Last Friday was the Ward's Harvest Dinner. It's also known as the "Wild Game" dinner because that's what "harvest" means up here. On the menu (as pictured) was: Venison, Elk Summer Sausage, Moose Hot Dogs, Salmon Shiskabobs, Caribou Chili, Wild Boar, Wild Turkey, Black Bear Crockpot Stew, Dall Sheep, Bison, and halibut (not pictured) among other things.
This dinner marks our three-year anniversary of living in Alaska. We went to the ward harvest dinner before we even attended our ward's church meetings. It's a real induction into Alaskan lifestyle. And it makes us reflect on the joys and oddities of living in the "Great White North." A few observations:
1) In September, it was starting to get dark at night and it was raining a lot. And I found it really hard to drive because it was SO DARK. I mean, we get dark in the winter, but the snow reflects off of everything so it never gets that dark. You can still see everything all night. That isn't true for raining fall nights without snow. Tom and I know driving at night in the rain (being raised in the NW) but it turns out, we may never be able to go back.
2) PFD Day - The day the oil money drops into the accounts of every man, woman, and child in Alaska. This is the craziest shopping day of the year up here. I went to Costco the night before PFD day and here's the conversation I heard between two Costco employees:
1: You ready for tomorrow?
2: I'm calling in sick.
1: Nice Try.
This year Tom and I got in on the action by attending a private sale at an appliance store on the evening of PFD day. They have catered food around, give away a Viking range, and sell things for cheaper. We used our PFDs to purchase the new appliances for our kitchen (which will be completely done after we replace the drywall covering the microwave vent... pictures to come). But PFD sales are quite random. While there are the big one-day events around town, random things will go on sale for PFD season. For example, last year I called Tom's doctor to pay the bill and they said if I paid it in full before the end of the year, I could get 20% off for a PFD sale. Awesome. I mean, it's a doctor. Of course I'm going to pay it in full. And probably today. So why not 20% off? This year, the studio at which I attend Zumba did a week-long half off sale for PFD week. I bought a few Zumba punch cards and signed Celia up for a ballroom dance class (at half off!). So it's a good time around here. There's money and the local economy reaps the rewards. (And me... as the consumer, as well.)
3) Northern Lights - Tom and I have now had two really solid evenings of Northern lights viewing from our driveway. These nights are magical. And indescribable. You need to see them to believe them, really. And even after seeing them, it's hard to believe them. And the only way to guarantee seeing them is to live in Alaska for a long period of time so you can pop outside as soon as you see someone in your ward post on Facebook that the Northern Lights are out.
4) Pixie Dust - When it gets really cold in the winter (which has yet to happen this year), it looks like there is magic pixie dust all over. It just floats around. Really. Like Glitter. In the Sky.
5) Lisa Frank mornings - While there are no real dolphins flying through the sky, or even unicorns, the sunrises on cold, winter mornings are so colorful. (Not like Lisa Frank... more Arctic-y, but I don't know how else to explain it. (From Tom: Sometimes in photos or movies you'll see pictures of mountains and clouds that look too colorful to be real, but that's actually the way it looks....like this:)
6) Vistas - About once a week, just driving around town, I am floored by what I see. This is a beautiful land up here. Sometimes the snowy mountains with a full moon above it in the evening is all lit up by the sun setting and it's brilliant. Or the sun shines on a distant island of wind turbines and it becomes majestic. Or a bull moose crosses the street in front of us with amazing antlers (and Celia yells: "It's a moose! I am so glad I see I moose. I have not seen a moose in a long time!").
7) Salmon - I can't take it for granted that we can eat fresh Alaskan salmon once a week. It's a super quick meal (takes 10 minutes to cook), it's super delicious, and think of all the Omega-3s we're getting that you're missing out on! And we know how much I love dipnetting. (I love it.) (We also have a ton of halibut in the freezer from friends!)
8) Ice Skating - We all have ice skates (except Sabrina) and plan to do lots more of it this year. It's amazing we can just throw our skates in the car in the winter and skate at several places around town. I'm hoping it doesn't snow this weekend so we can go skating on Potter Marsh (which is only possible after it freezes but before it snows because the city doesn't hot-mop it like it does with several other lakes around town).
As you already know, we love it here. And we're always recruiting. The only time I find myself wanting to move is every year in June when we have our first perfect summer day and I think: "This day happened two months ago in the Northwest." But then fishing season hits, and I'm back on the Alaska train. Tom and I have actually been working on making an Alaska board game (we'll let you know when we're famous). So that's what we've been up to, and that's what we get to see here in Alaska. 2013 is coming up fast. Who's coming to visit this year?