Experiencing Alaska Month by Month
Updated: May 7, 2007
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2003 Susan L. Stevenson - All photos are copyright protected
Saturday
November 1, 2003

Chena River at DuskWhat a lovely day it was in Fairbanks! The bitter cold is taking a momentary hiatus and it was positively BALMY as the temperatures rose to 35 degrees this afternoon. Drip, drip, drip went the snow, as it melted off the eaves and thawed some of the ice in our driveway.

I had a sleepless night last night (again). I was wide awake at 2:30am and tried to go back to sleep but just couldn't slip over that line. I crept downstairs and turned on the television to see if there was anything on the air that would put me back to sleep. I finally settled on TV Land and barely paid attention to old Three's Company episodes and then The Dick Van Dyke Show. Finally, close to 5am, my eyes grew heavy and I turned off the TV and climbed the stairs back to the bedroom. Steve didn't stir when I crawled under the covers and curled into the back of him. I lay there for almost 20 minutes, having a dialogue in my head - trying to talk myself into falling back to sleep. I guess it worked. When I awoke, Steve was already out of bed. The smell of coffee brewing drew me downstairs, where I found him immersed in the newspaper and savoring a cup. It was nearly 10am!

My plans for the day didn't include anything more than lounging around in my sweatsuit doing absolutely nothing. I was feeling lazy, that's for sure. Those plans changed pretty quickly.

"We really need to run out to Sam's Club and get dog food and the bulk items while the roads aren't so treacherous. We'll go out to lunch too. Get dressed... take your time." (When Steve says "take your time" it really means 'you have 45 minutes to pull yourself together or I'm going without you'.) I'm really glad he suggested going out. I needed an excuse to get myself up and moving. We did our shopping and then stopped at THE COOKIE JAR for lunch. I got a burger; he got batter-fried halibut strips (they look just like chicken fingers). After lunch, he professed a desire to take the truck off-road. I'm sure he wanted to see just what his 4WD could do. We explored some of the trails behind the airport and I stopped to take some photos on the banks of the river. We were standing on a 10 foot cliff (that's what the line is in the photo - the edge of the cliff) and it was a slippery mess. But the sky was an awesome medium blue as dusk arrived.

I find something new everytime I go out and explore this wonderful city and state. How wonderful is that?! On the way home, I turned to Steve and said, "So... it's been more than four months. How do you feel about living in Alaska?" He said, "I am happy as long as you are happy. I love to hear your excitement when you discover something new. And then you come home and share it with me. How could I not be happy?" I am truly content... life is good.

Sunday
November 2, 2003

It is 34 degrees out. You would think that this is a good thing here in AK. Well, it's not. The roads are extremely treacherous. An advisory has already gone out warning people to stay off the roads. The thawing of the snow is converting the streets and sidewalks to ice.

Steve got a call to go into work and "fight fires" (solve problems) and we planned to take my car in to have studded tires installed on it. He called me when he got to work and said that getting new tires wasn't going to happen today. He had to maintain 10-15mph on the roads and had to drop it back to 5mph to go around corners. Cars are spinning out all over the roads. I am petrified to drive in this weather. It doesn't matter what kind of tires you have on your vehicle when ice is on the roads - they're all useless.

Since I'm housebound, I thought I'd make myself a cup of cocoa and read a bit. As I was settling in on the sofa, Airborne decided that the place right behind my head was a good place to stretch out and take a nap. I just had to get a shot of her. Ah.... the life of a cat.

Monday
November 3, 2003

I finally got our home office organized. It's about time; we've been in the house for exactly 4 months now! It's not that we were being lazy about it, it's just that the movers destroyed our huge desk and hutch and we were going to wait until the damage claim was settled before unpacking the boxes and setting everything up. I couldn't live like that anymore - all my office supplies in boxes in a closet. So today, while Steve was at work, I moved the huge office cabinet out of the "army/guest" room into the office. It wasn't too heavy, but it was awkward to move single-handedly. Steve was quite surprised to see that I had managed on my own. (I felt pretty proud of myself too!)

All of our files are back in the file cabinets. All of my graphic supplies are in their own bins. My fancy paper and card stock is properly sorted. I feel ORGANIZED and it's a good feeling. Now I don't have anymore excuses to procrastinate about marketing my web services here. It's not that an unorganized office prevented me from doing it earlier, but it was a good enough excuse for me. Besides, I'm still enjoying my life of leisure. And there's no need for me to work, so I'll do it when I'm good and ready. But this is one step in the right direction and I feel good about getting it done.

Steve got home from work early today because he officiated the Change of Command Ceremony and they were all released when it was over. It was a welcome surprise and we were able to go to Sam's Club and pick up my car. I had studded tires put on it and they make a world of difference on the roads. The roads aren't too bad today. We've been having a warm spell of sorts so the roads are mainly wet and slushy, instead of the mess they were yesterday. Of course the side streets still have slippery areas, so driving cautiously is still in order.

On the way back, we noticed a fog lying low over the ground. The warmth of the sun meeting the coldness of the ground had a very strange effect. I took Sedona out for a walk, toting my camera along. The shots I took of the mist didn't turn out as I hoped, but I found the cloud formation above pretty amazing and had to capture it.

Today, sunrise was at 8:45am and sunset was at 4:23pm - seven hours and 38 minutes of full daylight. I'm not having a problem with the early sunset at all. But the late sunrises are a little harder to handle. It's difficult to get moving in the morning when it's still pitch black outside.

Wednesday
November 5, 2003

Fox Trot
Fox Trot

It's just after 10am here in Alaska and I actually slept in until 8! What a switch from the usual insomnia. I feel refreshed and ready to face another day.

I spent about 4 hours out shooting with my friend, LuAnn yesterday. LuAnn just got a new digital camera and wanted to go out and play with it. We drove down to the one-lane bridge here on post, then to Glass Park Campground (where I took the photos to the left) and then on to Pioneer Park - which is a ghost town this time of year. The roads are a little slick in places, but the main highways are pretty clear. My new studded tires did well and I felt confident driving even on the ice-covered roads. For some reason I feel safer being low to the ground in my little Sentra. Although most people would swear to feeling safer in a tall truck, being so high off the ground can unnerve me - especially when skidding. I guess driving my Sentra makes me feel almost like being on a sled; the "big guys" out there can run right over the top of me, but I don't really think about that. The fact that my car is considered my "hoop dee doo" car and I don't care about dings or dents or scratches makes me feel more at ease. And it's front wheel drive and that's a good thing. However, I'm not going to attempt to go off-road or climb any hills with it.

One Lane BridgeAt Glass Park, LuAnn and I parked the car and walked onto the grounds. There are barriers now preventing cars from going back to the picnic areas. We saw lots of moose tracks and were a bit uneasy in the quiet solitude on the paths beneath the towering trees. LuAnn joked and said, " I think I can outrun you, so I know I'm safe!" A standing joke is that you will be safe from wildlife attacks as long as you can run faster than your slowest friend. Down by the river, we came upon fox tracks. I was thrilled to see these pawprints in the snow, because I had heard that one of the foxes who hung out by the airstrip was hit by a car and killed. Since news of the accident came out, no one has seen the pair who used to come right up to the road at night. I thought for sure the remaining fox left the area. Seeing these pawprints renewed my excitement at possibly sighting him/her again. I'm hoping there is more than one.

