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Thursday, March 1st - Staying in where it's warm!

The lows at night have been frigid. During the day, it doesn't get much better - but anytime it warms up to -20F or warmer, we consider it a blessing. We managed to get a few inches of snow a few days ago, so the overnight lows weren't as bad as they had been. (It has to warm up in order to snow) The new snow brought a brightness to the world and covered up the small animal tracks in our yard. But with snow comes overcast skies, and that dreariness was not welcome.

Yesterday, I pulled on my many layers of clothes and made it out the door by 9:30am. I had plans to meet a few gal pals for a late breakfast. We chose The Cookie Jar, as their food has never been a disappointment. Unfortunately Rachael couldn't make it, as she has had to drive James around from appointment to appointment as they prepare to clear Fort Wainwright. Because he's still trying to pass the kidney stone, he's on heavy duty pain meds - which keep him from driving. I know Rachael could have used some downtime, as she has been very stressed out lately. Why does moving always have to be so difficult?! I picked up Shawna and her children, and we met Dawn as scheduled. It was nice to enjoy a delicious breakfast and warm company on such a cold day.

After breakfast, I stopped at the Ice Park to purchase my season pass. This is my fourth year attending the Ice Festival! When you buy a season pass, you get a commemorative pin. This year's theme is "The Greatest Show on Ice" with a circus atmosphere and clowns and animal sculptures in the kiddie park. It was too cold to wander through the park, and I wasn't dressed for it. I plan to go back sometime this weekend - when I am dressed for it!

This year, the Ice Park has a special memorial tribute to Susan Butcher - world famous Alaskan dog musher and four time winner of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Susan passed away on August 5, 2006 after an eight-month battle with leukemia. She was only 51 years old. Sculptors from six countries (China, USA, Mongolia, Russia, Japan and France) carved the tribute entitled "Susan Butcher's Great Race 1954 - 2006". You can view the live webcam focused on the sculpture by CLICKING HERE. At night it is lit up in colorful lights.

The month of March is a busy one here in Fairbanks. In addition to the month-long Ice Art Championships, the Native Arts Festival is taking place for three days, beginning tonight. This weekend the Junior North American Championships will also take place. Mushers ages 3 - 16 will compete. I missed it last year, but in 2005 I attended and took some photos of adorable little mushers and their sleds. (You can view those photos in my March 2005 journal) My only worry at this point is that it will be too cold for these junior mushers to race. The temperature cut off is -15F.

On March 10th and 11th, Chatanika Days will be going on. If you've been reading my journal, you remember that Chatanika Days is best known for its outhouse races and human bowling competitions amongst other fun events. From the 17th - 19th, the Annual GCI Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race is taking place. This is a fun event which starts and ends in downtown Fairbanks. Yes, March is a great month for the dogs and their mushers!


The winter blues have definitely been taking their toll on me. I just had to do something to bring some color into my world. I am so tired of seeing nothing but black and white around me. About a week ago, I sowed some wheat grass seeds in a container and they sprouted into beautiful 5" shoots already. Wheat grass is fine for Airborne to snack on, and she helps herself to the pretty grass from time to time.

While doing a quick run through WalMart, I came upon an 'herb garden in a kit'. Everything I needed to grow marjoram, parsley, thyme, and basil was included - even the potting soil. The container is a pretty ceramic pot with openings in the side so herbs can grow there as well. I followed the directions and put it in my kitchen window. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll see some pretty growth soon.

After placing the pot of herbs and the container of grass in my windowsill, I decided to take a few photographs of my kitchen window (and other things) to share with you.

On the far left of the window is a ceramic rooster that Steve wanted from his Grandma Farrell's house after she passed away in 1998. Steve wasn't interested in any of her furniture, or china, or jewelry. All he wanted was that rooster and a few paintings/etchings that she had in her house. He explained to me later that the rooster was something he always remembered seeing when he'd visit with his grandma, and it had a lot of sentimental value to him. Mr. Rooster gets to enjoy the morning sunlight on the windowsill now.

