Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Banks Alehouse

Alright, this will be my last post about Fairbanks, I promise!  When we visited up there in October, The Banks Alehouse was a fun spot we found for lunch right after we landed. It's worth a share here because the food was good and the beer selection was pretty extensive - with Alaska breweries dominating the selection. 

That right there makes it worth a share in my book.  Gotta love a place where you can get beers from places like Kenai River Brewing, Denali Brewing Company, & 49th State.  Plus, there was this type of art on the walls - which I'm 100% in love with:

I mean the expressions, the booties?  Those are some elated pooches.  It's fantastic.  Now I'm not saying I would hang it in my home, but it's so perfect for an Alaskan Pub.

We had a respectable craft beer menu to choose from with one of my favorite pub visuals:  a nice long line of taps to choose from - I ended up trying two beers that were new to me, both from breweries in Anchorage.

Isn't that endless line of taps a beautiful site?      Top right:  Peach Wheat      Bottom Right:  Cosik Amber Ale

I started with a Peach Wheat from a brewery called Sleeping Lady Brewing, and then moved on to Cosik Amber Ale from Midnight Sun Brewing Company.  Both were tasty, but I was feeling the Peach Wheat a little more than the Amber.  I think my take on Alaskan beer is pretty much summed up on a t-shirt I bought from Silver Gulch Brewing Company, another brewery we checked out while we visited Fairbanks.  The tag line is:  Alaska - Where the people are unusual and the beer is unusually good.  Can't argue with that.

As for the meal, I had to go with the elk burger.  I'm sure there are folks who wouldn't agree, but I think a burger is a burger is a burger.  Beef, buffalo, elk, moose - it all tastes basically the same to me.  Throw it between a good bun with some cheese and condiments and I'd be hard pressed to tell a real difference between any of them!

This elk burger was southwestern-style, with green chili peppers, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, fried tortilla strings & a chipotle aioli.  It was a spicy bit of heaven tucked between two pieces of bread.  Behold, the deliciousness...

Elk Burger love

Interior & exterior of The Banks Alehouse

I think I'm done with posting about Fairbanks now!  I got a good 3 or 4 posts about our trip there, so I guess I can call the "Fairbanks series" done.  Unless we go again, of course.  But, I don't see that happening.  Too many other parts of Alaska to see while we're here.  Fairbanks was fun, but it wasn't so compelling that I'd make it a priority to go back.

So, on the off chance you find yourself up in Fairbanks looking for a good variety of Alaskan brewed beer and a bite, check out The Banks Alehouse.  If only for the sled dog art! 

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, December 19, 2014

"But as for me and Grandpa, we Believe..."

Christmas 2013
I fully admit to being a Christmas nerd.  A flaming, unrepentant Christmas nerd.  Now, we're not talking wearing mini ornaments for earrings or tacky holiday sweaters.  I do draw the line somewhere.  But, I will admit to not changing the station when "Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer" comes on the radio.

Okay fine, I actually own the song and it's part of my monster Christmas playlist.  I listen to it all month long.  And I may or may not have reindeer antlers that I wear during December.  In the comfort of my own home. Once or twice a week.  What?  It makes me happy.  Leave it alone, Scrooges!

Since October is long gone and I've got a pine tree in my living room, it can only mean one thing.  Time for some Christmas crafts!

I'm always drawn toward paper crafts, so my centerpiece this year is a paper Christmas tree craft I found here.  I recycled all of the Christmas cards we received last year for this years centerpiece.  It turned out cute!

I recently ordered a circle cutter and mat and was able to bust them out for the first time for this project.  What a fun little tool the circle cutter is!  Along with them, my supply list was:
  1. Old Christmas cards
  2. Hot Glue Gun
  3. Dowels
  4. Foam Circles
  5. Craft scissors
  6. Exacto Knife

My fancy new circle cutter, cutting mat, and crafting scissors

So, here's the gist of this project.  You'll want to cut various sized circles in gradually smaller and smaller circumferences from your old Christmas cards (or any hard stock paper you want to use), and use the crafting scissors to scallop the edges of some of the circles.

Once you've cut a few circles, snip out a little slice, like a piece of pizza, so you can curl the circle into a cone shape.

Top:  The circle cutter ready to cut    Left: Wedge cut from a circle    Right:  Circle curled into a cone shape & taped

Once you've curled the circles into cone shapes, tape the edge to secure it, and make a small hole at the peak of the cone using the tip of the exacto knife.  This is where you'll slide the circle through the dowel.

