the north pole

Yesterday, with thanks to a buy-one-get-one free admission coupon from my mom, Danny and I went to Santa’s Workshop, also known as the North Pole.  Located just a couple of minutes outside of Colorado Springs, I visited the North Pole a couple of times with my family in my younger days, but this was my first time with D.  I had been super pumped about going ever since my mom offered me a BOGO coupon, and our visit sure was eventful!  It rained/drizzled off and on the whole time, Danny developed motion sickness that was activated by almost all of the rides, and we got to meet Santa!  But enough words.  Enjoy these pictures to get a real feel for it…

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^^ Our first ride, the Tilt-a-whirl.  AKA the moment Danny discovered he doesn’t like spinning rides. ^^

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^^ Santa’s Sleigh.  Or at least I think that’s what it is. ^^

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^^ Danny’s favorite ride.  Also the one of the few that agreed with his stomach. ^^

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^^ The North Pole.  Yes, it is actually made of ice. ^^

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^^ Bet you didn’t know that mushrooms grow prolifically at the North Pole. ^^

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^^ The Jolly Old Man himself.  I asked him for a puppy, and he told me that he didn’t see why I shouldn’t have one.  Afterwards, Danny discussed whether or not he would put a big red bow around said puppy’s neck and how he would hide it from me until Christmas morning.  Way to ruin Santa for me. ^^

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^^ The tallest ferris wheel in the world, because it’s at an elevation of 7,500 feet, or something like that.  Also undoubtedly the fastest ferris wheel we’ve ever been on. ^^

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^^ Loved. This. Ride. ^^

 (I want to note that the above contraption gets very far off the ground, but you cannot get close enough for a good picture while riders are in the air, so we settled for this.)

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^^ We assumed that the magic show would be kind of lame, but we were very wrong.  It was actually really awesome and definitely worth seeing.  ^^

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^^ Enjoying the tramway during a few moments of sun.  Beautiful location for Santa’s workshop, wouldn’t you say? ^^

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^^ Danny’s sickness allowed me to spend a good deal of time in front of the crazy mirrors, which were conveniently hung on the outside of every restroom! ^^
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^^ Finishing the day off on the carousel.  ^^

All in all, it was quite the splendid day.  Believe it or not, we spent four hours at the North Pole, which is especially impressive since a good portion of the rides are catered to the younger (like under 7 years of age) crowd, and we had a great time.   The rain kept the crowds away, and Danny’s upset tummy and (and only a little bit of) accompanying drama made the day entertaining (well, for me at least).  Thanks, Santa, for letting us come check out your workshop and have some fun!

Unrelated News: My computer is officially dead.  This is really sad since I hadn’t backed up important things like our pictures from China or my resume, among other things.   Please pardon my lack of blogging and news and such. since this news means that I will be using our apartment’s business center as my one and only access point to the outside world (i.e. internet) for the foreseeable future.

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on why i’m not writing about alaska

Hey friends!

Bad news: today I dropped my computer off in a shop that smelled of smoke.  Also known as, my computer needs to be resurrected.  For the past three days, it had limited its activities to running error scans and shutting down unexpectedly in the middle of said scans, which was really annoying and just down right terrible.  Thank goodness I didn’t have all of my Alaska pictures on there…just joking, because they are all on there, and the man in the smoky shop today said not to expect anything good.  Well then.

In other news, we have had some splendid guests lately.  Two of my nearest and dearest, Sarah and Amanda, came to see us for what I thought was a Sunday afternoon, but apparently my communication skills are lacking, because they thought theywere coming for a sleepover!  Talk about a great surprise!  We chatted, played games, talked, went for a walk, caught up on life, and ate food (and by food I mostly mean Puppy Chow and homemade ice cream).  Lots of talking is always required when there are three females involved.

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A few days later, one of our good friends and mentors from Christian Challenge at UNC, Ian, came to stay with us for a couple of nights.  He and his pretty wife, Haley, live in Bangladesh these days, so we really enjoyed the time we had together.

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And yes, the matching outfits was intentional.

And this past Thursday, my sweet friend Ines, all the way from France (as in, France is her homeland), came to spend some time with us!  It was such a sweet surprise, and we had a wonderful time together.  She is truly one of the most genuine, caring people I have ever met, and she is an excellent listener and question asker as well (all things I really, really value in friends).  I feel so blessed to have gotten to spend so much time with her and to host her at our home.  We spent Friday morning at the zoo (my 7th trip in 2 months…thanks a bunch, Keith and Susie, for the gift that keeps on giving!!) and had a ball seeing the animals and enjoying the beauty of Colorado Springs.  Ines, you are a real gem and such a treasured friend of mine.  Here’s to seeing you in France the next time we’re together!