Next to the rooster, is the herb garden I just planted. I can't wait to see something growing (*fingers crossed*). Not only will it bring some greenery to my kitchen, but we'll be able to use the herbs when cooking too. Next comes Airborne's wheat grass. You can see how bushy it's gotten in only a week. It's great to have a splash of green in the house! To the far right is a tiny teapot (functioning) in the shape of a chair with a cat sleeping on it. I've never used it as a teapot; merely keeping it as a display piece. I got that teapot from my mother, who picked it up at a flea market a long, long, time ago. She said it reminded her of me and she just had to buy it. I'm sure it was an inexpensive find, but it is priceless to me.

Hanging above, in the window, is the stained glass piece I made back in early 2005. I took an introductory class with a friend so that we could get the permit card to use the workshop and tools. After making that piece, I had grand ideas of creating stained glass pieces using my photographs as templates, but that never happened. I'm glad I chose the color red as my main color. When the sun comes up in the morning, it shines right through that piece and paints bands of red on the kitchen floors.

There's another area in my home that makes me feel good inside. It's the antique table I have in my dining room. I bought this table in Cameron, NC back in 1999. If you live in the southeast (more specifically NC), you've probably heard of Cameron and the twice a year antique street festival they hold there. It's a marvelous event with hundreds of vendors and some of the most amazing (and not so amazing) old stuff imaginable! I used to go to Cameron with my friend Barbara (who was also the owner/broker of the real estate company I worked at). We'd go by truck because you just never knew what you were going to come home with.

When I saw this table set - there are three pieces; two end tables go with it - I knew I had to find a way to fit it into my home. I loved the tiered top of it, and the curved legs. The end tables have the same curved legs, but a one-level top. I'm totally surprised that the movers didn't bust it to smithereens when they moved us from NC to FL and then onward to AK!

The table has always held family and friend's photos on it. I am a sucker for picture frames. They don't have to be expensive frames either. Some are dollar store finds and some are pricier gifts from friends and family. I'm an eclectic decorator and my many types of frames is an indication of that. The newest addition to that table is the silver frame to the far right. It holds a photo of me and Rachael in it. That photo was taken on the day her husband came home from Iraq. I printed out a copy for her and placed it in a frame which I gave to her at Christmas. The tiny turtle in front of the frame was given to me by Rachael when she came home from her cruise to Mexico. Rachael loves turtles and wanted me to have something to remember her by. How could I ever forget her?!

Before I end this entry, I wanted to post some photos of photos (haha) that I have hanging in my dining room. I started printing smaller panoramic photos in addition to my larger prints. The smaller photos are 8x20, while the larger panoramas are 10x30.

On the left are the smaller prints. The top one is a pano of the Ninilchik Russian Orthodox Church with Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt in the background. Beneath that one is a pano I took when Diane was in AK visiting last July. We came upon a beautiful crystal clear lake with a gorgeous reflection of the mountain in it. There was a tent on the bank and we both remarked on what a beautiful camping spot it was. The bottom pano is of the duck marsh in Valdez. I took that photo the weekend that Mom passed away. I was in Valdez when I got the call she was gone.

The panoramas to the right are 10x30. The top one is of Northwestern Glacier, taken last year. This year, there is a lot more snow missing from the face. In fact, Diane and I saw an awesome glacier calving while on our Kenai Fjords wildlife cruise. The second pano is a close up of Mt. McKinley (Denali). The bottom pano is of Skilak Lake outside of Cooper Landing.

On the opposite wall I have a photograph of fireweed wildflowers growing along Mineral Creek Trail in Valdez, and another photograph of Denali taken from a scenic overlook in the park.

I look forward to filling my entire house with beautiful photographs of Alaska. They make me feel even more at home and help to warm the chill of winter.

From December to March,
there are for many of us three gardens -
the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye.
~Katherine S. White ~

Sunday, March 4th - Birds on the Deck, Junior Sled Dog Championship

Airborne watching birdsChickadee and RedpollThe other day, rather than fill the bird feeder up with sunflower seeds, I took a cup of them and tossed them out on the back deck. I figured that this way Airborne could get a better view of our feathered friends who were coming to dine in our backyard.

