Saturday, January 31, 2009

Anchorage--Day 3 & 4

I thought I should post a few photos from the view I had from my room. I didn't get to see much of Anchorage during the day because I was in meetings all day and the sun sets about 5-ish. However, I did manage to get a few. As it turns out, I was by a water way and I had no idea until I took these pictures.

I also had a chance to stop by an Arby's and get a fountain soda. You may think to yourself, well that's not such a big deal, but it is for me. There is no fountain soda in Dillingham. All sodas come in can or bottles.

Here are some pics from around Anchorage. There are mountains in the background. It was kinda neat. I didn't notice them until day 3. The meetings took up most of my days and I was glad to be out doing things in the evening.

I went to dinner at La Cabana Restaurant. It was ok. I had a huge margarita and I ordered the mole enchiladas. I liked the mole sauce, but I wasn't impressed with the enchiladas. I wasn't too impressed with dinner in general, but what can you do. There was little that could compete with the roasted quail and the pork roast from the previous night.

And again, I thought I would take a picture of Brian and Kim. They really were nice people. I bet they got a bit tired of me hanging around, making them go shopping with me. It was really sweet of them to show me around Anchorage. After dinner, we went shopping at Wal-Mart. I know, I know. It was sick and at one point I almost had a panic attack. There were just too many people in on place, grabbing things in front of me and kids running around screaming. It was all too much and I was glad when it was over. I ended up spending about $100 there on more personal hygine products, yarn and pyrex dishes. And that ended my night in Anchorage.
(Just a side note, I think Kim was pretty tired by this point and Brian was acting a bit zany.)

The next day, I didn't have to be at the airport until 10:30 so I was hoping to sleep in a bit. Instead, housekeeping was banging on my door at 8:15am. After that I couldn't sleep so I got up and went down to the restaurant and waited for Kim & Brian. (I was giving them a ride to the airport) That is when I found out that my camera batteries were dead.

I had planned on taking a picture of the volcano, but the cloud coverage was so thick I would not have been able to take a picture anyway. I also wanted to get a picture of the plane being de-iced before take off. That is scary to think that the plane needs something like that. But the good news is, I made it home safely.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Volcano issues

The good news is, the volcano still hasn't erupted. The bad news is, I still fly over the thing tomorrow. I have made a simulated flight path for my plane and the volcano. It's a very rough, but you get the idea.

Here's hoping.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anchorage--Day 2 (foodie delight)

So day two started out with a $4.00 Starbucks coffee. Mmmm...sweet latte goodness. Then I went to meetings. All day meetings. It was boring. The good thing that happens is some awesome networking. I met this nice girl from Petersburg (which has better fiber optic internet and cell phones) named Kim. Her and her husband are staying here in Anchorage. She got a companion flight for cheap so he came along. His name is Brian. They are really sweet people.

They invited me out for dinner with them to Orso. This was a pretty pricey place to go, but since I didn't eat lunch or breakfast I thought I would go all out for dinner. It was worth it.
I got the house special which is a 4 course meal. The first course was a cheese tart (that I forgot to take a picture of) with an arugula salad on top of it. Think mini quiche with a salad on top of it. It was pretty good. The next course was roasted quail. It was FREAKIN' AWESOME! This is a whole roasted little bird. There was only about 4 bites of meat on the sucker, but it was so good and juicy. The cream sauce was so good I almost asked the server for a biscuit to put it on, but I decided not to. The quail came on a bed of lentils.

The next course was apple roasted pork on a bed of mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. The pork was so tender, it just fell it apart. This too was just so awesome. I'm not sure what sauce came on it, but it was great.

And then for the finale...Cherry cake stuff. I have to say, it was too hard to beat the quail and the pork so the dessert was a bit of a disappointment. And by the time the dessert came, I was full, very full. But it was pretty.
Kim had the same meal I did, only she choose to have the 4 courses of wine as well. By the dessert course, she was "not present." (Her words, not mine) She was happy the wine with this course was smaller.

After dinner, we went to Michael's, Bed Bath & Beyond, & Target in my rental car. Yeah, I broke down and got a rental, mostly because it would cost more in taxi's than to rent a car. When I went to put things in the trunk, this is what a tag hanging in the back looked like...
I'm guessing this means that if you pull the tag, a man jumps out of your trunk, running. Are people really that scared of getting locked in their trunk or abducted and put into a trunk? Or is a selling point of a Ford Focus the fact that a body can fit in to the trunk? I'm not sure about this one. At least the tag glows in the dark.

