30 April, 2011

It's A Small World After All

It's a small world. We met a couple in Colorado last October at a brewery where we stopped for dinner on a whim (at the end of my post here), in a town we were driving through on the way to somewhere else.  Turns out they're in the military, she's from Anchorage.
It's a small, small world!  Hooked up with Erin and Klark for dinner tonight - they're back in Anchorage for a while.  So, Alaskans go Outside on vacation and meet other Alaskans; now the Alaskans we met in Colorado are back in Alaska, and we have new friends.  Yay!

29 April, 2011

Sewing Night

I'm almost finished with a Mystery quilt that Sara and I started... um... probably five years ago?...  It's about damn time!!
Sara's quilt - done these last five years...
 I was thinking of trading this one to a friend for some end tables he's making me, but decided that he'll get the next one.  This one has sentimental value - the first Mystery Quilt class that Sara and I did together - and I just love the colors.  When I get pictures of the one Nita is working on, I'll post - to show her progress, but also because that'll be the same kind I end up trading to my friend.  I think that one's next on the list - or maybe a baby quilt and then that one... But still have to finish this one.  Top is done, just have to get the layers together...  Yay!!

24 April, 2011

My Sister Jeannea

Jeannea's visit has come and gone.  It's hard to believe it's already over.  Where does all the time go?  I mean, when I'm slogging through work and buried up to my eyebrows with muck and mire, the minutes c r e e p  s l o w l y  o n w a r d,  w i t h  t o r t u r o u s  s l u g g i s h n e s s  . . . But when I'm savoring my time with friends or family, trying to enjoy every last minute because I know the time is short, I can blink and it's already gone.  How is that fair??  Anyway.  I'm already ahead of myself.
Jeannea came to visit for a few days on her way to Dillingham for the summer.  I was happy to have a little more time with her than I got with Sara, but that's just me being greedy.  To be honest, I'd be happy with enough time to go to dinner and visit for a bit before they pass through.  Anything more than that is already icing on the cake.  So extra days on top of that is awesome - yay!!
Jeannea got some chill-axin' done during the weekdays - opting to hang at the house while we were working so she could sleep in and unwind a bit before hitting it hard again.  Until recently she was working two full-time jobs; she dumped one of those, but then had to gear up to come to Alaska for the summer.  And it won't get any better in Silly Dilly - she'll be working seven days a week and likely 16 to 20 hour days.  So apparently she really enjoyed the time just hangin'.
Besides, we made up for it in the evenings with visiting and catching up.  We confirmed that she has not been to Double Musky, but that's a trip that will have to wait on her return visit in August.    However, we made a fantastic meal (courtesy of the cookbook she picked up for us): "World's Best" Mac and Cheese, Rustic Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and steak with Balsamic-Mushroom Ragout.  It was a meal high in cheese content (especially if you count the five different types of cheese we cut up for appetizers - YUM!), and uber-delicioso...  Leftovers for days, and still tasty the second (and third) time around...  plus it was a lot of fun to spend the day (there was a lot of prep) working together to make such a fantastic meal.
"World's Best" Mac and Cheese before baking
 "World's Best" Mac and Cheese ready to eat
Steak coated in the House Herb recipe
Of course it's important to share the fruits of such labor, so we had friends over to help demolish the fare.  An evening of visiting and sharing with family and friends.  Who could ask for a lovelier way to pass the time?
It'll only be a couple months before I get to see Jeannea - she'll be back for a quick visit in August before heading to Seattle for the winter.  So I'll enjoy the summer, and look forward to fall when I get family visits again.  Yay!!

15 April, 2011

My Sister Sara

Spring really is here - even without green grass or leaves on the trees.  When it's time for my sisters to come visit, I know that I've finally made it through the winter.  Whew!
Sara's visit this spring is going to be a short one, but she's promised to spend more time with me on the way back in September.  In Tuesday evening, gone again by Friday morning.  What a terrible way to spend Tax Day.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...
I was going to try to take a day off, since she wasn't able to spend any weekend days with me, but we're short handed at work and behind schedule.  I settled for leaving early on Wednesday and Thursday, then staying late on Friday.