It took me hours to download my photos and make decisions on which ones to keep, which ones to delete, and which ones might have some merit with a little editing to correct contrast and brightness. But it is work that I love, so the hours pass quickly even as my back aches from sitting for so long.

Today I am planning to go out with my friend, Susan. Hopefully we'll find some more great stuff to shoot. Tonight we have an FRG meeting. I can't believe it's Wednesday already. The weeks positively fly by!

Still Wednesday...


Log cabin in downtown Fairbanks

Susan picked me up and we took off for downtown Fairbanks. My goal this afternoon was to find some log cabins in downtown Fairbanks to take photos of. I wanted to photograph some of these teeny-tiny homes to share with all of you. I've always been intrigued by these small homes. Not only because they are constructed of logs, but because they are smaller than the houses I have been accustomed to. I imagine what the inside looks like (and would LOVE to see the inside of one of them someday!) Are they one-room homes? Do they have a bedroom and a bath? The photo at the left was chosen because I liked the way the house looked beneath the tall trees. The red accents gave it a cheerful look in its snowy surroundings. This home isn't one that is in the 'suburbs' or on a hilltop somewhere. It is located in downtown Fairbanks near the shopping and business district. There are more homes as minuscule as this one - and some grand homes too. There are dilapidated shacks that appear as if they could collapse when the next strong wind comes. And also brightly colored homes reminiscent of the colors you'd see in Miami.

We then visited The Alaska House Art Gallery - a gallery I have been interested in visiting for quite some time. It was in a bit of upheaval in preparation for an art show scheduled for this Friday evening. We were invited to return for the show. I saw some beautiful ivory carvings and Native Alaskan dolls and jewelry. And of course beautiful paintings depicting the mountainous surroundings.

While trying to decide on a place to have lunch, we noticed a gorgeous orange band of sunlight just above the quite visible Alaska Range on the horizon. We put lunch on hold and drove towards the airport in search of high ground. No luck. So we decided to jump on the Parks Highway and head towards Esther in hopes of finding high ground to pull over and shoot. On the way to the entrance to the highway, we decided instead to drive up to the top of a ridge nearby. We had never driven the road and didn't know where it would take us - but as long as it was going up, we were happy! The shot of the Chena River above was taken about two-thirds of the way up the bluff. Fairbanks isn't very visible but is down there in the valley past the river.

We continued on - despite slippery roads, oncoming traffic, and traffic behind us that seemed to be quite comfortable going 50mph on slick roads. Climbing even higher, we were teased with glimpses of this bright orange band of sunlight over the mountains. But there was no place to pull over!

We finally reached a crossroad and turned onto it. It took us down a winding road which skirted the edge of the hillside. The homes perched beside the road had wonderful views of the Chena and the mountains on the horizon. We pulled Susan's jeep over and jumped out looking for a break in the trees to take a few photos. The light was getting lower, which was disappointing, but the view was absolutely breathtaking. I can only imagine how wondrous it would be to live in a house where you woke up to the sight of snow-covered peaks.

Instead of turning around and going back the way we came, we decided to be a little daring and continue onward. How surprised we were when we realized that this gorgeous drive was actually a huge loop which brought us back to our starting point! I can't wait to drive up there again in the spring and summer and fall next year!

Tonight we had an FRG (Family Readiness Group) meeting. I signed up to be a member of the Welcoming Committee and the Christmas Party Committee. Our first meeting is on November 18th here at my house. The Christmas Party committee is a temporary thing and is for the purpose of organizing the holiday party thrown mostly for the kids and single soldiers. We're planning to have a Secret Santa for the single soldiers where each family will "adopt" two soldiers and purchase a gift for each of them. The gifts will be wrapped and put under the tree for the soldiers to open on Christmas morning. We are hoping it takes away some of the homesickness our single soldiers must feel being so far from their families on Christmas Day.

The Welcoming Committee is just that. It is being organized for the purpose of welcoming new families to Fort Wainwright. We all know how nice it is to get even a phonecall when arriving to a new installation. We hope to follow up those introductory phonecalls with visits to the families. We're hoping our visits and openness will encourage more wives to participate in company functions and our FRG. Fort Wainwright will have 400 new soldiers coming here in January and 800 coming in March. Not all will be coming to Charlie Co., but that's a huge influx of soldiers, spouses and children who I'm sure would love a warm welcome.

Thursday
November 6, 2003

OK, so I discovered something important today. Even studded tires don't help when you hit black ice.

I promised I'd take Susan out for lunch today. She has been wonderful enough to cart my behind all over town while I was waiting for studded tires to be put on my car. When I took Sedona out for her morning walk, I noticed that the front porch and steps were covered in a thin, but slippery, sheet of ice. I started to rethink going out in the elements.

Around 11am, I talked to her and we decided we'd go out anyway. The city has been really good about laying down some type of really sharp gravel. (They don't put down salt here; salt would melt the snow and cause it to refreeze into ice, which would make the roads even worse). The gravel gives added traction on the roads but unfortunately has to be replenished regularly because the constant traffic causes it to blow or roll off the roadways in time.

We tried a small diner type restaurant named "Ethels". Susan had eaten breakfast there with her husband one day a few weeks ago. It's located in the industrial park area of town, which is why Steve and I hadn't found it on our own. As I was preparing to make my turn into their parking lot, my car skidded and barely made the turn. That was a little frightening and I hoped the roads wouldn't get any worse while we were having lunch.

After lunch, I carefully made my back to the main part of town. Susan wanted to check out a bookstore here in town - "Gulliver's Books". We don't have a Barnes and Noble or a Waldens Books or even a Books A Million. We have quaint little bookstores like Gulliver's which carry an adequate supply of best sellers, used books, and also serve espresso and sandwiches upstairs in the Second Story Cafe. A very cool place! Susan bought a cute children's book (she's writing a children's book) and I bought another book of quotations - "The Quotable Woman" - to add to my collection. I will definitely frequent this establishment and intend to try out the menu at the Second Story Cafe someday soon.

We made our way home along even icier roads. Soon after arriving safe and sound at the house, huge snowflakes began to fall. It was gorgeous and I immediately leashed up Sedona and put my winter gear back on to go out and take a walk in it. The snowflakes were heavy enough that I decided only to snap a few photos and then put my camera in my pocket to keep it dry. However, this beautiful display from Mother Nature was short-lived. The snow has stopped without any noticeable accumulation.

I was supposed to attend a Wives Coffee this evening, but decided not to because of the condition of some of the roads. Steve's drive home from work was a bit treacherous and he didn't want me out in it if it wasn't necessary.

I spent a little time uploading a few more photos to my online gallery. I belong to a digital photography group online called PHOTOZO. They allow us to upload our work to personal galleries. Other members can comment on our photos. If you click on the thumbnail photo, it will enlarge. If there were any comments made, you can read them too. I have uploaded 45 of some of my best shots. You can take a look at my gallery HERE. Enjoy....