For the base and "trunk," I used foam and dowel-like sticks I already I had in my crafting stash.  I'm always saving odd things that most people would throw away or recycle because I can see possibly using it as a crafting supply in some not-yet-determined project.  I'm kind of a pack rat in that way.  That's exactly what the foam and dowel-type sticks are. 

The foam came from a Harry & David gift box, and I can't even remember where the sticks came from.  Came in handy for my Christmas crafts this year.  Anyway, here's the base and trunk:

After securing the dowel into the foam, slide the largest circles to the bottom.  I used hot glue to anchor each circle to the dowel, and I alternated the scallloped edge circles with straight edged circles for variety.  Just continue stacking each circle until the tree is the height you'd like. 

For the top, I tied some green yarn in a bow and added a red bead as the "star."  Here's the finished centerpiece on my kitchen table:

 I love the way they turned out!  I think they'd be cute with different shades and designs of green scrapbook paper, too. 

I'm calling my Christmas crafts done for this year.  Hope maybe you're inspired to craft something up yourself!  And by all means throw on some reindeer antlers and crank up the Elmo and Patsy.   ♪ ♫ "...She'd been drinking too much eggnog..."  ♫ ♪

Ta-ta for now. And MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 12, 2014

And Then There Was One

Peering over my laptop while we watch Highly Questionable
P.S. - Bomani Jones sucks

I have a Bella update.  Bella is the shelter pooch we took on as a trial adoption for the last few weeks because we wanted to get a companion for Cheety. This was not at all an easy decision, and I didn't expect to get as emotionally invested in the whole process as I did!

Let me tell you...two dogs is way more time, effort, energy, etc. than I anticipated! You wouldn't think it would be such a big difference, but holy Lord.  All dogs all the time.  24/7.  Especially with a big girl like Bella.  Seventy pounds of overbearing, but innocent, mixed breed lab love.  And the filth factor?  Don't even get me started!  Our vacuum and dust buster have been on overtime and then some.
The dogs kind of take over your life and routines in a big way.  The prince Cheety already had his little paws in us...but add another pup to the mix?  It's...ummm, a lot. 

Bella is a very sweet girl, but ultimately we decided that we're not ready for a two dog household.  It's too much.  Too much dirt.  Too much poop.  Too much hair.  More mischief, too many's just more of everything.  Two dogs = triple the work.  And Bella is still a work in progress.  She has lots of potential to be a great dog, but she has some basic manners she needs to learn and some negative behaviors she needs to unlearn.  She doesn't come in a pretty box with a big red bow, but she can definitely get there with time and effort.  We're just not ready to sign up for everything that would go along with having two dogs and getting Bella to a manageable level.  It took some time to get to that point without beating myself up about the decision.  We were torn about what to do all throughout her time with us, and flip flopped about what choice to make somewhere around, oh I don't know...lets just call it 37 times. 

 She looks scared because her ears are
 back, but this is actually her imploring,
"I'm a good girl, right...right?!" face
And it didn't help when she looked at us with that imploring face of hers!  She was just happy to be included.  Wherever we were, she was.  Just glad to be involved!  And she rivaled Cheety in snuggle mastery.  Hard to do!

Like I said - we had conversation after conversation about whether we wanted to take the leap to two dogs, and we're finally at the point where we're not feeling like terrible people for not going through with the adoption.  Sort of.  Oh, who am I kidding, I still feel guilty as hell for letting her down.  I've had to remind myself over and over, sometimes through tears to be completely honest, that it's ultimately our decision.  And that if we're not feeling up for it, that it's okay.

We originally agreed to a two week trial adoption, but decided toward the end of the second week to extend it for another week to see how we felt.  Like I said, we changed our minds every freaking hour.  It sounded something like, Look at that sweet face.  She just wants to be someone's dog.  To something like, Two dogs is a big commitment.  Are we ready to commit to her and this somewhat chaotic lifestyle for another 10 years?  We basically had that conversation on repeat for 3 weeks.

And Cheety seemed to enjoy her for the most part, but in more of a tolerating way.  They had fun and played most of the time, but he had plenty of grumpy Pugbull moments where he was growling at her because she over stepped some dog-created boundary.  I think he's more of a play date kind of dog, and less of a Hey, let's share a house, and beds, and toys, and people forever! kind of dog.  I wouldn't describe him as being happier since she joined the party.  If a dog's expression and demeanor could equal an exasperated sigh, that's about where Cheety falls.  I don't think he'll miss her for long.

