Friday, October 26, 2012

Ward Harvest (Wild Game) Dinner

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 this:)
Or more accurately, 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?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Alaska Guidebook: Le Barn Appétit (in Seward)

If you ever go to Seward (as we did with my parents way back in May), please go to Le Barn Appétit.  It's the cutest little creperie run by a super cute couple in their kitchen.  The husband is from Belgium and brought his original crepe recipe from there.  He cooks all the crepes right there in front of you.  And they have a menu, but they'll also tell you what you want (which is, in fact, exactly what you want).  So we were like: "We'll get the triple berry cream crepe" and she'll be like: "That one is good.  But do you want to try the pear and berry compote we just made a few days ago?  It's delicious."  And then they make you some amazing and giant crepes.  

And the couple is hilarious.  They'll tell you all their funny stories (their son was apparently a body guard for Britney Spears and the lady's claim to fame is that once she called her son and he put her on the phone with Britney.  The next week, in some magazine, there was some picture of Britney in the car on the phone with "her lover" and it showed the date and time.  The lady was like: "That was ME!  That's the exact time I was talking to Britney on the phone!"  She has binders full of pictures of these things... Britney with her son in the background, etc.).  They have an assortment of really random, cool things about which they will tell you elaborate stories about the acquisitions of the items.  

While we were there (eating our delicious crepes), the FedEx man came with a giant box.  The husband got all excited and wheeled himself over on his walker and started to open the box on the table next to us.  What he pulled out was the biggest crowbar/prybar tool thing I have ever seen.  It was about 3 feet long and had a sledge hammer on one end.  His wife said: "What is that?!" and he said: "A forced entry tool.  In Spanish it's called a penetrator."  "Why do you need that?"  "To tear down things I build."  "Don't you already have one of those?"  "But this one's bigger."  I cannot express to you the hilarity of this whole thing.  It was one of the greatest and funniest experiences ever and I want to be their friends.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Last spring we bought a Groupon to the Muskox Farm up in Wasilla, so we went up in early May after the baby muskoxen were born. The have a little shop and tiny museum about muskoxen that we looked around in before we went out into the pastures. The muskox is valued for its wool, called qiviut. They say it's eight times warmer than sheep's wool and doesn't shrink in water. It's extremely soft, even more so than cashmere. They sell hats and scarves and things made of qiviut but they're quite expensive, owing to the small numbers of domesticated muskoxen and the relatively small amount they get from each animal each year. (Not to mention that everything they make from it is kind of ugly, not because the wool is ugly, but because they apparently don't have anyone with any sense of style knitting with qiviut)

There was big, heavy rubber ball in the shop that they used to let the muskoxen play with, but a few times they apparently got it rolling so fast that they started knocking down walls. Now they only play with much smaller balls. This ball was actually made for cleaning out the oil pipeline. It's quite heavy and the girls could hardly move it.

Silly picture of Sabrina that happened to be taken there.

And here they are, both moms and babies. I believe they said the males are kept separate most of the time, but I may be thinking about the reindeer farm we went to last year.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Sabrina!

Sabrina is two. I try not to associate that with the scary natural birth that occurred just two short years ago or the period of colic.  But Sabrina makes it pretty easy to separate those events from the crazy child she is now.  Sabrina is a strong-willed child, no doubt.  This past month, we've been talking a lot about her birthday and she's been insisting she is turning six.  When I say, "No, Sabrina, you'll be two silly girl!" she would always respond "No Mommy!  Six!"  (This had become the new argument.  She used to argue with us that she was a boy.)  This morning, however, when Celia and I went to get her from her bed, we said "Happy Birthday!  How old are you?" she jumped right up, and yelled "TWO!"  She understands way more than she lets on (she always has).  Here are a few events from the past week.

- After dropping Celia off a preschool, Sabrina and I were alone in the car and she said: "Music on please mommy."  I went through each of the stations: rock, classic rock, pop, and on each of the stations she would say: "No mommy.  Music on please."  When a reggae song came on she immediately said:  "Yes!  This one!  Music!"

-  Another day, after picking Celia back up from preschool, I heard Sabrina say: "No finger in nose please Celia.  Celia picking nose.  No Celia."  (As reported by both Sabrina and the primary leaders, Celia has apparently been nose-picking behind my back quite a bit.)

- Celia had broken a necklace at some point.  Sabrina found it while Celia was at preschool.  She picked it up and couldn't stop laughing and saying: "Celia broke it.  Celia broke necklace.  Funny Celia.  Celia Funny."  I think she was relieved for once it wasn't her that broke something.

In other news, Sabrina went back to the eye doctor this week and she's still using her right eye more than her left.  She sees better through just her right eye than she does through both eyes through the glasses.  So, they upped her prescription on her glasses significantly.  We'll try that until Thanksgiving.  If she still has an eye dominance, she'll have to get an eye patch.  (Now I'm worried about the decision we made to make her a pirate for Halloween this year...)

