Friday, December 27, 2013

Space A? Yes, Please.

Boarding our ride in the hangar
Last week we were able to take advantage of one of the fantastic benefits available to us called Space A flights.  I wasn't familiar with it until we moved to Kodiak - I guess because so far we haven't been stationed somewhere that was so remote that Space A would become oh-so-enticing.

It stands for Space Available, and it basically allows us to reserve a spot on a scheduled Coast Guard C-130 flight.  Wherever the flight is going, we can hop a ride in the back to whatever destination they're already scheduled to go to, at no charge to us.  In our case, it's usually Anchorage.  I've heard that they occasionally have Space A flights available going from Kodiak to Honolulu, so we'll be sure to keep an eye out for that sweet opportunity!

The seating inside the plane - Try not to be
distracted by the zombie eyes on the left!
So, last week we took a quick trip to Anchorage on our very first Space A flight to get off the island for a little while. - Our first time leaving Kodiak since we got here six months ago.  Six months isn't that long, but you really feel the remoteness of Kodiak because...well, it's pretty remote.

It feels like much longer because of that "we're so far away" feeling that's just inevitable.  If you're like me, you're now singing in your head, ♪ ♫  "We're so...faaaaar away....doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore...?" ♫ ♪  That would be Carole King for those of you who are saying, huh?  And shame on you if you're over 30 and didn't recognize it!  Just kidding.

Anyway, this was my first time flying in a C-130, and it was most definitely a memorable experience.  The only thing about it that was similar to a regular commercial flight was the seats.  I could tell they were hand me down airline seats from quite some time ago because some of the arm rests still had cigarette ashtrays built in.

It's kind of hard to believe there once was a time that smoking on a flight was actually allowed.  What a horrendous experience that would be!  Hurtling along in a steel box full of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and thousands of other lethal chemicals wafting through the air?  Glad that's not how we fly anymore!  (It might just be a perfect example of social evolution)

The flight itself was much noisier than a commercial flight, (they handed out ear plugs - which I totally used) and the vibrations were pretty noticeable.  The seat vibrated so much, it reminded me of one of those old school movies or sitcoms where the character would put a quarter into the shady motel's vibrating bed for a "massage." 

Hubby posing for me after landing at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage
The very first thing I noticed after landing was how much colder it was in Anchorage compared to Kodiak.  When we got there, it was about negative 10 degrees outside.  That's step outside and your nose hairs start to freeze weather.  The coldest temperatures I've ever experienced, for sure.  Remember, we're not talking wind chill, we're talking straight up air temperature.  Negative 10.  Downright frigid.  Makes Kodiak seem balmy with its 35-ish degrees on most winter days.

The hubby and I had different ideas about what we wanted to do once we got there, so we went with a divide and conquer strategy.  He was hell bent on continuing his on-going love affair with Costco, and I was desperate for some new jeans and long sleeved shirts/sweaters.  So, I went to a mall and he wandered around Costco, and we met back for lunch a few hours later.

Winner of the hipster prize
We started playing "spot the Anchorage hipster" pretty early on, and found the hands down winner of that game at the lunch spot we went to called Brown Bag Sandwich Co.  (really delicious - whole-heartedly recommend checking it out on the off chance you find yourself looking for a lunch spot in Anchorage)

Tell me this guy doesn't get the hipster winner's trophy with his matching "Dude" sweater/hat combo.  And you can't even see the pièce de résistance, the giant phoenix-like bird with fully outstretched wings on the sleeves and back.  All that, plus the pom pom on his hat & the wooly beard just about made my afternoon.

I had a little moment while we were playing spot the Anchorage hipster and scarfing down our panini sandwiches and belly warming hot soup:  I realized we were utterly surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of high-tech, performance winter outerwear.  From Patagonia, to North Face, to Marmot, to Columbia - it was a smorgasbord of cold weather technology.  Ourselves included.  All hail outdoor activity clothing!

Outside McGinley's...BRRR!
Later that night after we checked into our hotel, we made our way to an Irish pub right by our hotel called McGinley's to get our first draft Guinness beers in six months.  Makes me cringe writing that.  I haven't seen Guinness on draft anywhere in Kodiak so far, but that doesn't mean it's not out there.  Somewhere.  If any Kodiak locals are reading this & know of a place, TELL ME, please.