Can't you hear him? "Taking up my couch and shit..."

I was relieved to learn through a co-worker whose wife sits on the board at the animal shelter that there's a waiting list at the shelter of over 100 people  looking for dogs.  This is a very small & remote community, so there isn't a large selection of pups that come through the Humane Society's door.  And the ones who do, are usually adopted pretty quickly.  Especially a sweet one like Bella.  All good things.  He assured me that Bella would get snatched up in no time, and that little bit of info was a welcome comfort.  I hate to think about her back in her run, waiting for a home.  So, I try not to do that.

What started as a potential addition to the family evolved into a kick-ass, 3 week fostering experience for sweet Bella.  And a learning experience for us.  We gave her a nice long mental break from the confines of her run at the shelter, took her on a bunch of long hikes, taught her a few manners she was lacking, (let's hear it for not charging the door if there's a hint we might go outside), helped her with some needed weight loss with all the exercise and walks we took her on, and provided a fun-sized playmate in the Cheety boy.  Dog wrestlemania occurred like clockwork on a daily basis.  Highly entertaining, by the way.  And don't even try and do yoga in the living room and expect to be left alone with two hounds roaming around!

Of course, I cried when we dropped her off.  My goal now is to stop feeling bad about it, and to stop imagining her feeling sad and lonely while she waits for her new family.  There's no point to feeding those thoughts.  I know she'll find a good home with someone, and I'd like to think she's a little more stable and balanced after her time with us.  All the best to sweet Bella girl.  This family is going to stick with just one spoiled pooch.  Just as he would like it, I suspect.

Ta-ta for now.

I'll miss that sweet face, but I know she'll find the right home

Saturday, December 6, 2014

7 Things I've Learned About Being a Coast Guard Spouse

Do you love lists as much as I do?  I love making lists.  And even better?  Is making lists when I can gleefully cross off whatever task was completed.

Now this isn't a task-oriented list, but it's still one that I think is worth sharing.  Especially with fellow military spouses.  Particularly the newbs.  And know that I say that with nothing but love and respect.  Ya newbs.  Just kidding.

And for the non-military folks out there, maybe my abbreviated take on this unconventional lifestyle will provide some insight for those who might be curious.  So, here we go.

7 Things I've Learned About Being a Coast Guard Spouse 

1.  Every move gets easier.  The first move?  ROUGH.  It was lonely, uprooting, unfamiliar. I look back on our first move least fondly, but I also wouldn't trade the experience.  Because it was the first step toward getting a handle on how to handle it.  If that makes sense.

2.  About that how to handle it part.  I've developed a PCS formula for myself that works for me.  It's certainly not rocket science, but it includes a few non-negotiables - no matter how much I want to do the exact opposite.  I tend to be a house gnome, so it's really important after PCS-ing  to commit to things like establishing (or continuing) an exercise routine and sticking to it, volunteering, and embracing all there is to explore in your new "home."  Trust me.  Just do it even though you don't want to.  (For those asking themselves, what the hell is a PCS, it's the military acronym for Permanent Change of Station.)

3.  Make sure to take some time every so often to really soak in your surroundings at whatever place you're calling home.  Whether you've just arrived and are still settling in, you're prepping to haul yourselves to the next destination, or you're somewhere in between the two - I guarantee you can find a few things that are absolutely unique to that place and that place only.  Take the time to explore or revisit your surroundings.  There's always something new and distinctive to discover, no matter how long you've been stationed there.  Unique discoveries and the whole process of exploring is one of my favorite things about living in a new community.  Embrace it!

4.  I'm a stellar acquaintance maker.  Now I know some will read that and think something along the lines of, "You need to make more of an effort," or "Branch out and get more involved."  But the truth is that my friends - my longtime, sincere friends - live somewhere else.  Usually somewhere far from wherever is home at the moment.  And those friends are people I've had in my life for a very long time.  I'm not saying I don't make connections at whatever new place is thrust upon us as home.  But, I'm realistic in the fact that most folks I interact with - fellow Coast Guard spouses, co-workers, people I meet through work or volunteering, etc. - become acquaintances.  Of course there are those welcome exceptions, but generally I'm a top-notch acquaintance maker. It's just the way it usually plays out.  And really?  That's okay.  Because those acquaintances are just as valuable and important as those friends I've known for 25 or more years.

