Dale and I had a very good, very hectic 2012. This post is just part of the picture—mostly the stuff I thought would be most interesting to family and people curious about Alaska—but if you want to see the rest of what I’ve been up to, mostly professional stuff, I posted about it at my librarian blog.
Although I hate to start the post on a sad note, 2012 marked the passing of my grandfather. He was a good person, and I am sad for his loss. Something so sad does not fit in well with the rest of the year, but it deserves mention.We spent a lot of 2012 settling into our home, some of it dealing with contractor stuff, some of it demolishing an old, moldy shed on our property and putting up one of those Rubbermaid sheds to replace it. We owe several of our friends dearly for their help in the shed demolition. We (mostly Dale, and, again, helpful friends) also replaced a toilet, and we dealt with a couple of leaks (both of the roof and of the downstairs bathroom sink). We have a cozy living room, the birds live in the dining room, the kitchen has mostly come together, and the basement is good for parties. The craft/project room and exercise room are still in need of some work, but have come along nicely. I spent part of my week off moving my bedroom around, which made enough space that I could put in a dwarf lemon tree! It is supposed to start flowering pretty soon, and I’m very excited. The chinchilla lives in Dale’s room, which makes her very happy, and now Dale has acquired the necessary pieces to put together a workstation in there, as well (I offered to make the craft/project room more hospitable, but he says it’s too cold to work there). Soon he’ll be able to work on more computer projects in his spare time! Since the 2011-2012 winter broke the record for the most snowfall since they’ve been measuring in Anchorage, dealing with the snow took up a lot of our time in early 2012, as well.
This winter has been far less snowy, so far.
Another change on the homefront was our acquisition of a second vehicle. Since Dale’s job moved—same job, different location—sharing a vehicle wasn’t going to work well for us anymore. A coworker who was leaving town gave me a fantastic deal on a Honda CRV. It’s over 10 years old and has had a couple of issues since we got it (including being rear-ended earlier this winter), but overall I think it was a good purchase. I drive the Honda, and Dale drives the Subaru.
In Alaska-relevant news, we saw two big-name acts that came into town, last year: Eddie Izzard and Flogging Molly. (Barenaked Ladies and Cake were here the year before. And Dan Savage comes up most years, too.) So we’re not as far behind as all that.
We also saw our first really good Aurora Borealis (northern lights) display. It was awesome—in the original sense of the word.
And, in a feat of sheer luck, we managed to win the Denali Road Lottery, so we got to drive into Denali National Park. It took place the same week as the Sheldons and Brungards were up here visiting, so they got to join us. Luckiest tourists ever. (Or least lucky, if you’re a pessimist—it’s a hard trip for six adults and a baby.) The Mountain even came out for us while we were in the park! And we saw a mother and baby grizzly bear and several other animals. It was very cool. And, besides Denali, the Sheldons and Brungards got to see a lot of Anchorage and seemed to enjoy their trip. We’re getting two more Sheldons in May. :)
It’s a small thing, but I got called for jury duty for the first time in my life. I was excused from serving, because the defense (I presume) decided I was too close to the case to judge fairly, but it was still an interesting peek into our justice system.
Another small thing: 2012 was the year when I learned to crochet. I’m working on a blanket. I think crochet suits me better than knitting, for whatever reason. Fewer moving parts, maybe.
And that just leaves health stuff, I guess. I won’t go into detail on everything that happened, but on the bright side I started immunotherapy for my allergies, which I’m hoping will allow me to visit friends with pets and live happily through birch season in May. On the less bright side, I learned that I’ve been slowly poisoning myself with what I’ve been eating. In addition to being allergic to some tree nuts (definitely almonds and hazelnuts, but others are unknowns), kiwi, watermelon, and apparently milk thistle, I’m sensitive to wheat and other gluten-containing grains, duck and chicken eggs, and milk and dairy products from cows. (It isn’t the lactose, either; I’m sensitive to both whey and casein.) I’ve had to completely relearn how to cook, which is an ongoing project. Dale has put up with it remarkably well. And, to be fair, I cheat with dairy a lot. Way more than I should. Which might be why I’m still having weird pain issues; I’m planning to eat clean for a while and see if those die down.
