergic to beer. Having spent a week surrounded by the temptation of the Pacific Northwest’s finest microbrews, his sinuses have gotten the best of him and he’s spending the day lying low. This is travel day nine and beer allergies or not, it makes sense to have a quiet day. We’ve been at the guesthouse in Portland since mid-afternoon yesterday. We stayed here last year when we road-tripped out and it truly is a lovely house tucked away along a fairly busy business road in a residential neighborhood. While a continental breakfast is provided, the house has much more open, livable feeling about it than your typical B&B. The kitchen is available for use and there’s a washer and dryer tucked away in the basement where I happily did a load of laundry this morning. We’d been getting to the bottom of the suitcase, so to speak.

Had another travel day yesterday, setting off from Aberdeen to follow winding roads along the coast and down the Columbia River to Portland. Last year when we made the drive out west, we kept crossing paths with Lewis and Clark. Everywhere we turned, there seemed to be another Lewis and Clark historical marker. It only made sense to stop at the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center at the mouth of the Columbia River, right outside of Ilwaco, WA yesterday. Oddly enough, the place where Lewis and Clark finally spied the Pacific Ocean had been named Cape Disappointment by a British officer who had been searching the coastline for a river and who deduced that the mouth of Columbia was in fact only an ocean bay. No one’s quite sure why he didn’t figure out that it was a river (especially since the current rips through even the widest parts of the Columbia) but nevertheless, the name stuck.

The center is wonderful: just the right mixture of “just the facts, ma’am” placards and hands-on displays. All of this interpretative stuff makes me excited about the summer! The center itself was quickly outshone by a baby seal we spied sunning itself on a rock in the ocean far below us. Just as the park ranger and I zoomed in on him to take a picture, a big wave came over the rock and washed the little seal into the ocean. Oh no! But the little guy proved himself a pretty good swimmer in the rough waters. Still, here’s a picture of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse instead. Although the mouth of the Columbia River provides some of the most challenging sailing there is – due to moving sand bars -- where the visitor center now stands was long manned by the military, especially during World War II.

The traffic in Portland gave us fits yesterday. For one thing, I’d made no clear plan for how we were going to get to the guesthouse. Since we’d stayed here last year, I figured we’d “wing” it. However, it’s a lot easier to get into Portland from the east on a sleepy Thursday afternoon then it is to come in from the west at 3:00 on Friday when everyone’s “getting off early for the weekend.” We ended up where we needed to be, but promptly hit construction and by the time we got to the guesthouse, I was stressed out, but we needed to turn right around to go pick up a friend. That also proved a directional nightmare. “This isn’t the way we came last time, is it?” I asked Andy as we shot by our turn and ended up heading across the bridge in Portland with the lowest safety rating ever, twice. When we dropped the friend off, we came back to the guesthouse to find nary a parking place in sight. After twenty minutes of backing up and turning around and dead end street after dead end street, I was fit to be tied. In the end, Andy took over driving duties and we parked a couple streets down from the guesthouse. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a moving vehicle when you just want to go to bed.

In between the driving nightmares (we are such smalltown kids) we had a lovely dinner and picked up beautiful desserts from Pix Patisserie.

Today, besides the laundry, I walked up to a yarn shop and found some beautiful Shetland fingering that will be perfect for some colorwork knitting I’m hoping to get to after I finish up the sweater I’m currently knitting away at. Andy rallied for a to-go lunch at Burgerville. There’s something satisfying about the name Burgerville. I may go scope out some coffee now while Andy snoozes. Outside it’s sunny and a bit breezy. It’s a very contented sort of day for punting around.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rainy Woods and Snowy Words

It’s a scientifically proven fact: you can take the girl out of Minnesota, but the snow is going to come with. As a somewhat naïve college sophomore heading off on a semester in Ireland, I was determined that a spring semester (February – May) would be a breeze compared to the Minnesotan winters I’d been experiencing for 19 years. I was wrong. 35 degrees and rain is cold when all you have is a sweater and a rainjacket to shield you from the dampness. This is evidenced by the Hard Rock Café sweatshirt I bought that February in Dublin when it started to snow and I found myself a wee bit chilly. It didn’t just snow in Ireland though: snow swirled through the Parisian Boulevards on one weekend trip, a foot of snow fell while I was in Germany and my April weekend in Yorkshire also saw snowy hillsides. I have seen snowmen in Hyde Park. On Tuesday, it spat snow on us at the top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. So I was not at all surprised to watch the beach that looked like this:
Transform into this a few moments later:
Whatcha gonna do?
The snow is more an amusing phenomenon than an annoyance or a hindrance. Sharp little hail pellets sent us running for shelter a couple times today, but other than that the snow had little impact on our day.

Yesterday turned into a transit day. We took the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and after a bookstore and bakery stop in Winslow, we hit the road to the Olympic Peninsula. After a brief stop at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Port Angles, on the north side of the Olympic National Park, we continued on our anti-clockwise tour of the peninsula. We paid our National Park fees at the dropbox next to the Elhwa Ranger station. Despite having been keen to get out of the big city of Seattle, we hadn’t really prepared for a day on the road. If I’d been thinking, I would have bought a bag of groceries and thrown some big bottles of water in the backseat. Maybe not the best planning, but we did find a lovely beach along the Straits of Juan de Fuca that reminded me of Clew Bay.
After yesterday’s frustrating lack of planning, we drew a plan for today and hit the ground running this morning. We grabbed some groceries in the Forks grocery store and headed up to the wild Rialto Beach. All the signs about potential tsunamis were a little disturbing!
We left Rialto Beach and headed to La Push where we had a great three-mile round trip hike to Third Beach (where the snowy beach pictures are from.) Along the path we found all sorts of little wonders.










Hopped in the car and headed for the Hoh Rainforest.
There are some really big trees out there.
We even found where the elves are baking all those cookies!
Tomorrow we'll continue down the coast, ended up in Portland. I'll let you know if it snows.

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