After shopping, we rolled through a Taco Bell. I bought a bean burrito & one of those cheesy bacon double stacks. I planned on eating for breakfast since breakfast in the hotel is stupid expensive. I was excited about Taco Bell. Really excited.
It almost has normal prices. I miss that. I paid $4.10 for a 10 pack of Irish Springs soap. I had not been so happy to see those kinds of prices in my life. In Dillingham, I usually pay about $4.00 for 2 bars of soap. I am so excited. I also bought some shampoo for $2.00, this is $4.00 cheaper than Dillingham prices. Who knew I would get so excited about personal care products.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Adventure in Anchorage Alaska--Day 1

I had to leave today from work to catch a plane to the large metropolis known as Anchorage. I sat next to a nice man that works at Bristol Bay Native Association. He was taking the red eye to Orlando, Florida. Poor guy. I was glad to be off the small-ish, cold plane in Anchorage. The guy pointed out the volcano that they are calling for an eruption within the next few days. If you look past the plane engine--the high mountain on the horizon...Yep, that's a volcano. I wasn't impressed either. But if it erupts, it might cause a few flight delays.
When we landed, it was dark. I recognized the familiar orange glow of city life. The plane ride only took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. And because the plane is so small, it just stops on around the terminal area. We have to walk on the ice and packed snow to the door. It was a bit slippery.

I made it to the hotel and I was starving. So I went shopping. I picked up a pair of cute peep toe shoes for $6 at payless and bought some earrings at Hot topic. As I was walking back to the hotel, I started looking for places to eat. I almost ate at some steak house when I saw the signs for the Glacier Brewhouse. I ordered a mediocure margarita made with the blonde ale. I'm sure the ale was fine, but there wasn't enough salty lime goodness to make it a good margarita. The highlight of the meal was the seared Ahi tuna. OMG! It was nice & pretty.
I am looking forward to another day of shopping tomorrow and I am hoping I can find an outback steakhouse and a taco bell. That would really make the trip complete. In the mean time, I will have to go to a grantee meeting.

Anchorage Bound

Samara and I arrived in Dillingham at the end of August 2008. Besides Dillingham, we spent about an hour in the Anchorage airport. That's all we've seen of Alaska.

But, as of 5:30 today, Samara was on a flight to the big city, Anchorage, Alaska. She's there for a couple of days for a grantee meeting (it's a work thing) and hopefully she'll get a chance to do a little shopping and see some moose roaming the streets.

I'll be spending that time playing video games pretty much non-stop, except for when I'm working.

So expect some pictures of Anchorage when she returns.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Folks, there's news. We've already let our families know, but here's the official blog post.

We're going to stay in Dillingham for a second year. Samara is enjoying her job, and Aaron got permission from the judge to stay for a second year. The money is pretty good, so we think it's worth it.

I'm sure some of you will be disappointed, but rest assured that we'll be back to Lexington after the second year. We'll also come visit sometime after the first year.

Sorry if anyone is disappointed, but look at it this way: it's more time to save up money and visit us in rural Alaska!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mail shout outs

We have heard that a few different people were sending us stuff and after the planes not flying last week and the holiday on Monday, we finally received a few packages. We received a couple boxes from Dallas with Rx items from Wal-Greens and dollar items from Target. (I miss Target.) She also threw in some nice soaps and lotions. YAY! No more stinking. Aaron's mom sent Aaron a pair of boots and a fleece blanket with moose and bears on it. It's pretty cute. And she sent me some batteries for my camera which is great because my camera refuses to use anything but those titanium ones and I can't seem to find them here. And then there was a small package from Dennis. Thank you everyone that sends us care packages. We love and appreciate it. We miss everyone too, just thought you all should know.

In other news, I have started knitting again. Knitted cat toys seem to be what I like making, but I have also completed a head band-thingy. I might even get around to taking a picture of it since I now have batteries for my camera.
Ignore the mistakes and the holes.
These things are addicting. My cats are going to have 50 of these by the time I'm finished.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Snake Lake, Part Deux

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Tomorrow we get a black president. It's pretty exciting.

Today, though, I got up early and dropped Samara off for work. She doesn't get MLK Day off. Then I watched a crappy movie on TV. At 10am, I called Erin and Anthony. I met them out at the place where they're housesitting.

