Workout Interrupted

I’m back to the grind. School’s started, I’m on a regular work schedule, and I’m back to a regular workout schedule too. I’ve been doing T25 right when I get home for work. It’s hard, fun, and done in 25 minutes. Today, Lee took Moose for his walk while I did my workout. At 17 minutes in, the phone dings with a text. I checked in case it was Lee. It was. The message read, “I think you need to come pick us up in the car.” I was worried Moose was too tired because he hadn’t eaten. Nope. The next message read, “I can’t get Moose to budge because there is a goat thing following us.” I drove.

It was not a “goat thing.” It was a goat. A big goat, actually. I turned the corner to see her standing there, about ten feet from Lee, who was holding on to the leash while Moose strained to get at the goat. I drove past them, up to the goat, and started to honk. I then proceeded to honk and chase the goat all the way to the end of the road where we think, but aren’t sure, she came from. As I drove back to Lee and Moose, the goat started to head back in our direction, so Lee got Moose to jump in the car, we drove around the corner, and I let them back out to finish their walk. (Moose needs his exercise too, after all.) I drove home, back into the house, and finished my last eight minutes and 22 second of my work out. Now that’s what I call commitment to my workout!

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Lee and I went to the dump the other day and while he was unloading the car, I went to look at the drop off section to see if there was anything useful.  And there was!

Ta Da!

I had to convince Lee that we needed it.  It can act as an outdoor bench, I said!  Or a potting bench, or something we haven’t even thought of!  So Lee loaded it into the trunk.  And now I have a project.

I’ve already started!  And yes, I’m sanding
by hand…

I’m going to sand it up, stain it and then put some sort of protective coating on it.  Polyurethane, maybe?  I don’t actually know what you’d put on it, but I’m going to figure it out.  And we are going to have a bench.  It’s even got wheels!

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Fresh Veggies

So my absence on the blog has been a result of being holed up on rainy day after rainy day trying to plow through these summer courses.  I’ve been busy, and as I’m not the best student (in terms of quality study habits) I have found it to be a bit stressful.  But the past week has turned sunny and perfectly warm – in the 70’s – and I’m finding my mind turning to other, summer like things.  This, of course, is despite the fact that all my course work is due next Monday and I have a crap ton still left to do.

One of the things that happens when your head is in the books, and your husband’s head is in the books, and its cold and rainy, is your routine is the same.  For example, grocery store routine.  We’ve been going to the grocery store to get all our produce, like it was winter.  And the other week Lee and I noticed that the grocery store produce was icky!  The onions were old and bruised, the tomatoes were really red cardboard, the lettuce was awful.  And I thought, wait a minute, isn’t it summer?  What are we doing buying crappy veggies?!

So on Saturday, Lee and I went to the Farmer’s Market.  I know I know, you are saying to your computer screen, “Well, obviously Kate.  What were you thinking?”  Clearly, I wasn’t thinking.  I was so engrossed in my school work that I wasn’t thinking at all about the fact that it is summer and, despite our short growing season, people grow food here in Alaska, and not only are we craving fresh produce, but we should be supporting the farmers who work to provide local produce.

Here’s our bounty (and Otis).

Most vendors had the usual cucumbers, onions, chard, kale, lettuce, and carrots.  Some had beets and turnips.  Lots of kohlrabi and cabbage.  One farmer had beautiful green and purple string beans.  Another had sugar snap peas (my favorite!).  There really was some great variety.  And so far, it’s all been delicious!  Lee made scrambled egg quesadillas this morning, with sauteed farm onions in the local eggs from the green house, and topped with a homemade salsa with farm tomatoes and green onions, with our own cilantro and basil growing on the porch.  Seriously delish.  For lunch we are having a quinoa salad with arugula we got from the market.  And for dinner we are having tacos with all the veggie fixings from the farm.

I will say that I noticed there was no cheese being sold at the market …. and this got me thinking… maybe I should be raising goats instead of writing papers.