The chickadees didn't notice the seeds right away, but after a day or two someone must have put the word out, because they were coming in pairs and groups to the back deck. Airborne lay on the floor in front of the sliding glass doors, head down low, watching them flit around outside. Steve and I call it our version of "Cat TV". It was fun to watch her chattering at the birds!

In addition to the chickadees that have been frequenting the yard, we had a new species of bird come to visit. A few redpolls discovered the 'free eats' at our house and joined the chickadees in feasting. Here are some photos I took of the birds enjoying the sunflower seeds. Some of the photos are a little grainy. I had to adjust the levels in order to show the detail of the feathers (the birds were in the shadows at times) and this impacted the integrity of the photographs.

Chickadee and suet Chickadee and sunflower seed Redpoll Flying chickadee

Yesterday, Steve took me into town to watch the Junior North American Championship Races. The races started on Friday. There was a race every morning for three days. Yesterday was the only day we could find the time to go by and watch for a little while. They hold the races at Mushers Headquarters, and set up a shorter loop for the littlest mushers to run.

The mushers have to be between the ages of 3-16, but after talking to a proud papa whose son was racing, I learned that you can get an exception to the 3 year old requirement, if you can prove your child can hang onto a moving sled. His daughter, Dakota (age 19 months) was already training to mush and is expected to run next year. I look forward to seeing her race!

The mushers don't race unless it's -15F or warmer. Although scheduled to go off at 11am, it didn't reach -15F until a little after noon so there was a delay. The sun was shining, which made the day perfect.

I took a lot of photos of the young mushers and their dogs. There was much excitement in the air, and everyone cheered on these junior mushers as they left the starting line and ran the lap around the field.

Mushers Arrive Dakota - Next year's contender Family sport Four trees
Let's go Next year, you and me! Is it my turn yet? Go Go Go!
Waiting for his turn Pre-race pep talk The countdown Hang on tight!
Lots of encouragement I love to mush! Taking a break And he's OFF!
Taking the corner Two years later
See March 2005 for another photo of this little girl
Happy to run Never quit
Click to open full image with scrollbar in a new window
Musher in pretty parka After the race Dakota - next year's contender

We never got a chance to go to the Native Arts Festival, and I'm disappointed. I wanted to look for a fur trappers hat while I was there, and also a beautiful soft sculpture of a blanket toss (trimmed in fur) that I saw last year. I'd like to buy it for the house, now that we're settled.

Steve's going to see if he can get a pass the weekend of the 17th. If so, we're thinking about going to Anchorage and Homer for a long weekend. It would be good to get away for a few days, and to see some of the sights (as well as shop and eat in different restaurants) of Anchorage. I hear there are many eagles to see in Homer - another reason I'd like to take a trip. We won't know anything for sure until he puts in his leave pass next week. We're keeping our fingers crossed that it will be approved, and that the weather will cooperate.

Wednesday, March 7th - Triple Fun: Birds, Ice Art, and the Northern Lights!

The past few days have been busy for me. The weather has warmed up enough for snow to fall, which is a great thing. Don't get me wrong - it's still below zero out there, but at least it's warmer than -20F. And when the sun shines, you can almost forget that you're getting frostbite on your nose.

Airborne and I have enjoyed watching the birds on the back deck. The chickadees are a lot harder to capture with my camera because they fly in for seeds, and fly off quickly. The redpolls, on the other hand, like to sit a spell and gorge themselves. I saw one male redpoll (no photo unfortunately) - identified by his pinkish/red breast plumage - and several females. I was able to get a few clear photographs of them while they were visiting. In one photo below, you can see the lovely red crown clearly.

Chickadee Redpoll Redpoll

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

Chinese Proverb

The night before last, I could not sleep. I lay in bed tossing and turning, until finally I just gave up and decided to go downstairs and watch television. There's not much on in the middle of the night, but I managed to keep myself entertained.

Every 30 minutes or so, I'd get up and take a look out the back sliding glass doors - hoping that the Northern Lights would make an appearance. They had been sighted by several of my friends about a week ago and I really hoped I'd be lucky.