We packed up their Highlander with the three of us, the two dogs they're watching, and headed off to Snake Lake Mountain. Of course, the first time we drove by, we missed it completely. We got almost to Aleknagik before we realized and turned around. We found it the second time we passed it.

Unlike last time, Anthony was able to drive to the top of the first hill and park in the turnaround. We all put on our snowshoes, and walked a little ways before we figured out that we really didn't need them. I clipped mine to my backpack and Anthony carried the other two pair over his shoulders. We let the dogs run loose, and they seemed to really enjoy themselves.

It didn't take long at all to reach the first look-out point.

Here are Erin and Anthony taking a break.

After that break, we kept going. (This is the point where Anthony and I turned around last time, so this was all new views for me. It was easier to walk today, since the snow was much more packed.) The air was really clear today, which made for better pictures.

Here are Erin and Anthony, hoofing it up the mountain.

Here you can see Snake Lake off in the distance, provided you know what you're looking for.

It's kind of hard to tell the difference between snow on the flats and a lake, especially when the light makes the whole picture bluish. Snake Lake is the slightly darker blue that you can see a sliver of just beneath the mountains in the back of this picture.

Here's another good mountain vista. The mountains here aren't very big, and are pretty close.

The dogs had a lot of energy for the whole hike. Anthony had almost as much energy. Here he is, playing with one of the dogs.

After a bit more hiking, we took another break.

Here's a slightly closer view of Snake Lake. No, not the white area to the left of the picture. That's just snowy flats. It's the silvery blue strip just below the mountains in the center-right of the picture.

On the way back down the trail, Anthony decided to climb the mountain up to a higher trail. Can you spot him from a distance?

How about a closer view?

And then, a long view as he summits.

Erin and I took the opportunity to relax as he climbed. My ankle was already a bit sore. I guess my right ankle is just my weak spot. It doesn't hurt as bad as my last hike, though.

On the way back down, we made another stop at the first look-out point.

We sat down, drank some water, and threw rocks down onto the snow for the dogs to fetch.

Even though the dogs aren't really very good at playing fetch, the view was nice.

That's it for pictures. We made it back to the car, and headed back down the road to the place where Erin and Anthony are housesitting. For lunch, they made tomato soup and grilled cheese. Since we hiked from about 11am to about 3pm, we were all hungry. After lunch, Erin took a nap, and Anthony and I took a steam.

Steaming is an Alaskan tradition. Yep, everyone likes going for a steam in the steam. What does that mean? Well, it's a wet sauna. You start by heading out into the little wooden shed, which has an antechamber and a steam room. You start a log fire in the cast-iron stove in the steam room, and let it get nice and hot. Once it is hot, you pour water over the stove and the lava rocks piled on top, and it creates steam.

What's weird, though, is that people actually bathe in these steams. Neither Anthony nor I had ever used a steam before, but once we got it figured out, we enjoyed ourselves. We even soaped up and scrubbed off, using little basins of cold water. Let me tell you, once you're hot and steamy, washing off with cold water is REALLY cold.

Now, you probably figure that once you're done in the 100+ degree steam, it would feel freezing outside, where it's 20 degrees. Once you're dried off, though, it doesn't feel that cold outside. Both Anthony and I were surprised that it seemed more like a 60 degree day outside. It was a strange sensation.

I picked Samara back up at 5pm. I felt bad because she had to work all day, dealing with various silly little crisises, while I had a relaxing day. Well, a tiring day, really, but it was fun. We had some dinner and watched some TV, and we're both looking forward to another day of work tomorrow.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More boring weather posts

Reading about the weather can't be that exciting. Sometimes, though, it seems like that's what we have a lot of here in Alaska.

It was miserably cold for a while, and then it got warm and rained. A lot of the snow is gone, now, as evidenced by the view from our window.

The rain is gone now, too, and everything has turned back to ice, with only a light dusting of snow over it. I really hope it snows like crazy soon, because we need more snow.

Let's see... what's more entertaining? I spent some time with Anthony yesterday, working. He and Erin are housesitting for some folks out on Aleknagik Rd. The guy is a doctor, and the house is huge. I went out there yesterday and helped Anthony cut firewood. He did most of the cutting, and I stacked it into an aluminum sled. Then we hauled it up to the house by pulling the sled with a snowmachine. It was a chore, and yet it was really satisfying work. Alaska is a beautiful place where life seems to move a little slower, and what would otherwise be dull activities seem to be more enjoyable.