Friday
November 7, 2003

I didn't go anywhere today. In fact, I stayed in my sweatsuit all day. My first priority was to get the house clean and tackle the laundry. Then I could get working on my revised business website. I changed the color scheme and layout to coordinate with my business brochure and cards. Just one more thing to accomplish before I launch my mass-mailout campaign to small businesses in the area. I'm really in no rush where business is concerned. But the closer I get to the final product, the better prepared I will be when I do wake up one morning and say to myself, "Today is the day I'm going to look for work!" You can see my revised site HERE.

My sister in law sent me some pictures that were taken when Brandon and Becky were visiting Philadelphia in July. I attempted to scan them and for some reason my scanner is on the blink; most likely needs to be reinstalled. So I did the next best thing - I took a digital photo of the photo! I think it turned out quite well, so I added a frame to it. The beautiful couple to the left are my handsome Marine son and his lovely Marine wife. (Don't even ask me what I think about the tattoos on Brandon's arms. Let's just say that Becky seems to have an affinity for body art herself and also has several. At least hers can be hidden)

Steve has a 4-day weekend in honor of Veterans Day. We're considering seeing a movie sometime this weekend - perhaps Runaway Jury. However, Fairbanks is due to get a bad snowstorm this weekend too. As always, weather conditions will dictate our activities.

Tuesday's temperature prediction is calling for a low of MINUS 8 and a high of MINUS 3! Now, that's what I call winter weather! Time for the long underwear....

Sunday
November 9, 2003

Sunrise on the horizonI was up early again this morning.... very early. Too early for a Sunday morning. So I caught up on some message boards I'm a member of. The boards are mostly people on the east coast, so there are always new postings because of the time difference.

Then, just after 9am, I saw the most incredible orange glow in the sky and I leashed up Sedona and pulled her out the door and to the field near our house. The sun looked like a huge orange ball coming up over the horizon; a very surreal vision with the darkness of the rest of the sky and the snow. I managed to take a few photos before it totally disappeared into the heavy clouds. Total time of sunrise glow?: 6 minutes. I'm sure most people missed it this morning.

I read that Fairbanks will dip below 4 hours of daylight on November 18th. We're heading into the final stretch toward Winter Solstice. Click HERE to see a great photo which shows the movement of the sun in the sky on December 21st. The photos were taken 30 seconds apart for a period of three hours.

We're awaiting a predicted snowstorm. It was snowing tiny flakes about an hour ago, but the snow has since stopped. Maybe later this afternoon....

Still Sunday...

 

New feature added: View "real time" webcam of Fairbanks by clicking link at top of page!

Steve and I are back from a date at the theater. Today we saw "Runaway Jury". I loved it! I am also a huge John Grisham fan, so I didn't expect to be disappointed.

Synopsis: Based on John Grisham's best-selling novel, this crime thriller stars John Cusack as Nicholas Easter, a mysterious gentleman who is the foreman on the jury of an important gun control case. Rachel Weisz co-stars as his girlfriend Marlee. Together, they attempt to swindle both the defense and the plaintiff by extorting their lawyers to pay millions of dollars in exchange for influence on the trial's ultimate outcome. Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman also appear as the plaintiff's lawyer and a jury advisor for the defense.

Susan and Stephen Spivey met us at the theater. We didn't really get to chat much and afterwards Steve and I only wanted to come home. We had eaten a big lunch before going to the movies, so a dinner date wasn't in the plans. On the way home we saw a nice sunset low on the horizon, so I asked Steve to drive me to the top of Birch Hill to see if I could get some good shots. The gravel road is covered in ice and snow, and without Steve's 4WD, I don't think we would have made it. My views from the top of the hill were limited due to the treeline. But on the way down, the sight of the sun peeking through the trees over the snow-covered road was worth a stop and a shot.

The snow has been starting and stopping all day long. Small flakes and not much accumulation. But it is covering up the slushy, dirty snow and making Fairbanks look pure and white again.

Monday
November 10, 2003

 

It's a lazy day even though it's Monday. Steve is off for a 4-day weekend in honor of Veterans Day. However, most of Fairbanks is open and functioning as usual. Our only plan for the day was to get Alaska plates for my car and for me to get my Alaska driver's license. So, about 20 minutes before we left for the DMV office, I glanced through the driver's training book - memorizing the point system and the fines for drunk driving. Because driving under the influence is a MAJOR problem here in AK, rumor had it that questions about the penalties for driving drunk would be on the test. Out of 20 questions, I think 5 of them were on the subject! Boy, am I glad I spent extra time on THAT section! You have to get an 80 to pass, and if you got all 5 of the drunk driving questions wrong, you'd fail. I passed! Hooray! I did get two of the DUI questions wrong. Now I don't remember any of the penalties. I studied for the test and promptly emptied my mind as soon as I knew I had passed. I am now in the possession of a HORRIBLE photo that I shall have to carry with me for the next 5 years. I suppose in five years (when I am 49 - EGAD!), I'll be thrilled to have this ugly photo.

After taking care of DMV business, Steve and I drove off road all over Fort Wainwright. There were lots of back roads that we had passed by and we were feeling pretty adventurous. (I think that Steve really enjoys these exploratory trips and the intense bouncing that comes with driving over bumpy roads) It was almost 1pm and the sun was as high as it's going to go in November. In fact, it was probably on its way down....

It has been snowing on and off all day long. In fact, it is still snowing. It is also pitch black outside and it's only a little after 5pm. It's been "dusk" for at least 2 hours or more. You can see the current temperature at the top of the page. We have seen that not only Tuesday, but Wednesday as well, are going to be brutally cold (for us 'cheechakos').

Sunday, I have plans to go with the 'girls' to see The King and I at the Fairbanks Light Opera Theater (FLOT). I've seen it before, but I'm looking forward to seeing it in an even smaller venue. I already warned my friends that I know the words to just about every song in the musical AND I will sing along. Marjorie said she will sit next to me because she sings too - and she wants me to drown her out. *laugh* We plan on going out to dinner afterwards; it's a matinee. I'm looking forward to a night out with the ladies....

Tuesday
November 11, 2003

Remembering
Our Veterans

 

 

What is a vet?
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg-or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity. Except in parades however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.
You can't tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel. He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She -or he- is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang. He is the POW who went away one person and came back another -or didn't come back AT ALL. He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no account rednecks and gang members into soldiers, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand. He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in the Tomb Of The Unknowns whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the oceans deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket-palsied now and aggravatingly slow-who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come. He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the greatest nation ever known.

So remember each time you see someone who has served our country just lean over and say "thank you"....that's all most people ever need and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Author:...Bob Jack
Found at: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Estates/1679/veterans.html

 

Thursday
November 13, 2003

Thought I'd share the weather forecast with you...

Today
Mostly cloudy with flurries this morning. Partly cloudy this afternoon. Light winds. Highs 5 below to 5 above.

Tonight and Friday
Partly cloudy. Light winds. Lows 15 to 30 below. Highs 5 to 20 below.

Friday Night and Saturday
Partly cloudy and cold. Lows 25 to 50 below. Highs 15 to 30 below. Coldest in clear calm valleys.

Sunday and Monday
Partly cloudy and cold. Lows 25 to 50 below. Highs 15 to 30 below. Coldest in clear calm valleys.

The weather is quickly changing and after last weeks 'balmy' temperatures in the high teens, we are finally getting some REAL Alaska temperatures! It has snowed on and off the past 3 days and it looks just gorgeous outside. We have about 3-4 inches of accumulation. It's a very light and airy snow; nothing at all like what I was accustomed to in the northeast. When you walk through it, it's almost like walking through feathers. The flakes are large too, with huge crystals.

