Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever, the ailment from which I am currently suffering.  Winter has lasted way too long this year.  We didn't take our annual trip to Hawaii to break up the cold and darkness of the long Alaskan winters, for which I am truly in a state of regret.  We are still under about two feet of snow, probably more in select spots of our yard.  Yes.  The sun has returned, but that doesn't make the cold leave.

I'm tired of going from the car to a building and back to the car and back to a building.  This routine is getting OLD!!!  I want to be outside, which yes if I bundle up I can be, but I HATE THE COLD.  I don't have any desire to be out in it, trudging through the snow, pretending I love winter.  Nope.  No Way.  Not at all.  I'm over it and ready for some summer!!!

I've had a number of people say getting a "happy" light helps.  Maybe it does, but it's no substitute for sitting on the porch sipping iced tea and listening to the birds.  Yep, I have white noise apps to simulate nature sounds.  Again I will point out this does not change the fact that I am OVER winter.

I want to enjoy our yard, sit on the porch, read in the hammock.  I want to grill and eat dinner at our picnic table.  Instead, I'm sitting in my studio, staring out the window at the field of white snow and sipping peppermint tea as I write this.  The sun is shining and the skies are blue, and it 16 degrees with a crisp wind.

I've been trying to busy myself with cleaning, cooking, writing, reading and the like, but it's barely taking the edge off.  I'm so ready to be outside enjoying my flip flops, listening to my windchimes, sitting in my lounge chair sipping wine and wandering around our yard. 

This past weekend we started our seeds for the garden, which gives me hope that Spring may eventually come, but this year it seems like it's taking its own damn time getting here. 

Is anyone else suffering with me or am I alone?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

On Living in Alaska

WARNING:  This could offend those that love living here.

We've lived here just over six years.  Do I love it here?  Nope.  Will I ever?  Nope.  Let me clarify, I don't hate it here, but I'm not staying for life.  I know there are millions of people watching reality tv shows, itching to live the "Alaskan Dream", but let me tell you there is a HUGE difference between dreaming about living it and actually doing it.

Since we've been here we've seen a lot of people move in and move out, less than a year later.  People up here tell stories about newcomers and those that can't hack it here.  There's the guy who sold his motorcycle because he heard there were no roads in the Interior.  There's the one about the couple who didn't realize it got so dark for so long here in the winter.  There's the wife that wouldn't move here because it's too far to do any "real" shopping.  And there's a zillion stories about the people who left because winter is just too cold.

The first thing I'm going to say is - GOOGLE IT!  With ever one of these stories I wonder if they even tried to find out about the state before they moved here.  Don't move to Alaska to live without doing any research.  No, I'm serious.  Ask before you move.  If you're moving for a job, like we did, ask about the area, the weather, how far it is to hospitals, movie theaters and shopping.  Learn about what's available in the area you'll be living in.

The second thing I'm going to say is - Don't move if you don't adapt well.  Yep.  If you aren't good at adapting to new environments, this isn't the state for you.  There are companies that don't ship here, there are things you won't find here and depending on your location you could be 100 or more miles from the "town", "town" being the closest big city for shopping and such.

We moved for a job.  Plain and simple.  If or when the job ends, we'll move again.  As we always say - we didn't drink the kool-aid.  Alaska is beautiful, but it's also hard.  The winters are long, dark and usually pretty damn cold.  The summers are short, with 24 hours of light, and depending on the season they are either smokey or wet.

We've seen -50 since we've lived here.  Only once and not for a very long stint, but it happened.  We drive 100 miles to the nearest airport and the closest Wal-mart.  We own two snow blowers and plug our cars in about 8 months out of the year.  We've learned to tolerate the moose that eat our garden and hold us and our dogs hostage in the house while they graze on our trees.

Everyone has a battle story of how they moved here.  Ours takes place in February, includes a trip on the ferry and a one day drive through Canada, a stay in a place called Border City, into a town that doesn't rent hotel rooms to people with pets.

I love living in our small town, but I look forward to the day that we wave goodbye and drive out of here.  I've lived over half my life in states where the winter is way too long, the summers are way too short and there really aren't any other seasons.

As I write this it -6 and March is nearly over!  Yes, it's below zero on the morning I am writing this post.  It will warm up today, most likely to somewhere about freezing.  This does not change the fact that March is nearly over and there is very little sign of Spring.  Our yard still has about a two-foot blanket of white snow on it.

