Alaskan Lingerie

This weekend it got chilly, down to 20 at night!  This prompted me to reach into my drawers of winter clothes and pull out my Alaskan Lingerie – the Flannel Nightie!

Here’s a picture.  I’m not wearing it because that would be just too racy for the internet.


It’s long – almost to my ankles, and has this lovely, simple ruffle around the neck.  You know, so as not to reveal too much.

On top of the obvious sex appeal that the grannie nightie – I mean, flannel nightie – brings, it has the bonus of being toasty warm.  Which, in Alaskan winters, is a must!  Function meets fashion.  Who could want anything more?

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Spinning At Last!

For my 30th birthday (almost two years ago – yikes!) my parents generously fulfilled my birthday wish by giving me a beautiful spinning wheel.  It’s a Kromski Minstrel in Mahogany stain.  A beautiful, compact, double treadle wheel, it fits perfectly in our small cabin.  However, I had never learned to use it, until this weekend.

The wheel did come with an instructional video.  Both Lee and I watched the video and tried to make it work.  It didn’t.  I couldn’t get the flyer to take in the yarn at all.  It was frustrating, and frankly, I really didn’t understand how the whole thing was supposed to make yarn.  It didn’t make sense.   So the wheel sat as decoration in our home back in NH, occasionally being treadled for fun.

When we moved to Fairbanks, I found a store here called A Weaver’s Yarn that offers spinning lessons.  But I never felt we could afford it.  So I survived the winter content with knitting.  A few days ago, however, while out running errands, I turned down the back road where A Weaver’s Yarn is located, on a whim, and ended up signing up for my private lesson.  That lesson was yesterday.

After two hours, I now understand how the wheel works.  Well, at least enough to make it take up the yarn.  My yarn isn’t pretty yet.  But I’m getting there.  My assignment is to practice for 15-20 minutes each day until my next lesson, where I will learn to ply my singles that I create with my 15-20 minutes of daily practice.

Spinning

I’m super excited to have a new pastime for the cold winter months.  I’ll be busy with knitting and spinning all winter long!  I think Lee might be a little worried…

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Cranberry Pickin’

It’s that time of year in Fairbanks when the cranberries are ready for picking.  Last year we did no berry picking – we didn’t know where to find them.  I was afraid that this year would be the same, with the plants in our backyard only producing a few handfuls.  But then Lee and I went for a walk on labor day.  I can’t tell you where.  Real Alaskans don’t reveal their prime picking spots (hence not knowing where to go picking).  But we went for a walk on a hill near town.  It was a place I’d never been.  As we walked down the trail, the woods to our left opened up to reveal a grove over grown with lowbush cranberries.  It was a sight to behold!  But alas, we were without containers, so had to return another day.

That day came on Thursday.  The week had gotten away from us and I was worried the berries would all be gone.  Surely someone else must know about this place.   At 7:30 at night, we got in the car, berry container in hand (old milk jug with the top cut wide) and returned to our secret spot.

Now, the sun has begun setting earlier and earlier, so we had about an hour and a half of usable daylight.  I hurried down the trail, not waiting for Lee as he took pictures of the sun setting on the golden birch trees.  Seriously, man!  We have berries to pick!  As I was walking (jogging) down the trail, I heard rustling in the trees next to me.  Some one was in the trees picking cranberries!  Crap!  I thought.  There really won’t be any  left.  But she wasn’t in our grove, so I kept on jogging.

I found our grove and lo and behold, it was still chockerblock full of cranberries.  We picked until it was too difficult to see in the dim light.
Picking cranberries

Aren’t they sweet?  Juicy too!  The knees on my jeans were all red with berry juice from kneeling.

Handfull

We left with a gallon of cranberries picked only in an hour!  Pretty impressive, I’d say.  I’ll be going back again this weekend in hopes we can get more.

In the meantime, we have a gallon of cranberries frozen in the freezer.

Freezing cranberries

And a new book on Alaskan wild berries and how to cook them.

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A different kind of bravery

I haven’t had my hair cut in almost a year.  It was getting really long.  Like, ratty long.  I needed a cut.  We live in Alaska.  Plus, I couldn’t afford a cut.  Do you know where this is going?

I asked Lee to cut my hair for me.  No big deal.  Take off four inches.  Make it straight.  Easy.

I was wrong.  He took off at least seven inches.  It’s really short.  Much shorter than I wanted.  Lee declared at the end of the saga that we were never doing that again.

I thought I was being Alaskan.  It was brave of me.  Now I need to access a different kind of bravery and feel okay with my new short haircut.

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The End of the Summer

It’s the end of the summer.  Fall is in the air.  I am knitting again, and dreaming of all the projects I want to cram in before the real cold sets in.  I realized the other day that my knitted hat basket doesn’t have nearly enough hats!  And now that I’ve learned to knit mittens, I need to stock up on those as well.  