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Dear Lee

Dear Lee,

It’s Saturday and you have been gone now for four days.  I’ve been saying all day, I’ve made it half way.  It’s been hard, though not as hard as I thought.  Mostly, I just miss you.  We’ve been managing fine, Moose, Otis and Me.  Otis has been snuggling on the couch with me all morning.  We all slept in till 9:00!  Now I’m just taking a break from school work to give you an update on our week. I know you won’t be able to even read it until you are home next week, but I thought I could send it out to the Universe.

So far most of our antics have been Moose related.  He got out of his Kennel on Wednesday.  On Friday, I came home to his bed torn apart (sigh).  On our walk on Thursday evening, we had an encounter with two dogs not on leashes which was scary because Moose went all bat crap crazy.  Now I have cheese with me on every walk for those moments.  I had to babysit Wednesday night.  Their heat was all messed up so it was like 80 degrees in the apartment.  Kept having to open a window, let it get cold, then close the window.  Moose came with us.  Despite the heat, he did really well.  We came home at 5:00 am exhausted from a night of not sleeping.

Let’s see… I have a ton of school work still left to do and I find it harder to focus on work when you aren’t here.  I just feel a bit lonely and can’t seem to escape into writing a paper.  It’s easier to escape into Angry Birds 🙂  Plus I’m feeling some stress by all the other things that need to get done, like dishes and groceries and laundry and bills.  Not to mention walks and workouts and cooking and you get the idea.  I just wish you were here to talk me through it all.

So, you aren’t missing too much around here.  The leaves haven’t opened up like you thought they might.  It’s been chilly.  It does get close to 60 in the day but still drops down to 30 at night, and the last few days the sun has only peeked out a couple of times, so it stays chillier.  I like it like that.  I think Moose does too.

Sending you all kinds of love and hugs.  It looks like it’s been raining in Paxson.  I hope you are staying warm and dry and hope everything is going successfully and you’ll be home sooner rather than later.  I love you.


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Welcome Moose!

Last week, Lee and I went to meet Moose, the sweetest dog in the entire world. He came home with us and is living here for a mandatory 2 week trial period before we are allowed to adopt him. But there is no doubt. He’s staying.

Moose is a Newfie and Lab mix. Lee says he seems more Newfie, but to me he just looks like a big, black golden retriever. But I really don’t know anything about dogs. At puppy class (yes, we already have him in dog obedience school) two different people said they thought he looked like he had Chow in him. I just shrugged my shoulders because, okay, what’s a chow?

All those details aside, he’s an absolute doll. Happy, loves to play with his squeaky ball (which annoys Lee but I, surprisingly, don’t mind) and is very interested in Otis. In a week, we have had many successful times with both Otis and Moose in the living room, sleeping and happy. It’s not always like that. Moose gets too close. But he’s learning, and in the meantime, Otis has the upstairs to himself. And Lee keeps reminding me that it will take time and if I believe they will be okay, they will be okay. So that’s my mantra. They will be okay. And it’s not all wonderful. There are a few behaviors that we need to work on, like pulling on the leash when we walk, and growling at the neighbors (that one was shocking). But that’s why we are in doggy school. We’ll learn, and he’ll settle in.

Having a dog has been all consuming. I am exhausted. Many people have said to me that getting a dog is the step before having kids. Having a dog has me questioning if I could handle kids! I’m pooped!

Here are some pictures to help you fall in love with our new munchkin. We are totally smitten!

I was thinking that I could have one treat for sitting and a second for looking at you with these eyes Smile_lo_res Moose 2 loving the snow_lo_res

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Saturday Night

I’ve been sick.  Like, curled up on the couch with tissues scattered around me, moaning kind of sick.  It’s not fun.  We haven’t been able to enjoy the weekend because of it.  But last night, the Northern Lights made a strong appearance.  As we sat watching the live feed from Poker Flats, Lee wanted to get out to go see them.  Some place high.  I wanted to go too.  Even though I was sick, I figured I could stay in the car with the blanket wrapped around me and my pillow, tea, and tissues and still be able to enjoy them.

