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