I’m currently caffeine free—not to the point where I won’t drink green or white tea or eat chocolate, but to the point where I won’t drink caffeinated coffee. I feel a lot better when I’m not drinking caffeine every day, so I will probably stick with that.
Our 2013 plans include getting a door to separate the not-really-insulated arctic entry from the living areas of the house, a new back door, some insulation in our crawlspace, and other house stuff; biking in Tour de Cure again; getting visitors; going to Hawaii; and hiking up Flat Top, which we still haven’t done. And probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten. :)
2012 was good, and here’s hoping that 2013 is even better!
Look, guys, if you live outside of Anchorage, this isn’t interesting. But if you live in Anchorage, I would be really grateful if you would modify the following letter (perhaps to correct anything I might have gotten wrong, for instance) and send it along to the Anchorage Assembly, at email@example.com. I will also be modifying this letter so that I can send it to the Department of Justice, who has 60 days to review the redistricting map: 222 West 7th Avenue, Room 253, #9, Anchorage, Alaska 99513. If you want to read more about it, there’s information at The Mudflats and a little bit on the Friends of Fairview Community Council Facebook group. I also borrowed heavily from an email sent out by the President of our Community Council, which I would be happy to forward to you; just let me know.
Members of the Anchorage Assembly:
I am a voter, a taxpayer, and a homeowner in Anchorage, specifically in District 1. I am writing to urge the Assembly to right a grievous wrong.
Quick history: twenty years ago the current two-member district plan was created, with one district having only one member; the plan’s clear intention was for a different district to get only one representative every 10 years, in a rotating fashion. However, for the last 20 years, District 1, which encompasses Downtown, Fairview, South Addition, and Mountain View, has been left with only one representative and therefore with less of a voice than the rest of the city. The current Assembly has apparently decided, through an improper (and most likely illegal) process, to burden District 1 with underrepresentation for another 10 years.
Here is my understanding of the process the Assembly followed to decide how redistricting was to be done: Three members of the Assembly appointed themselves to serve as a sub-committee; these were, incidentally, all representatives of what are–and have been for 20 years–fully-represented areas of Anchorage. The sub-committee proceeded to meet, with no public announcements or input, starting in July. This sub-committee, which did not include a representative from District 1, decided that District 1 should continue in its currently under-represented status. The committee then provided less than two weeks’ notice before holding a public hearing about the process and the decision.
I disagree firmly with the sub-committee–not only with its process, but with the clear implication of its decision: frankly, District 1 voters ARE just as important as the city’s other voters, and to deny us full representation for 10 more years would be a travesty. It would be unjust and, I believe, unlawful.
I urge the entire Assembly to meet again, in the open and under the public eye, with sufficient prior announcement of the meeting, and to remedy this situation immediately. Every district in the city should take its turn with the burden of under-representation. If the other districts are unwilling to do so, then the Assembly should be restructured in some other way, either by dividing the city into an odd number of areas with only one representative apiece, or by allowing District 1 to have a second representative and finding some other way to prevent tied votes.
I wrote a big long post, but it got deleted, because WordPress’s stupid default “new post” feature is BAD and BROKEN, and I HATE IT. Not going to make that mistake again.
So just imagine that I’ve told you all about the snow (termination dust on Sept 6, snow on Oct 13, snow on the ground now and probably for months), the trouble with my car, the new doors we bought, Dale getting a PFD, our anniversary (we ate fancy dinner and saw “Looper”; also, he got a pretty ring made for me, with the diamond from his grandmother’s ring and two sapphires from a ring my dad gave my mom, back in the day—we kept his grandmother’s band, don’t worry), all the places in Alaska I want to visit, and how we’ll eventually post about the Sheldons & Brungards visiting, as soon as Dale gets finished with National Game Design Month and goes through the pictures.
