Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Been Workin' on the Timeline...All the Live Long Day

No snickering allowed!  Yes, I made the Cheets into a meme.
But it's not even relevant to this post anymore. Once I got 
going I had plenty to say.  But,'s still funny!!
It's definitely a slump writing week when all I have to write about has to do with work.  I guess I'll just chalk this up to an I have nothing terribly interesting to talk about at this moment...umm, moment?  I know.  It's weak.

So, here goes with my weak, hopefully not nap-inducing work-related topic.  I've been working for one of the local Alaskan Native tribes in a grant-funded position for the last 9 months, and the gist of my role there has been helping the organization build a digital archive of their tribal history and governance records.

One of the projects I tackled was creating a tribal history timeline of some of the major events and challenges the tribe has faced since their re-establishment in 1987.  I have to admit it was a full on geek alert throughout the whole project.  I was digging it.  Digging it in a this research into their history is super interesting and hey, it might be fun to learn more about HTML, CSS and web design kind of digging it.  Yeah.  It was nerd-tastic.

Technically, I shouldn't be using this photo.
I'm pretty sure they won't sue me, though.
So, I ended up using an impressively high quality timeline generator - for being open source.  Which basically just means free.  It's called and the final product looks pretty damn good!

It goes to show how much of a newb I am with code though, because I struggled with figuring out how to embed the timeline right here in my blog. The conventional iframe embed code method wasn't working, but I figured it out - and was feeling freaking triumphant when I did!

It's pretty cool. You can either click the right arrow on the timeline to go to the next event chronologically, or you can click on specific events you want to read about along the list at the bottom of the timeline. Have a look:
(If for some reason you can't see anything below, click here.)

Take a few clicks for a little peruse through my blood sweat and tears of research, research, and more research. I guarantee you'll learn a thing or two about the history of the Shoo-nak-ians.  That's a joke, by the way.  Tribal members aren't actually called Shoo-nak-ians.  That's me just being funny at best and disrespectful at worst.  Let's go with funny. -  And possibly helpful for those who may not know that the pronunciation of the tribe name does actually sound like Shoe-nack.

Partial screen shot of the home page of the digital archives.
That's a patented Peg sunset shot I took here in Kodiak
The site that the timeline is hosted on is the other half of what I've been up to at the tribe over the last 9 months. is basically a digital archive I designed from a template and then used to catalog their hundreds upon hundreds of governance records.  Mostly just bibliographic records - you have to come to the tribal center to view the actual documents because of copyright and privacy issues. 

It's not all boring bibliographic records, though. There are some fun parts to the archive, too. - Like the Tribal History Timeline and the Coho Salmon Exhibit.  There are 5 pages to the Salmon exhibit with lots of info about the project & some cool pictures, some of which were taken by yours truly.

The process of putting this archive together was interesting and engaging, and I learned a ton of new skills during the whole rigmarole.  Well, besides the heavy-hitting data entry portion of it.  That part was kind of meh.

Hopefully you weren't channeling the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons with all my work talk...Wah, wah, wah. If you're still even with me at this point, that is.

Alright, I think I'm done with my humble-brag post for the week. Here's hoping I don't come off as too "Look at MEEEEE!" in my sharing of work stuff. No one likes a Flaunty Mc-flaunts-a-lot, but I like to share things, especially when it's something new I've learned how to do.  And it helps that the end results didn't come out half bad.  It's been a good experience working for the tribe, but the grant expires on September 30th.  So, that means the money that paid my salary - and my position - expires along with it!  Onward to wherever the wind takes me.  I'll keep ya posted.

Ta-ta for now.

P.S. - I added a new page to my blog with a timeline of where we've lived so far.  I told you I was digging the software!  Check it out along the tabs at the top of the page, or click here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kodiak's Summer Wildflowers

There's no doubt that Kodiak's summer wildflowers are beautiful, but I didn't really see how truly abundant they are in certain areas of the island until recently.  I mean sure, there are lots of wildflowers that grow along the road side & we see quite a few flowers on our hikes, but on a weekend adventure last month it really hit home how much Kodiak is just teeming with wildflowers in the summer months.