At 2:45am, I was rewarded with the faint green glow of light dancing overhead. In true photographer form, I didn't waste time to put on street clothes. I threw my bathrobe over my nightgown, and then put on my heavy fleece coat. I slipped my bare feet in to my snowboots, grabbed a pair of thin gloves, and mounted my camera on my tripod.

Northern LightsSo as to not have any ambient light in my photographs, I turned off every light on the lower level (to include the television and the nightlight on the stove). I opened the sliding glass door to my deck, which protested by sticking to the track and getting hung up on the snow which had built up against the door. Standing on the back deck, I looked a sight with my bathrobe hanging out of my coat, and my bare legs showing above my boots. But I was determined to get some photos! *grin*

It's difficult to adjust settings and focus on a camera when it's dark. I tried different things and shot a lot of frames. Of them, I managed to get the five photos shown here. The show didn't last very long, and the moon cast quite a bit of ambient light on the sky (which is why some of the photos look brighter). Regardless of whether or not I got photos, it was a thrill to be entertained during a night of insomnia!

Northern Lights Northern Lights Northern Lights Northern Lights

Yesterday, I had to run a lot of errands, and I made it a point to put the Ice Park on my list of places to visit. The sun was shining, and it was -10F. I made sure to put on my long underwear before I left the house, and packed an extra fleece layer for under my coat.

The sunshine was indeed pleasant, but it also made it a bit challenging to photograph some of the sculptures. I managed to wander for about an hour, before I no longer could feel my toes and my eyelashes got frozen together from the breath coming out above the scarf I had wrapped around my face. I'll be going back, as I bought a season pass again this year.

They've already judged the single block sculptures, and I managed to see/photograph some of them. I missed an entire row of ice art though, and will need to go back and get photos of the other winners. The multi-block sculptures aren't all up yet, and are supposed to be judged this weekend. I'm sure they'll be up then. I'll probably go back to the park later this week and see how much progress they've made on the multi-blocks. Of course, I plan to go at night to get photos of the sculptures lit up with the beautiful colored lights.

Kids Park Entrance
Through this arch there are slides and mazes and even Glo-Putt!
Stonehenge in Ice With a Flair Sculpture Joyful Dance Sculpture
New Song Sculpture New Song Closeup
Such intricacy!
Praying Mantis
The detail in this mantis is amazing!
Praying Mantis Closeup
Look at the eyes!
Noahs Nest Guardians
A mermaid protected by sharks
A little help
This is a lion with a thorn in his paw.
A Little help closeup
Here's a close up of the mice helping him.
What's Your Profile? Crescendo
I love the curves and grace of this sculpture!
Crescendo second view
Another view - just as stunning!
Multi Block carvers
Windchimes Windchimes close up
Look at the detail of the chimes!
Tribute to Susan Butcher
A fitting tribute to an incredible woman. This sculpture spans a good 30 feet and was carved by sculptors from six different countries in honor of Susan Butcher. (900 pixels)

I took a few photos around the house today. All in the living room/kitchen. The light was nice coming through the windows (and the place was clean)! I like my house more and more as we settle in and get comfortable. It really feels like home and is just perfect for Steve and I. I love all the windows and how they're situated in a way that lets the sun shine in as it makes it's way across the sky. That's so important in the winter, when light is limited. I wonder how I'll feel in the summer, when the sun never goes down? I have blackout curtains in the bedroom, so sleeping shouldn't be a problem. I don't mind a sunny living room and kitchen. In fact, I know I'm going to enjoy the sunny kitchen most of all; the house we lived in on Wainwright had such a dark and gloomy kitchen - even in the summer. As you can see in the photo at left, we have tiny lights on top of the cabinets in the kitchen. They are perfect at night when we're watching TV and just want a little ambient light in the kitchen.

Living Room
Living room (notice the army 'woobie' on the back of the loveseat - it's warm!)
Native Trivets
Steve bought these trivets when he was passing through Anchorage on his way home to during R&R from Iraq
Arizona and NM trivets
Steve and I picked these trivets up in Arizona and NM while traveling
Herb garden growth
My herb garden is sprouting! Now, if I can only remember what I planted on this side...
Living room
Living room looking towards back of house and sliding glass doors.
Box collection
I love boxes - all kinds of boxes. This is a small portion of my collection. I have a lot more still packed away.
Picture box
This is one of my favorite boxes. It has a glass top to display a picture in it.
Bear corner and trunk
My antique trunk (another box!) in the 'bear corner'.