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In other news, Danny got his first ‘bro tank’ this past week.  Kohl’s kindly sent us $10 to use at their store, so we went there in search of some kind of treasure.  Considering we only paid $3 for the shirt, and he’s already worn it 3 times, it was a good purchase I would say.  However, now I am in a bind, because my husband now owns (and regularly wears) a bro tank.

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We also said good-bye to the Mormon missionaries we’ve been meeting with for the past six weeks, which was sad.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them, getting to know them and meeting with them on a weekly basis.

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The zoo had a night just for members this past week, and we were so there.  I wish they had members nights every week, because going to the zoo in the evening is a much better choice than during the day when it is pushing 90 degrees (kind of like yesterday when Ines and I were there).  We ran into our new friends Justin, Kira, and Abigail and spent the evening admiring the animals with them.

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Well, that’s about all I’ve got for now…also known as “I-have-reached-my-daily-tolerance-level-with-the-computers-at-our-apartment’s-business-center.”

Wish my computer luck in the smoky repair shop.

alaska: day 5

The third port our cruise ship visited was Skagway.  I loved this cute little Alaskan town with its old storefronts and colorful history.  A crazy fact about Skagway: less than a thousand people call it home, yet over a million people visit it each year.  That’s a lot of tourists for a tiny lil’ town!

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We spent a good portion of our time walking to a cemetery and waterfall at the edge of town.  I must confess: I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trek, as many of the waterfalls we hike to in Colorado are less than spectacular, but this one was actually really great and so worth the time it took to get there.

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^^ Reid’s Falls ^^

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^^ The gravesite of Soapy Smith, an infamous character in Skagway’s history ^^

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On our way back, we were exhausted from all of our walking, but even that couldn’t stop Danny and my mom from checking out this box full of free items along the side of the road we came across…

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One thing that we all noticed right away after coming into Skagway was all the graffiti on the rock alongside our dock.  We couldn’t figure out why it was okay to deface the area in such a way, so I did some research once we got home.  Apparently, it is a tradition that dates back to the early 1900’s when railroad employees would recognize locomotive engineers by painting their names on the side of the rocky cliff.  Nowadays, though, the graffiti names and honors the captains of ships that have sailed into Skagway, especially on their maiden voyage to the port.

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And just for perspective, here’s a shot of me in front of (a small portion of) the ship:

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Once back onboard, we went to afternoon tea (offered every afternoon at 3:30pm on Princess ships!) and watched the ship sail out of Skagway.  As you might have guessed, many of the details of how we spent our time have unfortunately faded, especially for those things that we didn’t take pictures of.  However, I can tell you that we spent a lot of time eating, hanging out on our balcony, and participating in activities like trivia and dancing.

Highlights of the day: walking through town to get to the cemetery and waterfall, the rushing waters of Reid’s Falls, wandering through downtown Skagway, and scones with plenty of jam and cream on top at afternoon tea.

Read more about our trip here (day 1), here (day 2), here (day 3), and here (day 4).

alaska: day 4

Our fourth day in Alaska was spent in Juneau, the capital of the state.  Before that, though, I woke up early (as per my usual while on the ship) and had a chance to spend some time on the balcony…

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Breathtaking.

Later on, I watched the ship pull into Juneau as we got ready for a big day ahead of us.

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We (and by ‘we’ I mean my parents) rented a sweet ride for the day so we could cruise around the city at our convenience…

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Just kidding.  This fine vehicle was indeed at the rental car company, though.  A viable option, except rumor has it that someone was living in it.

Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier.  The glacier is pretty big at 12 miles long, a half mile wide, and between 300 and 1,800 feet deep.  It also creates chilly conditions in the surrounding area, since after all, it is a massive hunk of ice, or at least that was my interpretation of it.

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While there, we took a trail through the forest.  I love love loved this hike because of all the greenery and water.  It was so peaceful, as we were some of the only people on the trail, and so different from what we typically see in Colorado.

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We took another trail afterwards to get up close to the waterfall that runs to the right of the glacier.

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Pretty spectacular.

After our trekking, we headed into Juneau to find some lunch and see some sights downtown.  First, we hit up B’s Bakery and Bistro for lunch, and then the Alaska State Capitol, which, in my opinion, was the most bizarre state capitol we’ve ever been to.  I’m used to imposing white buildings, with fancy domes on top, and this one was anything but.  We had to find a sign to make sure we were in the right place for our tour.

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We enjoyed our tour, though, especially the photo of Alaska’s most famous governor hanging in the Hall of Governors.  We walked around a bit more downtown and took a brief look around St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which is the oldest original and continuously used church in Southeast Alaska.