Boy, I’m super cranky that that got deleted.
Anyway, sorry for not posting sooner—I wanted to post about the family visit, but the photos weren’t ready, so I kept putting it off. But maybe if I posted more often, it would be less bad if it got deleted.
I’ve had sort of a stressful two weeks. Actually, a bit longer, for the linked project, but even before that, this whole summer has been project after project after project after project. That’s just at work. At home it’s been … well, more stressing about the projects we’ve put off, I guess, than actually getting projects done. Remind me to post photos of our shed destruction, though! That was a project!
Like I said, stressful summer. I was beginning to get pretty spazzy, to be honest. So, even though we have a kit to build an 8′x10′ plastic shed in our yard, we opted to take the day off, to go to Seward. We haven’t been to the Alaska Sealife Center (ASLC) for far too long, especially considering how close it is! (Well, it’s less than a 3 hour drive…) It was a great call.
Last night, we drove down to Beluga Point, just because it was pretty. (OK, and I was antsy.) I love it when we catch sunset there!
Then we drove back north to home, slept, and drove back south, well past Beluga Point, to the ASLC. I got a glacier picture on the way down; it turned out pretty well, considering I couldn’t see the screen of the iPhone as I was taking it.
We got to see all of the usual suspects at the SeaLife Center, plus the baby walrus, cuddled up with an ASLC staff member in the I See You. But we didn’t really take photos, that much, this time. Except of puffins, of course. There was a very cute tufted puffin who clearly wanted some attention:
And a juvenile puffin who took a nap. Sort of. (In the one photo, you can see him peeking at the camera.)
The murres were particularly funny today, and a baby guillemot got pretty squawky, as well.
In more mammalian circles, Woody the sea lion wasn’t in his usual pool; two lady sea lions were in his place. And the harbor seal was hilarious, swimming right up to the glass and looking at people.
It was a pretty great visit! And then we had late lunch at the Smoke Shack (the restaurant in a converted Alaska Railroad car) and drove home to Anchorage. Definitely a nice day away from our responsibilities. Tomorrow: back to adulthood. (Well, and I’m making a terrarium at a friend’s house! :))
Dale’s mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and 9 month old niece are coming to stay with us in mid-September for a week and a half. This is, as you would guess, both exciting and overwhelming. The adults have varying interests, and with a baby and the number of people, we don’t know how mobile the whole group will be… so we’ve been making a list of all of the things we know of, to do in and around Anchorage, so they’ll have a chance to pick things they want to do ahead of time.
Check it out, and if you’re local, please tell us what we’re missing. If you’re not local, feel free to ask questions.
We’ve already had one visitor (my dad), and he didn’t get quite as long a list of possibilities, in part because we were newer to town and in part because we didn’t have quite as much time to get organized. Also, we might not have thought of it? I feel bad, like I really should have done this then. But he says he’s coming back, so at least we’ll be ready.
Anyway, we’re hoping this is a useful resource for them—and for anyone else who wants to come visit!
I went to the doctor two weeks ago, and she put me on a so-called “elimination diet,” where all of the common allergens are off-limits, and gave me a bunch of blood tests for different food sensitivities. (I’m jumping into this story part-way, to keep it short.) The test came back today. I can’t have gluten, dairy, or eggs, including duck eggs. This might be a for-now thing, or it might be a forever thing. Sometimes, with a gluten sensitivity, one develops other sensitivities, temporarily, until gluten is cut out for long enough. We’ll see.
Assuming this is a forever thing, I’m bummed, especially about the duck eggs. I mean, there are other down sides: I enjoy being able to go to restaurants, and that’s going to be tricky, with these three restrictions. (I was looking forward to eating pizza again. Guess not.) And most processed foods are off the menu, since most of them use some combination of egg, dairy, and gluten (seriously, if it isn’t marked “vegan” and “gluten free,” odds are I can’t have it). But I was really looking forward to raising ducks. For their eggs. Which we would eat. If I stay sensitive to duck eggs, that’s not going to work out so well.