We hiked up the path between the two trees behind
the "Freeee, Freeee," running with abandon Cheety
We took a drive down to Fossil Beach, which we've visited before, but this time we hiked up from the beach and explored some of the landscape over looking the cliff side.

Which was gorgeous on its own, even without taking the flowers into account.

Lupine grows all around Kodiak

As we trudged our way up the cliff side, I wasn't prepared for the view we had when we reached the top.  I know, you'd think I'd be used to the natural beauty that we're surrounded by here, but it just hasn't gotten old.  I'm still marveling even after over a year of seeing it regularly.  So once we hoofed our way up, there were these unbelievably vast fields of wildflowers that just seemed to go on and on. 

It was incredibly beautiful and fragrant.  Lupine is a very common flower around Kodiak, but when you see an endless field of them, it's pretty amazing.   It made me think of the poppy fields scene from The Wizard of Oz.  Minus the poppies, and add mountains!

It just went on and on...

Since the majority of the field was purple lupine, shades of violet dominated pretty much everywhere we looked.  As we continued along, we saw wild iris, fireweed, wild geranium, cotton grass, and many, many other varieties of flowers.  I can't even begin to identify all the different types, but I can tell you that along with the waves of purple, colors from every spectrum of the rainbow dotted the field.  It was another "wow" Kodiak moment.  I think I liked the wild Iris best:

Once we climbed up toward the bluffs, we meandered over toward a WWII bunker that was near the edge overlooking the water.  You can't swing a dead cat without stumbling on a WWII bunker on this island.  What a horrible expression.  Why would anyone be swinging a dead cat to begin with? of consciousness.  We took a rest on the concrete roof of the bunker, which had a commanding view of Ugak Island.  I don't think anyone lives on Ugak Island, but I could be wrong.  The hubby thought it would be fun to kayak over there.

Unfortunately, along with all of the gorgeous wildflowers was a pretty impressively rampant amount of pushki all over the fields we hiked through.  Do you remember what I posted about pushki when we first arrived here?  It's an intense plant that can give you a painful rash if you touch it.  I was amazed that the pooch didn't suffer through another bout of it.  Somehow, despite all the tromping through it we did, both he and the hubby managed to come out of our hike pushki rash-free.  See, I was the only one who was protected by wearing pants!

Now that we're coming to the end of summer, we'll be saying goodbye to all the wildflowers and hello to the slow transition to autumn.  Shorter days, crisper air...and harvest time. And no more green mountains.  But, you know what that means?  It means it's time to break out the slow cooker again!  And harvest cocktails, of course.  So it could be worse, right?

Ta-ta for now.

Overlooking Fossil Beach - So long, vibrant summer greens!

Fossil Beach

Sunday, August 10, 2014

First Kodiak Kayaking Trip

Prepping for the day
Before our trip to Italy, we broke out our kayaks and went exploring on the 4th of July. It was my first time kayaking since we moved to Kodiak, and it didn't disappoint!

The hubby bought his kayak from the chaplain when he was transferring out last summer, and he tracked down a good deal on a used kayak for me a few months ago.  So, we finally got our acts together and took them out on Anton Larsen Bay.  It was such a perfect weather day, and we had a great time tooling around with all the water birds.  We were able to get up close and personal with sea otters and all types of birds.  It was very cool.

Getting ready to launch

There were a lot of black oystercatchers all over the bay, and I was able to get a few good pictures.  They're really easy to identify, but it's a little creepy that they have red eyes.

I paddled up pretty close to this little island a bunch of them were hanging out on, and I'm pretty sure I freaked them out. Once I floated over, they all started squawking and sounding the alarm for all their buddies.  I unintentionally created a little oystercatcher calamity with my picture taking.  

Along with all of the oystercatchers, we saw a ton of puffin, too.  Most definitely my favorite northern bird!  They're so doofy - I just love watching them in their natural habitat. 

They fly so fast, (up to 55mph!) and they love to splash around in the water.  They're adorable.

You can hardly see this little puffin. - That will change
once I bust out my new camera and I can zoom in better!
We were also able to get close to a few sea otters.  They're actually a lot bigger than you would imagine.  And also adorable to watch.  They float along on their backs & it's impressive how fast they swim. I tried to get close enough for some pictures, but they're quick little guys & they weren't having it.