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Once back on board the ship, we took in a presentation by Libby Riddles, the first female Iditarod champion.  She told of moving from the lower 48 to Alaska when she was 17, in search of adventure.  Libby ended up falling in love with raising and racing sled dogs, and shared fascinating stories of blizzards and dogs and Alaskan life.  Now she writes books and gives presentations, making money off of her fame (don’t take that to mean that I didn’t enjoy her presentation though, because I did!).  Later in the evening, we enjoyed Hawley Magic, who was recently seen on America’s Got Talent and had some pretty stellar tricks up their sleeve.

Highlights of the day: hiking through the Alaskan rainforest, touring the state capitol, hearing Libby Riddles speak, and Hawley Magic.

Read more about our trip here (day 1), here (day 2), and here (day 3)

alaska: day 3

This was the day we got off the ship for the first time since boarding.  Woot woot!  We arrived in Ketchikan, Alaska around 6:30am (which I know because I was on my balcony to witness it…so thankful).

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Beautiful, right?  Ketchikan is a quaint little town that touts itself as the Salmon Capital of the World.  And when I say “little town,” I mean roughly 8,050 people (according to Wikipedia’s 2010 count), however, I suppose this is not really small by Alaskan standards since Ketchikan is the 5th most populous ‘city’ in the state.  Regardless, it has buildings on stilts and jellyfish swimming in the water and I found it quite charming.

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We took a city bus to Totem Bight State Park, which is known for its totem poles.  Fourteen of them, in fact, and a 19th century clan house as well.  The park is located along the water, and I think we enjoyed walking on the rocks near the tide pools just as much as looking at the totem poles.

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Yes, I did pose like a totem pole (tall and straight, that is.  I got the idea from other tourists).

We headed back into town to stroll along Creek Street, where we encountered a bald eagle (with a handler), a seal swimming through the creek, and lots of jellyfish floating along.  Oh, and a bear too.

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Yes, we are tourists.

Our ship left Ketchikan around 3pm, and we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, playing shuffleboard, spotting whales and porpoises, walking around the deck, and taking in the beauty of the area we sailed through.

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We ate a lot for dinner, or at least some of us did.

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Others of us (accidentally) matched.

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And still others ate their weight (or more) in dessert.

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^^ Apple and walnut spring rolls with raspberry-pepper dipping sauce.  This was my third plate of those bad boys. ^^

Meanwhile, a storm began raging, and quickly intensified, outside.

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Highlights of the day: watching a whale breach (sort of like a back flip for marine animals), seeing porpoises swim alongside the ship, swimming in the (outdoor) pool, wandering around Totem Bight State Park, walking through Ketchikan, seeing jellyfish in the wild for the first time, and the crazy storm (I love gloomy, rainy weather).

Read more about our trip here (day 1) and here (day 2)

alaska: day 2

On our first full day on the cruise ship, I woke up early, around 4:30am.  I opened the curtains, and, oh my.  The beauty.

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I stood outside for over an hour in the chilly morning air with just my pajamas to keep me warm, the wooded islands and the clouds captivating me.  I even saw a whale.  So thankful for that balcony.

Danny, Mysteridge, and I took full advantage of all the activities the ship offered onboard.  We took dance lessons (both ballroom and line), we went to trivia, we watched a singing competition, and we danced the night away at the nightclub.  We also went swimming and went to formal night with my family.  I met (most of) the females in our group for an elegant afternoon tea.  And that was just Sunday.

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Highlights of the day: Mysteridge getting volunteered to demonstrate some line dancing moves with the instructor, swimming in Alaska (!!!), afternoon tea with the ladies, dinner with my Aunt Deanna (who happens to be hilarious),  dancing at the club, and my early morning time on the balcony.  Oh, and spotting someone sleeping on the deck with a Kindle over their face.  That was pretty cool too.

Read about day 1 of our trip here.

alaska: day 1

Three weeks ago, very early in the morning, we embarked on our journey to Alaska.

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DSC06821^^ Spectacular views on the flight to Vancouver ^^

Upon arrival, we took a short bus tour of Vancouver, spent a couple of hours in the cruise terminal, and finally boarded our ship, the Diamond Princess.  Danny and I went straight to our stateroom…

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…which had a balcony.  Oh yes.  So blessed.

Oh and we also promptly opened the room service menu and placed an order.

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Pulling out of Vancouver and onward towards Alaska was breathtaking.  Truly.  The water, the tall apartment buildings that reminded us of China, the towering mountains, the greenery.  D and I dream of going back sometime soon to explore the city and see my aunt, uncle, and cousins that live there.

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The day was low key, but a great way to start the cruise.

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Highlights of the day: a chaotic but humorous safety drill, dinner with the family, exploring the ship, and taking in the scenery around us.