Now, I’m going to stop the story here to explain something about my husband.  Sometimes, when he gets really excited, he’s like a little kid.  You know, when kids get so excited all reason leaves them and they do something irrational and impulsive that, in the end, causes a problem, but at the time, their little-kid mind couldn’t foresee anything bad happening because it wasn’t actually thinking?  I love this about my husband, most of the time.  His child-like excitement and wonder about things makes me feel excited too.  Unfortunately, this childlike wonder and impulsiveness can sometimes get him into trouble.

Back to the story.  So Lee and I loaded the car with camera equipment, a warm blanket, my pillow, and some tea.  Off we went, headed to Murphy Dome.  From the top of Murphy Dome (about a half hour north of us) you can see the whole sky.  We made a stop in Goldstream Valley, along with about 20 other people, and then continued on to Murphy Dome (there were just too many people in Goldstream).  I was cozy in the car, looking at the Northern Lights as we drove and watching to make sure Lee was watching the road and not the Northern Lights (this was a challenge).  Up up up the mountain we climbed.  Farther and farther.  Now, the further we drove, the farther away from town we drove.  Up up up.  Near the top, we could see the naval radar dome and the aurora all around.  About one hundred yards from the top of Murphy Dome, to the right, the aurora burst out over the radar dome.  It was spectacular, blue, green and red.  And Lee, in all his impulsive, childlike enthusiasm, saw this sight too, and decided that he had to turn the car toward it.  Yes, he needed to pull off the road immediately so he could capture that image, not stopping to consider that there was no one else around to pull to the side for, or that there was no side of the road, only snow drifts.  So you can imagine, the car, turned sharply to the right, went WOOSH and then THUD.  Straight into a snow bank. Lee said, “Uh Oh.” and then continued with the impulsiveness by throwing the car into reverse and flooring it. This happened all so fast that the only thing I could spit out was, “Rock it!”  meaning, when you are stuck in snow, you need to gently rock it.  But the flooring of the gas made the front right tire spin itself about a foot and a half down into that snow bank.

I had to take over.  I told Lee to let me get out, made him get out so I could drive and he could push, and was certain that we would be out in no time.  This didn’t happen.  We were so thoroughly stuck that nothing worked.  Lee took out the floor mats and tried to shove them under the tires to give them traction.  That didn’t work.  Lee tried digging out a path to reverse through.  That didn’t work.  We even found our throwing shovel in the back seat for added digging assistance (thanks Dayle!).  That didn’t work.  This was probably 20 minutes now.  One truck drove down the road from the top of Murphy Dome.  Upon seeing us stuck, it sped up.  I was getting nervous.  How would we get out of this?  Would a tow truck even come this far out of town, and if so, what on earth would they charge?  Another 10 minutes later, an SUV came down the road, slowed down, rolled down the window, and asked if we needed help.  Finally, hope!

Out of the SUV stepped the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  Jessica and Ray and their dog Marty.  They had a strap in the car for tying down snow mobiles.  Lee got down on the ground, hooked it to the frame of the car, and Ray backed their car up to try to tow us out.  I stood in the road with Jessica.  Lee drove.  Ray drove.  The car started to roll back, my arms went in the air in triumph, and wait…. Ray’s car stalled.  He started up, tried again, and cablammo!  The strap burst into a million pieces.  Hope faded.

It was decided that Ray and Jessica would take one of us to the top of the dome to ask if anyone had a tow strap (a real tow strap that many Alaskans carry in their car for just such occasions – believe me, it just got added to the shopping list).  Lee suggested I go.  But I passed that one right back to Lee.  I was sick, in my pajamas, and had no desire to go begging for a tow strap.  Plus, Lee was the one who had gotten us into this mess.  So Lee got in the car with Jessica and Ray and I got on my knees to continue digging.  It was futile.  There was just way too much snow.  About 10 minutes later, they returned with a tow strap.  Thank goodness!  They hooked it up, and voila!  The car came out of the snow bank.  Relief washed over me.  We shook hands with Ray and Jessica and thanked them for giving up their Saturday evening to help us.  And continued on up to the top of the Murphy Dome.

