Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Weekend in Snow

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I enjoyed my long weekend thoroughly and immersed myself in snow as often as I could. We got dumped on! And after last year's disappointing no-show of snow, this has been a blessing beyond measure. At least to me, and my family. There are definitely a lot of folks in this town cursing the white stuff right now, and adding not-so-happy comments to my snow-friendly Facebook statuses. LOL. Oh well! That's what you get for living in Montana! I don't even mind shoveling I'm so thankful that the flakes are falling! I've worked out a system anyway: When the snow falls, and I go skiing, I shovel the walk while my sis loads the truck full of ski gear. (I hate loading the truck.) Works out great! I spent some time on Friday (after resting from shopping) outside of town in some good cross-country terrain. Now, my sis and I don't have cross-country skis, but I have AT skis and she has a split snowboard so it still works. If you don't know what these are, here it is in a nutshell: AT skis are similar to cross-country skis because you can release the heel of your boot. You slap on some fuzzy "skins" the bottom of them and you can now ski uphill! Works pretty cool. I use them to access back-country snow where there aren't any ski lifts. My sister's split board is a snowboard with a seam down the middle. It actually comes apart! She then has skis like mine and has skins too.

Our gear for "cross country" skiing.

So off we went "shushing" as she says all over the snowy hills and valleys near my town. Then, after climbing a sizable hill we whipped off the skins and skied back down. My first turns of the winter! Wahoo! It was a great day to be outside!

My sister on our way up the hill in the backcountry

More snow fell over the weekend so we headed up to an established ski area on Sunday. Felt good to have a lift to use this time. LOL. We skied all day until we broke for a beer midway. After legs got tired from the slopes we hopped back in the car for a dark drive home. So many Christmas lights along the highway! It was a very festive end to the weekend. Hopefully the snow keeps falling here and we can all head back out to the slopes this coming weekend. Fingers crossed! :D
Lookin' like a ninja in my ski gear! :)

Stay tuned! I received an awesome giveaway in the mail from Chile! I can't wait to show you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Success!

Yep, I love being one of those crazy shoppers out in the wee hours, the morning after Thanksgiving. (I'm not too crazy though, I don't get to the stores at midnight!) Instead, my mom and I head out on the road at 4am. I sit in my kitchen, quiet as not to wake my sister, and sip coffee. Then I see my mom's headlights round the corner and I bounce out to the car. Jacked on caffeine we crank Christmas music on the radio and head to our first stop (most often, Shopko). We waited in the store vestibule till 5 this morning and then gleefully shopped with the masses. Thankfully there wasn't anything we really needed this year, so we could take 'er easy and not rush. After Shopko we grabbed coffee and snacks at our friendly nearby Starbucks and headed on to Target, then Michaels, then Old Navy, Ace Hardware and lastly the mall. Busy busy! We kept it simple this year and didn't purchase much. I ended up with some new fleece pants, scrapbook supplies, earrings, a movie and a gift for my sis. Fun! After I was dropped back off at about 8am I hit the hay once more for a good long winter nap. :) Now I'm refreshed and on to the next big thing: starting the Christmas decorating! This year it starts with moving all the living room furniture around. Time to put the fireplace in center stage and make room for the tree to go up. Lots of dust bunnies (who am I kidding, dust semi-trucks!) vacuumed and the floor is mopped. All the Thanksgiving is tucked away in a box and I am staring at a blank canvas for all my December decor. I can't wait! :D

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

One of my favorite holidays, and the kick off to my official holiday season! I awoke today to big fluffy snow falling and a warm house. I am thankful for both! I cuddled the cat and put on a pot of coffee while we waited for the parade to come on. Watching the parade has always been a tradition, and what generally goes with it are Pillsbury orange rolls. (Cinnamon rolls with orange-flavored icing) Unfortunately this year, I had no time to go buy a tube of them. Oh well! What's Thanksgiving minus one tradition? Kinda sad actually...but then I got a text from my Mom. My father was on his way to my house. Why? I went outside to greet him as he handed me....a tube of Pillsbury orange rolls! No way! :) So after a hug and a wave I got to preheating the oven, and am now enjoying the parade with a tummy full of orange flavored icing. Mmm! What a great surprise! The rest of the day will include some cross-country skiing and then piling in the truck to go to the parent's house for food and fun. There will be turkey and all the trimmings, a stack of ads for tomorrow's Black Friday, and an evening of board games with the family. Cool! I hope you all have a wonderful day enjoying your own traditions!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being Productive when it's -11

