Sunday, January 1, 2012

Good-Bye 2011

On this last day of 2011 I want to take a few moments to reflect back on this last year and all that has transpired.  Though I do not have all the pictures I wanted to include added as of yet, I thought I would post this and then come back to add the photos, in the next couple of days.
2011 has been a year full of change and adventure. I returned to work the beginning of December 2010 and turned in my retirement papers the end of January.  May 21st was my last day of work and on July 1st I was officially retired.  No more special education paperwork, or meetings that last for hours. I still love the kids, but am done with all the red tape and politics. 
I am enjoying subbing this fall and having fun with the students.  I primarily sub at the same middle school Tom teaches at, so we carpool to work. I love being able to pick and choose when I work and having time to cook, workout, quilt, read, blog and journal.
Tom and I are enjoying the fruits of my cooking from scratch, which is a good thing because Tom was told he is pre-diabetic and has to watch his diet.  We’ve given up the majority of processed carbs and many other carbs, though we enjoy a treat now and then. We have been experimenting with new recipes that are lower carb and have found some really good ones. 
I am doing well now that my heart is fixed and Tom has lost 30 pounds counting carbs and walking daily.  I personally think he is a little crazy as he walks even when it is -16° outside.
Joel is living in Anchorage and working at a local vet clinic.
Bryce joined the Army Guard in August and left for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in September. He finished boot camp in November and started AIT. He will be a military police officer when he is done in February. He comes home for 12 days for Christmas.  The Guard will pay for college, so he can continue working on his degree. He wants to he a high school art teacher. We miss him and are looking forward to his coming home for Christmas.
In April I went head over heels on Tom’s bike and broke my right arm at the elbow. No cast, as they didn’t want it to get stiff. It was a fun experience that I don’t want to repeat and like my heart surgery, it was not on my bucket list.

Traffic between LAX and the train station.
Outside the LA train station. This fountain is beautiful.
Me relaxing on the train it NY.
Tom working on flight reservations while the Amtrak customer service rep, is trying to reroute us out of LA, without messing up our entire trip.

Tom and I had two wonderful trips this year.  This summer we flew to Seattle for a few days and then because of flooding and mud slides canceling the northern Amtrak route, we flew to LA to catch the train to Chicago on our way to Rochester, NY.  We are very grateful to our wonderful friends Michelle and Beau for running us to the train station and then to the airport. It was insane that we had to fly down to LA so as not to mess up our entire trip.  We were also rerouted due to the fires in the southwest states.  
JImmy with Tom

We had a nice time in Rochester visiting Tom’s family.  The weather was great and we seemed to be just a head of the heat wave.  Shhh! Don't tell I put their pictures up.  The only one of his sibling I missed was Judi, and I don't know why I did not get her picture.  I think she hid from the camera.  I also missed getting a picture of the one other niece that we saw. The other niece and nephew live out of town.

And of course our niece and nephew, Amy's kids.

From there we headed to Washington, D.C., where we had an awesome time. We walked about ten miles a day, went to almost all the memorials, and many other places. My favorite was the Holocaust Museum. It was emotional, but very informative and well done. We definitely need to return, as there is so much to see.

After D.C. we headed to New Orleans for a couple of days. It was an experience. The food was delicious, and the people were very interesting. We rode the trolley, walked along the Mississippi River, and wandered all through the French Quarter, it was a wonderful experience.

From there we headed up to Memphis where Mom and Jim picked us up. We spent a week with them and had a nice visit, which included a trip into Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry. Tom had never been. The music and the show were great.  It was great to see Mom and Jim and was a relaxing visit. We spent the day in Memphis, wandering around Beale Street and riding the trolley before catching the train to Chicago.
Mom and Jim
Mom and I
Mom and I
Mom and Jim

Tom and I at the Irish family farm.
We had several hours in Chicago and went the Art Institute before catching the train to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit my mom’s family. The Institute is worth a visit if you are in Chicago.  We had fun with my Aunt Sue and a good visit with many relatives that included stops at the farm that has been in the family for over 150 years and several cemeteries where my ancestors are buried. We also had a fun family dinner. I enjoyed getting to see Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. It has been a long time since we were in Michigan.

Darla, Tammie, Wanda, and Jodi

Nita and Ann

Hunter and Dayna
Aunt Sally and Uncle Gene

Sharon and I. Aunt Linda and Aunt Sue with me. Grandma.  Tom with Aunt Sue


 After Grand Rapids we headed off to the Grand Canyon. The canyon is a gift from God. We enjoyed hiking along the rim and down a few trails. It was peaceful, and relaxing and I can’t wait to go back. The sunsets and sunrises are breathtaking, as is the view of the canyon no matter where you are along the rim. It is beyond words to describe and if you have never been I highly recommend that you go.  We plan to return in the future.

We road the train back to LA and up the coast to Seattle where we spent a few days before returning home. We had a great time on the train and the sleeper cars are great.

In August Tom headed back to school and I began to really enjoy my retirement.

Bryant Park, NYC
In October we flew to NYC to meet up with my mom and Jim for our trip to Ireland, but first we had an awesome day in NYC. We rode the subway, walked down Broadway, visited Bryant Park, went to the top of the Empire State Building, and last but not least visited Time Square.  It was a wonderful day.

The next day we met up with Mom and Jim at the airport and headed to Ireland.  The trip was incredible. We were in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Donegal, and more towns and villages than I can remember.

