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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sledding at the Pass

Generally we go sledding at the golf course.  It has a long hill and you can cross country ski at the same time.  But if we want a STEEP hill and REALLY fast sledding we go to the pass.  Only on that hill there is no skiing down in skinny cross country skiis!

On Sunday it was fast enough that I was even thinking that just perhaps, you know maybe, we should have been wearing helmets.  Most of the time, half way down the hill the sleds would turn sideways and we'd wipe out.  To make it to the bottom you had to either balance and weight the sled perfectly or drags your hands and steer.

At the bottom there is a big berm to keep everyone from sledding out onto the road, and if the sled made it that far it would go straight up and dump everyone out. It was a good time.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Last of the Greens?

I took this picture just before dinner a few days ago.  I could not believe how green and vibrant our garden kale remained near the end of January.  It was actually growing.  But I am happy to say that today it looks beaten back and close to dead.

Here on Kodiak we finally experienced a few days of continuous sub-freezing temperatures.  I am pretty sure the cold snap finally killed the mint and parsley, and the kale is looking dark, wilted and droopy.  I am going to try and eat it all quick!  Patrick

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Scenics

The last time I climbed Pyramid it had snowed and then ice-rimed on top of everything.  All the bushes had a layer of ice that caught the morning light.  It was a spectacular sight that I tried desperately to catch it on film.  And I failed miserably.

How does one capture that glinting, low-level light that sparkles?  Everything was aglow with sparkles when I took the pictures.  But when I looked at them at home the glint and sparkle was gone.

I guess it is one of those things that you just have to experience. Nothing better than climbing Pyramid after an ice storm!  Maybe it is just something that can only be experienced and never photographed.


This one was pre rime storm, but the dog silhouettes in the fog sunrise do look cool

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Who Is Mother Nature?"

Treat a skinned knee. Treat a bee sting. How to dress in layers for inclement weather. Prepare a small snack outdoors. How to pass a knife safely....
Outdoor Skills patch (Level 1) is DONE!

My Brownie troop has been working on their outdoor skills patch for months now. The learning is gradual-and i've  kept it fun. And the skills are one that I know they a will use for the rest of their lives.

To celebrate the completion of the patch, I set up a Treasure hunt in Fort Abercrombie. It led from the well that is near the old "Cry of the wild ram" play site, to the fire pit by the volley ball court, to a spot by the lake, to the WWII museum and finished at the beach. 

The time flew by too fast and my only regret was that the girls didn't have enough unstructured beach play time. Especially since it was a nice day after a long streak of bad weather. 

As we headed back to the parking lot after, one group of girls asked me "Who is Mother Nature?" What a hard question to answer. I did my best and my reply included something about she is the one creates the storms and weather and she is the one ultimately in charge. The girls seemed satisfied (or at least not outwardly disappointed!) with my response and they had their own continued discussion about it as well. 


One of the flags from the treasure hunt

Warm, calm weather for the treasure hunt

Reading the clues together

Hmmm...where could the next one be?

Brownie Troop #118

Last clue at the beach

Outdoor skills patch-DONE!

On a prior week we toured the new high school

hot cocoa time

walking back in the fog

Thursday, January 22, 2015

White light

I've found that it is easy to tell if you've got the white balance correct when taking pictures of snow.  Snow is white, and any other color is pretty obvious.  That said the snow can in reality look blue, yellow and warm, or whatever as it reflects the light of the day.  Snow itself is NOT always white.

When I took these the top one was super blue and I had to shift it towards yellow.  It still looks very blue, but I remember that it looked blue too.  In general I have found that I routinely need to shift towards yellow with snow pictures and often a little towards magenta and away from green too.

But it is easy to see when it looks right.  For all three of these it really did look like that - at least as seen on my computer screen. I gather computer monitor screens have color balance issues of their own.  What looks right on one computer might not look the same on another computer.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Space for Nora

Recently Nora has started needing her space. In the morning as I get ready in our shared bathroom, she gathers up her hairbrush, toothbrush and barrettes and goes into another bathroom to get prepped for the day. Its not that I'm in her way in the mirror, its that she wants her space. I totally get it, because I'm the same way. If I"m in the bathroom on a work day morning getting ready and Patrick comes into the bedroom to read a book, I feel annoyed-as if my space bubble was popped. I also need my alone moments to gather myself for the day.