After the mandatory Guinness, we went to dinner at Glacier Brewhouse.  They had phenomenal beers, (it's a great brewery) and I had the best salmon I've ever had.  It was prepared so simply, but it was out of this world.  The restaurant had a great vibe, too.

My absolutely delicious salmon
It was so cozy with the fireplace, and it had a very rustic, farmhouse feel to it.  I love when restaurants and businesses are all decorated
for Christmas, it always feels so festive wherever you go at this time of year.

Now this is the point in our trip when Mother Nature stepped in to let us know she was in charge.

Inside Glacier Brewhouse

We had planned to stay overnight on a Tuesday and leave the next day, but the combination of what they call "below minimums" in Kodiak, and then a blizzard in Anchorage changed that.  Below minimums basically means it's too damn foggy to land.  We ended up catching our scheduled flight on Wednesday afternoon, flying to Kodiak, circling around in a holding pattern for about 15 minutes, and then turning around and flying right back to Anchorage.  I wasn't sure why we even bothered to fly all the way there if they already knew the conditions were bad, but I'm just a passenger. - I'll leave those decisions the the professionals!

Plates at Moose's Tooth
Once we came back and rescheduled our flight for later, the snow started in Anchorage and our flight was cancelled.  We did get to check out a well known pizza joint we wanted to go to during our down time waiting for the next flight, though.  It was called Moose's Tooth, and it took the edge off the whole flight delay/cancellation debacle.  Pretty good pizza and beer, and I was digging their moose plates.  :)

When all was said and done, we finally got home on Thursday afternoon, just a day later than what we had originally planned.  What a fun trip it was!

So very nice to get off of Kodiak for a few days.  Even if it was freeze your ass off weather in Anchorage!  Now, about those Space A flights to Hawaii....hmmmm.

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

That New Library Smell

I was so excited when I learned that the city of Kodiak was in the process of building a brand new library while I was researching Kodiak a few months before we moved here.  They recently had their grand opening, and we went and checked out the new location last weekend.  All I can say is WOW! It's so beautiful, and it even rivals my all time favorite library, the Clearwater, FL Public Library.
Kodiak-themed art

The fireplace is a great focal point
I don't even know where to start.  I think my favorite thing about the building is that the construction was primarily locally sourced materials.  There are these huge support columns all throughout the inside that are from local timber, I would guess Sitka Spruce, but I'm not sure.

Vintage Glass Fishing Floats
The stone work on the fireplace mantle is locally sourced, the art is from Kodiak artists, and the whole feel of the interior is so warm and inviting.  The views out the giant picture windows aren't too shabby, either.

I really liked the art they chose to display.  The wooden benches had fish carved into the wood, and the canvas and photo panel pieces showed different Kodiak scenes.  On either side of the fireplace, there were two displays mounted in between the glass panes of the windows of vintage glass fishing floats.  It was so unique and colorful.
The fire place sitting area. - I loved the four-paneled canvas art here.  So colorful and interesting.

Compass Rose
I'm so glad that we have such a beautiful space for our library!  I also have to mention the truly remarkable compass rose mounted on one of the walls at the entrance way.  The arms are made from Alutiiq wooden kayak paddles.  Another very unique piece to have on display, and very Kodiak!

I can't resist sharing some of the other pictures I took that day because there was so much to admire.  As you might have gathered, I'm kind of into libraries.  :)  Especially new ones!  Here are a few of the front entry way, stacks, and giant window views.  Impressive!

Front entry way looking toward the fire place.  I love how dramatic the
columns look & the detail of the wood beams along the ceiling

Nice view, love the huge windows and beautiful woodwork

I used the old library pretty often, but I can see how much more enjoyable it will be wandering around this extraordinary space.  So open and airy, but comfortable and cozy at the same time.  I'm such a sucker for a new library, and now I have a brand spanking new one in my home town.  Sweet!  Now if they could just figure out a way to bottle that lovely new library smell...

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Merry Christmas, From Mr. Evans & Mr. Palminteri

I have two Christmas season recommendations for you this week.  Every year at this time I have a certain book I read and a certain movie I watch during the wind up toward Christmas.  I love them both.  The book is called The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.  It's a short, quick little read, and I just love the story and message.

It really brings into focus how easy it can be to get distracted by trivial day to day routines and become too fixated on the parts of life that aren't nearly as important as love of family.  The story most definitely veers toward traditional Christian values and the birth of Jesus. - Not what I would normally be drawn toward, but there's something about the story that resonates with me.  Maybe it's just that the central theme is love and Christmas. Granted, it can be a little sappy at times, but I'm okay with that. And you should be, too. - If Christmas isn't the time to be overly sappy, then I don't know what time of year is better!