"We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over."
-- Samuel Johnson--

We had the Trujillo's over for dinner tonight. It was nice to spend time with Rachael and James. I made a lasagna (it turned out yummy!), and we watched American Idol together. It's hard to believe that next Tuesday morning, I'll be saying goodbye to her. She has been such a great friend to me over the last three years, and I hate that she's moving so far away. The miles won't impact the depth of our friendship, but I know it will be tough not to see her all the time. I know I'm going to be sad when she goes.

And that's another reason why Steve and I decided to go away next weekend. (His pass was approved!) We're going to Anchorage, and then onward to Homer. The weather up here has been so cold (in Anchorage too), and we're keeping our fingers crossed that next weekend brings warmer weather and clear roads. I don't want to drive 8 hours with my foot on the invisible brake, and my knuckles white in fear. Me, a back seat driver? NAH! Hahaha!

Sunday, March 11th - New Birds, Outhouse Races, Pregnant Moose, and Sad Farewells

A few days ago, I was up early and sitting on the love seat watching some TV. I had my sliding glass door blinds open to let in whatever morning light there was. I noticed that the seeds I had tossed out there a few days before were nearly gone, so I threw another cupful on top of the newly fallen snow.

Pine Grosbeak MaleA little while later, I sensed movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned toward the glass door and was amazed by the sight of a glorious red bird and another of the same type, but more drab in color. This pair was the size of a very large robin, and dwarfed the few redpolls standing next to them eating.

I scrambled for my camera and hastily snapped a few frames before they saw my movement and flew off to the tree branches. I have never seen that species of bird before, in all my years of living here, and spent a good 30 minutes online doing research. (Thank goodness for the Internet!) What I had on my back deck were a pair of Pine Grosbeaks. The male, as usual, was dressed in the beautiful scarlet plumage, while the female wore less noticeable colors. Against the white snow, he looked magnificent!

Pine Grosbeak PairYou can see in the photo at left, how much larger the grosbeaks are when compared to the redpolls. I haven't seen the male since then, but I have had three more females come back to the seeds over the past few days. The chickadees also join in on the feast, and it's quite the sight to see all these birds partaking of my offering. What a boost for the winter doldrums! I look forward to spring, and gardening. I intend to place several birdhouses in the yard and a few more feeders. I'd like for my feathered friends to continue coming back to my house.


This weekend, Chatanika was holding the annual "Chatanika Days" events. The main event is the outhouse races. I didn't go last year and was looking forward to attending this year. When we woke up yesterday, it was nearly zero (which is fabulous!) and the skies were blue and the sun was shining. I knew it was going to warm up even more, so I expected a marvelous afternoon of fun and photographs.

Well, it was a good 20 degrees colder in Chatanika, and the wind was howling. The wind chill was absolutely awful! Steve and I were wearing many layers and still, any exposed piece of flesh felt like it was on fire from the cold. We barely survived the races and a little bit of human bowling before deciding to head back to the truck (and the nice heated seats). My fingers were cramped, and I used up three batteries in less than 40 minutes because of the cold.

I did get some photos of the different outhouses, the lodge, and the crowd:

Chatanika Days Chatanika Days Chatanika Days Chatanika Days
Chatanika Days Chatanika Days Chatanika Days Chatanika Days

Chatanika CabinChatanika Dredge TailingsBefore leaving Chatanika, we drove up to the F.E. Company Camp to take a few photos. This camp was built in 1923-1925 to support the hundreds of Chatanika dredge workers. The camp now has a restaurant, bar, rustic hotel and three multi-room cabins.

We came upon the abandoned and broken down cabin at left, while driving up to the camp. I don't know what the story is behind it, but I like old structures - even if they are broken down.

From that vantage point on the hill, we had a sweeping view of the tailings that stretch out for long distances in every direction. These rock and gravel mounds are from the huge dredges that mined the area for gold in the earlier part of the last century.