At breakfast time, Nora has recently taken to setting up a little dining spot for herself away from our kitchen island, on the counter against the wall. She turns on the fluorescent light under the cabinets, sets up a napkin with fork and knife and eats her meal there. She says she likes to be away from the 'clutter' of the kitchen island.

In my mind I think, "the kitchen island is one of the least cluttered spots in our house" but I don't argue. I like her routine and I appreciate that she sets herself a spot at the counter.

I see Nora changing with her behaviors and doing things in a more mature, reflective, routine fashion. She knows what she wants, and what she likes in her life and makes it happen. I'm happy for that. Even if it means getting far away from me when brushing her teeth. ;-)


This past week I read a book called "The Wonder of Girls" by Michael Guiran, and in a matter of 150 pages, my understanding of Nora grew expotentially. I picked the book up by chance at Title Wave books in Anchorage…it looked interesting to me-a book to help explain what happens in the mind of girls. After 10 pages in, I felt like I just might be able to survive the next 5-10 years of motherhood.

Really. Truly. So often people say, "What age are your kids?" and I say, "7 and 9" and they respond with "Oh what great ages! Enjoy them now because soon they're going to hate being around you…." and other similar replies.

Comments like these are breeding grounds for feelings of low grade dread, wondering "just how bad will it be?".  The Wonders of Girls has changed that. It explains how between the ages of 10-12, the growth of connections in a girls brain is similar to during infancy. And how during this "explosion" of brian activity, girls need us (moms, parents) MORE during theses years, not less.  It explained why social connections are so critical during this age.

It helped me understand that Nora's perpetual longing for playdates is exactly what her brain and mind are wired for. So I'm feeling a little less anxious, more excited and more "there" for Nora. Reaching out to her to see if she'd like any playdates. Putting a little extra effort in to make it happen.

Parenting is hard enough as it is and it sure is nice to have such a great reference to help me better understand what is going on in their minds!

(Oh, and Guiran wrote the Wonder of Boys also…which I'm going to read next!)


Monday, January 19, 2015

Kayaking with Stuey

On Saturday afternoon while Zoya and Nora went on their Girl Scouts outing Stuey and I went sea kayaking.  We both wore wetsuits so that we did not have to worry about getting wet.  We launched out at Fort Abercrombie and it looked flat calm.  Once on the water I was shocked at the size of the rollers.  Whenever we got near rocks there were big breaking waves.  I think Stuey enjoys sea kayaking and if the weather stays like this I am pretty sure we'll be doing it some more in the near future.  Patrick

Some of that pesky snow on the mountains - if it gets much lower it might wreck my kayaking. .. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

G. L. O. R. I. A. !

Yesterday I was driving in to work in the dark when an old song came on the radio - Gloria by Van Morrison and the band 'Them'.  Immediately I was tapping out the beat and was transported back to September 27th, 1985 - the beginning of my sophomore year at Harvard University.   On that long-ago, September day all that played on the radio in Boston was various versions of 'Gloria' (Doors, Hendrix, Branigan etc).  G-L-O-R-I-A - Gloria.

Hurricane Gloria was bearing down on the City of Boston and for just the 3rd time in the 20th century classes had been cancelled at Harvard University (click here for contemporary article about the storm).  Everywhere there where taped windows and the lines at the liquor stores were going out doors and down sidewalks.  G-L-O-R-I-A was blaring out of every car door and dorm window.  The storm was getting hyped as the 'largest of the 20th century - bigger even than the hurricane of '38.  Boston was going to get crushed.  We could not wait!

Students had been encouraged to hole up in their dorms, and wait out the storm.   Yet everybody was rushing to the liquor store.  The wind was picking up and colored leaves were blowing off of the trees.

And for a while there we did hole up in our dorm rooms.  In my dorm they evacuated the high rise rooms and the refugees joined us in the low rise for a 'Glorious' party.   The drink of the day was aptly called a 'hurricane gloria' and consisted mostly of rum.

Later in the afternoon when the storm hit in earnest we all went outside to be a part of it.  And it was G.L.O.R.I.A chaos as other 'hurricane parties' all across campus also emptied out onto the streets of Cambridge.  Huge white cap waves were stirring up the brown water of the Charles and drunken students caroused under the trees.  I remember a roommate wading out chest deep into the river and almost getting arrested, impromptu football games under the trees that were whipping back and forth like stalks of grass, and over all the intense roar of the hurricane.  But the crescendo for me was a Harvard cop with a thick South Boston accent repeating through a bullhorn over the chaos, 'Futchah leadhas of Americah - go back to your rooms'.