Sabrina is a hilarious child.  She is mischievous.  And no incentives or disincentives work for her.  When it's chore time, if I say, "Okay Sabrina, time to clean up.  If you clean up, you can have a gummy bear.  Want a gummy bear?"  Her response is:  "No thank you."  If I say: "Okay Sabrina, time to clean up.  You can clean up or you can go to your bed for time out."  Her response is: "Bed please mommy."  Despite her constant efforts to get out of cleaning up, she and I communicate well these days.  I've figured her out.  She's still clingy and Tom and I have gone on a few dates where we can see her poor little face pressed up against the window YELLING "MOMMY!!!  MOMMY!!!"  But she's getting better.  Her favorite show, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (an animation of the Land of Make Believe in Mister Roger's Neighborhood) has helped.  They sing a little song that goes: "Grown-ups come back."  And she sings that now every time I leave.

In the process of writing this tribute to Sabrina, I've had to tell her to put her glasses down two times (she likes to wear them on her head a lot), I've read her two stories, she's tried to talk Celia into reading her another one, I've had to redo her ponytail (which she also pulls out several times a day), she's made me help her sit on the potty (she's only ever gotten anything out twice), and I've had to refill her milk.  So is a 10-minute span in the life of Sabrina.  Happy Birthday busy girl!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Florida: Take Two

When we went on our trip to Florida with the Edvalsons in March, it was beginning to be apparent that we would need to make another trip down there for Evan's wedding sometime during the summer. Within a few weeks of returning, he and McKenzie were engaged, so after our March trip we went to Florida again in June, this time with the Stocks.

It was on this trip that we discovered the possibility of the overnight layover in Seattle. So on our stopover we got to visit many of the great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, and second cousins that we don't get to see very often. (Although Emeline is the only one who looks happy in this picture, I assure you they all had a good time together)

Once we got to Florida we met up with Hilary and Chris who came down from Maryland, and the girls were able to spend some quality time with their cousin Jack, who they also don't get to see very often.

While the March trip was all Disney, on this trip we went to see some of the non-Disney attractions in Orlando, such as SeaWorld. We all enjoyed seeing all the shows and aquariums.

And look how cool we all are watching the whales in our glasses.

Sabrina was a little timid in this slide too. She has a thing against theme park slides it seems,  but regular playground slides are fine.

Of course there are also several rides in addition to the animals. Our favorite ride there was Manta. It's a rather large rollercoaster with many twists and loops, but the thing that's different about this one is the way you sit. You get in your seat and pull the harness over your chest just like any other feet-dangling rollercoaster, but before you start, they tip you forward so you ride head first as if you're flying Superman-style, or swimming manta ray style. As you start to go down the first descent and you're already practically upside-down it seems like it's going to be really bad, but it's actually one of the smoothest, most comfortable rollercoasters we've ever been on. There's something about riding in the prone position that makes it much less stomach-dropping and neck-jarring that most. It was the only ride we kept going back to. We thought it was funny how Evan and I (Tom) are both making the same faces as each other in both of these pictures, despite making different faces from one picture to the next, and Marel looks exactly the same in both of them.

So we spent a day at SeaWorld, and the next day at Universal's Islands of Adventure. At the park entrance Celia checked to see if Sabrina was tall enough for any of the rides. Turns out she wasn't (except for the ones with no minimum height, of course).

The main purpose in going to IOA was to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was very cool. It felt immersive and authentic. We were actually somewhat glad it was rainy that day because the clouds and gloom really enhanced the mise en scène of the Hogsmeade set. It wouldn't have felt as authentic on a sunny day. While there we also got some frozen butterbeer. Everyone raves about it, and it pretty well lived up to the hype.

While we "big kids" went on some of the big rides in Harry Potter world and elsewhere in the park, Celia and Sabrina spent a most of their time in the Dr. Seuss-themed area of the park with Marel and Sue.

Of course we pretty well wore the kids out. Early in the day when they were bright and lucid they enjoyed sitting in the back of the van together.

But after dark they didn't seem to care anymore. It was also on this trip that we learned that Sabrina always puts her glasses on her forehead when she's ready to fall asleep in the car.

Though they were still awake enough for story time with Uncle Chris.

We stayed in a nice place big enough for all of us. We spent much of the time in the pool, and even had some poolside breakfasts.

Then at the end of the week came the wedding. Celia, Sabrina and Jack all rushed up to congratulate Uncle Evan and their new Aunt McKenzie.

At first the girls were pretty excited about their poofy skirts and their own little bouquets, but before long they began complaining of the heat and brightness.

And it was bright, we were all squinting pretty hard, though we did our best to keep our eyes open for the pictures.  The girls were cute, but in an "awww. put that poor girl in a swimming pool" sort of way.

At the reception later that evening (after a good afternoon of swimming at the house and taking naps) they had cotton candy, which was a big hit with the ladies. Celia even did a little dance with hers.

Then later during the couple's first dance, Sabrina must have thought they were being too mushy to watch anymore.

Everything there was pink and/or orange, including the cakes and cupcakes and most of the rest of the food.

There was also a photo booth, which was their other favorite attraction. Our family used it well more than our fair share, though it took the kids a few times to figure it out.

After a rousing celebration, we were back on an airplane early the next morning. So congrats Evan and McKenzie, albeit a few months late.  (And here's hoping we don't have to take that long airplane ride to Florida for a while now.)

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