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