Monday, December 31, 2007

winter martinis


“is this brown?”


“this is your sugar plum”

This is how one of my more interesting Saturday nights began. Last Saturday, my friend Ed Plumb (aka Sugar Plum) and his roommate Trevor, invited us to a “small” martini party at their house, a few miles away.

We arrived, martini shakers, a bottle of vermouth, a bag of ice, and a lemon in hand, and got to mixing drinks. Actually, the very talented team of Trevor (on the classic style – vermouth and gin, dirty or clean) and Dea (on the sweet and fruity versions – mango/lime and blueberry) got the party started.

Even Kat had a drink.

Brian Jackson arrived and the first “Toiletini” was mixed. Maybe it was also the last – it should’ve been if it wasn’t! a Toiletini is a lemon mixer and vodka base with a coagulated clump of chocolate sauce plopped in:

All this vodka and vermouth, gin, olives, and lemon twists gets people dancing. Trevor and Dea taking a break from mixing drinks:

Cob, Kat, and Trevor cutting a rug (actually I think Trevor is doing his moose impersonation):

Sugar Plum, Jim Brader, me, and Kat moving the dancing into the kitchen to Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation” – can you believe that we actually got everyone in the kitchen to dance?

But of course, if one parties, one must do so responsibly – the designated driver drinking her virgin blueberry martini:

Parties like this are nice little corners-of-the-world to be in on a cold winter’s night during the holiday season.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

taking risks

so, it's 3 days before christmas and i'm scrambling to finish up a few things before heading to Seattle to meet Cob who is already down there with his family for the holidays. i dropped him off at the airport, came home and cleaned the house , and laid out my tasks for the week-end:

from top to bottom:
1. baby sweater for new baby Liam in LA - needs buttons
2. sweater for MIL (mother-in-law for those of you who don't speak 'knitting') - also needs buttons
3. winter cap for our friend Paul, who married us and whom we'll be visiting over the holidays - needs ties
4. winter cap for Paul's wife, Carolyn, an accomplished knitter and quilter herself - DONE!

oh, and then there's Cob's christmas present, which he doesn't know about yet, but i'm banking on the fact that he won't check this blog while on vacation, thus allowing me to take this risk of all risks of sending an image of his present (whose very existence i've guarded for months!) out into the ether. (i also know, however, that if he does check this website, he will no doubt not mention it since he wouldn't want to ruin my surprise - that, or he'll actually forget!) this sweater, by the way, represents my latest attempt to remake Cob into a metro-sexual. it's a job i fail miserably, stuck as he is on his beer t-shirts and pro-rodeo cut wrangler jeans, but so it goes. this sweater is 'blocking' - it's been washed and now it's drying to set its shape. it still needs tag.

and since i have all this knitting to do for Christmas, i'm of course distracting myself with a pair of socks that won't need to make its appearance until NEXT christmas....

i still have 2 too-large-to-be-mobile projects (ie. i can't travel with them any longer) - they will be revealed in due time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Here comes the sun...

it happened at 9:08 pm today. the sun came back. or at least the promise of the sun seemed real. today is Winter Solstice, a day more celebrated in the north than perhaps even Christmas (despite our proximity to North Pole, AK). on solstice we get the best present of the year - it comes first in the form of 3 seconds, then 1 minute, then up to a whopping 7 minutes a day of additional sun.

it's Dec. 21, which means about 2.5 hours of daylight that is really more like dawn. we organize our days to spend time outside during those hours, whatever skin might be exposed in these temperatures trying to collect the weak rays. and tomorrow, i will get to do it for 3 seconds longer.

Fairbanksans gather to welcome the sun back and we do it in our usual way - with food and music. this evening, i found myself at Lynne and Charley's solstice potluck with a a large handful of other folks grateful that we'd just passed the darkest day of the year. we gathered around a piano player, a flutist, 2 mandolin players, and a guitarist singing every sun or light song somebody knew the words to: here comes the sun, i saw the light, this little light of mine, you are my sunshine. we dug deep and pulled out House of the Rising Sun. and we sang the sun back into our world, pushing out the perimeter of darkness a little more with each soaring note.

as i walked back to my car, empty quiche plate in hand, i hummed in the pitch black.

little darling, it's been a long and lonely winter
little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and i say, it's alright........

happy solstice to all and may the sun forever shine in your heart.

