Tuesday, March 31

Monday, March 30

I'm tired.

There for awhile, I was sleeping better and better. One week I even slept through the night three or four times. I had great hope that I was "cured" from my perpetual insomnia. That I was going to become a "normal" sleeper again.

But no.

The past couple of weeks it has gotten bad and I am starting to feel like I am bottoming out again. So tired, all the time. Feel like a zombie. Not depressed, but vaguely depressed. Little things bother me more than they should. I am not getting enough done during the day.

I don't know what it is. I sleep too lightly perhaps. The cats remain a large part of the problem. They wake me up at odd hours of the night and it keeps me from getting restful sleep.

I wish I knew what I did that one week to conquer the problem.

I wish.

Friday, March 27

Things seem to be running smoothly at the moment.

It's been a helluva long week. Seriously.

Teenagers. Dog. Rapidly dying computer. Actually, the teenagers and dog were a lot of fun to have around. (The cats strongly disagree with me. They are not fond of teenagers or dogs.)

The dying computer.

Not so fun.

I mean, it didn't just get slow. It's pretty much dead as a doornail today. I turned it on and it was like, "um, no, I don't think so."

Fortunately I am typing to you on my new and fabulous iMac. But let's face it, a new computer is still a bit of a headache. I've been looking at this machine practically nonstop since we got home from Albuquerque yesterday. There have been a few glitches with various things. Things that I got overly obsessed with and wasted a lot of time. Now I finally have all my software loaded, scanner and printer hooked up, iTunes playing some INXS (Shabooh Shoobah remains one of my favorite albums) and a beer in hand. (For the record, I am not a huge fan of Fat Tire these days, but I'll take what I can get.)

I've been pretty overwhelmed and out of sorts all day, but I am calming down a bit now. Granted I still have a lot to do. I am behind on knitting projects, i.e. my work income these days, and I need to get back to it. I have four bags knitted that need to be felted and a couple more skeins of yarn to be knitted into more bags. Tomorrow I plan to pull myself away from the computer and focus on those projects. A nice run in the morning might do me some good too.

Oh and last night I finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife. It is one of the best books I have read in awhile. I was totally glued to it and feel a bit sad that when I go to bed tonight, I am going to have to pick up a different book. It was such an intense and engaging story. I am glad that Erin mentioned it recently, reminding me that it was something I've always wanted to read.

Wednesday, March 25

This is driving me crazy.

It's weird. Last week I rearranged the furniture in my office/craft room, cleaned up the closet and got rid of some things that I don't really need anymore. My computer seemed to power up after that...I figured it enjoyed getting dusted off or something. And then suddenly at the end of the week, everything started going wrong and it's getting worse every day. I am not panic stricken since I have been planning on getting a new computer anyway, but it is annoying and frustrating. And I can't get any of my photo work done so I am totally behind on scanning and what not.

I thought that perhaps I got a virus, but I ran my virus scan and it came up clean. I tried running my PC Tune-Up and it couldn't even make it through the first two steps. I got all kinds of weird error messages and then it crashed. Not a good sign.

Today my image files wouldn't open and Photoshop wouldn't open so I had to restart the computer. Everything worked until all the icons on the desktop disappeared and none of my applications would open. Had to restart again. I tried to turn it off when we left the house and it wouldn't turn off. I finally had to turn it via the button on the tower. Now Outlook Express won't let me send an emails or delete anything. What the hell?

We're taking the girls back to ABQ tomorrow and so we're going to visit the Apple Store there. I am hoping upon hope that they have the iMac configuration that I want in stock so that I can bring it home and be done with this PC mess. If not, I'll order it and hopefully have it early next week. This is driving me crazy.

Hard to resist.

Hard to resist.

Monday, March 23

My computer is totally freaking out.

I don't know what's going on, but it's making me nervous. I am wondering if it - a PC - heard me talking about buying a Mac. Uh-oh. Just give me another week or so baby.