5.  It's really important to find your thing.  Or things.  Some activity or past time in your new surroundings that fuels you and makes you want to go back for more.  It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it pushes those buttons of motivation and passion.  Just be sure to ask yourself a few key questions.  You know like, is it legal? it an obvious detriment to my health or well being?  If the answer to either question is yes, then by all means jump in feet first.  Sounds like fun.  Just kidding.  A little.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the hubby in his element

6.  It's okay to be a bit of an outcast.  How so?  You may ask.  Simple.  Voluntarily choose the less traveled path of not having kids.  And be a military spouse.  And be 40 years old.  Done and done.  When you fall into this category and you live on base, it's just reality that commonalities between you and those who you live around will be few and far between.  Because most neighbors have children and many spouses are usually both much younger, and are stay-at-home moms.  When folks are neck deep in all things baby/toddler/kid, there usually isn't a whole lot of common ground.  And again - that's okay.

7.  You don't have to feel guilty about not doing everything that's out there to get involved with.  Both on base and in your community.  Yes, it's important to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone, but it's also okay to hang back a little.  Find a happy medium for yourself.  The best thing you can do during times of change (or any time really) is to pay attention to what you really want.  In work, in play, in relationships.  That inner voice is pretty intuitive.  Listen to it.

So, those are my two cents about what I've gleaned from being a Coast Guard spouse and moving around for the last 6 years.  It's not all sunshine and lollipops, but I think it's pretty good gig. - Especially when it means these types of experiences become part of our story:

Not to get all schmoopy on you, but we just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, and I don't think this grand adventure would be nearly as much fun with anyone else!  That curmudgeonly, dedicated, funny and offbeat man I call my husband is the reason why we have the privilege of trekking around this country every few years to experience living in such diverse places.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Ta-ta for now.

Photo credit:  Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Sunday, November 30, 2014

    Gulliver's Books

    I'm a sucker for independent bookstores.  They almost always have a quirky vibe to them, and I like to support the local guy.  So when we visited Fairbanks last month, I was excited to go check out Gulliver's Books, the small independent bookstore Fairbanks has to offer.

    It was a small space, but it had some fun displays and a decent collection of Alaskana books.  I'd never heard of that term until we moved up here.  It's sort of a take on Americana, only it's Alaska-themed stuff.  Apparently there's a genre for Hawaiiana materials, too.  Same concept.  Who knew?

    The first floor of Gulliver's Books was pretty standard - books, stationary, chotchkies, and what-not.  On the second floor - up an impossibly steep staircase which couldn't possibly be up to code - there was a little sandwich and coffee shop called The Second Story Cafe that turned out soups, vegan options, and coffee and tea.  Gotta love the pun name, too.

    First floor of Gulliver's

    I was loving their sign for the sandwich shop at the top of the stairs. The wall was papered with book pages and the lettering for The Second Story Cafe was thread art.  This is what I'm talking about.  You wouldn't see that in a Barnes & Noble.  I was digging it - Crafty!

    The cafe wasn't anything spectacular, but it had a nice little seating area, and a long, narrow counter that ran almost the length of the floor to relax at if you're so inclined.  Unique pendant lighting, too.  It's those little details that make the difference for me.

    It was cute and welcoming, and there were more book collections to browse through upstairs, too.

    I have to go a little off topic and share this little tid-bit about exactly how cold it is there in the winter - because it's a stellar example of what an extreme winter environment it can be in Fairbanks weather-wise.  Every car has an engine block heater cord hanging out from under the hood, and parking lots have stand alone electrical outlets to plug the heaters into so your car starts!

    Engine block heater cord and stand alone outlets in a parking lot

    It's kind of crazy to think that the cold is so intense that your car won't start without external heat applied to the engine.  Makes me glad that Kodiak's winter temperatures are in the low to mid thirties instead of the minus twenty it can get to in Fairbanks.  Hell, Kodiak is a damn tropical island by Alaska standards! Fairbanks is no joke, real deal Alaskan interior winter. No thank you.

    At least you can get out of the chill, enjoy some soul warming hot coffee, and wander around a neat independent bookstore at Gulliver's!

    Ta-ta for now.

    Sunday, November 23, 2014

    I'm Not Sold Yet

    Bella's "Adopt Me" Photo - Look at that sad face!
    "We should get Cheety a companion." 

    That's been a running theme for about 2 years now.  Well, we pulled the trigger.  Sort of.  We're 4 days in to a two week trial adoption of a 5 year old, brindled, mixed breed Lab named Bella.  The first question everyone has been asking is, what do you know about her background? 

    Well, we know she's a very sweet, timid girl who was raised by her former family from puppy-hood until a few weeks ago.  I try not to judge, but I can't imagine any scenario where I would give up my Cheety boy. 