Knitting isn’t the only sign.  I find myself curled up on the couch reading cookbooks, wanting soups and chowders.  On Sunday I called my mother at least five times to share a recipe with her (now that our freezers are chocker-block full of Alaskan salmon that WE caught!) 
I have jazz on the radio (which is fall music only).  
School starts in a week.  The newspaper is full of fliers for back to school sales and this Sunday’s paper had the school bus schedule.  
But most notably, the air is cooler.  Lee and I have the windows closed most of the day.  We are wearing our slippers and sweatshirts.  We cover up with blankets on the couch.  Lee even wore his hat all day yesterday!  
There’s a sadness that comes with the end of summer, a feeling that it’s time to hunker down, work hard, store up to survive the long winter.  That feeling is more stark here in Alaska.  While I’m sad at the end of relaxation and having to go back to the grind of work and school, and I’m sad that our summer vacation with Mom and Dad has come and gone too quickly, I am excited for fall.  It’s my favorite season.  We get to start feeding the birds again.  The foliage turns all beautiful, different from home, but still spectacular.  We get to wear woolen goodies.  We get to snuggle more.  
So we’ll spend the next week trying to squeeze out a few more summer moments.  But then we’ll plant the fall spinach and kale, put up the canoe and go back to work.  
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Belle or the Beast?

Remember that scene from Beauty and the Beast where Belle is out in the winter garden feeding the birds and they come right to her hand?  And then later Beast is out there with birds perched all over his head and shoulders?  I’m not sure if this story makes me Belle or the Beast – I’ll let you decide.

I was just sitting out on our deck enjoying the calm after a light rain.  The birds were everywhere singing up a storm.  Otis was in the tall grass, pretending to be a hunter.  Because it had just rained, I took out my camping chair to have a place to sit that was dry.  I was on the edge of the steps, sitting still and relaxed when I heard fluttering of wings behind me.  Very close behind me.  And then I felt it – gentle, light, clenching claws on the back of my pony tail.  Now, my reaction was not of calm oneness with nature – I wish!  I tensed right up and starting quiet-yelling “Ahhhhhhh ahhhh ahhh.”  So the bird flew away.  I saw it.  It was a little black junco.  One of the many flying around, not at all afraid of Otis.  I guess he wasn’t afraid of me, either.

I think my lack of grace in the situation makes me more like Beast….

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It Looks Like Rain…

About an hour ago, Lee looked out the window and said, “Wow, it looks like rain!  Look how dark it is outside!”

Now, back east, our first thought would be, Let’s make sure the windows are closed!  But not here.  Lee said, “I’m going to go out to the outhouse before it starts to pour.”  To which I replied, “Good idea!  Me too!”

We walked out to and returned from the outhouse dry.  Now it is pouring outside.  And we don’t need to pee.  This outhouse thing takes planning!

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I’ve Returned!

Hi everyone!  I’m back after my science camp hiatus.  Science Camp was the hardest job I’ve ever had (minus that one waitressing job in Portsmouth where the computer screens were weird colors and the waitstaff never helped me but I was always supposed to help them – I quit / was fired).  Seriously, Lee and I worked between 80 and 90 hours a week for four weeks.  Seven hours a day with kids and no breaks, then many more hours into the evening for planning.  And working with kids is a whole different kind of exhausting.  One that I am used to, yes.  But not one that Lee is used to.  I think that part was the hardest.  Although, he managed a couple of posts this past month, and I did not.  So I guess that makes me the lame one.

Anyway, Science Camp is over, we are on a bit of a vacation that so far involves a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of knitting, and a lot of Otter Pop eating.  It’s also going to involve running, as I’ve decided to begin running.  When we went camping with the kids, we played all kinds of capture the flag and elbow tag.  The running actually felt good!  Now, just running down the road isn’t nearly as fun as elbow tag, but it will feel good.  If I could organize daily games of elbow tag to get into shape, I would. But I only know like four people in Fairbanks, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be as excited about elbow tag as I am.  So running it is.  Watch me go!  Woosh!  (Well, maybe put put put from all the otter pops).

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Nostalgia

Last night Lee and I went for an evening walk in Creamer’s Field.  The light was soft and warm at 9:00 (sun still up!) and walking through the field and past the ponds and into the boreal forest, I felt like I was walking through a memory, or a feeling of memory.  Like, this feels like how I remember being a little girl and walking in the woods with my dad, or playing Boxcar Children in the woods with Kim and Kaitlyn and all the other daycare kids.  Sigh.  It was a lovely feeling.

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It’s The Little Things….

There are so many things that one becomes accustomed to in their home town/region that you wouldn’t even imagine it could be different.  We’ve experienced so many different parts of life out here on a grand scale, that sometimes the little differences get overlooked.  So let me share with you something little that is different about living in Alaska.  It’s something I don’t understand and haven’t yet figured out how to manage with ease.

It’s the butter.  Butter here is sold in sticks.  But not long skinny sticks, like back home in New England.  No, the sticks are short and fat.  Now, you might not think this is a big deal, but it really is because the stick of butter doesn’t fit in the butter dish.  It is too fat and the butter dish lid gets suspended in the air.  So when I add butter to the butter dish, I must cut it into pieces and turn it on its side so that the lid of the butter dish fits.

What I don’t understand is, don’t people in Alaska use butter dishes?  I actually suspect that this is a west coast thing, as the butter we buy comes from California or Oregon.  So the real question is, don’t people on the west coast use butter dishes?  There seems to be a flaw in the manufacturing of west coast butter.  Are there special west coast sized butter dishes that I haven’t discovered yet?  Seriously.  It’s the little things that throw me for a loop.

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