I owe you some news, I know, but we've been busy with guests and then catching up post-guests and enjoying the nice weather. (Not so nice this week.) I am currently awaiting the arrival of my 14-year old niece, her 14-year old friend and my 20-year old niece's Maltese. Should be interesting around here for the next couple of days.

My brother asked me what we are going to do when our cats kill our niece's dog.

Let's hope we don't have to go there.

Friday, March 20

Monday, March 9


The Big Bad Baby Blanket on Ravelry. Pattern from Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook.

Saturday, March 7

The Train Ride Home, Part Two

I need to wrap this up, don't I?

The day continued to be gray and dreary which made all the scenery seem sort of washed out.

After getting settled in our roomette, we headed to the observation car. The observation car is usually in the middle of the train. We were two cars up from it and had to pass through another sleeping car and the dining car. The observation car itself is all about windows. Big windows and sort of half skylights above. It's a good place to go for space, light and full on views of the passing landscape. Half of it is filled with tables, the other half with seats that face the windows. First thing we did was head downstairs to the snack bar for a couple of beers.

Then we settled in at one of the tables upstairs. Space. Light. On the train. I was feeling good.

Having a sleeping car reservation includes free meals in the dining car. Dinner requires reservations so we asked for a spot at 6:15 PM. As we came to find out, the dining car folks are usually behind schedule so we didn't get seated until about 6:45 PM. Now I wish I could tell you that dining cars still used fine china and crystal glasses, but no, not anymore. It's more picnic style. And because there is not a whole lot of space, it is community seating. We ended up sitting with Josh from Lawrence, Kansas. He looked to be in his late-20's, a super nice fellow. He had been on business in Applegate, WI and apparently a snowstorm hit or was expected to hit and his flight home got canceled. He was told he probably wouldn't get out of there until Monday. (This was on a Thursday.) He very much wanted to get home before then to see his wife and 14-month old son so someone suggested Amtrak. So there he was, riding Amtrak, having dinner with two complete strangers.

I'm not always much of a talker, but my husband is so I listened as they talked about their jobs and what not. We all ate our Iceberg Lettuce Salads and ordered steaks for dinner. Then, because Will and I are football addicts, Will said, "So I have to ask, are you a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs?"

Josh replied, "I watch them from time-to-time, but I am really a Pittsburgh Steelers fan."

Oh yeah. I think I may have actually squealed with delight. As it turns out, Josh is from Pittsburgh, grew up on the North Side, still has family there. He played football at Temple in Philly and was thisclose to going to the Scouting Combine when he injured his knee and that was that. No more football. So it was a good dinner, we talked Pittsburgh and football. Oh and as it turns out, Josh has a lot of musician friends in Lawrence and has a friend who plays with this guy named Brody. We never quite determined whether or not it is the same Brody that we know that lives in Lawrence, but it was just yet another interesting connection. It's a small world. And a Steeler Nation.

As for the food, it was fine. The steaks were surprisingly decent for train food. We said our good-byes to Josh and then headed back to the snack bar to get a bottle of wine. We thought we might have a glass back in our roomette, but by the time we got back there, we both realized we did not want anymore wine. We wanted sleep. It was only about 9:00, but we were both exhausted. Will pulled down the beds and we washed up. (A bit tricky with those small sinks.) And gentleman that my husband is, he took the top bunk so I wouldn't have to crawl up and down. We thought maybe we'd sleep well, you know, the gentle rocking of the train and all. But no, not so much. The rocking of the train was more like a roller coaster. The train was headed across the flatlands of Kansas overnight and our best guess was that on the flat straightaways, the train actually hits its top speed of 90 mph, hence the heavy rocking. So it was kind of a weird night. I just remember laying awake for periods of time and then waking up and turning over and then waking up and turning over. I'd wake up hot and push my sleeping bag down. Wake up cold and pull it back up. It wasn't unpleasant, it was just unfamiliar. Not the not sleeping, but the environment. Finally I was so awake that I decided to check the time and it was almost 6:00 AM so I went ahead and got up.