Beyond the ducks, I’m still coming to terms with other consequences of this. I’m going to have to learn to cook in a very different way. I probably won’t send or receive baked goods anymore. (Gluten-free does NOT ship well.) A lot of my dietary staples will have to be replaced. On the whole, it’s not a huge thing, or it won’t be once I get a handle on it, and it’s not something I want to talk about at great length (this blog post is being written primarily in an attempt to prevent future awkwardness with friends and family, who I hope will see it and won’t be insulted by my weird eating habits). It’s just one of those things, like my cat and dog allergy, that I’ll learn to deal with. It’ll be OK.
Here’s a photo I took, in our kitchen, while I was cleaning all of the flour and gluten out. (By the way, if you’re local and want some flour, steel cut oats, or whatever… let me know.) That sunbeam is coming from the north. At 9:30pm:
It’s summer in Alaska, which means we’re all way overscheduled and trying to get more done, both at work and at home, than we possibly can.
We finally decided on a plan of action for the yard. Or, at least, that we should have a plan of action? We’re in the process of taking apart the shed (which is adorable, so it’s heartbreaking—but it’s also full of terrible mold that we’re both allergic to), to be replaced by a pre-fab shed from Lowes or Home Depot. We’re also taking down the chain-link fence, or maybe just part of the chain-link fence (so we can move the gate), and we’ll either build our own fence out of wood and chicken wire, or we’ll hire a professional to move the gate for us, or something. So, here’s our yard from this weekend (it isn’t wildly different now):
Like I said, we know we need a plan. And that’s half the battle. Or something.
Once we’re done with the Tour de Cure on Sunday, we’re taking off work for the first full week of June and starting our container garden, destroying the shed, putting up the new shed, and hauling things out of our yard. We’re getting rid of yard waste from our attempts (so far) to get the plant life under control, the dead canvas carport that didn’t survive winter winds and snows, the shed, the stuff from inside the shed (except for some cool doodads, which we’ll photograph soon), and so on. If we’re very fast, we’ll also have time to paint at least one of the rooms in the basement. Or maybe finish painting the kitchen, finally! It’s not the most vacationy of vacations, but it’ll be nice to have some of this stuff done!
Car stuff (and free stuff :))
We’ve also solved the car problem. A coworker of mine is moving out of state (which is a bummer; I like her), and she’s selling us her Honda CR-V for a bit below KBB value. It’s like a 10 year old car, with 100-some thousand miles on it—and not a pickup truck—but it has AWD, comes with both regular and studded tires, and is available for a good price, from someone I know took good care of it. I feel good about the purchase.
We won’t actually buy the car until the end of June or beginning of July—she kind of wants it for driving around Anchorage, before she leaves—but we’re pleased to have the decision made, anyway.
Another coworker gave Dale a telescope, which he’s pleased as punch to have. He’s trying to find or put together a sun filter for it, for the upcoming Transit of Venus. A third coworker gave us some delicious salmon and halibut from last year (all vacuum packed and flash frozen, so it’s in great shape).
So, in several respects, it’s been a pretty good season, so far. :)
Coral injured herself (minor)
I seem to have done something stupid to my foot. It’s almost as if I stomped really hard on something and then immediately forgot what would have to have been blinding pain, given the awful achy bruised feeling in the front of my heel. I’ve bruised the bottom of my foot before, but never so painfully—and I remembered what I had stepped on, to do it, in the past!
Someone on the internet is trying to convince me I have plantar fascitis. I hope they’re wrong, because that would make my plan to bike 15 miles on Sunday, in the Tour de Cure, a really stupid idea.
Also, you’re supposed to ice plantar fascitis, which I admit I haven’t tried. But heat makes my foot feel much, much better. So I find myself hopefully pessimistic about the accuracy of that internet diagnosis. :) I’ve got an appointment with a doctor next week, for other stuff, so if it’s acting up, I’ll talk to her about it.