Snow outside from my window in the hotel.
Brrr! The days have continued to get colder, the longer I've been up in Alaska. The snow is still falling lightly too. After my exciting Sunday, things have toned themselves down a bit. I've been able to do what I actually came up here to do: work. I met with a list of contacts and all parties were interested in helping my group recruit more subjects. Hurray! Here's hopin'! I also was interviewed for a news segment that will air in a week. That will hopefully bring some recruits in too! I've been working with our newest employee stationed up here, getting her all ready to go for the rest of the winter. She definitely knows her stuff! So, I'm feeling pretty productive here so far. I also had time to wander around in the snow a little, make a snow angel, shop for souvenirs and tiddle around town in all this white!
Playing in the park amongst all the snow!
I went to North Pole, Alaska and met Santa Claus too! The town of North Pole is like any other small town, except that all the streets have Christmas themed names and the street light poles look like candy canes. There's a place called the Santa Claus House there and that's where Santa can be found 365 days a year. He was a pretty nice guy and knew a few people who are doing graduate work at my University back home. Go figure! Let's hope that means Montana gets extra presents this year. :)
Where Santa sits (when he's not going on lunch!) :)
Earlier this week I met a musher who works across the street from my hotel. She told me about the dogs a little and the 1000 mile race she's run. I'm really getting into this dog sled stuff! I've had time to try out a local watering hole and have gotten really good at navigating the streets too. I'm getting used to this new town. I could actually see myself living here someday. But, alas, I head south tomorrow. It has been a hoot the whole while though! And by the sounds of it the cold weather will be following me home, and bringing snow with it. Hurray! Off I go to hike a little, work a little, and of course shop a little. Then it's time to start stuffing everything into the suitcase again. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Little Too Much Excitement up North

A branch of the Chena River at Chena Hot Springs
Fairbanks, AK
I am still up surviving the snow and cold in Alaska. Yesterday proved to be a bit trying however. In my searches for things to do, I came across a resort that offered dog sled rides! Well, that's not something you stumble upon in Montana very often so I jumped at it. It meant an hour and a half drive out of Fairbanks however. I was under the impression they would take care of their roads like we take care of ours back home. Cities are always a little rough, but the highways are fine. So off I went, heading east toward fun and snow. Well, after about 45 minutes my road conditions got worse and for the rest of the trip I would have an internal battle with myself "should I turn around? No, you've already made it this far. But what if the road gets worse? You'll be there soon, keep going..." Well, I did make it to the resort, but it was a very tense trip. (It may be useful to mention that I only have 2-wheel drive. I'm used to driving in MT, but generally in a better car!) The resort was situated over some hot springs and was a rather odd establishment. Not the fancy resort I expected, more like something you'd find in back-woods...Montana. LOL. The folks were nice though and hooked me up with a dog sled appointment at 1pm. I bought a few souvenirs and then went and hung out in the warm car. After gloves, hat, snow pants and coat were on I trudged to the dog kennel site. This is basically a big field dotted with little green boxes (dog houses). As I walked up they all came out of their houses and started barking. There were so many of them! They sure sounded angry but what I learned was that they were only excited. They wanted to run! The dog handlers showed up shortly after I got there and the dogs went really insane. They told me I was the first guest of the season to take a ride! Yay! They asked if I had seen any dogs I'd like on the team. I pointed at a black and white one that had been staring at me, silent, since I got there. "Oh, that's Mao! He's a good dog!" They built the team around Mao with a total of six pups. They were rearing to go! I got in the sled, covered in furs, and off we went with the driver behind me! What an experience! It was so much fun! I can't imagine some of the professionals who use 25 dogs on a sled! I got to pet all the dogs at the end and they were so friendly and sweet. This is what they live for! Click HERE for a short video I took of being in the sled!

Me and my sled dog team. Mao is in the very back.

Feeling happy and up I headed back to the car. The sun would go down at 3:30 so I wanted back on the road. The drive home was easier because I knew how long it would take, and what the road would be like. I felt pretty confident on the return trip. But then it got ugly. Only a couple minutes from Fairbanks, I missed my left turn into the city. No biggy, right? I would just go down this street, stop, and take a left to turn around. That was the plan, but not what happened. As I came down the hill to the stop sign I tried to brake. Nothing. Brake brake brake. Nothing nothing nothing. I realized very quickly that I wasn't going to stop, and I wasn't going to turn. I looked ahead of me and could hardly take in the scene. I was heading toward a street where you had to take a left, or a right. I chose neither. Instead I screamed "Shit! Oh Jesus!" and flew over the embankment...into some poor guy's yard. At the bottom, I realized I was alive. Yay! No airbag deployment. Yay! I got out, shaky, and a car above me asked if I was OK. I turned toward the house and a rather tired looking man on the porch put out his cigarette and said he'd get his coat. I was the third car to do that to him today! He had put big logs at the bottom of the embankment, and that's what eventually stopped my car. I broke one in half! As I stood there waiting for his help, a young girl (probably 16) came running out of the house next door. She hugged me and got her mom. It ended up being five of us out there, removing the log, moving the car, and driving it out of the yard. Everyone hugged and laughed and I joked about my "grand entrance." I apologized for all the dirt I moved around and they just smiled and waved me on. I got stuck once more before I was back on the road, but then the 16 year old led me to my hotel by driving in front (she wanted to make sure I didn't get lost or stuck). I hugged her again back at the hotel and thanked her over and over. What nice people to crash in front of! I owe a lot of sanity to these people. Now it's time to head back to the rental car folks and explain what happened...wish me luck? There was a wee bit o' front end damage...the irony? This rental car has a sticker on it that says "new vehicle." Not so shiny and new, now is it? Oops!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Greetings from Frozen Fairbanks!