    She's a casualty of divorce, and according to the folks at the shelter, Bella didn't get the attention she needed at her former home, was left alone often, and crated for long periods of time.  So maybe this turn of events is a blessing in disguise for sweet Bella.

    Apparently neither the husband nor the wife could take care of her after the divorce, so they gave her up.  Off to the shelter she went.  Poor thing.  She's probably been wondering when her family is coming to get her.  Enter Cheety and his people.  We had a meet and greet at the shelter with Cheety and Bella, and they had a ball.  He's the master of doggie romping, so I knew he would have fun. 

    After the initial meet and greet, we went and picked Bella up for another round of get to know you with Cheety.  We took them both on a nice long walk together, let them frolic and run in the backyard, and basically just spent the afternoon hanging out.  It was nothing but playing, running, & doggie nonsense pretty much the whole time.  They were such nerds together.

    There's one primary decision maker here, and that's the Cheetster.  He has to be the one to sign off on the whole deal.  And he did.  With a resounding first.  He was all about cavorting and fun before she became a constant in his house.  Now - we'll just say he's less enthusiastic.

    We're in that  transitional period where the dogs are establishing themselves and their roles in the household.  I have no problem with Cheety asserting himself as the top dog.  In fact, that's what I prefer.  I'd much rather see him declare his territory and establish himself than the alternative.  It wouldn't work at all if he was intimidated in any way by a new dog.  So, I don't mind that he's asserting himself. 

    But the whole goal here is for Cheety to have a friend and companion - not to just tolerate sharing his living space with another pooch.  And I'm not sure at this point whether that's what we have here.  Potential friends for life or just eh I guess I have to deal with you.  It needs to be a good match, and I don't know if it is yet.  That's why this two week trial is such a good idea.

    Again, I know we're still in the early stages at only 4 days in, but Cheety seems to have mixed feelings about Bella's presence.  He's fickle.  He goes from yay let's play to get the eff away from me throughout the day.  She sort of goes with the flow as the house interloper.  There's been some growling on his part in his attempts to let her know her place. Which is fine and normal dog behavior in this type of situation.  (But very unlike his usual demeanor, I have to add) 

    There's no aggression on the part of either dog, but we've had one little scuffle that escalated to where I had to get involved and take away a toy they were playing with together.  It's important this is the right step for both Bella AND Cheety.  And just existing in each others company without any kind of bond isn't a good match.  I know, I know - it takes time for a bond to grow.  But I think it needs to start from a place of genuine enjoyment of one anothers company and not just tolerating each other.

    That's my primary issue.  The secondary issue is - well, Bella's kind of a handful.  I don't think she had enough appropriate interaction throughout her life because she doesn't have some basic manners that a 5 year old dog really should have. 

    Things like not putting her front paws on the kitchen counters and table.  And not jumping up on people when she's excited.  I can't tell you how many times I've given the "off" command over the last few days!  It gets old quick.  She also goes off the deep end if she thinks there's a chance she might be going outside on a leash.  If she could just take a note from the Pugbull on how to chill.  She's a ball of energy, and gets really excited at times.  And her behavior in the car?  Ugh.  Terrible.  She needs consistency, exercise, and stability. 

    She's also still understandably unsure of what's going on in her world.  She tends to whine a lot, and is on the restless side.  She's already attached to the hubby and whines significantly whenever he leaves.  Her life has been a series of upheavals over the last few weeks, and I'm sure she doesn't know what to make of all the changes, so it's completely understandable.  I'm hoping she'll relax as she adjusts to her new surroundings.

    All that being said, she is such a sweet girl.  She wants to please, and looks to us for guidance.  She snuggles up, is playful and doofy, likes to take it easy on the couch next to us, and just wants to be with her people.  She has the potential to be a great dog, (the best-est girl, perhaps?) but it's going to take some time and effort to get her there.

    All dogs on the couch!  And here's the he hubby's No Shave November mustache in all its horrendous glory.  It
    looks much less like a dead squirrel than it did at the beginning of the month.  But I can't wait for him to shave it!

    What I need to remind myself of is that the best-est boy (AKA Cheety) wasn't the best-est boy when we first got him.  He became that with the help of a consistent routine, a comfortable, calm environment, regular exercise, and positive reinforcement for good behavior.  The transitional period after we first brought Cheety home wasn't exactly smooth, and there were several hundreds of dollars worth of items of ours destroyed during Cheety's bumpy evolution from scrappy shelter dog into best-est boy.