Moose in YardPregnant MooseOn the way home, just as we were nearing the turn off to our street, I spotted a moose in someone's back yard. Steve stopped the truck so that I could take a few photos. He whistled to her (like he does when he's calling the dog) and she turned towards us. It was quite apparent that she's pregnant, as her belly is hanging low.

Moose give birth in May and June, so I estimate she's about 4.5 months pregnant. (They are pregnant for about 230 days - or roughly 7.5 months). I would love to see some little babies again this year; maybe she'll stay in our area.


Later last evening, Steve and I joined Rachael and James at Lavelle's Bistro in the Marriott. They're staying there until they leave Alaska on Tuesday. Lavelle's is a bit on the pricey side, but they have a marvelous wine list. I wasn't in an experimental mood, and Steve had to be the designated driver, so we didn't overdo it too much with the liquor. Our meal was very good, and great conversation made it even better.

I picked up a few things at Barnes and Noble as a 'going away' gift for them. I was able to find a book called "Compass American Guides: American Southwest" and also picked up a laminated map of the southwest. The map has El Paso (Fort Bliss) on it, which is where they will be living for the next three years, as well as all interesting places due west of El Paso - in AZ, NM, UT, CO, and NV. I hope that they will get good use out of it, as they explore the areas around their new home. While in B&N, I also picked up a book for Shawna entitled "Georgia Off the Beaten Path". She and her family are moving to Columbus (Fort Benning). Steve and I enjoyed our stay at Fort Benning, and took the time to explore the surrounding area. I hope that Shawna and her family will too - particularly the gorgeous historic areas like Savannah.

Tomorrow we are all meeting at Food Factory for a 'farewell lunch'. I'm looking forward to spending time with Rachael, Shawna, Abby, Dawn and a new friend Mel - although I know the occasion is a sad one. It's hard to believe that Rachael is leaving here in less than 48 hours.

Steve and I are planning to go to the ice park on Tuesday evening to see the sculptures all lit up. I hope the weather is a bit warmer so we don't have to wear so many layers of gloves. It's hard to take photos that bundled up!


Rachael and Me

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
your heart is true; you're a pal and a confidant

I'm not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see, the biggest gift would be for me
and the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend

Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend
Thank you for being a friend

If it's a car you lack
I'd surely buy you a cadillac
Whatever you need, anytime of the day or night

I'm not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow

And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it's hardly here
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend

And when we die, and float away
I'll see you there, and once again
Thank you for being a friend.

It is now Monday, the 12th and I never got around to posting this entry that was started yesterday. I just got home from lunch with some friends, and saying goodbye to Rachael. It was hard, but at least I didn't lose it and bawl my eyes out. Believe me, I've done enough crying over the last week or so, and I'm sure I'll do it a few more times over the next couple of weeks as the realization hits me that she's not just a few miles away anymore.

Rachael lived two doors down from me, when we lived on Fort Wainwright. Despite the fact that she lived so close, I didn't meet her until almost a year after Steve and I moved here. Her husband was in a different unit than Steve, and they moved up here in September - just as winter was arriving. In the winter, we all tend to be hermits.

But when we did finally meet, and started to get to know each other, we hit it off right away. Even before the guys deployed, we started walking, or running errands together, or going out for coffee. And then, when they did leave, we became a wonderful support system for one another.

I'll never be able to go to Starbucks and grab a peppermint latte or a pumpkin spice latte without remembering all the money we spent there the laughs we had while sipping our coffee. And running errands will never be the same either. We had such fun taking care of the mundane things such as going to the post office, or running by the bank. And I'm going to miss lunches at The Diner and our traditional grilled cheese sandwiches and curly fries.

When our husbands were deployed, we took many road trips together. We drove down to Denali Park several times to look for moose or bears. We drove the Denali Highway once and we're lucky we made it back alive when I broke the brake line on Steve's truck while in the middle of the wilderness. We took our pups with us even though Steve forbid me to have the dog in the truck. I remember how much we laughed when we took pictures of our three furkids laying across the back seat, and then joked about how we really needed to wash the truck good so we wouldn't get caught!