Dressing accordingly is second nature now. Our house has an 'arctic room' - along the same lines as a foyer, but this inner room off the front door has another door that keeps it separate from the rest of the house. I decorated our arctic room with a small baker's rack which has a place for our boots. One shelf has a basket on it which holds our hats and gloves. There are two hooks on the wall for our parkas. And there's a cement pedestal that once held a silk plant, which is now used as a stool for removing our boots. I have an old tapestry carpet on the floor which buffers it from the wet snow and eliminates slipping. The arctic room is cooler than the rest of the house, but nowhere as cold as the outside. BRRRR!

This morning, when I took Sedona for her walk I noticed animal prints in the snow. They were smaller than those I usually see, but because the snow is deep, the depressions were fairly thick at the top as if the animal was buried to the hip. They came out of the small wooded area next to the housing area, passing between two trees which were very close together. Too close for any kind of larger animal to pass between. The prints moved about 10 feet from the woods, did a circle, and headed back to the woods. When we reached it, Sedona began to sniff wildly at the area and then pawed back the snow where the prints seemed to stop. I didn't see anything there, but now wonder if perhaps it was squirrel or other small animal and had either just buried or retrieved some hidden treasure.

Steve has been doing some night training the past few evenings. Our soldiers here are officially wearing their winter gear and it takes him a bit longer in the morning to put on the different layers. He is thankful for his autostart now; he starts the truck as he's putting on his top layer and it's toasty warm by the time he gets in it.

He stopped home earlier this morning to drop off a few things and told me there were two moose in the approach strip to the airport and asked me if I wanted to take a ride over to get photos of them. I had just gotten back from walking Sedona and was in no mood to put all my winter gear on again. I'm sure there'll be many more occasions...

I'm going to pick up my friend Susan in about an hour. We're going out to lunch. I don't know where yet, but I'm thinking a nice, hot bowl of soup would really hit the spot about now. Mmmm Mmmm Good!

Friday
November 14, 2003

 

It is currently -9. It was -12 when I got up this morning and took Sedona out for her walk. Prep time took nearly 10 minutes. Me: polypro long johns, polypro top, sweat pants, wool socks, sweater, parka, balaclava, glove liners, wool gloves, snow boots. Sedona: nature-given fur coat and her nifty snow booties. Because there wasn't any wind, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. My feet were warm, and my body was warm. But even with the face mask up on my balaclava, the bridge of my nose got cold and the area around my eyes stung. My breath would warm me initially as it got trapped in the material, but quickly cooled. And by the time I started back to the house, after our 15-minute walk, the tips of my fingers were numb. I can definitely see why mittens are a much better choice.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my friend, Susan. I invited her to go to lunch with me. We decided on the Musher's Roadhouse at the Captain Bartlett Inn. The lunch special was chicken fettucine alfredo with garlic bread for only $4.95. It was pretty good and we ended up with "doggy bags" to bring home to enjoy later. When we left the restaurant, Susan asked me where I wanted to go. We both carry our cameras (and our tripods) with us everywhere we go. I suggested we head down the Parks Highway toward Ester and see if we could find anything worth shooting. The highway was an absolute mess! We made it to the Ester turnoff and decided to make a U-turn and head back to town. I wondered how anyone could possible make the drive to Anchorage when the roads are like this. I also worried about the incoming families arriving over the next few months who are taking the ferry to Haines, and then will have to drive all the way to Fairbanks on these roads. (About 6-8 hours)

We stopped to take photos of the Tanana Chief riverboat where it is docked on the frozen Chena. We saw evidence of fox prints in the snow, leading down the embankment and across the frozen river. How nice it would be to actually SEE a fox.

I then suggested we head up the Steese Highway toward Fox. The views along the way were very nice when we drove up there to have breakfast last month and with the addition of snow, they had to be beautiful now.

We stopped at the pipeline to take a few photos. That's when we really noticed the temperatures had dropped. Our lips and nose were freezing. Our toes were numb. (Susan had on her snowboots, but I was only wearing my hiking boots because my plans didn't include traipsing through the snow when I left the house). As long as my feet weren't wet, I'd be OK - as long as I didn't stay out all day in it.

Underground #7 Mine
Old Blacksmith Shop

Continuing along the Steese Highway, we came to the GOLD RUSH Gold Camp - which is now abandoned. Here's a bit of info about the gold rush and these camps that I found online:

On July 22, 1902, Felix Pedro discovered gold on Pedro Creek, 16.5 miles northeast of Fairbanks. Pedro's discovery launched a gold rush in the area which resulted in other discoveries and the establishment of camps on Goldstream, Cleary, Ester Dome, Eldorado, Fish, Fairbanks, and Vault Creeks.

During the years following Pedro's discovery, numerous small mining ventures used placer and crude underground mining methods to extract nearly $7 million worth of gold. Mining operations were limited to the winter months when tunnels could be kept dry. By 1920, miners had exhausted the supply of readily accessible gold.

In that same year, Fairbanks Exploration Company entered the field north of Fairbanks and acquired large blocks of already-worked claims. The organization invested an additional $10 million in equipment and in construction of the Davidson Ditch which delivered water to the mine sites and allowed for the operation of eight giant dredges.

 

sundog panoramaAs we were taking photos, we could see the glorious orange and pink glow of sunset on the horizon. We had passed a scenic overlook on the way towards the gold mine, so we decided that we'd turn around and head back into Fairbanks - stopping at the overlook to watch the sun go down. The sun was low on the horizon - which is customary this time of year anyway - and was a brilliant orange. But the most amazing thing of all was seeing what we thought was a rainbow on both sides of the sun. There were bright spots on each side of the sun with the hues of a rainbow coloring them. In the photo shown here, you can see the spot on the left clearly, but the one on the right is hidden in the bright band of sunlight. It was the oddest thing we had ever seen. (The photo is a panoramic, which is why it looks somewhat distorted)

I was telling a friend of mine about this phenomenon and he directed me to a SITE which explains what we had seen. It is called a sundog and it is formed when tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere create halos by refracting and reflecting light. (Thank you, Richard!)

Susan and I stayed at the overlook for nearly 45 minutes. Every minute the scenery changed and we didn't want to miss a thing! Finally, we continued on our way back to Fairbanks. I asked Susan if she wanted to drive to the community of A-frame homes, which Steve and I had discovered. Neither of us had anything else to do (our husbands were training and wouldn't be home until late), and I thought it would be neat to get some additional shots after sundown.

A frame home The lighting added even more intrigue to these homes hidden just off Fort Wainwright. We could see into some of the houses as we drove by and could see they weren't very large inside. But they seemed so appropriate for this part of the country and I could actually see myself living in the middle of a forest, surrounded by snow, in one of these tall, triangular homes. After making another stop at the golf course so we could snap some photos of Birch Hill at dusk, we finally headed home. It seemed so much later than 5pm! That's actually one advantage to the early nightfall - you have HOURS left in your day to accomplish things.

