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.

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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:

Yard stuff

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.

Wildlife

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.

Dale and I are looking into getting a second vehicle*. We’re tearing down an old moldy shed and an outdoor set of stairs, this summer, and we’re doing work on the house, and we’re still in Furniture Acquisition Mode, so one thought is a [small!] pickup truck with 4-wheel drive. On the other hand, gas is $4.50 a gallon and probably not going down soon, so the other thought is “something fuel efficient.” (There’s not anything fuel efficient with 4WD/AWD, so that’s a down side. Recall that Alaska doesn’t believe in plowing down to pavement in winter. And, although the biggest hills are avoidable, it turns out we need 4WD to pull into our driveway from our unplowed alley.)

I’ve always loved little pickup trucks—you know, like Nissan and Toyota used to make—and we’d actually use its hauling capabilities, at least until our house is closer to done**. So I guess I’m leaning that way, a bit. I don’t know if you can buy pickup trucks that tiny, new. I also know that, if you want 4WD, your pickup truck options are a bit limited.

This is where, if you have advice for us, we’d love to hear it. New/Used, specific dealers to try/avoid, whatever. So… thoughts?

*We work in opposite directions from where we live. Normally, it’s not a big deal: one of us drops the other off (which wastes gas and time, but not a whole bunch of either). But he had an 8am meeting and an 8:30am-but-far-away meeting, last week, with more of them coming up soon, and there was no way he was going to get me to work in time to make those meetings; I also work Wednesday nights, which means I go in after lunch on Wednesdays. Which is fine, as long as he can leave work part-way through the day (we eat lunch together); sometimes he has 1pm meetings, which means I’m at work earlier than I want to be and he’s rushed to get back. Also, his work is going to move onto Base, before too long, which is going to limit his ability to leave part-way through the day. I can bus, but it only runs once per hour, and I’m unwilling to take the bus (which is full of sick people all winter) when I’m fighting bronchitis, which feels constant, lately. In the summer, I can bike, but I don’t have the skills, the gear, or the constitution to do that in winter.

**Projects: tearing down the shed (that moldy stuff is NOT going in the back of the Subaru, or any enclosed vehicle), buying or building a new shed in a different part of the yard, tearing down the back stairs, tearing down the front stairs, bringing replacement materials for the stairs home, replacing the gutters, bringing materials home to build a duck house and duck fence, tearing out and replacing the white picket fence, framing and putting up “pink board” in the basement (for insulation), putting up drywall in the basement, bringing home furniture, and various gardening/tree-planting/tree-removing shenanigans.

We decided to throw a party/poker night, to help raise funds for Tour de Cure (if you’re willing to donate, we’d be really grateful! every little bit helps! here are our pages: mine, Dale’s). As part of that, because we invited a whole bunch of people, we are also trying to get our basement in tip-top shape, to make it an inviting hang-out space. (Added bonus of this basement plan, besides more welcoming spaces in our house, which is a reward in and of itself: assuming we actually have 6-7 visitors at once, this summer, as is the plan, it’ll be a comfortable space for someone to sleep.) I’ve been sanding and painting the sheetrock walls, and Dale’s been taking down wobbly wooden shelves. We’ve been sorting and throwing out (both things we moved in with and things we “inherited” with the house) and generally adding to the awesome quotient of the main room of the basement. It needs another couch and some seriously labor-intensive painting (concrete walls), neither of which we’ll manage before the party (unless something awesome happens), but it’s getting a lot nicer!

That’s not what the photo is, of course. That’s a photo of our living room, which I just thought I’d share, because it’s cozy. Notice the lovely quilt our friend Mary made for us! And the Actual Grownup Furniture! And Angry Birds. ;)

I know we were supposed to share more photos of our house, before, but we keep not taking pictures when it’s clean and then remembering when it’s a mess again. Which means I probably won’t have before/after pictures of the basement to share, either. I apologize for that.

Anyway, I’m pretty delighted with the effects of the paint job in the basement, so far. I think I’m going to try to hang fabric over the cement block walls, to make the whole place a little more welcoming, in the short term. It might end up looking weird, but everybody who is coming over has met me, so that’s OK. ;) Long term, I’ll seal, prime, and paint them, but I did the math, and there’s just no way before the party. (Both time-math and also ventilation-math. It’s too cold out to throw open windows, just yet, and sealant and Killz are both stinky.)

We also think we’re buying carpet squares to make the floor less, you know, hard and cold. What I’ll do is lay a set of squares along the external walls, but without exposing the stick-um, and then I’ll lay down the rest of the squares (with stick-um exposed), then pick up the ones from around the edges. That way, the sealing and priming and painting can be done a little more painlessly—that is, without ruining the outer squares—when it warms up a bit.

We’ll get photos. :)

(I’ll follow this up with a happier post, probably also tonight.)

Sometimes, Anchorage is a tough place to live. (It’s probably time for my yearly complaining-about-April-snow post, but this isn’t it.) We had a ballot proposition, to afford the same protections given for race, gender, physical disability, etc., to GLBT people. It seems to have failed. Pretty badly. (60/40, though there were several “electoral anomalies,” such as certain polling places running out of ballots, some anti-equality folks showing up and casting ballots that haven’t yet been counted and will eventually be thrown out [but they were ballots that people who were actually registered could have used], and so on.) They haven’t counted the absentee ballots yet, so there’s a chance it’ll still make it through, but it’s not looking good.

The upshot: in Anchorage, it is legal, still, for businesses of any size to fire someone for being gay, lesbian, or transgender. It’s legal to kick someone out of their apartment for the same. (An important note: churches, small businesses, and individual landlords [as opposed to property management companies] were still going to be allowed to discriminate, just as they are allowed to discriminate based on gender or disability, now.)

I’m not moving to Canada, or anything like that, but I’m still angry and dispirited and … antsy. I want things to change for the better. I’m not feeling particularly at risk or victimized, myself: first off, my workplace has voluntarily adopted a non-discrimination policy. Second, I’m married, to a guy, so nobody will actually believe I am anything other than straight. (People are funny.) My orientation has never been a big part of how I define myself, for whatever reason, and so I don’t find myself personally affected by this, though I feel like I should, somehow. But I’m still really upset: we have a pretty great GLBT community, here, many of whom are my friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I cannot fathom that these people aren’t seen as equal citizens by such a large percentage of the Anchorage voting population.

It upsets me that people showed up at the polling place and said, “No, I don’t want my right to discriminate against people trampled.”

Weird: all the bonds passed. So fiscal liberalism won the day, at the same time as social conservatism did.
Weird: the Municipal Clerk was supposed to supply each polling station with enough ballots for 70% of the voters registered there. We had 20-some percent voter turnout, a pretty normal number, but a bunch of stations ran out. It’s not clear that there were enough of these unregistered voters to account for that discrepancy.
Weird: poll numbers ahead of time were very, very different from the outcome, on this proposition—more different than is usual for such things.

I might be worrying prematurely. Maybe the election will be redone altogether, because so many people were turned away from the polls. Maybe a ton of proposition supporters voted absentee. It’s hard to know. But it’s one of the things you should know about Alaska, that this kind of nonsense happens here, I guess, so that’s why I’m writing about it.