Saturday, January 25, 2014

That's Right..It's Wreath Time

This is one of my favorite renovation sites
I have a habit of reading a pretty big variety of crafting, home decorating and design blogs to
get ideas for projects I think look fun and artsy.  And that I think I could realistically tackle, of course.  Sometimes I'll see a project that looks fantastic, but there's no way in hell I'd be able to pull it off with my level of handiness and/or crafting ability.  Not doubting myself, just being realistic!

All I'm saying is check out Pinterest Fails.  Sometimes you just miss the mark!  And I crack up everytime I look at the "after" pictures compared to the Martha Stewart version that's posted on Pinterest.  There used to be a site called Regretsy that was the same kind of thing, only it showed the crazy shit people tried to sell on Etsy - the handmade/vintage goods website.  Regretsy doesn't exist anymore, but check out this article I found with some examples of Etsy disasters that were once posted on Regretsy.  Funny stuff.  Or extremely naive with a dash of delusion, depending on your point of view.  I'm 99% sure that Tinkerbell pillow is going to give me nightmares.

Might as well multitask, right?
If you've been reading my blog long enough, you know I have a tendency to go off on tangents.  I just reeled myself in.  Aaaaand, we're back.

So, I was researching different types of DIY wreaths not too long ago, and I found this great link to all different types of do-it-yourself wreaths for the front door, or wherever you want to put them.  I really liked one of the felt flower wreaths I saw, so I ordered the supplies I'd need from my BFF Amazon and dove in to craftiness once they arrived.

I'll be straight with you, though. - These little flowers are on the tedious side.  Especially the fancy ones with petals.  That's why there's only a handful of those in my finished wreath!  The pain in the ass factor was high on those.

Making the flowers is something you'll want to do while you're sitting in front of the TV or watching a movie in the living room.  Sort of like knitting.  Not that I knit, but the point is that you can make progress, and you can have your attention elsewhere at the same time.  I followed the tutorial I found HERE to make the flowers.  They're really easy.

The grapevine wreath form I ordered is 19 inches around, so that translated into about 70-80 felt flowers.  All you need as far as supplies is felt, a hot glue gun, and hot glue sticks.  (Along with a wreath form, obviously)  Now I know it doesn't look professionally done, but I also know it wouldn't be featured on Pinterest Fails or Regretsy.  Here's my finished felt flower wreath:

Didn't come out too terribly!  I wanted something to brighten up the front door during these gloomy winter days.  When the fog is so thick and the gray, misty air seems to smother me, I know my happy little yellow wreath on the door will cheer me up.  Even if it is almost Pinterest Fail worthy.  Just kidding. - I think it came out cute!

Ta-ta for now.

P.S. - Here are a few links to some of my favorite crafty/decorating/design haunts, if you're interested in checking them out.  Just click the text to go to the site. - These (mostly) ladies are so talented and inspiring:

Lake Girl Paints

Design Sponge

Miss Mustard Seed
Apartment Therapy

Friday, January 17, 2014

Six Month Rundown

Gotta watch for planes before you cross!
I thought I'd do a little six month re-cap of our still relatively new Alaskan life.  I'm better about a few things.  For one, I'm not freaked out when I have to drive across the runway on the base anymore.  Took a little getting used to.  It's kind of a long stretch of pavement, & it just felt weird to be driving on a runway, looking for planes before crossing over.  Who does that? 

I'm also much more confident driving in less than stellar weather.  I don't like it, but I'm better at it.  I own my very first set of studded snow tires these days, which have certainly helped in the "confidence in crappy road conditions" mind set I've got going on.  It also helps to drive granny-slow when the roads are sketchy.  That's my strategy and I'm stickin' to it!

C-130 crossing the runway
I'm also happy to say I've finally acclimated to the extreme difference in temperatures from our last duty station.  Key West to Kodiak is quite the climate change.  Forty degrees doesn't feel like the dead of winter anymore.  It actually feels pretty nice at forty degrees.  (still with a coat on, of course)  Never thought I'd get there!  And I'm pretty sure I'll think it's extra hot when I visit Tampa this May.  Thicker blood, for sure.

There are so many remarkable and unique things about living here.  As I've talked about over and over, it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  But there's no doubt about it, Mother Nature rules all up here.  From the spectacular natural landscapes, to the tremendous weather fluctuations, it truly is a wild environment.  Not to mention extremely remote and far from pretty much everything. 

But with that comes some one-of-a-kind experiences.  Like seeing red foxes trotting about, and seals and sea otters tooling around in the water. - And that's just on a trip to the grocery store.  Bald Eagles soar through the sky pretty much everywhere you go, and the potential for wild encounters is all around.  I haven't seen any yet, but I'm just waiting to spot the migrating whales that pass by Kodiak certain times of year, sea lions sunning themselves on the docks, and the ever present Kodiak brown bears that live here.  I think it's just a matter of time before I have the privilege of glimpsing at least a few of those rare animals while we're here.  (well, not so rare in these parts!)