Today, I am staying in and being lazy. The sun is shining brightly, but it's low on the horizon. Night will be upon us in a few hours. I changed out the webcam at the top of the page. It is now a camera which is focused on downtown Fairbanks from our local newspaper building. On the left of the photo you can see The Immaculate Conception Church. It is the town's first Catholic church, built in 1904. (It faces the Chena River) Originally it was located on the other side of the river. In the winter of 1911, the church was moved closer to old St. Joseph's Hospital, now the Denali State Bank. Horses pulled it across the frozen river, using logs to roll it. What fortitude!

Sunday
November 16, 2003

 

I have had a very full weekend! Last night I attended a party at my friend Nina's house to celebrate her birthday. I got to see some friends and meet some new gals too. It was a great night for a bunch of ladies to get together, hang out, and get a little wild and crazy. Temperatures last night were hovering somewhere around -18.

Today, I joined Susan, LuAnn, and Marjorie for a matinee showing of The King and I at the local auditorium (which is in the high school). Today was the last showing of the production and we were excited about having a girls day out to see a show and grab dinner afterwards.

I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that even though it was what I would consider a 'small town' production, the stage props and scenery, the costumes, and the talent of the actors (especially the children) were right on par with - and even better than - some of the performances you would find in bigger cities. In fact, in comparing this performance to the one I saw while still living in Florida, I give this one higher marks for stage props and scenery, costumes, and acting. The only downside was that there was some dialogue that was a bit hard to hear, and the auditorium didn't have stadium seating so the show had to be viewed between heads, hats, and taller people in the rows in front of us. The show lasted a lot longer too. With the intermission, the show lasted nearly 4 hours! My only complaint was that the seats weren't the most comfortable and toward the end a lot of people were squirming and shifting where they sat.

After the show, we drove through town trying to find a place to have dinner. Everything we drove past was already closed or due to close within 15 minutes. We had to settle on Denny's - the only 24-hour restaurant in town. We were all famished; none of us had eaten since breakfast! Over greasy diner food, we chatted some more about the show and the extreme cold. (It is currently reading -27, but we saw it reading -34 on the sign at the Fred Meyer store earlier this evening.) The extreme cold hurts my lungs if I don't cover my mouth when I go outside. Even running a short distance from the house to the car and taking one breath of the icy air, can cause me to have an asthma attack.

Lights and Ice FogWith the arrival of this frigid air, also comes a phenomenon called ICE FOG. According to an article I found online:

Ice fog is what happens when water vapor meets bitter cold air that can't hold any more water. When water vapor exits a car tailpipe when it's minus 40, for example, the water vapor temperature drops from about 250 degrees to minus 40 in less than 10 seconds. Water cooled that fast forms tiny ice particles, so small that ten of them could fit side by side on the finger-cutting edge of a piece of paper. Collectively, millions of these particles take form as ice fog, the cotton candy-like clouds that hang over our roads.

The photo taken above was taken from my yard. Not only are the northern lights visible, but so is a thick layer of ice fog which is hovering just above the roadways. This ice fog is mainly caused by the exhaust of automobiles and the local power plants. I shot this photo and about 5 others before I had to give up and come back inside. My face was burning with the cold (no, I didn't have a face mask on as I was only planning on taking one photo and hurrying back inside). Now I am back in my toasty warm house but my feet are still chilled from running around outside in only my hiking boots. It might be another one of those nights when I actually sleep with socks on.

The good news is that we are going to 'warm up' into the low teens by Tuesday or Wednesday. I expect I'll see people outside in only sweaters and fleece jackets when that happens!

Wednesday
November 19, 2003

It is currently 6:12am and online WeatherBug says it is -8 degrees outside. Positively balmy, after the last few days! Sedona woke me up with incessant whining at 5:30am. She had to go out. There was no way I was getting dressed in six layers of clothes and walking out into the refrigerated world at this early hour, so I held open the back door and let her out into the yard - hoping she wouldn't see any wildlife to take off after. She wasn't out long...

Monday I worked online - researching various businesses here in Fairbanks and their need for a website or a redesign on their current site. There are many! Not all of the sites are terrible; but I know that a facelift would really help. And then there are a handful that ARE pretty terrible and have some problems on them (broken links, images not loading, etc.) I have my brochure ready and printed out a dozen of them so far. I have my business cards ready and printed out 60 of them. Now I'm just working on my cover/introduction letter. I don't normally have any trouble writing letters, but I'm having some writer's block when it comes to putting together a letter that 'works'.

I later ran out to the commissary to pick up some things for the committee meeting I would be hosting at my house last night - which ended up being moved to a classroom at the Welcome Center because all our husbands are in the field and several ladies wouldn't have baby-sitters. I don't have the space to host a group of children in addition to the ladies.

Trips to the commissary are always peppered with exclamations of disbelief over the prices of some of the food. A head of cauliflower set me back $3.09. A gallon of milk is $3.99. A head of iceberg lettuce - $2.50. The exorbitant prices generally center on produce and dairy products - items which have to be shipped in from the Lower 48.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I continued my business research most of the morning. In the early afternoon I decided to get out of the house for a little while. I was curious as to how my car would handle in this frigid weather. Because my car is kept in the garage, it stays a constant 32 degrees. I made a quick trip to the local OfficeMax to pick up my Christmas stationery for my annual newsletter. I was in the store for about 30 minutes. When I came out, my car was covered in frost - both inside and out. It took an additional 15 minutes to warm up enough so that I could see out my windows again.

Driving at this time of year can be hazardous. I'm not referring to slippery roads and brutal temperatures. The sun is the biggest hazard. Because the days are short, the sun rises only a few inches above the horizon, moves laterally at that same level, and then sets. The blinding light can make driving nearly impossible if you're driving "into" the sun. Car visors don't come down low enough and sunglasses offer minimal help.

The Christmas Party Committee meeting went well. We discussed food, activities, and decorations. It seems the company is in dire need of a new tree as well as new decorations. I am taking Susan and LuAnn out today to get prices on some of the things we'll need. The party is December 13th. The FRG (Family Readiness Group) will pay for a few turkeys and spiral hams - as well as the paper products. We're going to assign each platoon a food group (side dishes, desserts, salads) so we'll get some help with feeding the crowd (which we estimate could top 200).

We'll have some organized activities and games for the children. We'll include the typical fare such as 'tape the nose on Rudolph, a piñata we hope to construct in the shape of a Christmas gift, musical chairs, etc. Santa will arrive on a firetruck - courtesy of the Fort Wainwright Fire Department. We'll be taking photos of the children on Santa's lap. The night before, we'll be turning the barracks day room into a winter wonderland (or something as close to it as possible!) The pool tables will be covered with a piece of plywood and draped in a tablecloth and be used for food setup.

While the adults are decorating the room, we'll have some children making construction paper garlands and tree ornaments out of macaroni and glue - among other things. There will be paper snowflakes and pipe-cleaner reindeer.

We have lots of work ahead of us...

Still Wednesday...

House on Cliff
House on Cliff
(The white expanse below this cliff is the frozen river)

 

"How full of creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire them more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat." ~ Henry David Thoreau, 1856

I picked up Susan and LuAnn today at 10am and we headed out on our mission to get prices on a new Christmas tree, some decorations, party supplies, and other things in preparation for the party. It was snowing the entire time we were out running around town. I love it when it snows. The snow here is light and airy and doesn't hit the ground hard and wet like it does back home. It's like walking through feathers.

snowflakes

When we came out of the party supply store, Susan noticed that you could actually see the individual snowflakes on the roof of my car. We all had our cameras with us so out they came. I was just so amazed that they really do look like the snowflakes that I cut out of paper as a child! So fragile, yet so perfect!

