Thursday, March 31, 2016

Minneapolis Traditions

This was our 5th year taking a trip to Minneapolis in the fall. Each year when Marel goes out to spend a few days in the office, the rest of us come along, and our family from Omaha drives up to spend a weekend with us. We all have fun staying staying the hotel together, especially because of the free full breakfast buffet (once when asked about his favorite part of the trip, our nephew answered "the breakfast that never ends!") and the pool. Part of the yearly tradition has been to go to the sculpture garden and take pictures, especially portraits by the brick wall. (Marel's sister doesn't get school pictures of her kids, instead she uses the ones we take at the sculpture park.)

Here Caleb is showing off his Baker Bulldogs letterman cardigan, which was made in the 50's for Marel's dad by his mother, Marel's grandmother.

Not sure where he learned this pose, but it's hilarious.

Another picture we always take is jumping by the bunny statue. Unfortunately the sculpture garden was preparing for some major construction work, so the majority of the sculptures weren't even there anymore, but we still stood by the shrubs surrounding where the bunny used to jump to take the traditional pictures. The idea is always to get a picture of all of them in the air at the same time, but they've never been very good at timing their jumps.

This year we also let the younger kids take a turn. They're a little young to understand how it works.

Caleb saw his cousins jumping on either side of him and thought he might try it out...

...still thinking about it....

"Wait, why am I holding your hand?"

Here are pictures from the past years, starting with 2014:



There's also a swing sculpture they like to play on.

As well as some trees and shrubs to hide in and play on.

After church on Sunday the Omaha crowd drove back home.

On Sunday evening we got to have dinner with Marel's old college roommate and her family, who recently moved to Minneapolis, then Marel spent the week at work learning how to program this robot called Nao. The girls got to go into the office when she was done and play a little game with Nao and watch him dance.

One day while Marel was at work I took the kids to the science museum in St. Paul. They have a giant astronaut there, and a bunch of other cool stuff.

After 3 days in the office, we drove down to Omaha to meet up again with the family for another few days. And that was what may be our last annual family trip to Minneapolis. Marel's sister's family has just moved from Omaha to Dallas, so they're well out of convenient driving distance from Minneapolis. Also, things have changed at Marel's office. They've started holding these "science fair" events for the company that they only announce 2 weeks in advance, and Marel has found it much more useful to attend the science fairs than to go to the office any other time. In the past we've always planned months in advance to get cheap airfare for the family, and chosen when we go based on school breaks, but we can't plan in advance for the science fairs and can't expect them to coincide with school breaks. My brother and his family still live in Omaha, so we'd still like to keep taking this trip to see them, but it probably won't be practical to take it every year anymore, so maybe it will become a biannual trip.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Summertime Leftovers

Here's some sort of leftover pictures from the end of last summer. We did a family bike chart last summer like we've done for the past few years, but this year we kept it at 50 miles instead of the 80 or 100 that we usually do since we had so many projects going on at home. We usually try to plan our routes so that we can stop at playground.

Another place we often end up is at the Alaska Wildberry Products store because it's right along one of the main bike paths through town. They have benches outside for eating our lunch...

...and the big chocolatefall inside, and they usually have chocolates to sample.

The girls also spent quite a lot of time biking on their own in the driveway, and once they put their helmets on, they didn't tend to take them off even when they were done biking. They would be playing in the grass or drawing with chalk, or in this case making sandwiches, with their helmets still on.

We had a decent garden this year. The girls liked being able to pull a carrot out of the ground and eat it, and Caleb quickly learned to do it himself.

We were also lucky enough to have some friends invite us for some raspberry picking. (They also gave us some starts so we hope to have some of our own this year.)

Before too long it was time for school to start: Celia in 2nd grade and Sabrina in Preschool.

Shortly after school started, we were grocery shopping one Saturday and got word from a friend that the belugas were in the inlet, so we hurried and checked out and went straight there. There were quite  a few belugas, a few within 20 or 30 yards from shore. It's neat to see them, although they don't actually look like much. They don't have a dorsal fin like orcas, and they don't raise their tail above the water when they dive like humpbacks do, but when they're close enough you can make out their faces, which is pretty cool. We didn't want to risk missing them and stop at home and grab our good camera, so this is about the best photo we could come up with using our phones. The beluga is the white blob out in the water.

And even after the belugas had left, we still enjoyed a beautiful sunny day on the inlet.

The kids also helped out raking a bit.

And we all helped with a food drive one day. It was quite rainy that day.

One day Marel fell asleep on the couch, and awoke to find that "someone" had snapped her glasses in half. She got by with super glue and electrical tape until new ones came in.

For Marel's 30th birthday I made her a cake that turned out to be quite large. We started inviting friends over just to eat cake.

And when Caleb ate it, he somehow managed to get one little line of frosting on each eyebrow like clown makeup.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Independence Mine and Winner Creek

Two other sites we saw last summer were the Independence Mine Historical Park at Hatcher's Pass, and the Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood. The Independence Mine was a former gold mine that now sits in various states of ruin. Unlike the main gold rush activity in Alaska in the 1890s, this mine actually functioned on and off until WWII, and at that point it appears they just left everything at the drop of a hat. The buildings that are still standing appear to be maintained and habitable, and a few looked like they even had fresh coats of paint when we were there, but the rest is all a shambles with equipment just left where it was.

Also there were these little puffy flowers which we hadn't seen before. They were like dandelions, but the white part was more like actual fur and wasn't evenly spherical. It was kind of like a little field of tiny truffula trees.

Also while in Hatcher's Pass we attempted to pick some blueberries, but we must have been a little late in the season, because I think we only found 2 blueberries. But there was an abundance of what we later found out are called crowberries. They're little dark blue, almost black, berries that look a lot like huckleberries but don't taste like much at all. We could have picked as many crowberries as we wanted--they were just everywhere--but since we didn't know what they were or what to do with them, we just picked a small container of them to take home. (We were pretty certain they weren't poisonous because I learned in Boy Scouts that blue berries are always edible, red berries are sometimes but not always, and white berries are never edible...although I've never independently verified that rule of thumb.) We ended up cooking them in pancakes. Cooking them gave the berries slightly more flavor, and made the pancakes a little juicier and gave them a little pop when we bit down on them, but the berries were still mostly flavorless. But we tried something new!

Another day we took a hike down in Girdwood at the Winner Creek trail. It was a very rainy day, but we all had rain coats, and most of the trail is in the trees so we were fairly sheltered.

It's a nice forested trail that runs mostly along the creek. (It seems to be a trend up here that a lot of the "creeks" up here are are plenty big enough that I would have called them "rivers.")

And the blueberries were still in season in Girdwood. We stopped a few times to much on blueberries on the side of the trail. It's a nice trail on its own, but the main draw of this trail is the hand tram. At one point the trail crosses the creek over a ravine, but instead of a bridge there's a pulley system with a little tram that only fits 2 or 3 adults. To get across you just pull on the rope from within the tram, or if there are people waiting on either side of the creek, they can help pull you across, too. I don't know why they built this instead of a regular suspension bridge, but it's a pretty fun little thing to do on a hike. I've heard that on sunny summer days you'll need to wait an hour or more to get across since only 2 or 3 people can go across in a single direction at a time, but since it was rainy we didn't have to wait at all.

Here's the view of the river from the tram.

I was glad Marel and Matt went first and helped pull us across, because it wasn't very easy to pull myself with Caleb on my back.

After the tram Caleb must have got bored, because he slept the rest of the way in the backpack, with his little arm dangling off the back.

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