My go-to Christmas movie that I like to watch is called Noel, directed by Chazz Palminteri.  He's one of those actors that you recognize when you see him, but you don't necessarily know his name right off the bat.  He played the gangster Sonny in A Bronx Tale, the detective interviewing Kevin Spacey's character, Verbal, in The Usual Suspects, and many, many other roles throughout his career. Anyway, he directed Noel, which was released in 2004, and also played a small part in the movie.  I love this movie.

It's most definitely on the top of my list as far as Christmas movies, and if you haven't heard of it you need to watch it.  It weaves together very somber but also very uplifting story lines in a touching, compelling way.  I cry every time I watch it, but I'm a total softy, so it doesn't take much for me to turn on the waterworks.  I'll weep at a well done coffee commercial.  What can I say?  I'm a sensitive little flower. 

The gist of the plot is about five strangers who are linked together – and who meet each other at separate times – by a series of events that take place on Christmas Eve.  It has a phenomenal cast:  Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Penelope Cruz, and the recently and unexpectedly deceased Paul Walker.  This is one of those movies that will appeal to you if you have even a little bit of faith in the idea that things you can't see or easily conceive of as feasible are possible.  And even if you don't, maybe you'll pause a second and give the unbelievable a moment of consideration.

Let's hear those sleigh bells ring-a-ling.....
And since it's a Christmas-themed post this week, I thought I'd share the Christmas centerpiece I craftied up for this year.  It's sort of a riff on a snow globe, but using a standard big centerpiece goblet.  I created the paper trees using THIS very simple tutorial with the paper I had leftover from some St. Patrick's Day crafts I did last year.  The snow is from breaking up some Styrofoam packing material that came in one of the many Amazon orders I've made over the last six months, and I had the little mini-presents and faux mini-pine cones in my crafting stash already.  I think it turned out super cute.

And hell, I might as well share our Christmas tree and cheerful lights and decorations from outside. We didn't go out into the wild and cut down our tree - as I'm sure many would think would be the norm in Alaska.

I wanted to, but then I learned that the type of pine trees that grow naturally here tend to lose their needles and die very quickly after being cut down, so we opted to support the local Kodiak Kiwanis Club.  Turned out to be a lovely pick of a Noble Fir (fresh off the ferry!) by the hubby, as usual - he has an uncanny knack for picking great Christmas trees.  As for the outdoor decorations, hubby tackled the lights, and I was excited to be able to hang ornaments out front like I've wanted to for a few years.  I thought they looked nice with the red wreath:

And of course, Pugbulls are as usual very interested in the new addition to the living room

Not too much longer until Christmas...and I have to admit I'm reeeaaally excited about our menu for this year.  Yes, it will be a blog post in the near future.  Because - Alaskan King Crab Legs!  YES!!  It'll be our second foray into the unbelievable deliciousness of the King Crab we can get up here, and I'll be sure to share the crabby love here.

In the meantime, check out my Christmas book/movie double header.  You won't be disappointed.  If you don't shed a tear or two you must be dead inside.  Kidding.  But, I can guarantee at the very least you'll feel warm and fuzzy.  Especially if you pair your reading or movie watching with some vino or a little Hot Buttered Rum.

Merry Christmas & ta-ta for now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

!@#$% It Dude, Let's Go Bowling

I've been anxiously awaiting the re-opening of the bowling alley on base since we got here in July.  I know....bowling?  All I can say is hell yes.  It's been closed for renovations, and as of a few weeks ago it's finally back in business.  Wa-hoo!

I have a bit of a thing with bowling.  I don't know if it's just a nostalgic throw-back from when I was in high school and used to play for fun, or if I just have an unhealthy fixation with the fact that it's the only sport that I'm better at than the hubby.

I can count on one hand how many times I've bowled since I was about 15, but now that it's so easily accessible, you can bet your ass we'll be bowling more often now.  Although, I don't even know if bowling is really a sport.  I'm sure plenty of people would debate that point, but it's definitely on a lower rung of the "sports" ladder in my mind. It's kind of in the same realm as darts and pool for me.  Bar "sports" you can play with a beer in hand.  My kind of sports.