In the middle of the night, we'd meet out in the backyard in our pjs and boots so we could take photos of the northern lights. Once, we drove up to the top of Birch Hill to take photos and then got scared because it was so dark up there.

So many good times. So many memories. How blessed I am to have had her along on this portion of my journey through life.

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, March 14th - Photos from the Farewell Lunch

I wanted to share these few photos that were taken at our Farewell Lunch on Monday. The lighting wasn't the best, so these aren't the greatest quality, but at least I'll be able to look at them and remember the last time I saw Rachael and Shawna.

As you can see by the first photo, our bunch took up three tables in the back of the restaurant. (Can you pick out the 8-year-old boy in the photo? *laugh* What is it with boys and making faces when a photo is being snapped?) I just met Melissa, Dawn, and Abby through my online spouse group, as well as through Yahoo 360. Melissa has two girls (pictured), Abby has two sons (she didn't bring them to lunch), Dawn has a daughter and a son (her son is the comedian in the group), and Shawna's two kids were there (Collin has his back to the camera).

In that second photo of Courtney and I, neither of us looks very happy. I'm really going to miss this little girl. I met her soon after she was born, and watched her grow into this beautiful 3-year-old beauty. Being with Courtney fulfilled all those middle-aged needs I have of wanting to spend time with a little one. She was also my favorite little model, and loved posing for the camera. I found out from Shawna, that Courtney named her newest doll "Susan". I'm honored.

Shawna is young enough to be my daughter, but age didn't matter. I think in some ways I was like a mother figure to her, but in other ways I know I was her friend. I liked when she came to me for advice, or to 'unload' her problems. I was able to give her input from 20 years of experience dealing with life, motherhood, and relationship issues. I knew how stressful it was for Shawna to play "single mom" while her husband was deployed, and even when he was at work. Our lunches out gave her a break, and my car lulled the kids to sleep. We sometimes just drove around aimlessly. She was happy to be out of the house. I'm going to miss those drives.

I wish both Rachael and Shawna much happiness in their new homes. I also look forward to getting to know Abby, Dawn and Melissa a little better.

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Steve and I are leaving bright and early tomorrow for Anchorage. The weather here has been unseasonably cold. We're breaking all kinds of records. Not only is it cold in the Interior, but it's also cold in Anchorage and Homer. What I thought might be an escape from the frigid arctic air, isn't to be. The long underwear and heavy parkas will be going with us after all.

I don't know if I'll have internet access while we're away, or whether I'll have time to update this journal. I hope to have plenty of eagle photos to share with you all when we get home early next week.

In closing:

May love and laughter light your days
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours.

Wednesday, March 21st - Weekend getaways are good, frozen septic systems are not.

Steve and I had a terrific time in Anchorage and Homer. (Thursday, March 15 - Monday, March 19) We had such a marvelous time, that we decided we'd like to make the trip to Homer to see the eagles an annual thing. It would coincide perfectly with our anniversary (April 5th), so we'll just call it an anniversary getaway.

I'm making this entry on a separate page because there are so many photos I want to share, and they would take forever to load on the main page of my journal. I hope this makes things move a little faster!

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Wednesday, March 28th - Enjoying the Squirrels

I haven't posted because there hasn't been much going on. To be honest, I've been feeling quite lazy lately. Since we got home from Homer, I've been in hermit mode. In fact, I didn't even leave the house until this past Sunday. Steve seemed to be happy to be in hermit mode too. It's been so cold in the morning (STILL!) and that doesn't give either us any motivation to get dressed and go out. Fortunately, it's warming up in the afternoon, and the sun has been coming out.

On Sunday, we met our friends Gip and Carmen at Pikes for the champagne brunch. The food was good - as always - and the company was great (as always!). As we were finishing up our meal, we talked about seeing "Wild Hogs" at the theater. If we hurried, we could make the 12:30 show. And so we did.

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Saturday, March 31st - Driving the Elliott Highway

Yesterday, Steve and I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and predicted 30F weather. We ran a few morning errands and then took a drive up the Elliott Highway to the fork where the Dalton Highway (also known as the Haul Road) splits off and heads to Deadhorse.

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GO TO APRIL

©2007 Susan L Stevenson