Hello! My car is presently plugged in outside, a shiny white Malibu, nestled in the snow. I am presently putting my feet up, sipping coffee and waiting for a pizza. The temperature is currently 18 degrees, and the snow keeps coming. I don't mind a bit, gazing at it from my window high in my lovely hotel. What a place! They're all suites, so I have a sofa and all that too. It will be a very nice week. The sweet lady at the car rental desk today handed me keys and told me that my car may be slightly buried...and it isn't 4-wheel drive, and it needs to be plugged in...She seemed nervous. I told her I was from Montana. She laughed and said "Good! I get worried when we end up with folks from Texas or something that don't know how to drive in snow!" I unburied the car, loaded it full of three suitcases and headed to my new "home base." I was completely starved so I have ordered a pizza and will order a movie to go with it shortly. My trip has been good so far. The flights were nice, though the middle one was long. My seat mates were very kind, however, and I got a window to watch the mountains come in to view. As I flew out of Montana this morning, it was still dark and all the little lights below looked as though the valley was dressed in Christmas Lights. We rose above the clouds and were greeted soon by sun. Sun on a lumpy blanket of clouds that looked like a sheet of marshmallows. (I'm making myself hungry!) In Seattle, during my three hour lay-over, I met the sweetest waitress at Chili's in the airport. We chatted for awhile, before I was full up on toast, eggs and coffee. In Anchorage we had to wait for the airport staff to clear away all the slush that was blocking our plane from its gate. In Fairbanks? We taxied over snow that I didn't think planes could drive through. It has been a pleasant, albeit tiring day. After dinner comes sleep and after sleep comes a day all to myself in this white wonderland up North. What shall I do? Chena Hot Springs to soak or take a dog sled ride? North Pole, Alaska, where I can meet Santa and stroll the Christmas themed streets? Or maybe take in an IMAX film or do some shopping? (I could really use some better winter boots...) I'll figure out all those very difficult questions, later. For now it's back to relaxing. Ahhhh. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Photo Challenge: Pattern

What a crazy week this has been! After the conference last week, I spent all of this week getting ready for a business trip to Alaska. It has been crazy! Hopefully I can blog next week from up North though! Today is Friday, so that means it's another photo challenge day at RAZMATAZ! This week's theme was Pattern. I chose to photograph a picture I already had printed, in the same frame as one of my favorite hats. Why? The hat is from Peru and was purchased from an indigenous woman who wove it out of Alpaca. I love the simple pattern and color choice. The photograph was taken in Peru as well, in one of our hostels at the end of the trip. I had purchased these very silly, and very patterned, pink pants from another local artisan. It was the only clean laundry I had! It was hilarious wearing them home on the plane. Also in the photo: my mountaineering bag stuffed with souvenirs and two very tired feet. :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Friend's Wonderful News!

I found out today that my best friend is gonna have a baby! Hurray! And that means I will be an Aunt! I couldn't be more excited. It makes my eyes tear up I'm so happy! I now get to shop the baby section at the Patagonia Outlet sales, I get to daydream in the baby aisles of Target and I get to watch this dear lady go through this amazing adventure. I can't wait! All the fun shopping, all the fun preps for the baby's arrival, and then the little bundle of joy that I get to call niece or nephew and love forever. My friend wasn't sure if she would naturally be able to get pregnant, and then POOF, it happened. It is still such a shock and feels so surreal. It's funny how life works, isn't it? Ya just don't know what's around the next bend. Here's to June and the arrival of this little miracle. :) And cheers to two future parents who will give this child a beautiful life!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photo Challenge: Shadow

Hello folks! I'm a little late today! I haven't been blogging this week because it was the week of our big environmental conference that I helped plan. Busy busy busy! I've been running around for 4 days in heels and I am elated to be home and off my feet, FINALLY! I'll write more about the event later on. For today, here is this week's Photo Challenge theme from RAZMATAZ: Shadow.

This photo is one I took inside my dad's Cobra a few weeks ago. He took me out for a cruise down one of our windy highways, amongst all the Fall colors. While I was grinning and laughing, my hair was having a hard time staying on my head. I must have looked hilarious! I had to be very careful not to drop my camera phone out of the car when I took this pic! :) (And trust me, it took FOREVER to get a comb through the mess that I was left with!) Definitely worth it though! :)

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