Anton Larsen Bay is a great kayaking spot.  It's a protected little bay, so the water is calm and flat as long as the winds aren't too strong.

There were plenty of houses that dotted the shore line that seemed to be pretty self-sufficient.  Sprawling compounds with multiple hoop greenhouses, solar power, boats, and seemingly everything they would need to live so far from the conveniences of town.  They definitely fend for themselves out there! 

One of the compounds along the water
This was one of the most memorable 4th of July's I've had in a while.  There's really nothing like being able to explore the wilderness we live so close to - and being able to get out on the water to see it from that perspective is a whole new way to take it all in.

There's no way we would have been able to get as close to the puffin and other wildlife we saw if we weren't out on the water, so I'm looking forward to checking out some of the other areas around Kodiak that are kayaking-friendly.

There's no doubt that hiking and kayaking are two of my favorite things to do up here.  Can't wait to put a few more trips on the water under my belt!

Ta-ta for now.

Pyramid Mountain in the distance

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Fatty Fortieth - The Firenze Edition

Panoramic view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square)

Firenze?  That's what I asked myself the first time I saw it listed as the destination on our train ticket.  It's Italian for Florence, and that's where we spent the second half of our Italy vacation a few weeks ago.  Just as phenomenal as Rome, only a little more low key and laid back.  I liked Florence a little bit better than Rome.

We took the high speed rail from Rome to Florence, and it was classy travel, to say the least!  I don't know why we don't get on board with high speed rail here in the U.S.  It was downright pleasant.

High speed rail from Rome to Florence - And snacks!

It was basically sit back, recline in your practically La-Z-Boy chair, & watch the Italian countryside whiz by the windows.  And they had train attendants come around with snacks and drinks.  Can't  beat that!  I was loving all the rambling fields of sunflowers we passed by on our way.  They were so vibrantly yellow and it was hard to believe how far the fields sprawled across the landscape.  Ahhhh, Tuscany!

Sunflower fields as far as we could see

We arrived in Florence after about an hour and a half or so on the train, and checked into
The Grand Hotel Baglioni, which from then on we called the Grand Budapest Hotel.  If you saw the movie, it makes sense.  If you didn't...moving on.

The front of the Grand Hotel Baglionil & the square with Santa Maria Novella church in the front of the hotel

Now this is a city that's made for wandering.  Every corner we turned, we discovered something new.  Either a piazza we hadn't seen yet, a fountain, a church, a statue -  we seemed to bump into something interesting every time we went exploring.  We also got lost about 75% of the time we left the hotel and had to yank out the phone to find our way back.  But the beauty of getting lost all the time is that it creates the perfect scenario to experience things we never would have seen otherwise.  Win-win.

Some of the piazzas, fountains and street art we saw

The heavy hitter in the center of Florence is the Duomo.  It's the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and it's the main church. This was one we marveled at every time we walked by it.  How could you not?

Il Duomo di Firenze

What a gorgeous basilica

We loved the Central Marketplace, too.  It had the freshest, most diverse selection of vegetables, meats, fish, wines, olive oils, name it, the Central Marketplace had it.  And that was just indoors.

The outside of the marketplace was corridor after corridor of booths selling all manner of leather goods, jewelry, clothes, etc.  It was fun to explore, and I may or may not have walked away with a few souvenirs.

Hubby haggling for high quality olive oil and the wares of the central marketplace

We had our first dinner in Florence at the rooftop restaurant at the hotel we stayed at, and the view was spectacularly jaw-dropping.  We walked up the stairs and casually glanced over the balcony without having any idea of the view we were about to be blown away by.  It can only be described as the city of Florence at its best:  Bathed in that perfectly warm sunset light that highlighted all the shades of amber, auburn and orange from every rooftop.  It was stunning.

This night won the prize for most beautiful view at dinner. 

One of the main squares in Florence, the Piazza della Signoria, (and so many of the other areas we strolled through) didn't leave you hanging in the gawking at historical beauty department:

About the only statue I recognized was Perseus and Medusa's head, which of course
made me think of the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans.  "Release the KRAKEN!!"