Old habits die hard - we
always used coozies in
Florida because the beer
would inevitably get warm.
Here, it's to keep my hand
So we had our inaugural bowling night last weekend, and it was a lot of fun.  I love that I overheard other bowlers quoting Lebowski while we were playing, and the beer selection was top notch.  A good variety of Alaskan beers and some non-wimpy beers like Stella Artois, Bass, Sierra Nevada and Longboard Lager.  Works for me!

It's blurry, so I have to tell you it's 106 to 82
There was a party that had reserved all of the lanes, so we were only able to play for about an hour and a half before we had to vacate, but it was still a fun way to spend the evening.  Did I mention that I kick the hubby's butt in bowling?

I try not to gloat too much, but it really is one of the only sports-like activities I'm actually better at than he is.  For now, anyway.  It doesn't happen very often, so I can't resist latching on to feeling overly effing triumphant every time I win!  I already know that bowling is going to become a part of our regular routine as far as entertainment goes, because YES.

You have to admit, he does have good form
Any activity where it's completely acceptable (and expected) to bust out with:  "Yeah well, you know, that's just, like, you're opinion man" is right up my alley.  Or the classic:  "I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."  And of course, the end all be all:  "Ever thus to deadbeats, Lebowski."  For those of you who are asking yourselves what the hell I'm talking about, I'm quoting from the Coen brothers late 90's bowling-centric masterpiece, The Big Lebowski.

The funny thing is, The Big Lebowski did terribly when it was released in theaters in 1998.  Then, as years went by it took on its own momentum and became a cult classic.  There are LebowskiFests nationwide every year.  It's become quite the event, if you're a fan anyway.  And for my Tampa friends, LebowskiFest this year is in your fine city on January 31 through February 1, 2014.

The hubby and I have plans to go to a LebowskiFest at some point, probably after the Alaska tour is over.  I'm a big fan of almost any kind of "Fest."  JazzFest, RibFest, FantasyFest, BrewFest, SeafoodFest - I'll go to them all!  Slap a Fest on the end of any food, booze or entertainment event and I'm in.

If you've never seen The Big Lebowski, you need to check it out.  It's one of those movies you have to watch a few times before you really get on board.  But once you're on board, there's no getting off.  You'll never call a White Russian a White Russian again.  So, I suspect this will be the first of many Alaskan winters of bowling.  "!@#$% it Dude, let's go bowling."

Ta-ta for now. 

"OVER THE LINE!!"                          Photo credit:  Gramercy Pictures

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wining with Santa

I've gotten involved with a very fun and Christmasy volunteer group over the last few weeks that's been stoking the whole "let's get into the Christmas spirit" vibe very nicely.  Although, the snow and chilly weather definitely helps in that department, too.  In Florida, it was always kind of a challenge to feel like the holidays were rolling around because the weather just didn't coincide with the holiday season in the traditional way.  And by traditional, I mean winter in New York!

It's time for the inevitable history portion of the post.  It's interesting, I swear!  The Kodiak archipeligo is a pretty large group of islands about 30 miles from the Alaska Peninsula and 158 miles across the Gulf of Alaska from Homer, Alaska.  The island chain is about 177 miles long and encompasses nearly 5,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. Crazy, right?  I thought so.  See?  Interesting!  Somewhat.  :)
Within the island chain are maybe a half a dozen or so remote villages that aren't accessible by car.  They have indigenous names like Afognak Island, Ouzinkie, and Akhiok, and are home mostly to Alaska's Native People, called the Alutiiq.  (Ah-Loo-Tick)  The population of the villages can range anywhere from 30 to 300 people, and you can get to some of them by boat or ferry. - But, most are only accessible by float plane.  Talk about remote.  No running down to the 7-11 for them! 

I'm getting to the point, I promise.  The Coast Guard Spouses' Association of Kodiak (SAK) has facilitated a community outreach program that serves the remote villages called Santa to the Villages.  This is the 40th year of the program.  Being the good little joiner that I am, I joined the Spouses Association when we first got here & learned about this and several other volunteer programs sponsored by SAK.  I've met some really nice people that I would never have met if I hadn't branched out and made it a priority to get involved. 

Volunteer "elves" Carrie, Delores & Lindsey wrapping away
In a nutshell, Santa to the Villages volunteers work year round by coordinating with the rural schools, the community of Kodiak, USCG Air Station Kodiak, USCG Base Kodiak, USCG Cutter SPAR, and supporters throughout the United States to raise funds, and collect donations to coordinate the delivery of toys, Christmas stockings, hand-knitted hats/scarves/mittens, and books to the children of the remote villages.  And yes, I pretty much lifted that description directly from the Santa to the Villages page!