There's significantly less light pollution here, so when it's clear, you can count on seeing magnificent night skies.  Which of course makes me think of the elusive Aurora Borealis -  which as I know I've mentioned, I've yet to see in person.  I'm also convinced that's another "just a matter of time" experience to look forward to during our tour here.

I've already set up Aurora alerts so I get a notification if the probability of activity is high.  Yet another thing I've learned living here:  what the hell a Kp number means.  It's basically an index that measures magnetic activity and helps to predict whether the Aurora will be visible.  A Kp level of 6 or higher means good news for Kodiak.  I'll keep hoping for a 6!

Wish this was my photo!  This was captured in Fairbanks, AK.  Give it time, I'll get my shot eventually!
Photo credit:  Unites States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang, via Wikimedia Commons

And then there are those things we haven't experienced yet that are on the Alaska bucket list.  Hopefully this summer, we'll be able to knock out a few of those have-to-do's:  a little kayaking in the bays, a bear viewing tour on a seaplane, and trying our hand at some salmon fishing.  I want to learn how to fly fish a la A River Runs Through It style. 

Of course, along with all of these special things comes the inevitable not so great things as far as living in Kodiak.  I prefer not to fixate on the parts I'm not crazy about because why focus on what you don't like and can't change when you can enjoy, appreciate, and marvel at all of the exceptional things that come along with this somewhat loony experience.

Snowy Pugbull prints.  How cute?!
I'll pick just a few, but the weather is probably at the top of the list.  It's all over the place.  The rainy, rainy summers and the relentless freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw routine that's pretty standard throughout the winter isn't exactly ideal.  It makes me laugh because we'll have a storm blow through, and the wind speeds are almost hurricane force.

We're talking just shy of 70mph, but it's just a run of the mill storm, and nothing is said about it other than not exactly dire "wind warnings."  One of the hubby's co-workers who's been in Kodiak for a while said that he once saw a dumpster - yes, a DUMPSTER - roll past his window during one of the windier storms.  Like I said, Mother Nature calls the shots around here.

Along with the weather, I'd say my other not favorite part about living here is how far away it is from all of our friends and family.  We've always been able to hop on a flight to go visit without too much trouble, but that's just not the case here.  It's super expensive and takes a really long time to get to the places we used to visit regularly.  I have to psych myself up for my first trip back to Florida because it's going to be an almost 24 hour ordeal.  It's bananas. 

It goes without saying that there's the good and the bad no matter where you live.  We can all say that about whatever place we call home.  And the reasonable fact is that our time here is temporary.  It's not like we've been exiled to forever live in Kodiak.  Then I'd be singing a different tune!  It's been exciting and different, with a whole lot of new experiences, and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to experience it - but I wouldn't say I'd choose to live here if the Coast Guard didn't send us. 

It's funny though, because I've read and heard of so many people saying things like, "I took one look at the island and fell in love immediately."  To those I think, wow - you need to see some other islands!  Just kidding - everyone has their version of paradise.  And it is remarkably beautiful here.  Not fall in love and never leave beautiful, but that's just my take on it.  Maybe fall in love while you're here to visit (or live for a few years) and then go settle somewhere a little less extreme!

And hey, I get to share all the kooky things we get to see and do up here with all of you guys - which makes me happy.  I love having a reason to sit down and write every week, and Alaska makes for some pretty good stories! 

Ta-ta for now.

St. Paul Harbor in downtown Kodiak

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Magic Hour

The hubby accidentally dropped my camera while we were hiking about a month ago & it dented in a spot that caused the lens to malfunction and not open properly. - So, I've been using my phone as my main camera while we sent the damaged one off to Canon to get repaired.  I've so missed my camera.

I think a phone should be a good phone and not an okay phone and an okay camera, and an okay __ fill in the blank __  for all the countless other functions our smart phones have now.  I guess I'm on the old-fashioned side when it comes to that.  I don't want all my desires on one device.  I prefer a quality camera for pictures, an ipod for music, a phone to talk/text get my drift. 

Near Island

The point is that I finally got my camera back, and I went on a little picture taking binge on our last hike.  It takes photos of a much higher quality than the phone, I tell ya!  I can zoom in without the annoying pixelation on the final photo, and there are no dark, blurry edges on the outside of the pictures anymore.  Hooray!  So, I decided this post will be very photo-heavy because I got some beauties the first day we went out for a stroll after I got my camera back.  Or maybe I was just starved for decent pictures.  Either way, here's a montage of our hike on Near Island a few weeks ago.  It was Alaska-astic.