    The Pugbull was a chewer.  He destroyed at least three pairs of very expensive sunglasses, several pairs of flip flops, slippers, two coffee tables, a futon, and I want to say between two to four different area rugs.  And I seem to remember somebody stealing an entire tray of brownies off of the kitchen counter, eating every last one, and miraculously living another day to tell the tale.  And that's just a glimpse.  I know Bella won't be that level of nonsense at 5 years old versus Cheety's 1 year old antics, but she does have lots of energy and needs some work.

    Another consideration is what the reality of a two dog household looks like.  Obviously something we contemplated before moving forward with Bella, but all things dog times two is a little different in reality!  Especially with a big girl like Bella.  Dog hiking adventures equal two dog baths when we get home - and I thought one dog bath amounted to a messy bathroom!  Good Lord.  Talk about an operation.  But Bella was so well behaved during the bath.  She hopped right in the tub and was perfectly happy with getting washed.  Unlike Prince Pugbull.

    Our first dog adventure with Bella

    So there we have it.  Cheety might have a sister.  We have Bella for two weeks...or the rest of her life.  It's a significant decision & we'll use this trial period to figure out whether it's the best thing for everyone.  Maybe in the future we'll joke that we almost sent her back...or maybe Bella is meant for someone else.  I'm not sold yet on the two dog household, but we'll see how it goes for the next week and a half.  We've been spoiled with our relaxed, dainty (who knew?) Pugbull these last few years.  If Cheety does adapt and seems to be on board with Bella, it'll be time to say goodbye to a calm and mellow household - It's a big commitment and not a decision to be made lightly!  Sorry for the excessively long post - I've got a lot on my mind with this potential addition and had to hash it out.  Writing helps me do that!

    Ta-ta for now.

    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    Out the Road

    A little Google Maps visual aid for ya - Our house
    at the top of the map, and the restaurant at the bottom
    That's what folks around here call it when you drive even just a little bit outside the city of Kodiak - Out the road.  I thought it was kind of funny when I would over hear someone saying something like, "Oh, I'm out the road right now, I'll call you later."  But that's exactly where we were a few weeks ago.

    Last month, we went to a fancy for Kodiak restaurant to celebrate the hubby's 43rd birthday.  Fancy for Kodiak is dinner at the Olds River Inn.  It was my first time there, but it won't be my last.

    The Olds River Inn is about 40 minutes from the base and it definitely qualifies as out the road. It's a winding drive through the mountains and along the coast, and has some beautifully rugged mountain views from the windows in the dining room.

    The view from our table

    I joke and say fancy for Kodiak, but it really is a nice place to go to dinner.  I wish it was closer to town - I'd go much more often if it was.  I chuckled a little when I saw the sign outside the door, though.  So maybe fancy for Kodiak is pretty accurate!

    We had tasty meals - bacon wrapped halibut poppers for an appetizer, steaks for dinner, and a little cheesecake for birthday dessert.  An attempt at NY style cheesecake...but not exactly legit.  That's okay, it was still good - and I'll take what I can get.  Especially in the cheesecake department.

    The atmosphere has a warm, comfortable vibe, and I love the wood tones and the fireplace.  It feels like a place you'd want to go hang out at when it's cold.  Convenient, right?

    Inside the Olds River Inn

    I spent part of our evening convincing the hubby that he isn't in fact old at forty three.  Caution:  cliche alert, but I can honestly say that I think we're both in the prime of our lives.

    We're healthy, we're active, we're young-ish.  Feeling old is what makes you old!  I know he doesn't really think he's old.  Despite the emerging crow's feet & gray hair on both of our parts.  Well, not so much the hair part for him!  That ship sailed a long time ago.  Alright, I'll get off my age is just a number soap box now.
    We have plans to take a drive out to the Olds River again some time this winter, and book a night at the cabins they rent.  It's dog friendly, so we can cart the Pugbull along with us and have a cozy winter night.  I'm envisioning a comfy cabin and snuggling by a fireplace.  You know...out the road. 

    Ta-ta for now.

    It's a little blurry - I blame the waitress and her shaky hands.  Happy birthday, my Love.

    Sunday, November 9, 2014

    The Real Great White North

    Fairbanks in October?  Cold!  I know, it's not rocket science to think it might be a little chilly 800 or so miles north of Kodiak.  It was still colder than what I was expecting, though.  The hubby and I took a quick weekend trip up there a few weeks ago to see the northern lights.  It's kind of a sprawling area without a real dedicated downtown, but we were able to ferret out some fun places to check out while we visited.