After a few more stops, I decided to drive down Chena Pump Road and go looking for a park that another friend had told me about. The snow was still falling, but the temperatures were up to about -3 - a heat wave after this weekend! We found the park and took a short walk. It didn't take long before we started getting cold. My fingers were tingling, but my feet and body were warm. Susan and LuAnn had the opposite problem. They both had boots on that weren't made for tromping through the snow, so their feet began to get numb. We only spent about 15 minutes out in the elements before hurrying back to the car and the heat.

Tomorrow, Susan is coming by to get me and then LuAnn at 10:00am and we're heading off to the gym to get a workout in. Steve should be home by tomorrow evening. He's out in the field again tonight. It's quiet around the house without him. I miss him....

Friday
November 21, 2003

Snow out Window
Snow out the upstairs window


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow; and driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to slight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

What an absolutely beautiful day! I thought I'd never find myself saying that - especially when the snow is falling so thickly that the weatherman is predicting accumulations of 8 inches. But the snow makes the world look so incredible and seeing it fall lifts my spirits. The temperatures are in the 20's which feels so warm to me after the recent negative numbers. I went out today without a hat. I didn't wear my gloves (but carried them with me anyway). And when I left the store, I didn't even bother to zip up my jacket.

Yesterday, I went to the gym with my friends Susan and LuAnn. The gym is free for the military and family. It's a nice gym with top of the line equipment. It's been awhile since I've been to a gym, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I decided to do some cardio first, but found that my asthma and low blood pressure caused me some problems. I started out on an Elliptical machine and hoped to do 5 minutes on it. I was suffering from dizziness within 2 minutes and began having trouble breathing. I moved to a stationary bike and had no problem riding at target heart rate for 15 minutes. From there I moved to the gym equipment and weights. The state of the art equipment was an absolute pleasure to work with. You set your weight limits, your level and your reps - and you go for it. You don't even have to think. That's my kind of workout! We worked out an additional 45 minutes in weight training. On the way home, we decided to meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am to go to the gym. It'll be good for all of us...

I had insomnia again last night. I was up at 2:30am. The bedroom was hot and I couldn't sleep. I came downstairs and watched some TV until I got drowsy. When Steve left for work this morning, he woke me when he kissed me goodbye. He told me to stay in bed and relax. He had already taken the dog out for her morning walk and had made a huge mug of coffee for me - which was waiting on the nightstand. What a wonderful husband! I stayed in bed until after 9, watching Good Morning America and sipping on my morning java.

A few hours later, I decided to go out shopping. I wanted to get out of the house alone. I enjoy spending time with my friends and wouldn't give that up for the world. But once in a while, I just need to go out and about on my own. I went to a couple of department stores and ended up buying a few sweaters and a new winter hat. It was lovely to be out driving in the snow and listening to the radio. Tonight I'm hoping that Steve will go out for a walk with me. I want to walk in the moonlight as the snow falls around us. A little hand-holding... some flirting... I'm so glad that Steve is home!

Saturday
November 22, 2003

Where were you when JFK was shot? I was 3 weeks away from my 4th birthday when JFK was assassinated. My only memory is of my mother sitting in front of the black and white television in our living room on Albanus St. crying. I may have asked her why she was crying. Or maybe she just volunteered the information to me. "The President is dead". I didn't know what a President was - or even what "dead" meant. But I remember that day... Amazing.

Downtown Footbridge
Downtown footbridge

Downtown Fairbanks
Downtown Fairbanks

 

Tripod (my server) has been malfunctioning and I haven't been able to upload. Although I have created journal entries for the past few days, I haven't been able to publish them. In fact, who knows when THIS journal entry will get uploaded. All I can say is if you've been following my journal, you may need to go back a few days to play "catch up" with me.

Today it is snowing outside. It is absolutely gorgeous! I really, truly LOVE the snow! (I know that those of you on the east coast who have to deal with the biting, damp, COLD are thinking I am smoking funny stuff when I say this - but it's totally true!)

Steve and I slept in until about 8am this morning. It was nice to be able to get a full nights sleep. For the first time in a while, I didn't have insomnia. One of the benefits (according to Steve) of living in Alaska is that the football games come on at 8:00am here (college games). Pros come on at 9:00am. Therefore, I become a "football widow" early in the day. The benefit to this is that I regain the companionship of my husband by lunchtime.

Today, the only thing on our agenda was attending a surprise party for my friend, Susan. Today is her 37th birthday and her husband, Stephen planned a little gathering at their friend Stephanie's house. We didn't have to be there until 4:30pm, so we decided to take a drive along one of the bluff roads (Chena Pump Rd.). I wanted to show Steve the drive that Susan and I had taken a few weeks back. Unfortunately the snow was falling pretty heavily so the photo ops weren't the best.

After our drive along the bluff, we decided to go to Brewsters to have a couple of beers and eat an appetizer. We had about an hour and a half to kill before the party. Filling our belly with cheese sticks, chicken and cheese chimichangas, onion rings and french fries (the appetizer 'sampler' platter) took the edge off of our hunger. We didn't want to overdo it; we weren't sure what Stephanie would have at her house.

With almost an hour left before the party started, we made a visit to Prospectors. Prospectors is an outfitter with everything and anything you could possibly need for extreme weather and outdoor sports. I got my winter coat, boots and snowpants there soon after arriving. Prospectors mails out discount letters around the time of your birthday. I got my letter yesterday. I didn't have it with me. Although Steve and I saw quite a few things we really needed, we didn't want to buy anything without the discount letter. We'll head back there either tomorrow or next week sometime.

The party for Susan was nice. She seemed really surprised when she came into the house. We yelled out "SURPRISE" when she arrived. She was wearing her purple tiara that she bought when we were at the party supply store. (Purple is her favorite color and when she saw the tiara, she had to have it!) She got lots of nice gifts from the guests. Stephen got her the bread machine she wanted and a new pair of ice skates. In fact, he's taking her skating tomorrow afternoon. They asked us if we wanted to join them, but I think we might just be lazy tomorrow.

They soon left for their dinner reservation at a restaurant here in town. Steve and I stayed a little longer and then said our good-byes. I asked him to take me downtown so I could photograph the Christmas lights in town. He is a sweetheart and accommodated my request. I got the photos attached to this entry while driving through downtown Fairbanks. The temperatures were reading in the 20's but with the wind, it felt more like zero. A nice nippy night....

Monday
November 24, 2003

It is snowing here and we are expecting an additional 3 inches on top of the 8 or so that we already have.

Yesterday was a totally lazy day for Steve and I. He wanted to stay in and watch football all day, and I just played around on the computer working on photo editing and chatting with friends online. I read a little too and even felt the urge to work on my "Home is where the Army sends us" plaque. But that never panned out. I just didn't have the energy to pull out my paints and supplies...

It snowed a bit yesterday and we have quite a bit of accumulation out there now. Taking Sedona for a walk is a real adventure and trudging through the snow can be fairly laborious. The drifts are more than 3 feet high where the plows have pushed the snow off the streets. It is a regular chore to shovel the driveways both in the morning before Steve goes off to work and in the evening when he comes home.