That last one wasn’t big enough news for how rarely we blog, but it’s what’s on my mind.
The “wildlife” in the house is all doing fine. The birds are a little whiny and moody, probably from getting too many hours of light, but they’re happy enough. There have been several bird-baths, now that there’s less danger of drafts. And Ella Chinchilla is fuzzy and up to trouble, as you’d expect. She can fit under the door and out into the room full of books… and cords… and grown-up furniture, so Dale’s rigged up a solution involving a blanket and something heavy, to keep her where it’s safe (both for her AND for our stuff). It seems to work OK.
The outdoor wildlife is getting into the swing of summer. Baby moose are being born (none in our yard, but we see Facebook and Twitter photos of baby moose in friends’ yards now and then!). One of the bike/walking trails in town has warnings attached to it, because there are multiple angry moose mothers around; they’re very dangerous, this time of year. (No, the Tour won’t go through that area. At least not the 25k route.)
We also saw our first flotilla of ducklings over the weekend! They were itty-bitty, but there were 10 of them. More will no doubt be on the way, along with goslings and … baby swans? What are they called? We’re not actually sure where the pair of swans ended up, so we may not see their babies.
We no longer live a short walk from the beavers, so we haven’t been keeping an eye on them. I imagine they’re doing fine, though. :)
Aaand… that might be it for news. :)
We had our first firepit party of the summer, last Saturday. It wasn’t supposed to be an all-night thing, but we had so many fun people show up, and there was a lot of great conversation—several times, I found myself not sure which one to join, because several sounded interesting! So it went pretty late. I gave in to the cold air (and a meeting the next morning) around 12:30am, but Dale and a few other people were still in the yard. :)
And why, you might wonder, would we have a firepit party so early in the year, when it’s still a little cold, and one of us had a meeting the next morning? (There is snow in places. Nowhere in our yard, but you don’t have to go far to find it.)
Well, Dale mentioned, in the last post, that we had a party to raise funds for our Tour de Cure rides, and that it was successful. That was two weeks ago. But I’m not sure if we got across how awesome the folks who showed up really were. And, more relevant to the firepit party, how much beer they brought.
Seriously, for the fundraiser party, even though we were asking for a “cover” for entry, I think we ended the night with more beer in the house than we started with.
(Also, fewer people showed up than we thought would be there, but we raised more money than we had planned on, as well. People were incredibly generous! I was completely floored. ♥)
So we “had to” throw a second party, to get some of the beer out of our fridge. (As problems go, it’s a good one to have, right?!) We made a very strict “don’t bring beer” rule (one couple did, but it was to have something gluten-free to drink :)). So you know what people did? Brought millions of food!
People are sweet. :)
We did manage to cut down on the number of beers in the fridge, though I’m pretty sure we could throw a Cinco de Mayo firepit party and not run out entirely. (I think we’ll hold off until after it rains. The yard is a little too flammable, right now. Though, you know, we could be talked into spraying the yard down with a hose and hosting anyway, I suppose… I mean, hanging out with friends, burning wood, and drinking beer is a good Saturday night, in my opinion. :))
Anyway, both events were really delightful, and not in a pat-ourselves-on-the-backs-as-hosts kind of way: they were good because of the people who came. (Proof: the firepit party was way less effort to set up, but equally as fun, at least from my perspective, as the fundraiser party.) In both cases, I was happy to be surrounded by such excellent and admirable people, as Bilbo would say. :) I am floored by the kindness, warmth, humor, and generosity of the people we’ve come to know in our [not quite] three years up here. It makes the whole “drop everything and move across the continent for a job” plan seem a lot less crazy, in retrospect.
We had a bunch of friends over for a fundraiser-party, to benefit our Tour de Cure ride for diabetes research. To that end, we spend most of the previous week cleaning and decorating the basement. We raised over $300, and as a bonus, you get to see pictures of a fairly-clean house.