When I got back from the bathroom, Will was up too. He reported that he didn't sleep many winks either. That the top bunk is totally claustrophobic. He said when he lay on his side, his shoulder rubbed against the ceiling. And there was this netting that goes up along the side to keep people from falling out and that drove him crazy. And it was hot. Oh well. Now we know. It was just starting to get light so we headed to the observation car. I wanted hot water for my tea and I was hoping for a nice sunrise. Since we were headed west, the sunrise was behind us and while it was certainly nice, it was not a spectacular sight.

Breakfast was first come, first serve so we headed in after awhile. This time we sat with an older couple, probably a little bit younger than my folks. They were traveling back to Santa Barbara, CA after visiting their son in Nashville. Their son who is an audio engineer. Good lord, could there be more connections on this trip?! (For those who may not know, Will is an audio engineer as well.) I was kind of out of it so didn't participate too much in the conversation, but they were super nice. Breakfast was kind of like plastic though. Eggs. Plastic. Hash browns. Plastic. Biscuit. Doughy. Pork sausage patties. Good.

After breakfast we went back to the observation car and settled into some of the window seats. I finally pulled out my knitting and Will read the newspaper.

He was really restless at that point. Not such a big fan of the train. The rocking bothered him, the walking back and forth from our car to the other cars and the biggest thing, the lack of leg room anywhere that we sat. Totally understandable but not an issue I have so I have to say, I pretty much enjoyed the whole train experience. Of course I was happy to arrive in Lamy that afternoon. I was ready to be back home.

We did have lunch on the train as well. We sat with a fellow from Seattle. He had been in Tucumcari, NM visiting his daughter and her new baby. He had just gotten on the train and had a long way to go. Nice fellow, but we were weary of making conversation with people. We both chose the veggie burgers for lunch. Unexciting.

So. Now we know that if we travel by train again, we both need a roomette to ourselves!

Not that we could afford it, I'm just saying, that's what would be ideal. And even though food is included, we'd probably pack more of our own snacks as the train food gets tiresome after awhile. Personally I'd take the train everywhere if I could, but some of the routes just take far too long for it to make sense.

We arrived in Lamy at 2:30 or so, about 24 hours after boarding in Chicago. Home sweet home.

Thursday, March 5

The Train Ride Home, Part One

We slept well that night and got up early even though we didn't have to be at the train station until 10:30 AM. Will worked on the computer and I read my book, The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. While we were ready to head home, we were also a bit sad to leave our fabulous hotel room. After we were packed and ready, Sam took us downtown to the train station.

The first leg of our journey was on a regular Amtrak train, a commuter train I guess. The day was quite gray and dreary, actually, so the view from the train wasn't all that exciting between Milwaukee and Chicago. The ride took about an hour and an half. I was totally absorbed in my book so it went by quickly. Oh, one weird thing, there was a fellow who pushed around a little cart filled with snacks for sale. I was hungry so thought I might buy a snack, but when he arrived in our car, he scared us sufficiently enough for me to lose interest in making a purchase. He was really loud and had this pink Spiderman that he sort of flung around in the faces of the passengers and then laughed hilariously and said, "Don't be afraid. It's not *really* Spiderman." It was rather bizarre.

I know that Will and I used to live in NYC and I walked through Grand Central Station on my way to work, but we live in small city now and arriving in Chicago's Union Station was somewhat overwhelming. So many people. It was crazy. We were starving (yet again) so we maneuvered our way to the food court which was also packed with people. We finally found a place to sit and Will went off to buy sandwiches for our lunch. I read some more and realized that I was going to end up finishing my book well before our train ride was over so after lunch, I wandered over to the newsstand to try to find a book. I ended up with American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

We had about two hours before our next train. Since we were riding in the sleeping car of the next train, we were supposed to go to the Metropolitan Lounge. We walked in circles a number of times before we found it and then I have to say, it was not too exciting. I was thinking maybe there would be something special about it - I don't know why - but no, it was not at all special and hideous fluorescent lighting. But it was a place to sit that wasn't so hectic and that was a nice thing. I went back to my reading and Will took a nap.

