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Day 4: Oslo

Good evening! It’s was our final full day in Oslo. We hit the road for Stavanger in the morning. We started our the day at Vingeland Park — an amazing sculpture garden commissioned by Gustav Vingeland. The volume of Gustav’s work makes me think he was compulsive in his work or perhaps he had more of a supervisory role in getting things done. The park covers several acres and includes at least a hundred, larger than life sculptures of people at all stages of life.

Vingeland Park

We also visited his museum where we got to learn more about his planning and the process he used to create the bronze works.

Next, we visited the Oslo City museum, which was just okay. Not being from Norway, I had trouble distinguishing how this place was really different from the Norwegian Folk museum. In concept, I assumed it would focus on Oslo, but in reality, what stuck out to me was more popular culture and 80’s and 90’s history. We grabbed lunch from Deli de Luca at the recommendation of Rick Steve’s (love Rick!) Joe say this place reminded him of Quik Trip without the gas, which was a pretty good assessment. Next, we did some shopping — I bought a couple coats and some presents for Hattie. We also visited a thrift store and I found a pretty awesome dress for 140 NOK (about 18 dollars). I have a feeling this is going to be my only good Norwegian shopping stat — oh well!

After shopping, we headed over to the Akerhaus Fortress where we walked the grounds and also toured the Norwegian Resistance Museum. 400,000 Nazi’s occupied Norway during WWII and the country really held their own in resistance throughout the German occupation. Again, this museum was a heavy, but I learned a ton, and I really have a lot of respect for the strong will and ethics of Norway.

After the museum closed, we brought a picnic supper to the Ekeberg sculpture garden, which overlooks the sea.

To wrap up the day, we walked over to the National Opera House. While we’re not opera fans, this place is cool because you can climb up on top of the building and stand on the roof. The building looks like an iceberg, with a ton of penguins (tourists) climbing on it.

Norwegian National Opera House

Our walking stats fell just shy of yesterday’s numbers– 9.41 miles — uff-dah!

The Great Revival of Jackson Faction

Why I quit blogging

Hi all,

It’s been almost 4 years since I updated this blog. You will also note that Hattie is almost 4 years old, too. The researcher in me suspects there could be some sort of correlation between these not-so-disparate events. My last post went up when I was still on maternity leave. If you know me, you’ll recall Hattie birth was followed by a full year of work travel, my Mom’s cancer diagnosis, getting a new job, selling a house, moving back to my home state, and buying a new house. Those events, taken together, have changed my life and heart in many ways. I realized when I went to update my ‘about me’ section of the blog that nothing in the description was even accurate ‘about me’ anymore.

However, looking back over my posts, some other things have stayed the same.  We never stopped traveling, which, for the most part, is what I chose to write about. We actually traveled quite a bit as a family of three — Hattie has been on a least a dozen airplane rides.  Yet, the details of the places we took her early in her life, are fuzzy at best. We also hiked a lot. I’ve tracked our hikes a little bit on social media and I’ve purchased several hiking guides since we moved to Duluth.  Last summer, I contemplated writing a memoir.  I even outlined all my chapters and read a few books about ‘how to write a memoir.’  But, I realized it’s just not the right time for a project like this.  I still have a lot of life to live and with a somewhat vague idea of what it takes to write a book,  I also realized it’s not something I should be doing with a small kid at home who likes to spend her weekends outside.

That is what brings me back here to The Jackson Faction.  Blogging has changed somewhat in the time I’ve been gone. Blogger tools have improved and the landscape is quite different.  These days, most blog traffic is driven through Pinterest, instead of search engines and blogger connections. As far as I can tell, blog meet-ups are a thing of the past, although I never really participated in them. Many personal blogs have been abandoned, and those that survived, are more focused on problem-solving and ‘evergreen content,’ which is content that remains useful, even after weeks and years have passed.  Instead of recapping a trip for family and friends, people share ‘travel guides.’ As a frequent traveler and hiker, I love looking for peoples’ actual lived experiences whenever I prepare for upcoming events.  For this reason, my approach will be a little different in this revival.  Thanks for reading.  Looking forward to having you here.

Our Babymoon!