We discovered that in all the years Sara has been coming to Alaska for the summer - and in each of those years she stops (twice) to visit me - we've never taken her to Double MuskyOh, how can that be?!?  We've seriously neglected our hosting charges.  We've been derelict in our duties!  We've been lax in our responsibilities!!  One might wonder why that were so, if one were unfamiliar with Anchorage and the Double Musky.  The reasons are two-fold: the drive to Girdwood is absolutely beautiful; and the food is magnificent.
We've now rectified our gross negligence.  Apparently Thursday nights aren't as busy as weekends.  We were anticipating at least a half hour wait once we got there, but were seated almost immediately.  With such savory fare, you would think I might've had a variety of the dishes, but you'd be wrong.  I'm a creature of habit mostly, and only sometimes do I break out of my mold to try new things.  It doesn't help that my #1 choice is a melt-in-your-mouth pepper crusted steak.  Why should I try something new when I've got such a heavenly option awaiting me??  Maybe because the jambalaya is exquisite, as are any number of the other menu items...  If you come to visit us, don't let us forget to take you to the Musky!!  (Here's a short NextStop video about the restaurant.)
Because it's getting lighter and lighter, the sun was still up after we'd finished dinner.  (I absolutely love how much sunlight we have right now.  But I have to keep myself from thinking that in only two months it's going to start going away.  O, Summer Solstice, how I hate thee!!)  Sunset along Turnagain Arm is breathtaking.
We stopped by the snow blower on the way home - which is just past the bird refuge if you're heading south, where you can see pretty birds and people canoeing in the summer.  (It's a bit early for that, yet.)  I figured that Sara would have seen one of these monstrosities already, since Valdez gets buckets more snow than Anchorage.  But then I remembered... there's no train to Valdez.  Hence no railroad snow blower.  I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but you're facing what seems like an engine, with massive blades and chutes to clear avalanche snow from the tracks.  If Snidely Whiplash were around - and you were Nell - you'd likely be tied to the tracks in the first picture, wailing for Dudley Do-Right and thinking: Ah, shit. This is the end, then. while campy piano music plays in the background.
Ahem.  Two afternoons and an up-before-the-buttcrack-of-dawn-for-breakfast-before-she-goes morning fly by way too quickly.  My first indication of spring has come and gone.  On the bright side, Jeannea will be here next week - so I still have another visit to look forward to.  But on the dark side, half my spring visits are over, and the rest (all ONE of them) will be just as fleeting.  Fortunately this is spring, not fall - it's much more depressing then - so I can look forward to another visit from Sara in a few short months.  Yay!!

10 April, 2011

First Barbecue

We're barbecuing for the first time this spring (if we can call it spring, with snow on the ground and no green grass or leaves yet).  Time to road-test the mustard-bourbon sauce we made with Shawn while we were in Omaha.  Some microwave broccoli and rice with grilled cauliflower rounds out the meal.
Next time we do the cauliflower, it needs to stay on the grill for a little longer, but as for the barbecue'd steak?  Here's my opinion: Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Good!!!

04 April, 2011

Flatlands - Finis

It's time to go home again.  I still have one more thing to look forward to: in Seattle I get to see three of my sisters.  Yay!  We got to the airport in plenty of time, but forgot that the homemade barbecue sauce was still in a carry-on instead of packed safely in one of the checked bags.  Almost had to throw it away, but instead paid to check the bag - which I enjoyed, since then I didn't have to lug it around at the next two stops.  Our flight was delayed due to weather in Denver - snow and wind, causing ice buildup on the runways and planes.  Doesn't Mother Nature know it's APRIL, and we're much farther south than normal??  It should be warmer by now!!
I was worried that we'd miss our connecting flight, or that there would be enough delay that we wouldn't be able to see my sisters, but it ended up working out just fine.  The Denver plane had already boarded and we were the last to embark, but we made it and it left close to on time.  The girls met us just outside of security and we visited for as long as we could before heading back through the check points to make the last leg of the flight.
We've been home a day, I've still got my sunburn (from Saturday's lovely day), and now it's snowing.  I know, I know.  In Alaska, we can expect snow through April, and sometimes in May or June.  But it's such a let down.  After seeing the almost-blooms and watching the Flatlands green up, I want to be much closer to the growing season than we are right now.  Patience is not my strong suit.  At least I have all the delightful memories from our trip to distract me...

03 April, 2011

Flatlands - Chris & Janet, Part II

The weekend has flown by.  All too soon, it'll be time to pack up and head home.  We've had such a marvelous time visiting friends and meeting new people - and finally the weather is cooperating! - that I just don't want to go...
Saturday was the first day of sunshine and warmth for this whole trip.  While we've still had a fantastic adventure, getting some sun sure adds another level of enjoyment!  I'm lobster-ish now.  Well, at least on the left arm, since I was sitting at an angle.  I'm only rosy-pink on the right arm (but still blindingly white for the legs).