Presents ready to be wrapped
for the village of Port Lions
So for the last month or so, I've been spending time helping to organize toys and books, taking inventory of santa and elf costumes, and wrapping presents that will be delivered to the kids in the remote villages.  The presents are delivered via Coast Guard helicopter by volunteers dressed as Santa & his elf helpers.  Fun!  Can you imagine being a kid in one of those villages and seeing Santa hop off a Coast Guard helicopter to give you presents?  It's like the remote Alaskan version of seeing Santa ride by on a fire truck in your town's Christmas parade.  Only he has gifts for you!

More importantly    :)
Recently, we had a wine wrapping party, where a bunch of us got together one evening and wrapped presents.  While enjoying some wine and cookies.  Christmas music?  Check.  It was a fun night, and we knocked out all the present wrapping for one of the villages and a good chunk of another.

I discovered when we lived in Key West how truly fulfilling and personally satisfying it is to volunteer.  It's such a great way to get out and meet like-minded people and a really nice way to do something outside of your own world that matters and makes a difference for someone else.  It's cliche, but it feels really good doing things to help other people in a concrete way.  Plus, it gets you focused on something other than your own thoughts and worries.  Which, as we all know, can sometimes be consuming.

"Elf" Wendy wrapping like a boss
We have a designated "elf house" on base which acts as the headquarters and center of operations for organizing and wrapping. - It's located just down the hill from our house, so I was able to walk down to the wine wrapping party.

On my way back home, I was treated to one of the clearest, most impressive night skies I've ever seen.  It was truly remarkable, and I stopped and just stared up at the sky at least 3 or 4 times on my walk home.  I could almost see the Milky Way galaxy, and could easily make out the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Seven Sisters, North Star, and Orion.  That's about the extent of my identification skills go, astronomy-wise.  There were so many constellations visible & it was unbelievably clear, bright and beautiful.

The only thing that could have made it better would have been an aurora borealis sighting!  I've been on the hunt for the northern lights, but haven't seen it yet.  That's most definitely on my Alaska bucket list.  You can bet I'll blog about that when I see it!

So, Santa to the Villages has been a fun charitable group to be involved with for the holidays this year.  I can't wait to see the pictures they take of the present deliveries. - Especially the reaction of the kids.  I thought this was a fun shot from last year's Santa to the Villages:

Photo Credit:  The Kodiak Daily Mirror

It's time to get this holiday season rolling!  Bring on the bourbon balls (hubby makes a mean bourbon ball), festive decorations, and 24 hour rotations of A Christmas Story.  Raaaaalph-iieee!!

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pardon Me While We Revert to the 1970's...

I don't know about you, but I was a first-timer the other day when I bought pearl onions at the store.  Yes, pearl onions.  In my mind pearl onions are seventies-tastic.  Right up there with lava lamps and shag carpet.  I feel like they should be served on avocado green plates along with a Gimlet cocktail.  So the question is, what led me to purchase said pearl onions?

Well, I found a recipe on the smitten kitchen (a fun cooking blog you should check out if you're so inclined) for a vegetarian version of Beef Bourguignon using portobello mushrooms that called for the little mini-onions.  It was pretty tasty.  I have a really hard time saying bourguignon.  It's boor-ghee-nyon for those of you who are like me and are a little remedial in the pronunciation department.  Incredibly difficult for me to say - I think because I never took French and it's just an alien way to move my mouth.  That and Gruyère.  SO. HARD. TO. SAY.  (It's Grew-yehr, by the way - but I'll stumble over it every time)  Again with the French thing.  Whatever, I took Spanish in high school.  I'm more of a mantequilla - cuchillo - comida kind of gal.  (Butter, knife, food.  FYI)  Feel free to add your own go-to Spanish word to the mix.  I always liked mantequilla.  And lápiz.  That means pencil.  Let's hear it for a distracted, romance language tangent!

Simmering away
Anyway, the Mushroom Bourguignon. - I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm also not opposed to the meatless Monday.  Or meatless any other day of the week, for that matter.  And considering the hubby is all "meat stuffed with meat, wrapped with meat, with a side of meat" on most days, meatless Monday isn't a bad idea. - And this recipe wasn't missing anything in the flavor department.