taken in the village of Nulato on the Yukon River on Dec. 19 at 1:00 pm

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

weather permitting...

when you travel to bush Alaska, one phrase is always part of the plans: weather permitting. as in, "i'll be headed out to Nulato on permitting." or, "yeah, i'll be home in time for the hockey game on permitting." NOT including this phrase is just tempting the travel gods to get with the weather gods and wreak havoc with your plans.

so, on my latest fieldtrip to Nulato to finalize some research for a project i'm working on, well, i was careful to bow deeply and often to the travel and weather gods. i was trying to get to Nulato. see Tanana on the far right? some of you may remember that i used to live there? Fairbanks is about 150 miles east of Tanana. i had to fly out to Galena to catch another puddle-jumper to Nulato, a village of about 350.

apparently i didn't bow deeply enough. or maybe i neglected some other set of gods that had a hand to play in my latest adventure. this is where i sat - ALL DAY yesterday:

the Galena airport. (at least they have an airport - most villages just have an airstrip). i got a lot of work done, a little reading, a little knitting, and a little visiting with folks passing through.

i'm gonna try to get back to Nulato next permitting.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ruby Slippers

there's no place like home. especially when it snows. Us poor Fairbanksans have been laboring under a thin veneer of snow which simply hasn't cut it for those of who ski. cross-country ski, that is. none of that easy down-hill stuff (i can just hear my Outside friends snickering!); i'm talking about gliding across snow on skinny little rails under only your own volition. good stuff. but until a few days ago, our snow was seriously suffering. In Fairbanks, we get snow by mid-October. but for the last two years, we've had precious little snow. according to the weather guys, Fairbanks has seen half the amount of snow it normally does by early December. half. i stopped skiing. so when that magical white stuff fell again from the sky, we did this:

we got out there, as the Princess Cruise commercials command us to. Here we are at Ballaine Lake, about 1.5 miles from our house, strappin' on the gear. not only did we have snow, we had awesome temps. "awesome" for us is about 15F, according to the KBRW radio station in Barrow thermometer about 1 K down the trail.

with all this snow, we were downright giddy with happiness. Cob demonstrates proper form (or at least according to the skiing guy that hangs out on all the trail markers!)

everywhere there was snow. covering the slick ice spots that had emerged under too many pairs of skiis, hanging in heavy clumps on the spruce boughs. it was like a dream - somewhere over the rainbow, even. my ruby slippers:

we ran into friends on the trail - Lisa and Andy. Andy's an amazingly solid athlete, churning his way through many a back-country adventure race. Lisa's a scary good skiier. Last year she competed in the Susitna 100, a 100 mile (not kilometers, folks) race that you can ski, run, or bike. she skiied it. she crushed it. she's awesome.

not quite the bad-ass skiier Lisa is, i'm still pretty happy with all this snow, even up hill. look at that trail, look at those trees, look at the snow. i tell ya'...

the only casualties? Cobbie's beard - he gets a little frosty!

frosty, but happy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Go 'Nooks!

Hockey season's back!!!

we love hockey!

why do we love hockey?

we love the beer! this is part of the group in the "sin-room", where we dash in between periods to gulp down a cup of cheap beer. at UAF Nanooks games, beer isn't allowed in the stands (c'mon folks, this is a family show!) so we accommodate. plus it gives us a good excuse to get our sorry butts off those hard plastic bleachers.

we love the knitting!! yes, we knit during hockey. give it up folks, I'm never REALLY going to understand what's going on out there on the ice, so why shouldn't i be productive? in between periods, the TV cameras scan the crowd and focus in on fans and what they're doing, displaying the words "Kissing Cam" or "Dance Cam" to try to get fans to well, kiss or dance. we're holding out for "Knitting Cam." A girl's gotta dream!

we love the fans!!! this is Owen, the youngest member of our group. Owen loves popcorn and hockey and has already mastered the stink-eye if you interfere with his enjoyment of either.

Last Saturday's game was pretty exciting. sloppy, but exciting. there was a lot of this:

that's what a bunch of fans look like when a goal is ALMOST scored. not quite, but ALMOST scored. we sit down afterwards. it's a little anti-climactic.

this was our losing score against Northern Michigan. oh well, i got a fair amount of knitting done.