Alaska is a state built for the hearty at heart and strong-willed, the rugged individual determined to make it in any environment.  If you love the outdoors, hiking, fishing, snow-machining, 4-wheeling, wildlife and isolation than the Interior of Alaska could be a perfect fit for you.  As for me, I want a place that has 4 seasons, with short mild winters.  Goals...we all need life goals.

I'm glad we took the chance and moved here for the job.  We've made amazing memories and some amazing friends.  So I'll keep living here, adapting and making it work until we find out next adventure...the way things currently stand we have about another seven years, that's when hubby retires and we take the next step in our amazing life that we're building.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The House That Isn't There

by Stacy Petersen
(written 23 July 2008)

From the street,
Three steps climb a small hillside,
To a yard that is still mowed.

The frail driveway,
Worn by weather and time,
Guides the way,
To a garage,
Rundown with neglect.

Yet there is no house,
That a family would have shared.
No path to a front door,
That could have been.  
Not even a foundation, 
To reflect where the home stood.

Where did it go,
The house that isn't there?
Lost to flames,
Claimed by a bulldozer's angry rage,
Or was it the victim of a dream gone awry?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

On Recipe Storage

I'm a recipe hoarder, or as I like to say, collector.  Collector sounds so much better than hoarder don't you think?  Regardless, of hoarding or collecting, I've spent all of my adult life searching for the perfect way to organize and store my stash.

I started with index cards and a small file box, which I quickly outgrew once I was married.  I moved into card file boxes, organized by type and separated into "tried" and "to be tried" boxes.  If you're new to here then you might not know I used to write a food blog, but that was in another life.  No, don't leave and go Google it.  It's gone.  I deleted it.  Anywho...from two long card file boxes, I moved into binders, which I still use today.  However, those binders don't even come close to holding it all.  I still have stuff all over the place.

Several years ago I bought some recipe software.  I was going to get organized and put all my recipes into it.  Fast forward 10 years and here we are with binders and software, some overlap in both.  In the midst of this came the advent of Pinterest.  Yep, you guessed it, there are recipes pinned on Pinterest, most of which I never revisit after pinning.  I also have a few handfuls of recipes on Google drive, from making recipes printable for the old blog.  Some of these are printed and in the binders, but many of them are just trapped in Google drive forgotten and alone. 

Then there are the notebooks I scratch ingredient lists into with one or two cryptic lines of text that are supposed to be directions for a repeat of the creation.  No one else can decipher these recipes, but they're on the list of "someday I'll get them written out for other people to use".  Who knows when that will happen. 

We haven't even talked about the cookbook collection that is hiding in my cupboards.  Yes.  Dozens of them, which I keep saying I'm going to sort and purge (insert wicked laughing here).  I have this problem, I love to read cookbooks like novels, but rarely do I make any of the dishes.  Some cookbooks I keep solely for one or two recipes.   

I need to get all of these darn things into one working format, which I really think the most functional form is the binders.  Binders aren't pretty, but they are functional.  We've talked about going digital, but who has the time to find the right way to do that and get it all into one digital keeper?  Besides, I'm a messy cook and it's much easier to wipe off a recipe in a sheet protector than it is to wipe off a digital device.

Do you suffer from this affliction?  How do you corral your recipes into a manageable form?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On Writing More

What exactly does that look like?  I'll be honest, I don't know.  For now possibly just more posting here.  Perhaps writing something to submit somewhere later on.  Feasibly some more short essay-style pieces.  If I'm truly honest, I don't know how long this desire will last.

I've craved and reveled in writing since I was young.  I wrote stories on my electric typewriter in Junior High.  Later in High School, I took both a short story and a poetry class, neither of which ended up being what I imagined they would be.  I've submitted a few pieces to short story contests, but that never went anywhere.  Looking back, I'm sure it was because I was writing high school quality work to send into a magazine with adults submitting a much higher level of work to the same competitions.

Later in my adult life, when we lived in Missouri, I was part of a writing group for a very short amount of time.  Just as I was starting to get back into writing, I got a much-needed job.  Said job and writing group weren't compatible.  Getting paid outweighed the creative endeavor.  I also started a food blog while we live there.  I wrote for several years and even morphed into a creative blog before closing and deleting it.  Why delete?  Because I was done with it and when I'm done I'm done.

Fast forward to today, well here we are, listening to me talk about wanting to write more.  I still don't know what that really means or what that will really look like.  I've continually been drawn to creative writing.  I have a stash of poetry that's never been made public, most of which was written in my late teens and early 20's.  I have a few incomplete prose and essays from our time in Missouri, little to nothing form our time in Texas and a few bits from living in Alaska.