You can get the recipe HERE, if you're interested in giving it a go.  The only thing I would do differently, is I would brown the pearl onions up front along with the mushrooms.  Adding them at the end and simmering for 10 minutes equaled a pretty intense onion flavor in those tiny nuggets.  They were like little onion bombs.  Small, but too intense.  I think some caramelizing on the front end of the cooking would mellow them out a little bit.  Other than that, it was really tasty.  I used beef broth, but you could easily substitute vegetable broth to make it a legit vegetarian dish.  Let me know if you give it a try. -  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.  But, I know no one will post a damn thing in the comments.  That's fine.  I'm not bitter.  Much.

Here's my final plated dish of the lovely Mushroom Bourguignon over egg noodles from the smitten kitchen:

Gotta love those meaty portobellos. 

Not too shabby for a hearty, healthy-ish winter dish.  Another one to add to my rotation, I'm thinking.  Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to go put on my mood ring and listen to some Bee Gees.

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Monashka Bay Hike - Check.

Cheety checking out Monashka Bay

A few weeks ago, we went on a hike to an area I hadn't been to yet called Monashka Bay.  Hubby hiked the mountain part of the area a month or so ago as part of a challenge he was doing called Seven Summits, but it was my first time there.

It's about a 40 minute drive north of the base, and it was another unforgettable hiking day.  The weather wasn't ideal, but one of the things we decided pretty early on after our move was that it was time to reevaluate our definition of good weather. 

We settled on, "If it's not raining, it's good weather."  That sounds a little sad when I reread it, but if you stay inside when it's a little misty or overcast out in Kodiak, you'll never leave the house.  Also kind of sad when I reread it.  What are ya going to do, right?  This is our weather reality, just like 80% humidity in October was a reality in Key West.  (which isn't that much fun, either)  I've actually started to acclimate to the cooler temperatures.  It was 65 degrees in the house the other day and I didn't even need a fleece.  Go me. 

Of course, you know I had to see if I could find any information out on the interwebs about the origin of the name Monashka, but all I came across was that it's Russian in origin.  (I also didn't look very hard)  Not really a huge shock considering the Russian factor is a bit high in these parts. (Kodiak was settled by Russians before the U.S bought it in 1867)  So that translates to lots of Russian Orthodox churches, street names like Shelikof and Melnitsa, and hotels like the Russian River Lodge.  Not to mention museums and festivals celebrating the Russian heritage of Kodiak.  Aaaaand now the history portion of this post is over.  Hey, at least you know you might learn something new when you read my ramblings, right?  This was the trail head at the start of our hike:
Hubby & the pug dog with the ever-present, vibrant green moss in the forests
I really can't say enough about how much I love the hiking here.  It's so unique and fun to get out and explore all these new places.  I don't think I'll ever get over how gorgeous it can be.

I'm always awed by how fat the moss can get on the tree branches.  Unbelievable.

Even though it was misty and overcast out that day, it was still a beautiful and memorable hike.  I love that there are so many other mountains, beaches, hikes, and experiences we'll get to undertake for the first time while we're here.  It's no doubt one of the best things about getting to live in a new place.  Especially a place like Kodiak.  Unique doesn't even begin to cover it.

But, I do have to be honest, I miss my old life.  We've only been here for four months, but it feels like much, much longer than that.  Whenever I have those fleeting thoughts, I remind myself of all of the one-of-a-kind things we'll get to experience while we have the privilege of living here.  I also have to remind myself that four months is still early on in the whole "let's get adjusted" game.  I try to tweak those less than positive thoughts whenever they creep in by reminding myself how exceptional it is that we get to be here.

 And it certainly doesn't hurt to have a day like our Monashka hike - where we get outside, get some exercise and fresh air, and lay eyes on some of the most unforgettable natural landscapes I've ever seen.  Makes it easy to focus on all the raw beauty we're surrounded by instead of what I miss.

The hubby laughed at me when I told him I thought it would be fun to go for a swim at the little beach on the far side of the picture below.  I mean, he does have a point about how cold the water will be - even in the middle of summer, but it looks like a fun little alcove to play in.  Maybe we'll just go for a wade into the water instead of a swim!  I don't know if I'll ever get quite that acclimated!

I was loving the swirls of green in the water here & how obscured the top of the mountain was by the low clouds.