Our-San-Francisco-Babymoon-Travel-Guide-3-days

Happy New Year! We spent the first 4 days of 2015 on our babymoon in San Francisco. We set out at around 2:30 am on December 31st — blarg. We made it to California around 2 PM and checked into our hotel — the Radisson at Fisherman’s Wharf around 4 PM. We made a quick stop for a late lunch at IHOP (of all places — it was right next door to our hotel and we both love it!). Next, we wandered around the wharf taking in the street performers and bayside views. Sea lion’s congregate year-round right off of Pier 39, so we spent some time watching them bark and topple over one another in a large heap. We made our way into an arcade that hosts antique machines from the 1800’s up through the 1980’s. Many of the machines had a sign that said– be careful — this machine is older than you’ll ever be! But all of them worked and we played nearly all of them. A lot of the games were fun, some were odd, and others were just a little creepy! Overall, it was interesting to see how arcades evolved over time. We made our way back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner. We met up with our friends Marty and Candice and their little daughter Natalie for supper at Boudin — a restaurant famous for their sourdough bread. The food was delicious and the company was even better. There is nothing better than catching up with old friends while ringing in a new year!

Antique arcade

Antique arcade

Fortune typing machine

Fortune typing machine

Sea lions at Pier 39

Sea lions at Pier 39

Ready for dinner!

Ready for dinner!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The next morning we slept in a little and set out for some city sightseeing on a San Francisco double-decker bus tour. We looped around the downtown area, taking in the architecture and history of buildings including the Cannery, city hall, Coit Tower, the ferry building and many others. We stopped for lunch at King’s House of Thai Noodles — wonder of all wonders! Joe is not really known for agreeing to each in such establishments. Back on the bus, we headed into union square — a large shopping district. I found some great deals on maternity dresses — less than $5 each! Next, we wandered through China town, an area that I have always been curious about. There was less food in the area than I expected, but a lot of interesting stores. We made a stop at In n Out Burger for supper — a California fast-food chain that was founded in 1949 but never really franchised much outside of the state. It was good — and a good way to replenish after the 7.51 miles we walked that day. Fitbit stat #1!

The Cannery

The Cannery

China town

China town

The second day we took a tour shuttle across the Golden Gate Bridge into Muir Woods — home of San Francisco’s redwood forest. The park was chilly and foggy, which gave it a mystical feel. The suns rays were visible between the trees which made for a heavenly aura. We hiked around for 1.5 hours before we had to return to the shuttle. I think we could have stayed a good deal longer if we had the choice. These trails were a small step above the ones we trek in Missouri! The shuttle dropped us off in Sausalito — a small bayside town known for its mansions and it’s bike trails. We had lunch at a cafe and wondered along the bayside taking in views of the San Francisco skyline. After a few hours, we took a ferry back across the bay and made the challenging trek up to Lombard street. San Francisco is filled with hills. Many of their sidewalks would make more sense as stairways. The walk up to Lombard street was one that required us (okay, me, the pregnant one!) to take a couple of breaks. But we made it — and the view was a good one. It’s a funny site — the most crooked street in the US — constantly filled with traffic that is there for no other reason but to drive down the goofy street. Next, we made our way down to Aquatic Cove beach where we saw some crazy person swimming in a Speedo. The weather in California was cold — high 40’s, low 50’s. You might think — that doesn’t sound cold, but add in some humidity, and yes, it really is. Having lived in Southern Mississippi where January = wet cold and Northern Minnesota where January = dry crazy cold, I consider myself an authority on “feels like” winter weather conditions. Both are bad, and neither is meant for swimming! We had supper at a beachfront restaurant (more sourdough!), before heading to bed. Fitbit stat #2: 8.49 miles walked!

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

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Lombard Street

Lombard Street

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Our last full day in the city, we took a bay cruise to Alcatraz island. I wasn’t entirely sure that I would enjoy Alcatraz. High-security prisons don’t really equate with “happy place” or “vacation destination” in my mind. But, on the other hand, I felt like it was one of those things you should do if you have the chance. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I wasn’t aware that the Alcatraz history stretched back to the Civil War, where it served as a military fort for the Union. Later, it served as a high-security prison that closed in 1964 due to high operating costs and new trends in corrections leaning away from punishment and towards correction and rehabilitation. Finally, in the later 60’s the island was inhabited by Native Americans, protesting their mistreatment by American settlers. The island views were gorgeous from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate, with the San Francisco Skyline in between. We did an audio tour of the cell house, where we learned about prison life as well as the prisoner’s failed escape plans. We also learned about the many guards’ families who inhabited the island. I thought it was interesting that many admitted to never locked their doors. After taking in most of the exhibits on the island, we returned to the boat and ate lunch as we traveled back across the bay. Next, keeping with the “locked up” theme of the day, we went to the International Spy Store for a lock picking lesson. This was a Groupon purchase inspired by something Joe said on our way home from a trip to Mexico a few years ago. We’d locked our keys in the trunk of the Mustang and had to hire a locksmith. Since convertibles don’t have a trunk release, the locksmith had a really hard time getting into the trunk itself. Joe said watching someone attempt to break into his car was kind of an entertaining vacation excursion in itself. Ergo — when I saw the Groupon — I just had to get it as part of Joe’s Christmas present! The spy store itself looks cool on the outside, but it could have been set up better on the inside, in my opinion. We learned how to pick handcuffs, padlocks, and door locks. From what I can tell — it takes practice, but it’s not impossible for anyone who has some time. Of course — we will use our powers for good — if you get locked out of your house — give us a call! Next, we took a ride on a cable car! I can’t believe these things still exist — it seems like a major liability for a city to allow random citizens to hang off the side of public transportation running right alongside normal city traffic. But, they are certainly fun — as Joe says — they’re kind of like a wooden roller coaster. After doing a little more shopping (more maternity clothes!) we returned on the cable car, had supper (at IHOP, again — yes!) and went to bed. Our alarm went off at 2 am and we spent the day making our way back to Rolla. I have one funny travel story — but I refuse to publish it on the internet! If you see me — Katie — be sure to ask!