I was loving the way the sun highlighted the colors on the houses in this quaint little harbor area we stumbled upon.  It's just across the way to town, but we'd never seen it from this point of view before, so it was a new perspective.  The lighting was perfect all afternoon because it was the magic hour. - That unique time when the sun is setting and the quality of the light is warm and perfect for taking pictures. 

Hard not to look like a big red snowman in my puffy coat - But I love it because it keeps me nice & toasty!

 We hiked through the trails of North End Park on Near Island, and then wandered off the trails and found some beautiful areas to explore.

I always catch him off guard, and then he looks like he has bitchy resting face.  ;)

There were a few spots on the trails that were pretty icy, so we had to tread carefully.  Someone took a little tumble on the ice.  Surprisingly, it wasn't perpetually clumsy me. Or Cheety.  Not to worry, there weren't any injuries.

I couldn't get enough of this serene little scene we found ourselves in.  It was so placid and silent. - There were Bald Eagles swooping through the trees, and countless different species of sea birds and ducks paddling around.

This will be a great spot to kayak

I can only describe it as rejuvenating to quietly stand there listening and observing my surroundings.  It was so still, and I could hear even the faintest call of a bird in the distance or the subtle sound of the water lapping along the shore.  Robert Frost I'm not, so I'll stop now.  But, it was truly beautiful.

And the Pugbull was as always, completely fearless.  He'll climb on anything & loves it.

I really can't say enough about the quality of the light.  So warm.

The water on the shore line by the moss was so unbelievably clear. - You could see right to
the bottom and it was chock full of mussels and all sorts of other sea life.

I got a not too shabby shot of a Bald Eagle on our travels, but I'm still on the hunt for the ultimate Eagle soaring through the sky picture.  We'll see if I'm lucky enough to catch that!

And at the end of the day, we were treated to a lovely sunset over the mountains on our drive home.  The funny thing is that this stretch of highway is nicknamed "Dead Man's Curve."

You wouldn't think that by this view, but the steep curves in the road and substantial drop-off make it pretty treacherous, especially during the winter when it's icy.  (Can't say I'm crazy about living somewhere that actually has an area of road called Dead Man's Curve)  The hubby and I joke when the weather gets snowy/icy and say, "How are the roads?  Said no one in Key West, ever."  But, you can't beat that view...

I guess this brings my photo-centric post to an end.  Let's hear it for a decent camera.  And The Magic Hour.  :)

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Off With Their Legs!

We got in on a pretty choice local fundraiser for the Kodiak baseball team not too long ago. In the past, I've found those kinds of fundraisers are usually sales of cookies, popcorn, or something similar.  Not up here in the last frontier!  Their fundraiser was a considerably good deal on 10 lb boxes of Alaskan King crab legs.  How could we possibly pass on that?

So, we placed our order and waited for the deliciousness to arrive.  After getting a little garage freezer to stash our seafood loot, we were ready to go.

Hubby was so very happy with the  freezer we picked up.  Apparently it's been on his wish list for quite some time, but we had no garage or other place to put it when we were in Key West, so on the back burner it went.  I swear sometimes he goes into the garage just to pet the freezer.

The crab arrived as expected, & I wasn't at all prepared for how big the legs would be!  They're almost as big as my arms. 

Now that we have a nice little stockpile to pull from, we've been predictably indulging in crab way more than we would otherwise.  Plain old steamed crab legs with drawn butter, crab mac and cheese, crab breakfast burritos...definitely a major perk of living in the great white north.

I can confidently say that this is hands down the best crab I've ever had.  I remember the first bite. - The hubby said, and I quote, "Oh, sweet Jesus."  Yeah, it's that good.  So sweet & flavorful.  And the size of the meat that comes out of these legs is unreal, it borders on obscene.  So. Much. Meat.  And now the adolescent boy in me is thinking, that's what she said.  Sorry, I had to.

Lots 'o crab meat
I think about when I would order Alaskan King Crab legs anywhere in the lower 48, (which I still feel like a poser saying since we haven't lived here for that long) and they weren't even close to being as big & flavorful as they are here, so close to the source. 

The quality of it reminds me of how easily accessible and tasty the Florida Spiny Lobster and Stone Crab claws were in Key West. It's not too shabby living close to fresh, accessible seafood. - Either north or south, for that matter.  Off the boat seafood is and will always be a huge bonus to living in remote, coastal locales.

We're definitely planning to get another batch of crab while the season is still in play. -  I know I've got a taste for it now, and I'm pretty sure the hubby will be on board with another batch once we've wiped out our little crabby storehouse.

And I know for a fact that I want to give a go at some kind of homemade crab bisque or seafood chowder of some kind. Maybe with some crusty bread and a salad?  I'll seek out Ina or Cook's Illustrated for some magic on that front.  I'm happy just thinking about it!

I'll check this one off as a niiiice benefit to living in Kodiak.  Mmmmm, crab.

Ta-ta for now.