Monday, December 3, 2007

of nephews and nieces

Cob and i traveled back east to Maryland and Pennsylvania to visit family for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, dues to a failure, we only have pictures of the first half of this trip, but so it goes.

our trip began in southern MD at my little brother's new home where he's been re-stationed in the Navy after many years in Jacksonville. this new move exposes his kids to two of the joys of the east coast that they've never really known before: changing leaves and snow! the first is happening as you can see behind us. from left to right: Stehpanie (Caleb's wife - a hot little pistol and awesome sister-in-law. she shamed ma and Cob by the condition of her home after only living there for one month. Cob and i have been in our house for nearly two years and still don't even have pictures on the wall!), Haden (son #2 - 6 years old, i think?); Caleb (my LITTLE brother - I'm the shortest one in the family), me and Cameron below me (son #1 - 8 years?), and Cob.
this is a second glamour shot of Cameron with the family pup - a true love hound!!

we spent a wonderful 3 days with Caleb and his family before heading north to Mom's house at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, where the colors were still delighting us with their brilliance. My other two siblings, Peter and Julie, met us at Mom's with Julie's kids and Peter's wife, Rachata. on Thanksgiving Day, we took a walk around the neighborhood to take advantage of the changing colors and the warm temps. so, what do you do on a walk with your nephews and nieces? well, it starts very normally...
and then you find acorn tops to make into whistles and things get a little musical...
and then you realize that the big leaves that fall from the trees make really good hats and things get more fashionable...(this is Timmy, Leeah, and Ty from L to R)
and then you roll down all the hills and things at that point definitely get a little weird.
back at Mom's house, the kids swarmed around a Japanese Maple that was two small for us to climb when we were kids, but sure does make for some nice pictures now!

and after all that outside fun, we learned that you can use crayons to draw on my Carhartts and it will all wash out...(that's Timmy and Talae on the right working their artistic skills)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The next 3 projects

with snow on the ground, i've spending a little more time, errr...normal with my knitting. actually i'm embarrassed that many knitting projects have come and gone in my life with no mention here. and i have NO pictures to boot. let's see...a pair of knitted socks (standard Yarn Harlot recipe) in the most beautiful variegated fall colours for a new mother, purple and oatmeal striped mittens made from spun possum and merino wool (claimed by my friend Shannon who was visiting from CO), a few things i can't show here 'cause they're christmas presents, but there's 4 of them (I swear!), and a soft and fluffy blanket for my newest nephew, Henry, in Mississippi. thanks to his mother, however, i DO have a picture of this one!
actually, i made a blanket 2 years ago for this little guy's older sister, Lila Grace. here's that one -

sorry, couldn't resist! she's just cute as a bug - forget the blanket! anyhoo, I taught a friend how to knit a few months back and reaped my reward (other than more knitters in the world) when she traveled to Ireland and brought me back a soft pink cloud of wonder. she bought this for me. FOR ME. this presents a problem for a knitter like myself. i knit for other people. other people knit for me. but i don't knit for me. it just doesn't happen. there have been exceptions, like that cool skirt, but that's the only one that comes to mind. so, here i had this beautiful hank of heathered pink irish wool and a million projects for other people sprang to mind. but she bought this FOR ME. so here's what i did with it:

pretty, huh? but here's the best part:

it's reversible! cables on the front. exact same cables on the back. wa-la! magic!! actually, it's not. it's super easy, but it looks cool and for those of you who know what the underside of a cable looks like, well, i know you're all just sitting there staring at this beauty with envy. i just know it. but you too can do this - i got it as a free pattern from the very cool folks at - good people, those.

for those of you in the know, i work on 3 projects at a time: 1) scarf, and almost done; 2) surprise, but almost done; and 3) also surprise and also almost done. that means that i'm in the only-happens-in-a-blue-moon situation to pick 3 new projects to start on. here's #1:

a baby sweater by Tiboodoo for a little guy just born in CA. other possibilities include a vest for me (be careful with this one, i don't know if i can handle two things for myself in one year), another baby sweater for a baby just born in CO, a baby blanket for a 3 year old in Galena, another pair of socks with a cool cable down the side, a pillowcase for our couch. and those are only the choices for things i already have yarn for, but i'm way overdue for a visit to my local yarn store - any suggestions?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

oh my god! was it a month ago already? crikey!