The stars were barely visible when the aurora first came out

A satellite passes by as the aurora comes out, brilliantly, during twilight.

Start to get the feeling that this will be a good night! The sky is lighter to the south (right side) because of light pollution from Fairbanks. I kind of like the color gradient it makes this time of night.

Watching the aurora down in the Goldstream Valley. Lights from the homes on the hill, some purple at high altitudes, brilliant night!

The aurora was very active on the horizon to the northeast. I almost missed that the entire sky above me was pulsating, with color! I've never seen any other color, but green with pulsating aurora. This was really filling the sky; you can see the constellation Orion bottom center, and the Pleiades cluster up and right.

Taken in the winter of 2012 on Murphy Dome. I definitely drove our car into a snow bank on this lovely evening. Luckily the aurora stayed out long enough that even after all the digging, flagging down cars, and towing the car out of a ditch we still were able to watch the show.

I won’t be letting Lee forget this adventure any time soon.  But the aurora was worth it. Thanks, Ray and Jessica, wherever you are!

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Road Block

The other night Lee picked me up from work and we ran a few errands; dinner, Sam’s Club for a large doormat, gas.  By the time we got home, it was almost six and I had to pee.  We brought a load of groceries into the house and I ran out to use the outhouse.  Only, there was something in the way.

Well, not technically in the way.  I heard some rustling.  I stopped, listened, then heard it again.  Ahead and just off the trail that leads to our outhouse was a moose chomping on some willows.  She saw me, and kept munching, but I couldn’t move forward.  I would have been walking very close to her to get to the outhouse and I would have most likely walked right into her safety bubble, possibly prompting a charge.  I knocked on the window to get Lee.  He came out with his camera and tried to get some pictures.

I, meanwhile, did an award-winning pee-dance.  It was a sight to behold, I’m sure. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s why the moose stayed – it was just so entertaining!  Lee suggested I just pee in the woods.  I said no.  I already have to pee in a hole outside and brave moose encounters.  Peeing in the woods just outside my house would have been too much for my pride.

I finally stepped forward and said kindly to the young moose, “Okay lady.  I’m sorry but I need you to be on your way.  Please come back later.”  She looked up and walked away.  Just like that.  Sometimes you just need to ask.  Saying please helps.  And I was able to pee.


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A Bad Day in the Dry Cabin

I wasn’t really feeling the whole Dry Cabin thing yesterday.  It was -44 and I either ate something bad or had a stomach bug thing because, in the -44 degree outdoors, I needed to use the “restroom” multiple times (of course I did….).  In reality, it could have been just one long visit to the “restroom.”  But that would have induced frostbite.  So it was broken up into three visits, with warm-up sessions inside each time that caused fogged-up glasses from leaving -44 degree air and stepping into 68 degree air.

When I finally could take off all the layers, I slipped off my boots and put my feet into my slippers only to find there was snow in there!  With my foggy glasses still foggy, I bent over to grab the chunk of snow and WHAM! Smashed my forehead on the mitten and hat drawer that was still open.  
Later that evening we discovered that the boiling point of propane is -44 (of course it is…).  We use propane to cook.  Our propane tank is located outside.  It was so hard to get a flame for dinner that we didn’t eat until 9:30.  
While there are days that I like our dry cabin, yesterday was miserable and I was seriously wishing for modern, non-arctic living.  At least it’s still beautiful where we live.  I have to stay positive, because we won’t have running water for a while….
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Yearning for a Snow Day

We’ve had snow here for over a month now.  In all, we have close to a foot of snow on the ground, and thick patches of snow on the branches of all the spruce trees.  As we don’t really get wind here, it always feels magical outside and all cozy inside.

more snow

This has me yearning for a snow day.  You New Englanders know them well.  They are the truest gift of time, where the day can be filled with knitting and cooking and no guilt that you really should be doing something else.  But alas…

One of the things about working in Alaska’s school system is that people are accustomed to driving in the snow.  Everyone has snow tires or studded tires.  Even the school buses have chains for the tires.  The DOT trucks throw gravel on the road instead of salt and sand.  Kids go out for recess until the thermometer hits 20 degrees below zero.  Winter is a fact of life.  It’s half the year up here.  All of that means we don’t get snow days.