That little beach looks nice and private, and I'm a sucker for the black sand.  Monashka Bay also seemed like it might be a good spot to go kayaking.  More fun things to look forward to doing in this new home that doesn't quite feel like home yet.  I'll get there.  In the meantime, I'll celebrate not having to bundle up in fuzzy blankets and fleece jackets when the temps dip below sixty-eight degrees.  It's the little things, really.

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ever Heard of an Egg in a Hole?

Since our PCS to lovely and remote Kodiak, Alaska, I've been in that inevitable post-moving unpredictable transitional time.  Also known as unemployed.  Isn't that a nice little euphemism for unemployed? Unpredictable Transitional Time.  And I made that up all on my own - Has a nice ring to it, no?  Ha.

It's not the first time, and it won't be the last.  The whole frequently getting uprooted factor - from friends, to your routine, to your job, to your favorite haunts you'll leave behind - it's probably the most difficult part of being a military spouse.  It's challenging to let go sometimes, but also part of the fun & somewhat erratic nature of this kind of lifestyle.  Grand Adventure, right?  Wheeeeee!  A relevant job and regular income will come in time like it always does, and I'll find new routines, friends and favorite spots. If I've learned anything so far, it's that!  With that little tid-bit off my chest, I'm sure at this point you're wondering what any of this has to do with an egg in a hole.

Well, being my hopefully short-term unemployed self these days, I've become even more of Food Network whore than I was before.  Alright, maybe that's a little harsh.  I've always loved The Food Network, but I've discovered a gold mine of Food Network shows I never knew existed.  Alright fine, gold mine is a little much, too.  Maybe I'm channeling the dramatic again today.

The point is - The Pioneer Woman!  It's this hokey show I've been tuning in to on Food Network.  It's about this gal named Ree Drummond, who lives on a working cattle ranch with her husband and kids somewhere out in the country.  It's funny, she doesn't specify exactly where it's located, she just says it's "out in the middle of nowhere."  On one of the episodes I caught, she made an egg in a hole for breakfast.  I wasn't at all familiar with what an egg in a hole was, and I'm a sucker for eggs, (especially the soft, yolky kind) so I had to give it a try myself when I saw what it was all about.  Hubby has a tendency to call soft egg yolk recipes elephant snot.  Gross, right?  I blame his dad for that lovely turn of phrase.  :)  And I can actually hear my father-in-law saying it in my mind as I'm writing this.  Once I tried my hand at making an egg in a hole, I'm pretty sure I made it for breakfast twice a week or more for a few weeks!  It's really good.  You can get the recipe HERE.

Gettin' toasty!
Granted, the butter factor is a tad high on this one, but it's oh-so-delicious.  Probably not something you want to eat every week, but maybe a little splurge every so often. Kind of like my take on eating biscuits with sausage gravy.  I only let myself indulge in that evilness once a year.  I usually end up caving before the end of January because it's too damn good and I know I've waited patiently all year long.  You probably don't have to be that strict with egg in a hole, though.  It's not quite as heart attack and cellulite inducing as biscuits and sausage gravy!

So, I guess little things like whipping up a simple, flavorful breakfast can be that needed boost when you have those less than stellar moments during the process of adjusting to a new home.  Or anytime you're going through difficulties, really.  The whole cooking process, from methodically chopping vegetables and prepping, to the enticing scents that fill the house, to the delicious end result of a hot meal is most definitely cathartic for me.

I forgot how BIG her ears were!
Food is and will always be comforting.  I remember on the day I found out it was time to put my 11 year, old 75 lb Shepherd mix Sammi to sleep because her kidneys were failing - I didn't know what to do with myself, so I cooked a big pot of meatballs.  Food = comfort.  Throw in a glass of red and I'm in heaven!  Well, except with breakfast.  That obviously calls for Mimosas or Bloody Marys.

But ya gotta limit those biscuits and sausage gravy - once a year, I tell ya!  Which reminds me.....I only have two more months until I can pull that trigger again.  Let the sausage gravy countdown begin!

Ta-ta for now. 

Ta-da!  Delicious Egg in a Hole

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anton Who?

A few weeks ago we took a drive to an area of Kodiak called Anton Larsen Bay, which is about a half an hour drive from the base.  And because I always veer toward the nerdy side, I feel compelled to let you know that Anton Larsen was a Norwegian explorer and immigrant who settled in Kodiak in 1887, and married a creole Alutiiq Alaskan native named Olga Naumaf.  Their descendents still live in the area, which I thought was kind of interesting. 