Along with creative writing, I enjoy sharing what I know.  This blog space is a place for me to do a bit of everything.  I started blogging again as a way to air out my personal thoughts and share my views of the world.  I've created some categories and I've written some posts, but now I'm starting to see other possibilities and opportunities for me to grow and develop my writing.

Last week I posted this photo on Instagram and included the following caption...

"You’re never too old to start something new or to grow into the person you wish you were. Never stop learning and never let fear control your path."

The question running through my head right now is do I really believe that?  Yes, inner critic, I really do.  I'm trying to put my fear aside and will need to use a little duct tape to shut the mouth of my inner critic and then we'll be on our way.

I love this idea from Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic -

"Dearest Fear:  Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together.  I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do.  I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously." 

She goes on to say that Fear can come on the trip, there is plenty of room in the car.  That fear can also have a voice but not a vote and she ends the section with -

"above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive."

What does this have to do with writing more?  To be honest, writing more for me is putting my fear in the back seat and telling it to shut up!  I'm always in fear of what others are thinking when I'm talking and sharing my ideas, thoughts, and insight.  I need to remind myself that writing in this space is a safe space, I'm in control and fear needs to sit this one out.  For me, fear and my inner critic are conjoined twins that egg each other on.

I'll leave you with this visual -  Creativity and I are going to be partners in crime, we'll be getting in our panel van and Fear and the Inner Critic will be bound and gagged in the back.  Yes.  Perhaps I do listen to too many True Crime podcasts, but that's a story for another day.

Monday, March 19, 2018

100 Days of Photos - Week 4 - The End

I can hear my friend Amy calling me a rebel as I write this.  I really can't make myself do anything that doesn't make my heart sing.  I made is 24 days into a 100-day project.  Let me just point out that I need to stop trying these things.  I NEVER complete any of them.  I didn't complete Inktober a couple of years ago.  I failed at the 30-day color challenge... and now this.  I must stop!  So here they are the last few shots that took us to day 24.

Day 21:
Selfie, no makeup, and messy hair.

Day 22:
Kitten paw.

Day 23:
Lemon Kitty.

Day 24:
Dinner.  Eating my stress with mac n cheese and fries with a glass of red wine.

The End.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

On Being a Pet Momma

Let's get one thing out in the open, right up front.  I have four children.  No, I did not give birth to them.  No, they are not human.  They are children none the less.

We currently have four girls, two dogs and two cats.  We talk to them like they are human and treat them better than some people treat children.  The sleep in our bed, they get on the couch, they make us crazy.  We buy them treats, toys and even clothing when needed.  I worry about them as if they are children when we leave them with a sitter for the weekend.

Our youngest has bad manners and is headstrong.  She loves to "taste" everyone who comes to the door.  No biting, just a bit of doggie mouthing and gumming.  She gets very excited when people come and she loves to talk.  She's the Houdini of the group.  Can get out of most anything that she finds confining.  She loves treats, being free and sleeps on her back under our bed at night.  Hedy is a mixed breed rescue dog, part husky, chow and rottweiler.  She's a bit misunderstood and is totally a momma's girl.

The "baby" of the family loves treats and belly rubs.  She's sweet and loves her daddy.  Snores like a hibernating bear and will do anything to go bye-bye in the car.  Thinks she's tough, but only from the confines of the house or the front porch.  Loud noises make her run for the bunker, aka the downstairs tub.  Matilda is a Toy Aussie, also a bit of a rescue dog.  She's the princess of the house.

The one with the most energy in the house will also come running when the treat drawer is opened.  She steals things small things like buttons and coins off of the counters in the night.  She loves to sleep under the covers and hide in the closest when we're gone for long periods of time.  Lemon came to live with us when some of our family needed to give her up.  She's a tiny calico full of playfulness.

Our oldest is a crabby girl, most people call her mean kitty, including me.  She was a pound baby.  I've had her since she was tiny.  She's 17 now.  All black and full of sass.  She screams at everyone and would prefer it if we left the faucet in the tub on for her drinking needs.  She hisses, and occasionally swipes, at anyone that doesn't live here. Ashes is an unknown bread, but full of attitude. 

Anyone that comes to visit expecting our pets to behave like well-trained animals will always leave a little shocked.  I tell anyone who stays overnight, or for any length of time, to shut their door at night if they don't want an unexpected bed partner or two.  Yes, they beg and yes, they do get table scraps.  They are spoiled, ill-mannered and full of love.  If you visit, expect to leave covered in hair and maybe even a little dog slobber.  They are our children, they live here, you do not.