Neolithic Tomb
We visited Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse, and walked along the Dodder River in Dublin.  We visited a 6th century monastery, a round tower, and spent an evening at an Irish pub listening to traditional Irish music and watching Irish dancers, Tom loved the Irish coffee and Guinness.  I loved that they had hot tea everywhere with cream and sugar.  We toured a Neolithic tomb, which was over 5,000 years old. It was awesome. We got to go inside one and it is lined up so that on the winter solstice the sunlight comes in the window over the entrance and lights up the entire thing. It is the only time it is lit by natural light, all the way through to the center.

Slieve League Cliff
We moved on to Donegal where we visited the Slieve League Cliffs, which reminded Tom and I of Adak.  It was beautiful. They are the highest cliffs in Europe and they drop down 19,722 feet to the Atlantic Ocean.  The waves were crashing against the cliffs.  We were served Irish tea and scones after our visit to the cliffs and they were delicious.

We visited Triona Designs where we watched then weave Donegal tweed wool cloth. They told us they are down to 70 weavers from 700. It is sad that old traditions and trades are dying out. The cloth is beautiful. I enjoyed watching the weaver and seeing samples of some of the different cloths they weave. Tom and I got Claddagh rings as an early 30th wedding anniversary gift.  They are beautiful. We also bought some things made from the Donegal tweed.

We toured the Belleek Pottery Factory, in Northern Ireland, and saw the how the pieces were molded and decorated.  No piece leaves their factory unless it is perfect and I got to break a piece with a tiny imperfection, which was still beautiful. We saw how they make the tiny flowers that are on some pieces, the woven baskets, and watched artists painting pieces, and inspecting them, as well as watching them load a kiln. They have some beautiful pieces.  A few people were painting bunny baskets that will be on QVC for Easter.

We visited the Museum on Country Life, which was fascinating. Some things we saw reminded me of things that were on the family farm in Michigan.  There were antique farm tools, furniture made of grass or hay, information on the great famine, and art work depicting life on the farms.

From there we headed to Galway.  We took a catamaran cruise in Kilkenny Harbor, which reminded us of Alaska, the views were green with stone fences and sheep on the hillsides. It was a nice relaxing cruise.

The next stop was Kylemore Abbey, which was beautiful. The Abbey is located on Kylemore Lake and is still used today. It was very peaceful and the area is gorgeous.

We watched a demonstration at the Connemara Celtic Crystal Factory.  The master carver cut a bowl while we watched. The master carvers are required to have art degrees, and then must apprentice on clear crystal for five years before they can carve the colored crystal.  The crystal is beautiful and of course I bought a couple of pieces.

We also toured the Connemara Marble Factory where they have some beautiful marble, in a variety of colors.  It was interesting to learn that marble came in so many colors and they had some with shells imbedded in the marble, as well as fossils.

We visited the Cliffs of Moher, which were beautiful and again reminded us of Adak. It was very wet and windy that day, but we loved it and walked up the path along the cliffs to look and take pictures.

The Flying Boat Museum was also very interesting.  In the 1930s and 40s Pan Am Clippers flew between Foynes Ireland and the U.S. with a stop over in Ireland. They were huge flying boats with seats that made into double decker beds like on the trains and a 14 seat dinning room. They could hold 28 passengers and even had a honeymoon suite.  While there, they did a demonstration on how to make an Irish coffee and Tom was picked to be the one to make one.  He enjoyed that and keeps the ingredients on hand at home to make them.

We drove through the Ring of Kerry with its awesome views.  We watched a sheepdog heard sheep and visited the Skellig Experience Museum.  The Skellig’s are rocky islands were monks built homes of rocks that look like beehives and they lived there for a four or five hundred years. They build steps up the rocky peaks on the islands. They also dug out holes in the rocks to catch water.  They islands are very isolated and desolate.  They look like giant rocks jutting out of the water, no soil or plants that you could see.  They are dangerous and hard to reach because of the weather, waves, and rocky coasts.  People can wait days to get a chance to go out to the islands, and then have to be very careful as they are dangerous, especially on wet days as the rock steps can be very slippery.  I wish we could have gone out to the islands.

We visited a Woolen Mill where we bought some beautiful sweaters. We stopped at the Rock of Cashel where 12th century church ruins are open to the public. It is where the last King of Ireland, the King of Munster, converted to Christianity. The views were beautiful as were the ruins.  The old cathedral is huge and stands tall on the hill. They are doing some restoration work to preserve it, though many things including frescos in a small chapel have been lost over the years.

We ended our time in Ireland back in Dublin where we spent the night at the Clontarf Castle Hotel. The castle is from 1172 and has modern additions for guest rooms, but parts of the old castle are still used.  The lobby is from the castle and has high stonewalls with a huge fireplace, and a small alcove hidden behind it. The ladies room near the dinning room has a fireplace in one stall. There are centuries old tapestries hung on the walls. It was an incredible experience. 

I am so glad we got to go and thank my Mom and Jim for taking us. It was a wonderful trip and I hope that we can go again sometime. The food was good, natural tender beef, lamb, Irish coffee, scones, Irish soda bread.  We did not have a bad meal though I did not try the blood pudding. Mom, Jim and Tom did and they said it was something they could do without.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving.   We have a quiet, relaxing Christmas and I enjoyed spending the day with my youngest son.

I am flying to Missouri in February for Bryce’s graduation from boot camp and AIT and have planned to spend a few days with my cousin who lives near there as well.

We are planning to stay at home and relax next summer, and ride our tandem bike while enjoying the Alaskan Summer.

I have gotten off track with my blogs and have decided that in 2012 what I need to do is set up one day a week to devote to my blogs, so I can stay up on them. 

1 comment:

  1. 2011 was one jam-packed year for you. Great travels, retirement, and lots of quilting.
    I hope that 2012 is a happy year for you and the family.



This is a great way to explain things and how some days are for me when I over do or have too much on my plate and have to slow down. Thoug...