    We stayed in a lodge bed & breakfast about 15 miles from the airport area, and it was a comfortable stay.  It kind of felt like you were at Nana's house - only it was someone else's Nana.  Sort of a vintage, down home cabin type of style.  It was cozy, but somehow I doubt it'll be the next decor trend on HGTV.  My favorite part was her little pack of dogs that greeted us and hung out the whole weekend.  Keena, Jake, and Chewy.  They were so sweet.

    A few shots of the lodge and pack of pooches

    We found some decent restaurants, coffee shops and other nifty places during our stay, and it was a welcome pleasure to have good food out at a restaurant for a change.  I've talked about this before, but the food and restaurant choices on Kodiak leave a lot to be desired.  So, going out for a decent meal was refreshing.

    On our first night we went to a restaurant called The Pump House that I scoped out before the trip.  It's on the National Register of Historic Places, and had such a warm atmosphere.  We were surrounded by genuine antiques and a Gold Rush theme, it was so unique.  The food was pretty damn good, too.

    The dining room interior, snowing on our way in, and being greeted by lots of dead things, like the bear!

    On our first full day, we drove about an hour north to the Chena Hot Springs to check out the resort.  It was kind of dumb, but we both forgot to pack our bathing suits - so we didn't actually go in the hot springs.  I wasn't really in a "bring the bathing suit" kind of mindset when we were packing.  More like slippers and warm hats.  Eh, there were plenty of other things to do.

    Predictably, we found our way to the bar at the lodge and had lunch and a few beers. It was one of many places we visited where dead things on the wall dominated.  Not shocking given the location, but enough with the dead things, ya know??  

    Beers at the lodge and a huge moose antler sculpture on the grounds of the resort

    After we wandered around the grounds, we toured the ice sculpture museum and the kennel where rescued Alaskan Husky sled dogs live and work.  Both were very cool!

    The ice museum had some seriously impressive ice sculptures on display, plus a bar made completely of ice called - wait for it...The Aurora Bar.  We had apple martinis served in a martini glass sculpted entirely of ice.  Glad I had gloves on! 

    The giant face was a sculpture of a Gasparilla mask - Tampa friends will appreciate that one

    After the ice museum, we walked over to the kennel to check out the sled dogs.  The gal running the yard explained all about the dogs, the ins and outs of racing, the equipment, etc.  It was interesting.

    They have 71 dogs that live and work there, and almost all have been rescued.  They were either getting too old for the long, 1,000 mile races or just weren't cut out for professional sled dog racing.  They still pull, but just for the winter tours that go a few miles around the resort.  I would have loved to go on one, but they hadn't started doing the sled dog tours for the season because there wasn't enough snow yet.  Maybe next time.

    Look at all those wudgers

    I know they're working dogs and are bred to do exactly what they do - but I couldn't help feeling a little bad for them seeing them all chained up to their little houses.  They're tough pups, and they seem to thrive in their environment & love what they do.

    A few of the more interesting facts were that "Alaskan Husky" isn't a pure bred dog, it's a mixed breed that has certain characteristics that lend them to sled dog racing.  Like their double coats and demeanor.

    Let me tell you - those dogs eat like kings!  They get salmon, high level protein, supplements...they eat like elite athletes and live to be 16 years old.  I didn't think dogs that size could live that long.  Think it has something to do with their very lean, healthy diet and amount of daily exercise they get?  Yeah, me too!

    We explored some other places during our trip, and I'll be blogging about a few of them in the next few weeks.  If I don't get tired of writing about Fairbanks, that is!  How about I wrap up this too long post with a lovely sunrise through the birch trees shot I took from the deck at the lodge?  Not too shabby for the really real great white north.

    Ta-ta for now.

    Sunday, November 2, 2014

    Autumn Pumpkin Centerpiece

    Halloween & Christmas book crafts, 2011-ish
    If you know me in the real world or read my blog often enough, you know I love books.  I also love to create crafts from books, and I was a total sucker when I stumbled upon this pumpkin book pages craft.  Had. To. Do. It.

    This wasn't my first foray into book pages crafts. - I did a fun Christmas tree book craft and a Halloween "ghosts popping out of a book" paper craft a few years ago.  I displayed both of them on the front desk of the library I worked in at the time.  They were fun, so I knew I'd be into the pumpkin one when I saw it.