Winds did top out at almost 100 miles per hour, but Boston did not get crushed.  The storm ended and the students that had not already passed out went to bed with a hangover. Harvard woke up to sunny skies and taped windows, and the football game was played as scheduled.

And her name is G. (G) L. (L) O. (O) R, (R) I. (I). yi-yi-yi-yi
G.L.O.R.I.A. (Gloria)
G.L.O.R.I.A. (Gloria)
I'm wanna shout it ev'ry night (Gloria)
I'm wanna shout it ev'ry day (Gloria)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, all right


More Lemonade

Yesterday after work I ran 2 different rivers with Jeremy.  It was GREAT.  Take that weather gods!  Patrick

Friday, January 16, 2015


Rain and warm - yuck.  For me this has been an awful winter, but for my friend Jeremy who likes to whitewater kayak it has been as good as it gets.

Yesterday I was driving out the road to climb a mountain in the rain when I passed Jeremy on his way back from a quick trip down a small creek in his 'duckie'.  We both stopped our vehicles and backed up with windows down.  I'd actually been thinking about calling him about trying surf kayaking on the big waves in Mill Bay.  And then there he was in the lane going the other way.

He convinced me to race back home and get my gear and go down the creek with him - so I did.  He made the video of our trip that you can see below.

I'm thinking I'll try kayaking for the foreseeable future in the hopes that the weather gods will see me having fun.  Maybe they'll screech and send snow and cold to spoil my fun.  Patrick

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Unsettled January Energy

The past month there has been an  unsettled energy in our Cliffside home. As the rain has battered down on the windows outside, we haven't had the typical outlet of winter fun or excitement with which to play in.

Nora lost a friend, Stuey lost an opportunity to be in a play. Patrick has been on the outs recovering from his skin irritation. And to put it mildly-as our blog says on the top tag line-I'm just trying to keep up the pack. Big time.


In December, Nora's classmate and our fellow brownie  scout, Zia left school very suddenly for Anchorage. She went  for medical treatment and Nora didn't have a chance to say good bye to her. Today Zia officially transferred from Anchorage to Georgia and Nora won't be seeing her again any time soon. Nora has been quite glum and teary, especially recently as she realized Zia won't be coming back to Kodiak.

"Mom, can I call Zia? I miss Zia" Nora asked repeatedly in the past month.   While driving in the car the other day, in the back seat Nora started spontaneously crying about Zia's departure. She cried herself to sleep a few nights ago. I give Nora hugs and love.

We have been writing Zia letters and fortunately on Tuesday Nora was finally able to Face time with Zia. Nora was glowing with happiness after her 3 minute conversation.

"I'm the happiest girl on earth, mom!" She exclaimed. That morning, she ran out the car excitedly for school and was just glowing with joy.


And then theres the Tarzan play and Stuey.
Before Christmas, Stuey tried out for the spring community musical, Tarzan. He got a part as a child ape. All Christmas break he was curious and excited about practices starting.

The rehearsal schedule ended being too much for us. On the first week of rehearsals, he was to be at the auditorium from 7-9 pm  on four of the evenings that week and every Saturday from 10-3 for 2 months. I knew it would be too much for our family. And Stuey knew as well.

"I won't be able to get my reading done, mom" Stuey said as we climbed into the car at 8:40 on the first night of rehearsal.

"I know Stuey. Don't worry. I think its too much too. I"m proud of you trying out and doing your hardest tonight. I"ll e-mail the director and let her know it won't work for us." I replied. (or something very similar to that... less clearly articulated)

Stuey was relieved and its a decision we haven't regretted one minute.


The rain and winds continue outside but for some reason I feel we are through the worst of the storm. I"m refocusing and recentering.  Bringing myself back to the things which feed my soul-reading, journaling, started a TV miniseries, training for the Tour of Anchorage, going for more walks....

Patrick went rafting with a friend this evening down a river and came home so excited.
"My plan is to go rafting every day and that will bring the snow back!" Patrick said.

Nora is in a better groove with missing Zia.

And Stuey is, well...being Stuey. :)


Where's the sunshine?

The weather this winter has been unbelievably warm.  It's late January and there is still no snow on the mountains and the garden is still green and producing kale and parsley.  That is unbelievable.

