Friday, August 31, 2018

Alaskan Adventure (SPSH 2018)

Robbie and I had a great time searching for all the items on the 2018 SPSH when we were in Alaska several weeks ago. Today I'm sharing a favorite for each entry, although I actually found multiple options for several of the items on this year's list!

1. The Rosiness of Red - flowers in the City of Palmer's Heritage Gardens.

2. Stripes - on this United States flag with 49 stars displayed at the Anchorage Museum. Alaska was admitted to the union as the 49th state on January 3, 1959. (Hawaii was admitted later that year as the 50th state.)

3. A Framed View - of Mount Denali from our private outhouse at Camp Denali.

4. Wings - on a seaplane observed from the control tower at the Alaska Aviation Museum.

5. Pedal Power - in front of the Antler Arch in Fairbanks.

6. Glorious Green - view from the Alaska Railroad Goldstar Car on the trip from Anchorage to Seward.

7. An Unexpected Reflection - in the side mirror on our drive from Glenallen to Fairbanks. The sky in front of us was overcast and gray, but the reflection in the mirror shows blue skies (and Robbie taking the photo with his iPhone).

8. A Pile of - crab legs (Jumbo King, Dungeness, and Opilio) for my dinner near Copper River.

9. Looks Smaller Than You - because it's a little distance away enjoying a snack of fresh blueberries in Denali National Park. Do you see it?

It's a grizzly bear!

10. A Field of Plenty - spices, salts and dry pigments. This is one of the pieces on display as part of the special exhibit "Unsettled" at the Anchorage Museum.

11. Pretty in Pink - on the sidewalk in Anchorage.

12. Bells - on display in Palmer. This is the Matanuska Colony St. Mihiel Bell from the ship that transported the first colonist from Minnesota on their way to Alaska.

13. Equal Portions - of earth (containing dirt, sand, gravel & gold!) were brought up with these buckets on Gold Dredge 8 outside of Fairbanks. The material then went through a process of sorting and sifting in order to extract the gold.

14. A Trilogy of Three - stained glass windows inside the Church of 1000 Trees in Palmer.

15. Out of the Blue - sky the plane descended through the clouds to a gray day in Anchorage.

16. Something That Could Be From a Favorite Book/Movie/Song - This statue outside the Anchorage Museum could be Rocket Raccoon from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

17. Re-purposed - oil lanterns turned into décor on the side of the lodge at Camp Denali.

18. Currency: Coinage or Paper (the odd, the different, the beautiful) - from (almost) every country was tacked up high around the interior of the Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor Center. [Here's a peek at one section; I'll share more photos in a future post.]

19. Picture Postcard Perfect - look at Mount Denali (the highest mountain peak in North America) from outside Potlatch (kitchen & dining room) at Camp Denali. Robbie snapped this photo as we were headed in for breakfast on the first morning of our four night stay in Denali National Park.

20. Mellow Yellow - flowers in Palmer's Heritage Gardens.

How are you doing on the hunt? There's still time to join in - it doesn't end until September 30! 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Take Three Thursday - Polar Bears

Three polar bears on exhibit at the Anchorage Museum.

Here's some information on the exhibit.

Joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Take Three Thursday - Framed Mountain Views

As we were flying in to Seattle last month, the captain came on the loudspeaker and pointed out three volcanic mountains we were passing, so I snapped a photo of each one for #3 (A Framed View) of the 2018 SPSH. And these work perfect for Take Three Thursday as well!

Mount Hood
Mount Hood is a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc of northern Oregon. It is located about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland.

Mount St. Helens
[It's very hard to see Mount St. Helens in this photo - it's very faint in the background.]
Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Skamania County, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is 50 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon and 96 miles south of Seattle, Washington.

Mount Ranier
Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington. It is a large active stratovolcano located 59 miles south-southeast of Seattle, in the Mount Rainier National Park.

I'm pretty sure I would have missed these mountains (or at least not known which ones they were) if the captain had not made that announcement!

Do you ever look out the airplane window and wonder where you are or what you're seeing below?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Pulitzer Progress

In my quest to complete all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners by the end of the year, I'm striving to read one book each week. I've been pretty successful the past two months; however, I'm currently bogged down in A Fable by William Faulkner!

The 1992 winner, A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, is a fairly good read. The story is told from Ginny's perspective as she looks back on her life growing up - her mother died when she was a teenager, so she was raised by her father. Ginny and her older sister Rose took care of (& spoiled) their younger sister Caroline.

The story continues through their adulthood when Ginny is married to Ty, who works the farm with her father. Rose's husband Pete also works the farm but always seems to be in an argument with their father. Caroline moves away and becomes a lawyer. There are lots of family dynamics, interesting interactions with neighbors in nearby farms and the closest town, as well as secrets that come to light throughout the book.

The thousand acre farm is a character in itself and is a central part of this story which has great characters and excellent character development. However, the conclusion was not satisfying despite everything being wrapped up in an epilogue (or maybe I just feel that way because it isn't really a happy ending).

Andersonville, the 1956 winner by MacKinlay Kantor, is a very (very!) long, well-researched historical novel set during the last year and a half of the Civil War. There are no quotations marks to delineate the abundant dialogue on the 750 pages, making this a very slow read. (I did not finish it in one week!)

The story begins in December 1863 when a prison is built in Anderson, Georgia, to house Union prisoners of war. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective … and there are lots of characters. Many of the officers and prisoners in the story are drawn from real life; however, the author created a host of neighbors around the prison to enhance the story. The conditions in the extremely overcrowded prison were deplorable. The General in charge of the prison just wanted all the Yankees dead, so he didn't care about the living conditions or medical needs of the prisoners.

