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.