This morning, Susan came for me and then we picked up LuAnn and headed off to the gym. I did my usual 15 minute cardio workout on the stationary bike and then hit the nautilus equipment for almost an hour. I know I worked harder today than I did last time because I'm already starting to get little twinges of ache in my thighs. I also spent more time and extra weight working my biceps and triceps. By tomorrow I probably won't be able to lift my arms! My gown for the military ball is sleeveless, so I want my arms to look as best they can. There's only so much you can do for 40-something year old arms. Do you just wake up one morning and discover that your arms continue waving long after you stop? OK... so I'm exaggerating - but I would like to have arms that look a little bit like Ah-nold's. *grin*

Mom (my "Marmie") left a message for me on my answering machine. She mailed out her floor length faux fur cape today! I called her last week and asked her if she still had it. I am so thrilled and can't wait to get it. I intend to wear it to the military ball. You can view the style of it HERE. The one that Mom has is black velvet and the body of it is lined in black satin and the hood is lined in leopard faux fur. She said she shipped it to me on Saturday and it should only take 3-5 days to get here. I remember that cape so fondly. My Dad bought it for her a long time ago. I know I was only in my teens when he got it for her, because I wore it in my late teens to Halloween parties as part of my costume! Now, I fully intend to wear it for a special occasion. I really have no other choice (that was the sob story I gave Mom when I asked her to send it to me). The only other coats I have are my parka and a short wool peacoat. Not exactly the type of outerwear I want to wear over my black velvet gown. The velvet cape over the velvet gown will look marvelous. Now I have to figure out what to do with my hair... that's a whole other worry. I'll deal with it later.

Tuesday
November 25, 2003

The Cape Came in the Mail!!

What a surprise to hear a knock at my door and to see the postman pulling away from the front of my house. I thought for sure that the cape wouldn't come until Wednesday or even next week. Mom just mailed it on Saturday! I never thought I'd be praising the Postal Service.

I need to make a small repair to the closure at the top. The braided cord that wrapped around the button is threadbare and I'm afraid it's going to break. I saw some neat cording and decorative buttons at Joanne's fabrics; I'm sure I can fashion something without much trouble.

I put it on immediately and then set the camera up on a tripod to take photos of it. I felt like a Celtic Princess wearing it - the exact same way I used to feel when I was only a young girl. It's amazing how much the feel of a material against your skin, and the memories associated with a garment, can transport you back to a time when life was so simple. In fact, after downloading the photos, I even played around in my photo editing program and decided to superimpose myself on a scene befitting of my garment. Here is the photo of Lady Susan and her castle:

Lady Susan

As you can see I was having a grand time playing "dress up". Of course my husband thinks I have lost my mind. I told him that if he behaved himself I would allow him to live in my castle with me.

I ran out to the commissary to pick up the rest of the 'fixins' for Thanksgiving dinner. I made sure to pick up a pecan pie for Steve and a pumpkin pie for me. (And of course some whipped cream to serve on it - YUMMY!) The store wasn't too crowded and I was glad to get that chore out of the way. The temperatures have dropped again today and the snow is really piling up outside. The weather service is calling for -20 on Thanksgiving Day. It's a good thing! With all the cooking going on, the cold weather might help keep the house comfortable.

Wednesday
November 26, 2003

It is currently 7:15pm here. The temperature outside is -24. Steve and I are lounging on the sofa watching mindless TV. I have everything I need to prepare a nice Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow for the two of us. We're planning to eat about 2pm. Steve will be going to the chow hall for an hour or so around noon. So will some of the other higher ranking soldiers. Their presence is for the purpose of wishing the single soldiers a Happy Thanksgiving. On holidays such as this, we tend to forget that there are hundreds of soldiers dining in the chow hall instead of seated at the tables of their mothers and fathers, or sisters and brothers, or even good friends. For many of our military, Thanksgiving is almost like any other day - only tomorrow the chow hall will serve turkey and stuffing, instead of burgers and fries.

I was up before 5am this morning. Last night when we went to bed it was cold in the house. Steve grabbed a quilt and layered it over our sheet and thermal blanket (the usual bed linens). It felt wonderful to snuggle under the added weight and warmth as I was drifting off. But I woke up sweating this morning. I came downstairs and turned on the TV. I mindlessly flipped channels. I wasn't really paying any attention to what was on TV. My thoughts were on other things.

I began thinking about my father. Oh, how I miss him! I will always miss him and grieve for him. His death left a huge void in my life. But at this time of year - when everyone begins buzzing about Christmas and the holidays and family gatherings - I start my steady decline into melancholy. He's been gone now for almost 7 1/2 years. And yet I can remember the day he died like it was yesterday. And sometimes, when I close my eyes and think only of him, I swear I can hear his hearty laugh, his voice in my ear, his strong arms around me in a hug.

I remember Thanksgiving dinners at my Mom and Dad's house. They were so wonderful! Especially the dinners after my brothers and I were married and had our own children. Even if Mom and Dad only had the immediate family over, it meant dinner for 17. (Now 18... My nephew John was born less than a month after my father died)

Dinner would be scheduled for 3pm. We'd all arrive early. The guys would head to the basement and watch football, while the gals helped out in the kitchen. The table would be set - after all four table-leafs were put into it. Mom's good china would be pulled out of the china cabinet. Her good silverware would follow. The good wine glasses, coffee cups, dessert plates, serving bowls - Thanksgiving dinner was a special occasion. Not only because of the significance of the holiday, but because the family was together.

We'd sit down to eat. Dad would say grace. None of the "no elbows on the table" stuff at my house. Thanksgiving dinner was like any other dinner - except we would eat off the good china and have lots more food. If you had something to say, you said it. If you had a joke to tell, you told it. If you laughed until soda shot out your nose, so be it. When you have 17 or more people sitting down to dinner, you can't expect it to be total silence punctuated by "Could you please pass the stuffing?". And the chaos and loud voices and laughter is what made me love holiday dinners at home.

So that is why I am sad tonight...

Daddy, if you are looking down from heaven ... please know how much I miss you.

Happy Thanksgiving
November 27, 2003

My Soldier
What a handsome man!

A day for giving thanks...

  • I am thankful that I slept in until 8:30 this morning.
  • I am thankful that my husband was safe in bed next to me, and not in a war-torn country.
  • I am thankful for all the brave men and women of our military, who are giving up Thanksgiving with their families so that we may remain free.
  • I am thankful to have two beautiful sons who made it to adulthood relatively unscathed despite the fact that I had to raise them as a single parent most of their life.
  • I am thankful for a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator.
  • I am thankful for a family who loves me.
  • I am thankful for friends who love me.
  • I am thankful to have good health. And a clear mind. And a feeling heart.
  • I am thankful to have the opportunity to live my dreams.
  • And too many other things that would take me all day to list....

Steve left for the Chow Hall about an hour ago. I took a few minutes to straighten up the living room and run the vacuum. All the food prep stuff is laid out neatly on the counter waiting for me to begin preparing our meal. We'll be dining around 3pm.