And I'm normally a sceptic of 'warmest', 'snowiest', 'coldest' whatever 'ist' winters.  Over the years I've noticed that Kodiak's weather cycles back and forth between  warm/wet and cold/dry weather regimes. Even snowy bright winters usually have a 6-8 week period where the weather is wet and bleak.  I've also noticed that near the end of one of these weather regimes everyone in Kodiak inevitably talks about how this has to be the 'warmest', 'coldest' or whatever - people seem to have short memories when it comes to weather.

That's why when it comes to comparing the weather from different years I like to check the actual records, our blog, my journal etc.  And in my 20 years on Kodiak this is the worst winter so far in terms of time on snow and life in the garden.

I have also noticed that the weather is beginning to get everybody down.  The kids are antsy cooped up inside the house, and adults are getting grumpy and short-tempered.  It's getting to the point were all I want to do is nap and read books.  Normally I have no problems with getting out in the rain to exercise, but I'll admit it's getting old.

And I would also like to remind the people who during normal years complain about how Kodiak 'is too cold and snowy' that this is what you get during a warm winter.  Cold winters are always brighter than warm winters.  So be careful what you wish for, or you might get what we got.  Patrick

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vintage Hubby? Not by choice...

If you looked at this photo and thought, "Wow! Patrick's gone vintage with his clothing!" you're not alone. Temporarily gone was his typical ski attire…all because of a breakout of hives.  Last weekend several friends remarked how they were stunned to see Patrick in cotton clothes! ;-)

We're still not sure what he was/is allergic to but for nearly two weeks it has been a struggle. WHat caused the full body itch outbreak- we're unsure. Possibly clothing or my semi recent change to a new "organic" detergent? We're at a loss so a visit to Anchorage allergist may be in order. 

Thankfully, due to an awesome Physicians assistant at KIMA clinic and some strong prescription strength antihistamines, things are feeling on the mend. The only downside to the antihistamines is they had a strong sedative component, so for several days Patrick slept, and slept and slept.

Its good to have Patrick back and more comfortable and happy again.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Birthday Ribs!

Happy Birthday to our dear friend, Gregg! Gregg is a relic in our life. When I first met Patrick 16 years ago, Gregg and Patrick were BFF's. The 3 of us would eat dinner together several days a week.

Since that time, Patrick got married, Gregg got married and we all enjoy hanging out whether it be hiking, hunting, camping, cooking....

 Last night we celebrated Gregg's next trip around the sun with a deer ribs. 


Homemade bread, cherry pie, deer ribs, homefries, roasted corn salad...

Happy Birthday, Gregg!

Stuey LOVES wrestling with John! John holds Stuey down in every possible way (including sitting on him)...and Stuey digs it! 

Rib Mania~Patrick grilled them on the outdoor fire pit b/c our grill bit the dust this winter.  Gregg prepared the ribs and made homemade sauce for them to marinate in. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Anchorage holidays

The day after Christmas we headed to Anchorage to see friends and family and having a little instate "staycation". The days were full of reading, movies, eating at new restaurants and visiting with friends and family. I enjoyed some yummy Indian food at Yak and Yeti with my mom on the last day. Fun moment!

I took my kids and Julie and Rays kids to the theater production of "A Christmas Carol". What a treat to see new actors, faces, stage, sets, etc. The production had very cool special effects with smoke, lights, cool costumes. Seeing the show was a real highlight of the trip for me. 

R&R in the hotel room! I devoured a Stephen King memoir on writing during the trip. 

Dinner at the Marx Brothers with Julie and Ray

Ice cream store! Nora is a girl after my own heart...she ordered peppermint pattie ice cream!

New Year 2015

On New Years Day 2015 the sky was clear and at 8:45 I texted two friends to see if they'd be up for a hike up Kasheverof mountain. Bless their hearts for not thinking I was crazy for being up so early and going along for the hike! :) (One of the friends had a moderate hangover from the night before and I re-assured them that a hike was the perfect way to work it off.)  

Erica lives here in Kodiak and the other is a long time, childhood friend, Nick. He was home from England for Christmas break- and always up for a hike.

We drove out the road 20 minutes and the sun wasn't quite over the horizon. As we were about 1/4 up the mountain, the sun hit the peaks across the valley in a gorgeous reddish glow. 

"Welcome 2015" I whispered to myself. 

Seeing the first sunrise of the year was a treat--something I don't normally do. I can tell this is going to be a year full of firsts for me!

Glow of 2015

Erica, myself and Nick

Erica and I on our way down