Arriving at Alcatraz Island

Arriving at Alcatraz Island

On the island

On the island

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Cable car

Cable car

Babymoon is kind of funny word, and from what I can tell, a new concept that probably leaves some people rolling their eyes. Traveling with Joe for the last 9 years has definitely been one of the best parts of my life. Throughout this trip, we had babies on the brain and we kept our eyes peeled for baby travelers. They are out there and soon enough we’ll have one of our very own! We can’t wait!

DIY Gift: Vanilla Extract

How to make vanilla extract at home DIY project
Like many people, every Christmas I’m on the hunt for fun handmade gift ideas.  I scour the Internet (and my memory) for any ideas that are unique, easy, cute and fairly inexpensive.  This year, I came to the conclusion that I would be making vanilla extract. Like many of you, around the holidays, I’m on the hunt for fun handmade gift ideas. I scour the Internet (and my memory) for any ideas that are unique, easy, cute and fairly inexpensive.  This year, I came to the conclusion that I would be making vanilla extract.
For this project, I bought 20 4-oz Clear Boston Round Bottles from Specialty Bottles and a 1/2 lb pack of Vanilla Beans from Saffron.com.  1/2 lb is roughly 45 beans. I also got a handle of vodka. 
1. First, you’ll need to cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and then crosswise and divide them among the bottles. I used 3 beans for each bottle.
2. Then, pull out your funnel and pour roughly 1/2 cup of vodka into each container.
3. Next, put on the cap and wait!!! Easy-peasy, right?

The steeping effect sets in quickly. The vodka goes from clear to a pretty amber color. Ideally, the vanilla should steep for at least a month, till the vanilla is a dark brown. The longer it steeps the stronger the vanilla flavor.

For labels,  I did a google image search for vintage vanilla labels.  I found one right away that I liked and photoshopped a  list of ingredients along with a Christmas note from Joe and I over the physician’s information (apparently, doctors distributed vanilla back in the day?)  Regarding word choice, I was utilizing these gifts for business colleagues and older family folk, so I listed the ingredients as “Good Tidings, Ethyl Alcohol, and Vanillas Beans”.  I also added a few bows with ribbon and raffia.    

  That’s it!!! Happy gifting!

More Cheap Tricks: Homemaker’s Edition

We bought a house a few months ago and it has been SO much fun doing projects and making it our own!  One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was install a tin ceiling in the guest bedroom.  My favorite coffee shop back home in Minnesota had a purple tin ceiling that really made the joint.  Our house kind of reminds me of that place- antique/ artsy/ shabby chic.    So a tin ceiling was a must.  They are so pricey though… who can spend over a grand on a ceiling when there are cats to feed.  I decided on a faux technique I found on the internet.  Initially, when I ran this by Joe, he looked at me like this…

and said- that’s a project.  You have fun with that.  Lucky for me, I’ve been known to seize fabulous opportunities when they slap me in the face. Early in the ayem one fine snow day- the fine fella got on board with my plan:)  Never underestimate the power of a captive audience- emphasis on captive- hehe:)  Here’s what we did:

1. Selected a ceiling to tin.  Removed light fixture:

2..Purchased Allen and Roth Paintable Wallpaper, Pattern:  Ceiling Tile
3. Covered the floor in with plastic drop cloths and soaked the prepasted wallpaper using this thingy:

3.For the next four or so hours we stood on these contraptions with our arms above our heads sticking and smoothing the wallpaper sheets:
We started out using really big sheets.  But- these proved to be more trouble than they were worth.  We begin cutting smaller squares and putting them up faster.  Here we are in progress:
5.  Finally- we finished! 