I mentioned this in my Roma post, but it's worth repeating.  One of my favorite things about Italy is the ubiquitous piazzas.  They're everywhere, and everyone seemed to gather there, especially at night - sitting on benches or steps, chatting, eating gelato, and relaxing for the evening.

The orchestra was set up under these arches, in front of all the statues
There was one night after dinner in Florence where we stumbled upon a full orchestra performing at one of the main piazzas, Piazza della Signoria.  We heard the music wafting through the night air, and when we turned the corner, there they were performing for a huge, appreciative crowd.

It was so memorable - strolling the piazzas, eating gelato, and then unexpectedly discovering a live orchestra playing!  Might have been the perfect Italy evening.

Another great piazza moment:  We were sitting on the steps at the Duomo right around sunset, when I glanced over and saw a man get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend right in the middle of the piazza.  At that moment, when the crowd collectively realized what was happening, a huge burst of applause and cheering erupted from all the people milling around.  What a memorable moment for that couple, and it was kind of fun for us to witness.

Hubby buys gelato, part 8?
All throughout our trip, I found myself snapping pictures of anything that struck me as noteworthy.  The building and statue designs, art & renaissance architecture are all so unique and interesting. - So as you can imagine, I took a lot of pictures.  Almost 500, to be exact.  I know, overkill.

And have I mentioned the gelato?  Good Lord, the gelato.  We had it every day.  Full disclosure, sometimes twice a day.

My favorite was Pistachio, and hubby was digging the berry flavor, but we branched out and experimented with all different flavors during our many gelato runs! Combining the melon and the coconut?  Magic!

One of the structured tours we did in Florence was a winery and vineyard tour through the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  That was a fun day!   A driver took us about a half an hour outside Florence into the heart of Tuscany to two different wineries that produce Chianti Classico. - Fattoria Montecchio and Casa Emma.  Such beautiful countryside and exactly what you would imagine the Tuscany region would look like.

Fattoria Montecchio
The grounds of Fattoria Montecchio

This was where we ate dinner at
Casa Emma.  Not too shabby!
We learned all about DOCG wines, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - it basically just means the producers followed the strictest regulations possible to make that wineThe sommeliers explained what goes into making Chianti Classico, and of course we enjoyed the best part - tasting the wines.

At Casa Emma, we had a traditional Italian dinner overlooking the vineyards right around sunset.  It was spectacular!  From the food and wine to the gorgeous view, to the Tuscan sunset, you couldn't ask for more.

Our Tuscan sunset at Casa Emma Vineyards

Now I realize I'm once again teetering into "this post is way too long" territory, but I can't leave out the statue of David!  We saw him on our last full day in Florence, and he was beautiful.

Hubby and I debated whether his expression was determined, slightly fearful, or a combination

I have a distinct memory of walking into the room where David was, turning to the left, and checking out all of the unfinished statues Michelangelo carved that were on display. - I didn't realize I had walked into the area where David was, and when I turned around and spotted him at the very far end of the room from where I was standing (at the perfect angle and perspective) I lamely said, "Wow." But sometimes I think that's the perfect response to something that truly does wow you.  He really is quite the specimen. 

Mandatory here's me with wait, here's ME with David photo ops.

We did a lot more during our time in Florence, but it's just too much to share here.  I'll leave you with a Firenze food porn collage.  It was all as delicious as it looks!

All right, here goes starting at the top, from left to right:  Roasted eggplant stuffed with fresh mozzarella, spaghetti carbonara, Chianti Classico, bruschetta and salami, pork shank, steak fillet, pear ravioli, assorted salami, proscuitto, bruschetta, artichoke & olives, another steak fillet, more bruschetta (that was my go-to snack, the tomatoes are unbelievable there), Peroni, orchiette with eggplant, beef carpaccio over bruschetta with mushrooms, raspberries, and some kind of kick ass cheese, and last...a chocolate tort on one of those rare nights that dessert wasn't gelato.  Whew!  I did say it was fatty, didn't I?

Ta-ta for now.

The Duomo at night

The bridge over the Arno River