And then finally it was time to board the Southwest Chief. It's a double decker train that travels daily between Los Angeles and Chicago. I took it from Albuquerque to Chicago way back when in 1993, sleeping in my coach car seat and meeting some interesting folks in the club car. This time around we booked a "roomette" so we could have some privacy and out of sheer curiosity. Never having been a passenger in a sleeping car, I had no idea what to expect. And actually, Will had never been a passenger on a train other than the subway, NJ Transit and Metro North in NY so we were both pretty excited. Not to mention that we both hate flying - he gets sick, I get severe anxiety - so traveling by train was so low stress in comparison.

Will on the Southwest Chief.

Our roomette was small. Smaller than I envisioned. It's basically two seats facing each other with not very much leg room and an overhead bunk that pulls down for sleeping. The two seats slide down and make a bed as well. There's some storage under the seats but actually luggage does not fit anywhere. That wasn't a big deal. We left our bigger stuff in the rack downstairs and just took the necessities to our roomette. We were located upstairs with about 10 other roomettes and a bathroom. Downstairs there were more bathrooms, a shower/changing room, the luggage rack and two "bedrooms" which I imagine our somewhat more spacious than a roomette. In the other half of our sleeping car were "family bedrooms" or something like that. They were L-shaped and had multiple pull down beds, a sink and a private bathroom. So while the sleeping car is first class, it is by no means luxurious. I was happy though. (Of course I don't have long legs.) Alright, I admit that the roomette is vaguely claustrophobic but not in an anxiety-inducing way and hey, the observation car exists for a reason.

On the Southwest Chief.

A roomette would be perfect for one person. And in fact, across the hall from us was a young man traveling alone. He basically went in the roomette and emerged only for meals. The hallway doors do have curtains, but they don't always close perfectly so we could sometimes see into his space. Yes, I am nosy. He had it going on in there. For the first part of the journey, he had some sort of video game thing set up, Xbox I suppose. The next day, I notice that he had his MacBook open and a small keyboard set up with all sorts of equalizer type looking things on his computer screen. So apparently he was doing some recording while on the train. So yeah, a good space for one person.

I seem creepy now, right? Spying on our fellow passenger.

I've already rambled on for way too long so I'll continue this in another post.

Wednesday, March 4

Milwaukee, Day Three

That night I didn't sleep so well, but it wasn't the fault of the amazing bed. It was all the beer consumed. I did not want to get up. And we were in no rush so we did laze around for quite awhile. We ordered room service for breakfast. (So great to be able to get food without actually leaving the room!) All I wanted is toast and so I ordered toast. When it arrived, it was literally one piece of toast on a plate. I was expecting two pieces. It was kind of funny.

Our only real plan for the day was a trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum (where our friend works now) and dinner at a German restaurant with our friends. Brady offered to pick us up for our trip to the museum. He wanted us to get there in time to see the wings close and open.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Yes, the museum has wings. The Burke Brise Soleil, is a moveable, wing-like sunscreen that rests on top of the Museum’s vaulted, glass-enclosed Windhover Hall. The wings open with the museum in the morning and close with it in the evening. They also close and re-open at noon and that's what Brady wanted us to see. Sadly we missed it. When we arrived, the wings had already closed and they did not re-open due to high winds. It is an absolutely amazing structure though. The whole Museum is pretty incredible. And it is right on Lake Michigan. The views are absolutely incredible.

Ice on Lake Michigan

Due to a lack of sleep, I was having a not so wonderful day. My anxiety from the previous day flared back up and I spent much of the morning feeling like I shouldn't even leave the hotel room. I hate this feeling so much and I have no idea what brings it on when we travel. It frustrates me. I did leave the room and make the trip to the museum, but after that, I didn't want to do much more. Brady drove us back up to the hotel and we all had lunch in the lounge. It was late yet again so Will and I shared a turkey sandwich that was quite tasty. After lunch, Brady took over and we retired to the room for some rest and relaxation. I finally started to feel a little better.