6. Over the next few days- half of the paper fell down- oh dear! We bought a bottle of boarder paste, which is technically used for hanging wallpaper boarders as well as a few tubes of seam repair.  This stuff did the trick.  Nobody ever said wallpapering a ceiling would be easy- not even me. 
7. Next, I ordered some paint off of Ebay.  I used Roman’s Paintable Wallpaper Coating in Silver.  They used to sell this stuff at Lowe’s, but I believe the product itself has been discontinued.  Hence the reason I ordered it off of Ebay.  USPS- pay no attention to this blog post… is it legal to mail paint?  My guess would be not-so-much, but I’m not totally sure. I applied the paint using a medium texture roller.  I ran out of paint and had to order a second can off of Ebay.  Nobody ever said this project would be a quick one either! 
So- here we are- the final product:

Overall- this was a heckuva project!  I might do one more glaze over the top to bring out the detail… we’ll see!  For now- I’m happy enough to leave it alone! 

Better After!

Since we just bought a house we are working on collecting some furniture.  Joe and I have spent the last 8-9 years living in furnished apartments and dorm rooms so all we have we really have is a  plethora of book shelves, a mattress, and a box spring.  We have a ways to go.  This is why, I decided to peruse, Rollanet!  It turns out our fellow Rollaonians have boycotted Craig’s List… in favor of Rolla Net:.  I wish I would have realized this about a year ago… I have spent a fair amount of time searching Craig’s List in vain for anything on sale within a hundred miles of Rolla. Go figure- I was recently clued in on Rolla’s preferred on-line classifieds server, so on we go… I purchased the following bedroom set… there are 5 pieces total.  Apparently I didn’t get a before picture of all the pieces…

Nice and sturdy- but just a little too 1985 for my taste!  Using the process described here:  Here’s what I did to amend this…
Step One:  Remove the hardware:
Step 2:  Apply 2 coats of primer.  I used Kilz Odorless Spray Primer.  This dries in about one hour.
Step 3:  Apply 3 coats of paint.  I used Valspar Interior Exterior Gloss in Antique White.  This dries in about 20 minutes.

Step 3:  Using a paint brush, apply a thin coat of Valspar Interior Faux Finish.  This finish needs to be tinted when you buy it.   I had it tinted “New Black” at Lowe’s.  The finish is painted on with a paint brush and then wiped off with a damp cloth.   This finish makes all the etching in this set pop out. 

Step 4:  I spray painted the hardware an oil rubbed bronze. Here’s how it all panned out… I don’t have an after picture of mirror that goes on top of the long dresser.  It’s done… it’s just currently crammed away in the townhouse! 

Whew!  I’m pretty happy with it!  However, I don’t think I will ever feel the need to spray paint anything ever again…  If you’re interested in trying this method I recommend a trip to this blog for more instructions and inspiration:  All Things Thrifty by Brooke

STELLA!

Joe brought home a surprise the other night….
I almost started to cry- I was so happy to get a girl in the house:)  Her name is Stella and she weighs about 1 pound at 5 weeks of age.  She was a campus stray that got separated from her Mom and brothers. 
Her and Carl are getting along pretty well so far.  Initially there was some cranky hissing, but now he has taken on the role of Daddy- watching Stella play and sometimes carrying her in his mouth by the scruff of her neck just like a Momma cat!  Nice to see Carl can be domestic!  He looks like such an old kitty compared to Stella!
In other exciting news- here’s our new fence!  Up just in time for the proverbial wild neighbor people to
re-inhabit their house for the school year.  Good deal I guess!

Let Them Eat Cake

The following recipe has been flying around my family’s e-mail accounts this week…

 It’s a chocolate cake you make in a coffee cup!  It only takes about 5 minutes in the microwave…
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 4 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT! This is definitely enough cake for two! 
Now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

DIY Chalkboard

Super fun, super easy DIY project I put together for our new kitchen!  Here’s what you do…

1.Find a picture frame or a mirror… doesn’t have to be anything too pricey.  I found mine at Goodwill for about $7.
2.Buy some chalkboard paint.  I found mine at Wal-Mart although the lady in the paint department told me they are going to stop carrying it.  They should have it at Lowe’s or Home Depot although our Lowe’s was sold out the day I went to buy some.
3. Remove the glass portion of the frame and apply 2 coats of chalkboard paint.
4. Let dry 24 hours.  Season your new chalkboard using the wide side of some white school chalk.
5. Chalk away!  These are great for posting dinner party menus or welcome messages!