Not never… last year right before Thanksgiving we had this freak warming in the night, so instead of snow it rained.  But the ground was still frozen, so the rain froze instantly on everything.  And then the temperatures immediately dropped to below zero again.  There were two inches of ice on the roads and no way to treat it, because salt doesn’t work below a certain temp.  So we had two days off.

Unfortunately this is a rarity and I have had no anticipation of something like that happening again.  That is, until Friday, when we received multiple emails from principals informing us of a fast developing storm that might bring up to 2 feet of snow Sunday night, with gusts of wind up to 55mph! “Don’t forget your phone tree” and “Review procedures for delayed openings” my bosses declared.  And there it was….that familiar flicker of excitement and possibility returned to my belly.  Hope.  I remembered longingly the feeling of the phone ringing at 5:30 and sitting up and cheering, before even answering it!  Is it possible I could receive this glorious gift of time?

It’s not looking too promising.  The weather advisory has been taken off NOAA’s website.  Snow is “likely” with the possibility of freezing rain.  In Alaska, just snow isn’t enough.  My hope lies in the freezing rain.  The only downside is the freezing rain and wind will take away my magical treescape outside.  So I guess there’d better be a snow day to make up for it!

Morning light on our road

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Wanting Memories

I’m spending the morning listening to the radio and preparing stuffing.  The turkey is still frozen (again) though not to the crisis level of last year.  Maybe next year we’ll finally be able to properly defrost a turkey in time for Thanksgiving!  So the turkey is in a tub of water.  I have onions and celery chopped for the stuffing and am sauteing chorizo for the stuffing as I type.  Everything I am cooking this year I have made before, so I wanted at least one new recipe.  I got this recipe from NPR.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Lee is out running last minute errands – trash run, water run, and last minute Fred Meyer run.  Just got the phone call.  Every store is out of sage, so the stuffing will be sageless.  Oh well.  I’m sure it will still be tasty.  Or not.  Such is life.  
Me, I’m enjoying the quiet of the morning, listening to a concert on NPR with a men’s vocal group.  They just sang Wanting Memories, originally written and sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  If you don’t know the song, go to itunes and download it pronto!  It’s beautiful and matches the mood of the morning.  
I am missing home this holiday.  The past few days I’ve been very teary, missing my family, my Meme’s cooking, just the joy of everyone coming together, too much food, fun conversation, my mom, uncle Mark and Auntie laughing in the kitchen – they have great laughs.  I miss snuggling on the couch with my cousin.  It’s the first time since we’ve been out here that I’ve truly missed it.  I even tried to get our guests into the tradition by asking them all to cook.  It didn’t work, and really wasn’t fair.  They are all bringing things, which is generous.  I think I wanted to try to replicate that feel of everyone coming together, working together to make it special.  
I also feel very blessed this morning.  I have wonderful memories fueling me through the morning.  And I have the most amazing husband.  He’s been so loving these last few days and helpful without blinking an eye.  Our home is cozy and clean – such a blessing!  The light outside is dim and grey, but inside it’s warm.  I feel grounded in cooking and dancing and listening to music.  We have guests coming over at 1:00, who will be happy to come together, missing their families as well.  We’ll be spending our time playing Settlers of Catan.  No football or parade for us, as we have no TV!
Sending wishes for a wonderful day to everyone.  Here’s hoping it’s a day that makes many memories for you and yours. 
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