Our dinner plans were to meet at Karl Ratzsch's at 6:30. Karl Ratzsch's is a famous German restaurant in Milwaukee. It's been around since 1904. The restaurant is filled with German art and bric-a-brac and the wait staff decked out in old-style German fashions. It was a fun place to have dinner. And boy did we eat! Took it easy on the beer that night, but they have a ton of German beers on tap so I had a lager and then an amber. I've forgotten which ones though, but both were good. I had a hard time deciding what to order and ended up with Trudy's Sampler - Sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel served with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumpling. It was downright awesome. Like all the restaurants, they serve ridiculously sized portions and I could only eat about half. So good though. Will ordered Ratzsch's European Sampler - One-quarter Goose Breast, Wiener Schnitzel, Octoberfest Strudel, Spatzle, and Red Cabbage. Also a huge amount of food and so good. I was super curious about the goose as I've never had it before. It is similar to duck but not as fatty. Tasty.

As for the others, Brady had the Hungarian Goulash - Rich stew of Prime Beef, onion, and paprika served over Spatzle. I got the impression that he wasn't impressed with it because it was as good as the goulash he'd had elsewhere. No meat for Anna so she tried the Kase Spatzle - Sauteed petite German dumplings topped with Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato, Mushrooms, Swiss Cheese and Caramelized Onions. She gave it a good review. And Rachel ordered Chicken Alfredo Strudel - Grilled Chicken, bacon, spinach, and Alfredo sauce wrapped in Phyllo dough and baked to perfection. She said it was the richest thing that she has ever eaten. I didn't taste it, but it looked fabulous.

They all had after dinner drinks which I wish I could remember. Will had some kind of German gin which was really good. I'm not one to drink straight alcohol, but the flavor was super mild and had a hint of vanilla. Brady had some kind of cherry-flavored liqueur which tasted quite nasty to me. Anna had some akin to Goldschl├Ąger and I think Rachel's liqueur was honey-flavored. We all shared an apple strudel and a Viennese chocolate torte. Both were delicious. All-in-all Karl Ratzsch's was a great cap to our Milwaukee trip.

I wanted to get a decent night of sleep so we declined more after dinner drinks and took the shuttle back to the hotel.

Next up, the train ride home.

Milwaukee, Day Two.

Have I mentioned the awesome bed? Oh yes, I think I have. Woke up fresh as a daisy after a solid night of sleep, perhaps the best night of sleep I have had in a couple of years. I totally wanted to stay in bed all morning, but Will had places to be so we got up fairly early. It was a work day for him. He had to meet Brady at his place downtown to unload the Penske truck. I decided to opt out on the early meeting and meet up with them later. My original plan was to go down to the fitness center and run on a treadmill for awhile, but that never happened. I'm not a big fan of treadmills (mostly because I am used to running outdoors) and I was so enjoying my leisurely morning, I didn't want to rush to do anything. It was so nice.

The most comfortable bed ever.

The couch.

Since I skipped my run, I decided to walk downtown to meet Will and Brady. It was cold out again, but the brisk air felt great when I stepped outside. It was about a 2.5 mile walk. Brady lives about three blocks from Lake Michigan in a modern condo/apartment building. A luxury apartment, I guess. He's on one of the higher floors and has excellent views of downtown and the lake.

(Downtown, the southern view.)

(Lake Michigan, the eastern view.)

There's a cool mirror in the lobby that I just remembered. I meant to take a photo of it and totally forgot. Anyway, I arrived in time to help Will with the last load of boxes. Lucky me! We dropped the Penske truck off and took a cab back to the hotel. It was well past noon so we were starving yet again. We went down to the lounge and ended up having a very pleasant lunch. Same bartender from the night before, but he was really nice. He recommended the Rustic Ale which was really good. Will had a chicken schnitzel sandwich that glistened with grease and I had a crab salad sandwich. (It had bacon in it, of course.) Delicious.