I called my brother Steve's house about an hour ago. Diane answered. She was just removing the ham from the oven. Mom was there. So were Diane's parents, her brother and his girlfriend, and the kids. I talked to Diane for a few minutes and let her get back to getting the food on the table. Diane may only be my sister by marriage, but she means much more to me than that. She is like a real sister. She has a heart of gold and a sympathetic ear. She is one of only a handful of people that I can totally break down and cry to. She understands that even those of us who are viewed as "strong" need to lose it sometimes. I am thankful for her.

While talking to my mom and thanking her profusely for the lovely cape, I happened to glance out the window and mama moose and her baby were out there - nibbling on the branches of the bushes along the ravine! What a sight to behold! I call the two shots below "Synchronized Moose".

Synchronized Moose Synchronized Moose

May all of you have a joyous Thanksgiving surrounded by those you love!

Saturday
November 29, 2003

Ramblings...

You just gotta love the day after Thanksgiving! There was no shopping for this girl. No way. I have found that as I've gotten older, I just can't handle the crowds and the hustle-bustle associated with "Black Friday". Although I was told by several friends here that it's NOTHING like it is in the bigger cities of the Lower 48. My friend Nina assured me that there were no stroller accidents, no knocking over of elderly people, and no fist fights over the 50% off stuff at the toy store. I'm trying to be a bit amusing here, but all of the above are things I HAVE witnessed in my years of trying to deal with crowds in huge department stores and malls all over America. So, I usually skip it now.

Steve and I did absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. We lounged around in our nightclothes until nearly noon and even then just changed into sweatsuits. Steve had three platters of leftovers during the course of the day. I had a platter for lunch. The turkey did taste much better the second day. With Steve in the house, leftovers pretty much get cleaned up immediately. That's a good thing. I very rarely get to find those containers in the back of the fridge with science experiments growing in them.

The temperatures rose into the single digits. I believe we hit a high of 7 yesterday. Last night (well, actually - after dark; which may have been about 5:30pm) Steve and I took the dog out for a long walk through the fields and the wooded area near our house. It was so incredibly peaceful. Visibility was low due to cloud cover, but the trees and ground almost glowed with the whiteness of the snow. It's almost magical. I still have those moments when my breath catches because of the beauty of it all.

The snow is much deeper now. It takes a lot of energy to trudge through it, even though it's not a heavy snow. There are places where the natural drifts go as high as my knees. I love to watch Sedona romp through it. She puts her head down and plows through the drifts face first. When she comes out on the other side, her whiskers and small beard hairs are white with frost - giving her the appearance of a very old dog. I was worried about her making the adjustment from Florida to Alaska. But my worries were for naught. I swear if she could talk, she and I would probably sit around and chat about how much we love the snow.

The cat on the other hand... she is a house cat, plain and simple. If the back door opens and a swirl of winter wind comes whistling through the house, she scurries to a warm spot on the sofa. I carried her outside once. It was -15 degrees out. I held her in my arms, close to my body. She stared up at me with an indignant look and then let out a plaintive low-toned MEOWWWW. She was not a happy kitty.

Still Saturday...

Tubing Hill
Birch Hill Tubing Hill
(The black dots in the right lane are people on their way up to the top)

Today was "Date Day" for Steve and I. We went to the theater to see "The Missing". I liked it; Steve said he thought it was a bit slow in places. It kept us entertained and it was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The theater was a crowded mess and we went to the first showing at 12:25! We didn't even bother getting popcorn or soda because there were only three cashiers working and each line had about 20 people in it. It seems as if everyone wanted to go to the first of the day's showing.

After the movie, we decided to go to Senor Flannigans for a late lunch/early dinner. Instead of taking the direct route down the major crossroads, I asked Steve if we could drive down some of the side streets through town instead. I just love exploring the little side streets with the tiny log cabins. And so many houses have their Christmas lights up now. It was just about dusk... We turned down one side street, and Steve shouts, "Look! There's a moose laying in that person's backyard!" He thought it was a big dog at first until the creature lifted its head and looked right at us. As always, my camera was ready. We've become accustomed to seeing moose in our yard because we back up to the woodline, but this was our first sighting of a moose just taking it easy in someone's yard in a residential part of town. I could see the hoofprints where she had even stepped over the fence from the front yard to the back! Imagine that... just stepping over a fence.

After our meal (which we both proclaimed "just alright"), we headed home. The snow was starting to fall faster, but the flakes were really small. After we got on post, we saw the lights on Birch Hill Ski Area and decided to take a drive up to the top of the hill so I could get some night shots of the people skiing. Although the photo doesn't really show the people clearly, there was a pretty big crowd skiing, snowboarding and tubing. I took a few photos and then we continued up to the top of the hill. On the way, we found a couple stranded on the icy road. Their truck had slid into a ravine. Despite the snowmachiners whizzing by on a regular basis, no one stopped to offer assistance! We stopped and the guy (another soldier) was thrilled to get help. He had a rope and we were able to tow him out of the ravine. He headed back down the hill; we continued up.

Looking down Birch HillWhen we reached the top, we stopped so I could snap a few photos of people getting off the ski lift. Well, at least they were attempting to get off the ski lift. There seemed to be a large group of snowboarders coming up - and they looked to be teens. The snowboarding hill is at the top of the slopes. Only one out of five seemed to be landing on his/her feet when they got off the lift, making it into a real comedy show. I didn't laugh. I could see myself being just as graceful. The photo at left was taken looking down the slopes towards Fort Wainwright. (Yes that little dot in the sky is the moon) On the left side of the slope is the tubing hill and on the right, the line of lights is the lift. I definitely want to go back for some tubing. I'm not quite sure about the downhill skiing yet.

Sunday
November 30, 2003

Another month gone...

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

~ Clyde Watson ~

We pulled ourselves together by noon and then headed out to run some errands. A stop at Sam's - which always puts a dent in our wallet. My husband is like a little boy. If he were to start chanting "I want, I want, I want:", I would swear I was with my kids when they were toddlers. He buys indiscriminately. Clothing, gadgets, exotic foods. I sometimes wish I had the courage to just throw caution to the wind and splurge on things that aren't even necessities, but I can't do it. I suppose so much of it has to do with my upbringing. I was raised to be frugal. I was taught that "a penny saved is a penny earned". And then when I was a single mom, I was thankful for that upbringing. Those years of being poor didn't hurt so much then.

Errands and browsing complete, we headed home. The sun was low on the horizon and a brilliant pink and orange. We decided to drive up to the top of Birch Hill to watch the sun set. The temperature was about -11 at the time. The sun wasn't in the best spot for viewing, so we only stayed a little while. On the way back down, we drove some of the back roads to admire the snow-covered trees and pristine paths through the woods. I hoped to see some wildlife, but the only creatures out in full force were the huge ravens which circle above no matter what the temperature.

We soon came upon the one-lane bridge. The sun hovered perfectly on the horizon. It wasn't even 3pm...

It is now nearly 8pm. Only four hours left in the month of November. We have been here almost 6 months. Since leaving Florida in May, I have seen and experienced so much. The past six months have been a great adventure for me and Steve - an adventure we feel privileged to have lived.

And now December is almost here. Steve and I will celebrate another birthday. The Christmas tree will be put up and decorated. Christmas in a winter wonderland. How excited I am!

CONTINUE TO DECEMBER