The details of life inside the prison are very graphic, disturbing and disgusting - a crippled prisoner pawing through the diarrhea or vomit of other prisoners to search for pieces of food, regulators banding together to overcome the raiders that were then tried and hanged, etc. This is a very informative book, but not for the faint of heart or squeamish.

The 1997 winner begins with Martin Dressler as a 13-year-old working in his father's cigar shop and follows his career in the hotel industry (bell boy, desk clerk, assistant to manager, owner) through his late 30s. His ultimate dream is to build a hotel where everything works together so that there's no need to go outside (to the real world) for anything. 

There are several other characters in Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, including a lady and her two grown daughters who play an integral part in Martin's life as he pursues his dreams by building The Dressler, then The New Dressler, then The Grand Cosmo. There are some weird dynamics, the plot moves somewhat slowly, and there are some really long  sentences (even covering several pages like the one below!).

The Keepers of the House, the 1965 winner, is set in the southern United States in the mid-1900s. The main character, Abigail Howland, tells the story of her grandfather, William Howland, who lives on the land the Howlands have farmed since the 1800s. His young wife died after two years of marriage, so Abigail was raised by her grandfather and Margaret, the free black woman who took care of the house and had three children by William. Each of these children is sent off to school in the north and never brought back because Margaret wants them to have the privileges of whites. [Warning - spoilers in the next paragraph!]

The story follows Abigail's childhood and college years, where she meets and then marries a man who wants to be governor and then senator, etc. However, Abigail learns that her grandfather had actually married Margaret all those years ago, and when one of Margaret's children leaks the information about the marriage to the press, Abigail's husband's career is ruined. The townsfolk burn down Abigail's barn, but she eventually gets even because when she inherited her grandfather's estate, she got ownership of practically everything in the small town. This is a very well-written and engaging story, although I thought it would end differently because Abigail actually respected the fact that her grandfather had married Margaret.

Foreign Affairs, the 1985 winner, was written by Alison Lurie whose first novel was published in 1962 and who has continued to write into the twenty-first century!  In 2002, she was named the New York State Author.

This novel, which I read on my Kindle, "traces the erotic entanglements of two American professors in England." Vinnie is on a six-month trip researching children's rhymes in England. She meets Chuck Mumpson from Oklahoma on the flight to London and dismisses him as a typical tourist with  no class, so their "affair" is unexpected and amusing. Fred, the other American professor, is estranged from his photographer wife when he arrives in London to do research. Through Vinnie, he meets Rosemary, a British actress with interesting psychological issues.

While the novel is about love affairs, it is not explicit or overdone, although there is some language throughout the book. The conclusion is ok as both professors return to the states and resume their teaching careers.

The 1960 winner, Advise and Consent by Allen Drury, is the first book in a series of political fiction books. This is another very long book that I read on my Kindle.

This story is divided into five sections, each focusing on a major character that moves the plot along as it follows the nomination and Senate hearings for a new Secretary of State. It is very well written, very detailed, with lots of dialogue and characters; however, it is easy to follow after the first few chapters when the characters become familiar.

There are quite a few plot surprises in this story that shows how the Senate works to confirm (or not) a nominee, with lots of political wrangling, some of which lead to unpleasant consequences. It's a story of politics and integrity and corruption and ambition that really makes me wonder how anything ever gets accomplished!

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour (Seattle, Washington)

Ever since Robbie watched The Night Strangler in 1973, he's wanted to visit Seattle's Underground City. After a 45 year build up, he was really looking forward to Bill Speidel's Underground Tour when we stopped in Seattle for a couple of days on our way to Alaska. The 75-minute guided tour is advertised as "a humorous stroll through intriguing subterranean storefronts and sidewalks." 

It was a beautiful day when we arrived at Pioneer Square Station on the light rail.

There was quite a bit of interesting architecture around Pioneer Square, however, the area was actually dirty and smelly with road construction and bums unsavory characters everywhere.

The tour began with a brief history of Seattle, the fire that destroyed the city in 1889, and how the underground city came to be - the buildings and sidewalks were originally at ground level, but the city built up new streets level with the second story of the buildings. I did not know much about Seattle, so I found this very informative. We then headed to an outside alleyway to begin the walking part of the tour.

Our first stop was in Pioneer Square Park where we learned that Seattle was named after an Indian chief and that the 60-foot totem pole in the square was actually a replica of one that was originally stolen from Alaska.

Then we finally headed underground, and (in Robbie's words) we were "less than thrilled … it was like touring someone's basement! Just a bunch of junk and debris that was poorly lit and hard to traverse."  (I think my photos make it look better than the reality.)

It seems the only thing the tour company has done to make it "tour-able" was to add a few handrails to keep people from stepping off the old sidewalk and paint the steps yellow for safety.

We did finally arrive at a large open room with an old bar and a red round couch that the tour guide mentioned were "used for a movie in the 70s that was now on YouTube so obviously it wasn't any good!" (Since Robbie enjoyed the movie, this only increased our disappointment in the tour.) We'll be watching the movie soon to see if we can identify the scenes shot here.

And, I think, this could be a contender for #16 (something that could be from a favorite book/movie) on the Seasonal Photo Scavenger Hunt. What do you think?

Honestly, we did enjoy learning the history of this area, and it was definitely interesting to see the façade of a building underground!

When the new streets were being built, they added "skylights" to the sidewalks to get light down to the tunnels. Many of them are still in place around Pioneer Square.

Of course, they don't look quite as nice from inside the tunnel anymore.

While we're both glad we took the tour and checked this item off the list of things Robbie's wanted to do for years, we're honestly not sure it was worth the time and money to walk through a bunch of tunnels filled with junk, dirt, and cobwebs!

Have you been to Seattle? Did you know there was an Underground City? Have you toured it? Please share your experience in the comments.