The late heavy lunch made us sleepy, but we wanted to tour the Miller Brewing Co. and Sam told us the last tour was at 3:00 so we kind of had to bust a move. We got there just in time to catch the latter half of the movie they show at the beginning. Unfortunately, the shift change is at 3:00 so as we were pulling into the Visitor Center, all the workers were headed out with their lunch coolers in hand. So after the opening movie, when we went to the next section where the bottling and what not happens, there wasn't anyone working! Not so exciting. And yet another video. And for no apparent reason, I started having an anxiety attack so I was having a hard time focusing on anything. We moved onto the shipping area where they have stacks and stacks and stacks of beer. I think the tour guide said it's enough to fill five football fields. And they ship that much out every day! That's a lot of beer.

At that point, I really had to pee. I don't think one is actually allowed to pee during the tour, but we just happened to be standing by a door marked "WOMENS BATHROOM". Unfortunately it also said "EMPLOYEES ONLY". But me being me, I asked if I could use it which in turn pissed off the tour guide. He said I could use it but I better "make it fast". I didn't feel all that much better after that and was wondering how I was going to survive much more of the tour. Fortunately, as we headed to the next station, we went through a door that took us out onto the street. And we bailed on the tour. I felt like a total idiot, but I just couldn't do it. So we missed the end of the tour and the part that involves sampling the beers. Lucky for us, we've sampled most of the Miller beers already, although we were both wondering if there would be any difference in taste at the actual brewery.

We cabbed back to the hotel and got ready to meet Brady for dinner downtown at another brew pub. This one was recommended in the guide book at our hotel, Rock Botton. Will and I had no idea it was a chain otherwise we may have picked one of the others. We sampled many of the beers. I ended up drinking Firehouse Amber or something like that while Will and Brady went from light to dark over the course of the evening. For dinner, Will had chicken fried chicken, a breaded chicken cutlet that was bigger than his head. Seriously. Brady had ribs and I had fish and chips. I was still stuffed from lunch so it was hard to even eat. The fish was really good though. They serve the fish and chips with salmon instead of cod. I'd never had it with salmon before. Tasty. And again, we engaged our waitperson in conversation and wow, she had a lot to say. Once we got her going, she pretty much told us her entire life story. Studying at University of Wisconsin - she has three majors which I can't recall - loves Milwaukee, loves the Packers but thinks Brett Favre handled the whole retirement thing poorly. And no cheese head. She was sweet although I think she got on the boys' nerves.

For some reason, after dinner and many beers, we decided that a drink at the hotel with Brady was in order. So we called the shuttle for pick up. The driver was there in no time at all, talk about service. This time we had Andy, a young fellow from Milwaukee. And, sticking with the football theme, it turns out that during the summer, he plays football in Europe. Not clear on whether or not it's NFL Europe, but I don't think it was. It reminded me so much of the book that I just read about a NFL player who fizzles out in America and ends up in Italy. This kid said he was one of two Americans on the team. A cornerback. Apparently he played some college ball but was never that good (his words) and then he got injured and I don't know, somehow ended up doing the Europe thing. Between the beers and the book that I had read, I was positively delighted and perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about his story. (The books is Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. I've never read Grisham before - he's not really my cup of tea - but a friend gave us the book. So I read it. And it was cute.) And now that I think about it, it was Andy, not the waitperson at Rock Bottom, that was disappointed with Brett Favre.

We stumbled out of the van into the lounge which was pretty packed for a Tuesday night. Will and I had the Rustic Ale again while Brady had something sophisticated, a single malt scotch, I think it was. As we sat there, I realized that one more beer was not such a great idea. The drunkenness was settling in. (Earlier Brad and Will insisted that we weren't getting drunk because we were at a lower altitude. While people are more affected by alcohol at higher altitude, I don't know that this really works in reverse.) We said our good-nights to Brady and called it a night.

Tuesday, March 3

No snow here.

It was 70 degrees yesterday. Beautiful.

I wore shorts and a t-shirt this morning on my morning run. It was so nice not to have all the winter layers on.

This is just teaser weather though. It'll get cold again before it stays nice for the spring and summer. But I am loving this small taste of coatless weather.

Off to do some yard work now! I'll get back to the posts about Milwaukee once I get caught up on some photo work.