    The pumpkin book page craft wasn't too far off from the Christmas tree project. - Same basic concept.  I found somewhat mediocre step-by-step instructions over at Creations by Kara.  You can get the directions here. There are other sites with better directions, but the project isn't too terribly difficult once you get going.

    I won't go into the play by play of the process since there's a link to instructions above, but the basic premise is to cut out a pumpkin template, which you then use to cut the book pages into shape. 

    5-7 pages at a time is a good estimate for how many pages you can cut at once.  Any more than that and the cut outs get a little distorted, or the pages are too thick to get a scissor through. 

    I only made one pumpkin so far, but I think he may need a smaller friend.  I used green ribbon I already had in my crafting stash, and the stem is a stick from the yard that I cut down to size.  Just like the how-to directions, I spray painted a light coat of orange around the outside to give it a more pumpkin-y feel. 

    One of the more annoying parts about the way it turns out is that it takes a little bit of coaxing to make the pages stay where you want them to.  They didn't really fan out the way I wanted them to, but I managed to mess with it long enough to get it to look okay.  Maybe fewer pages would work better.  Overall, turned out cute!  Kind of a fun, literary autumn centerpiece for the table.

    Ta-ta for now.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    Crossing Off Number 68

    In 2005, I decided to make a life list.  It was a list of all sorts of things I'd love to experience in my life, from the completely realistic, to the probably not going to happen.

    My approach to making the list was an absolutely no holds barred type of attitude.  It didn't matter whether the experience I added was do-able, realistic, practical, or reasonable.

    The whole point of making the list was to not have any limits.  Just pure possibility.  Someone once told me that it was totally unrealistic and ridiculous.  I choose not to hear that!

    So, my list includes things ranging from Walk on the Great Wall of China to Take a Painting Class.  There are all sorts of things that may or may not become a reality on my list...but last weekend's trip let me cross off number 68.  And what was number 68?  To see the northern lights!  I loooooove when I get to cross something off!  Because you know what crossing a number off means?  It means I experienced something new that I've wanted to do for almost 10 years.  Yes and yes.

    Early, when they just started faintly appearing
    If you're a frequent or occasional blog reader, you know that I've been slightly obsessed with seeing the northern lights since we moved here.  They do appear in Kodiak, but it's not very often, and I've managed to miss it every time it's come around.  So, I decided to take things into my own hands and go to where I could be almost guaranteed an aurora display.  Fairbanks!

    The whole reason for our trip up to Fairbanks was to see the northern lights, and we checked out the area for the weekend and saw some fun sites, restaurants, and breweries.  Future blog posts to come about our Fairbanks adventure.

    As for the northern lights, I would have liked a more sensational show than what we saw, but whatever - I'll take what I can get.  I know - now I'm getting greedy!  It was so very cool to see and I'm thrilled I finally got to experience it.  I got a new camera for my birthday & I made sure to get a tripod before our trip.  Amazingly, I was able to capture some shots of the aurora.

    I say amazingly because I'm a total novice photographer.  We're talking still shooting mostly on auto and not exactly having a full understanding of the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, aperture, f-stops, etc.  I'm slowly learning, but I knew just enough to use a tripod and set the shutter speed as slow as I could to capture a few meager pictures of the show.  They came out decent for not having any idea what I was doing!

    It was a camera learning experience, for sure.  Out of about 30 pictures, only around 10 of them came out.  The rest were just black.  That's how it goes when you're winging it (and don't have fancy professional equipment).  Considering the welcome booklet in our room had a section dedicated to tips for photographing the aurora, and the first line was this:  "PHOTOGRAPHING THE AURORA IS EXTREME PHOTOGRAPHY" - I'll take my scruffy shots as a total success in extreme photography for a first timer.

    What was handy about our accommodations was that the room we stayed in at the B&B had a door out to a northward facing balcony, so we could stay out watching the sky for short periods, and then hunker down inside to warm up before going out again.  How perfect is that?  It was somewhere around 10 degrees outside, so it wasn't exactly comfortable hanging out on the balcony for long periods of time.  I have to say, the best way to view the aurora is when you have a bed you can go snuggle in for warmth every 5-10 minutes!

    One of the compelling qualities of the aurora was how quickly it changed.  It would undulate from a hefty swath sweeping across the sky to a skinny line along the horizon, and then it would balloon back up to cover a sizable expanse of sky again.  It was such an incredible phenomenon to finally get to see in person.  And I'm seriously tickled that I managed to capture some photos of it!

    Let's hear it for crossing off number 68.

    Ta-ta for now.