A lot of the mountains around here are named after people who settled the area, too.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who wonders about where things like street and town names originate - or in the case here, mountains - but I'm probably in the minority with actually looking the info. up to find out.  Like I said, I veer toward the nerdy side.  Okay, you can come back to me now.  No more forced Kodiak history lessons. 

Point A is our house, and point B is the trail head at Anton Larsen Bay

The drive down Anton Larsen Bay Road is mostly an unpaved, winding route through the mountains and wilderness.  It's not exactly a well maintained road, so it's a little on the rough side.  Some of the pot holes look like they could swallow you up if you're not paying attention, but the payoff once you make it to the bay is worth the bumps and creative swerving around the rugged "road."  Four wheel drive is a good idea for this trip.

Once we made it out to the bay, one of the first things we saw was a sea otter. - Just chilling out in the water, doing his otter-y backstroke.  He was adorable, and I was so glad I had my binoculars to get a better look at him.  The zoom lens on my camera is a little rinky-dink, so there's no way I would have been able to grab a picture of him because of how far away we were, but the otter sighting was a little peek into what an incredible day we had ahead of us.  I've said it before, but I'm telling you, it's like the God damn Discovery Channel living up here.

Most of Kodiak Island is considered a coastal temperate rainforest, which basically translates to having the most unbelievably mossy forest floors I've ever seen in person.  I've written about the mossy forests here before, and this hike was another incredible experience exploring them.

I swear I can still hear the ripples of that water. - I love how the moss spills over the side of the bank into the river 

It's hard to even describe it.  It's one of those experiences you have to see and smell and hear in person.  The air is so crisp and has this subtle and pleasant earthy quality to it.  And other than the sounds of the birds cheeping, it's so quiet and still.  It all adds up to be truly extraordinary.  I know I sound a little dramatic, but it really is something to see.  It's like being in another world.  All that and it's only a walk in the woods.

Look at all that green!

When you step on to that mossy blanket of green, it's so spongy and deep - you sink at least a few inches in to it.  It's like nature's version of a fluffy shag carpet.  Minus the 70's disco.  I remember the first time we stepped in to one of these mossy areas.  No exaggeration, my mouth fell open in disbelief as I looked around.  Because the moss not only covers the floor, but it crawls its way up the trees and any other surface that touches the ground. - Rocks, fallen branches, tree stumps, everything.  It's otherworldly.  

We were hiking along the trail next to a little river when we came upon this tree.  It was higher up along the trail, and we had to scramble up the root system to get up to the top where the trail kept going.  We kind of had to use the tree roots as a natural staircase.  A very crooked and asymmetrical staircase.

It was on the steep side climbing up the roots, but the view at the top was remarkable because it was right on the edge.  Once we were at the top, we were looking almost straight down the side of the incline, and the river was a good 30-40 feet below.  It was a little unnerving if you even thought for one second about losing your footing.  Which of course I thought about as soon as I saw how far up we climbed.  I did that a few times during our hike that day!  Some parts of the trail were so narrow that you were just teetering along the side of a substantial drop off as you made your way along.  No guard rails here!  It definitely made me say wow to myself more than once during the day.  Okay, it made me say, "wow" and "watch your freaking step, Peg!"

Cheety getting his hike on.  I think he would try and climb a tree if he thought he could do it

Just a little thirst quencher
And of course, Cheety the adventure dog had no qualms whatsoever climbing up tree roots & rocks, charging up the hills and down into the river for a dip and a drink.

He absolutely loves going hiking with us.  He's so alert when we're out on the trail. - He cocks his little head to the side and listens to all the birds and wildlife, I'm sure thinking about how he would chase them if he could see them!
I swear, he was meant to be a cold weather mountain dog! 
Another unbelievable tree we saw - I'm loving this picture!

I was worried about him not being able to swim as much up here as he was used to doing in Florida, but he seems to like the hiking just as much.  And of course, I can't wait to see his reaction to seeing snow for the first time.

Just when I think we've seen the most beautiful, scenic parts of Kodiak, we explore an area that we haven't been to yet and I prove myself wrong again.

And almost every time we venture out to somewhere new, I'm totally awed by the natural landscape.

I think this quote that I couldn't find an author for sums it up perfectly:   "The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man."

Amen!  Although, I wouldn't oppose a guard rail or two on the "oh shit" parts of the trail.

Ta-ta for now.