Today, we're having turkey day again. Samara is roasting a bird. I've made light rolls. A few people are coming by, and we're going to enjoy a big dinner.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I have off, but Samara doesn't. I'm thinking about doing some hiking, presuming that the weather isn't too horrible.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rain, rain, go away...

It's officially colder in Lexington, Kentucky than it is in Dillingham, Alaska. We've been enjoying balmy temperatures in the mid-30s now for a couple of days.

Along with that comes rain. Rain is really bad here in the winter. Anchorage has closed their schools for two days in a row because of it. It melts the ice, but not completely. Our roads are all sheets of ice with puddles of water on top. Walking anywhere requires careful steps or cleats.

It may be hard to believe, but we're all praying for freezing temperatures and more snow. I can handle 20 degrees and snowing. I can't handle 38 degrees and raining, especially when there's already a foot of hard-packed snow all around.

It's like Alaska wants us to experience all the possible weather it can throw at us. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of driving on ice so slippery that it was nearly impossible to stop, drive through snow deep enough that I'd worry about getting stuck, and through water so deep that I was worried it might come into the car.

Ah, variety. It's the spice of life.

I'd like my weather a little more bland, please.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Many months ago, Samara and I were in the L&M Hardware store, and realized that they sold pelts. Among the various animal pelts you could buy from local trappers were beaver pelts. We told Ann about it, and joked that it would be funny to make something out of beaver fur.

As Christmas neared, we realized that one of the primary native crafts was the making of mittens out of beaver fur. When we went to the craft bazaar at the school in early December, they had hats and mittens made from beaver fur, as well as seal, wolf, fox and all sorts of other animals that the local native people hunt. The local native craftspeople spend a lot of time working on their crafts, and it shows in the prices. We had thought about simply buying some beaver mittens for Ann for Christmas. The prices, however, started at $150 and went up from there. Nice seal and wolf hats were $600. Not within our price range.

The result is that Ann only just received her Christmas present in the mail. I handcrafted a pair of beaver mittens for her, and it cost much less to do it, even with authentic materials.

I bought a beaver pelt at the L&M store for $79.

Then I bought a small scrap of moose hide as well.

I found a pattern on the internet for a style of mittens called "chopper" mittens. I printed the pattern, and cut out the moose hide for the palms and finger. It is very difficult to sew leather.

You have to use a special needle, called a glover's needle, that has sharp, three-sided point that punches through the leather. It took a long time to sew together the pieces using the reinforced polyester thread.

True authentic mittens would be made with sinew, but I don't think even the natives use it anymore.

The beaver hide was thinner leather, but it was still difficult to sew the palms and backs together with the entire mitten inside-out.

Once they were all finished, I knew they needed a liner.

I bought a fleece pullover at the local thrift store for $1, and used it to make essentially another pair of mittens out of fleece. Then I sewed them in as the liners and sewed the bottom all the around as a cuff. They turned out pretty neat.

I felt like the finished mittens were missing something, though. I only had two native Alaskan animals used so far, and the mittens needed a toggle so that they could be clipped together when they weren't being worn. That's where the caribou jawbone that Olaf gave me came in handy. (If you don't recall or haven't read the whole blog, I picked up a slightly intoxicated man from in front of the AC and gave him a ride home one day a few months ago. In return, he gave me the jawbone of a caribou that was laying around his yard. It seemed a strange gift at the time.) I cut a small piece of bone from the jawbone and filed and polished it into a toggle shape. Then I put a hole through the middle and attached it to the mittens with a moose hide thong.

So that's the finished product. Fleece-lined beaver mittens with moose hide palms and a caribou-jawbone toggle. It's about an authentic a native craft as you can get, I'd say. And all the animal products are by-products of subsistence hunting and trapping. Alaska may be one of the last places in the United States where you can still get away with wearing animal furs without getting red paint thrown on you by PETA, but it seems natural when the hides are harvested by natives and not from fur-farms.

I really hope that Ann enjoys her mittens. She seemed very excited about them (as well as her other Christmas gifts). Samara wants me to make her a pair now. I have some beaver pelt left, but I'm not sure if it's enough for another pair of mittens. I'm also not sure I want to commit to that much work! Did I mention that hand-stitching leather is hard work? I guess we'll see. It does seem only fair that she gets a pair too, since she moved all the way to the frozen northlands with me.