last week, it snowed here. yep, snow. termination dust, as they call it here in Alaska. (refers to the end of the seasonal work schedule when the first snows signal the end of seasonal field or construction work) this means we're hurtling into winter and there's no lookin' back. i love the first snows, mind you, but i always feel slightly ambivalent about the change of season. i love the newness, but i'm also wistful for what we're leaving behind. unless it sucked - then it can go and i hope nature's door hits it on the arse on the way out. but last fall hardly sucked. in fact, we had a beautiful fall, full of crisp, clear days, good times, and beautiful berries.

early September was case in point. Labor week-end found me, Cob and Nuch, and three of our friends (cara, steve, and Mia) at Tangle Lakes canoeing out of reach of society and in search of cranberries. there's a reason for this quest, but i'm not allowed to talk about just yet. all will become clear later. but for now, let me just tell you about this trip.

though it rained a bit as we set off, we really can't complain about the weather given that it was Tangle Lakes country (remember that bike trip from hell on the Denali Hwy? same Tangle Lakes Country). we raced across the first two lakes, survived a short portage into the 3rd lake, and then struggled through a second longer portage (up a hill, across a caribou trail, through tundra, and down a hil through thick blueberry bushes) to the 4th lake, where we eventually camped.

this was a beautiful spot and one where Cob and i have stayed before. it's a crooked little finger of land that hooks out into the lake nicely cleared by decades and probably centuries of caribou traveling its length to reach the water. with plenty of space for multiple campsites and a kitchen site, it also has enough wood around that a dedicated soul might be able to have a campfire every night.

what i love about this area, though, is that is is ripe with cranberries. so we set out to this little corner of the world, with canoes full of food, gear, berry buckets, and laughter, to collect our stash.

one of the best features of our campsite was the trail leading up the hill behind our tents. the trail led up over the hill to higher ground, where one could survey this big sky country in all its glory - oh, and also find more berries. last year, Cob, Nuch, and i trekked up the hill to discover another lake behind us FULL of swans. they must have been gathering there before heading south. there are moments when you just need to sit down and watch the world for a moment as it unfolds one of its mysteries before you. we sat on our little hill, watching what must have been 100 swans swimming around in pairs, honking, and talking over the long journey ahead of them. this year, our 'swan lake' was empty save a few pairs (we were earlier this year), but a few more did gather in the lake we camped on and buzzed our campsite every now and again.

while we were there to pick cranberries, Cara and Steve took some time to fish, Maria napped, i knit, and Cob read us stories. Nuchie squeezed as much love out of each of us that he could.

finally it was time to leave. we had our berries, packed up our canoes and headed out.
i have a rule of thumb about marriage. two people should not be allowed to marry until they can negotiate at least a Class I if not Class II river together in the same canoe. canoeing a river takes communication - there's no way around it. marriage takes communication - there's no way around it. it's a good rule, i think. while we lake paddled and portaged our way to our campsite, we decided to loop around and float down the Tangle River back to our starting point. this meant negotiating the treacherous Class 1/2 of the Tangle River - rife with ankle deep water, scary fist size boulders scattered throughout the river's path, and a current that one could pretty easily out run. ok, so this wasn't the river to test a relationship, but Maria and Steve are about to get married and this is the river we had. plus, though they are both accomplished kayakers, this was their first time ever in a canoe together, so we were working with what we had! they stayed behind us at first as we expertly showed them how to negotiate the river's tricky parts (usually Cob getting out and dragging us over this sand bar or that), until we took a break for lunch.

during lunch, Cara showed me how to fly-fish (i sucked, though she was gracious enough to tell me i did a good job) and had to remind me to keep paying attention after i started hooting and pumping my arm in the air when i hooked my first fish. Steve found two caribou horns in the brushes that he salvaged for cabin door handles and such. we though that looked good on our very own Cara-bou!

after lunch, we jumped back in our canoe to finish making this river our own, and Steve and Maria took off first, bravely facing down the treacherous path ahead. in canoe #2, we all raised
our eyebrows at each other, but we set off behind them. we soon lost sight of them until the river dumped us out into a lake where Maria and Steve were happily chatting waiting for us. ok, so it wasn't a Class II river, and there weren't too many scary sweepers, but i think they passed. and i'll remember this adventure on Nov. 10, as i watch them exchange vows, that they KNOW what they're talking about.