We watched the kids do a zip line today - including Cody, Madison, and Caleb.  I'm glad it wasn't for adults.  I'm not sure that I could've done it - but I always want to try.  Why is it that I can ride roller coasters and the ferris wheel without my insane paranoia, but bridges and edges of things (buildings, trails, etc.) cause me to panic?  {I keep thinking that someday I'll attempt the Grand Canyon Skywalk.  It fascinates me like a particularly horrible wreck, where I know I shouldn't look - because if I do whatever bad thing it is will happen to me too, only worse - but I've just got to...  If I consider how miserably I failed at crossing the Pedestrian bridge, I don't know how I can even consider the Skywalk.  I wonder if, when I get there, I'll cower in fear?  Probably.  I know I'll cry like a baby and hyperventilate - I have no control over that.  We'll have to go later in the season, so there aren't many people there.  I don't want strangers to see me like the blubbering fool I'll be.  I'm hoping I'll be at least able to get out some of the way, but what if I get out there and get paralyzed by my psychoses and can't get back?  DeepBreath.  Those are thoughts for a different day.  Today is for the zip line.}  It was fun to watch the kids.  To see the initial trepidation, then the elation as they figured out they were not going to fall and break bones, get mangled, or possibly die, then enjoy the rest of the ride.  It seems that every one of them would've gone again, if they could.  I wonder if someday that'll be me...

Janet put together a beautiful slide show of Chris through his 40 ages.  It was funny and tender and full of the love that's been permeating the weekend.  I remember Chris with long hair!  And it was fun to watch him grow up through the pictures, to become the father, friend, brother, son, man he is today.  After the show, I helped cut the cake and for his thanks, Chris made sure I got a piece of the white cake with fresh strawberries... UP MY NOSE!!  I paid in kind by ensuring he tasted the chocolate cake, and had some frosting saved in his beard for later... *grins*  And we laughed until we were red in the face and couldn't breath, then laughed some more.  It still makes me smile.  =)

It's really time to say goodbye.  To hug everyone one last time, to laugh and cry a little, to promise to keep in touch.  (I'm always well-meaning that way, but... well, it just doesn't happen.  At least I'm honest.  My fingers aren't broken, so they should be able to dial a phone - but that's never been my most comfortable medium.  I'm better sending email - but just barely, as both Janet and Shawn can attest - and I do my best work in person.  You can see the drawback there, right?)
I can hardly believe our time is already over.  I'm so glad we were able to be a part of this celebration.  To spend some time with friends long parted, but never far from our hearts.
Addendum: On 14 April, Shiloh Anne officially joined the clan - congratulations Chris and Janet!!  The following pictures are courtesy of Janet, since I was long gone from the area by then.  I just wanted to post them because, well... babies are so cute, and they're such a beautiful family (and the kids are all rainbow-ish in their bright, happy colors).

01 April, 2011

Flatlands - Chris & Janet, Part I

Surprising Chris was fantastic!  Even better was being able to watch as surprise after surprise unfolded.  It was a magical weekend, due in large part to Janet's unparalleled Mad Planning Skilz.  In addition to coordinating to get all the people there, Janet also arranged for time off work for Chris - all without him being aware of anything.  {Janet, if you ever go job hunting, you should definitely look into Project Management or event planning.  You're a natural!}
As is typical of this vacation, most of the pictures are courtesy of Greg and his fancy-pants camera.  I've contributed a few from my old, slow point-and-shoot, but I also used some of Janet's pictures too.  We started the morning by heading to breakfast, of course!  It was a  lot of fun to be with the whole family - rather reminded me of my own childhood, and being surrounded by all my siblings.
The Girls
 The Boys
Cheers! with Piper
Greg and Chris
I took a picture of all the girls, and Janet had all the boys - together, we've got everyone!  =)  Janet and I took the kids and headed out to the retreat (by way of the Shoe Tree - where additional shoes seem to randomly appear), while Greg and Chris were sent after coffee.  After waiting and waiting for the Birthday Boy (and my husband) to arrive, Janet finally had to call and prompt them to speed things along.  Chris didn't know, but Janet's family was already on site, and more people were scheduled to arrive soon.  We found out the cause of the delay: Chris wanted to show Greg the Bass Pro shop.  Upon seeing some of the pictures Greg took, that place is great!  Next time we're in the area (or in any area that has one), we'll have to stop in to do some store-sightseeing.
Bass Pro Magnificence

Shoe Tree Landmark
The rest of the afternoon was filled with one surprise after another for Chris, as friends and family from far and near began to arrive.  It was wonderful to watch as the space filled with people who care for Chris and Janet, and to see Chris's elation as each new surprise was revealed.
Chris and Janet haven't changed a bit.  The kids, on the other hand...  We saw Caleb a couple years ago, so he looks a little taller but similar.  Madison was still in diapers (come to think of it, that's the last time we saw Janet too), and Cody, Jessica, and Piper were just twinkles in mama and papa's eyes...  Man, it's been too long!

The evening was warm and the sky clear, so the stars were out en mass.  It's been a long time since I've seen so many stars. When it's dark enough (and we're out of the city) back home, it's too cold for me to star-gaze for long; when it's warm enough, there's too much sunlight.  I took a walk last night.  To savor the pleasures of the day and enjoy the refreshingly warm evening.  It's been a good day; an engaging day of socializing with and celebrating our friends.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow.