Monday, December 24, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS (eve)!!!!!!!!!!!

To us, it's Christmas, so please forgive us being a little early! (Though, now that it's taken me so long to get this blog done, it's officially Christmas on the east coast!)

Jason volunteered for Christmas duty since we're a kidless family, so we pushed our Christmas celebration up a day, and just pretended that today was Christmas. I have to say, it felt like it!!!

After a lovely 7:47am call from my Mom (yes, Mom, I checked... 7:47), and then a follow-up 8:15am call from Ryan, we gave up on going back to sleep and rolled out of bed. (Note to everyone - it is four hours earlier here than it is on the east coast!!!!) While I was making myself presentable for pictures, Jason yelled upstairs to look outside if I felt like I needed a little Christmas spirit. We got probably about 5 inches of snow overnight last night!! Unfortunately, it quickly turned into rain, but has since switched back to snow. Apparently, Kodiak Island is under a blizzard warning for today and tomorrow, with snow and wind gusting to 80mph at times! We had plans to head out to the base for a party this evening, but the drive around "Deadman's Curve" (I'm not kidding, that's what it's called!) in the dark seemed like more than we needed to risk just for a little bit of fun! Instead, luckily, our friends Melissa and Aaron (who live in walking distance!) planned a last minute party, so we'll be heading over there in a few minutes (and, again, since it took me so long to get this done, we're actually back from the party!). We won't be walking, though, since this is about what it looks like out there!

Actually, now that I look at this picture again, that's GOOD compared to what it's like out now!!! YIKES! Church 5 hours from now could be interesting!!!!!

So, as I said, we got up a little after 8 this morning, and got ourselves all set for our "Christmas" morning. We feel very blessed in that our tree looked as though we had never sent any gifts out to family - there was all kinds of stuff under there!!! Jason and I probably went a little overboard on each other, too... but the new budget starts next week, so next Christmas probably won't be like that. I'm excited because my big gift was a macro lense for my camera - a lense specifically meant for taking VERY close up pictures. Since that's my favorite anyway, I think I'll be getting a LOT of use out of that! Jason's big gift was the starter kit for his own home beer kegging system. He had a hunch that's what he was getting, but I assured him that "over my dead body" would I allow an ugly college-kid kegerator in my house!!! With the right self-made cabinetry (right, Jim?!), though, it won't look like a college set-up, and will be a nice upgrade to his brewing hobby. He's excited to not have to bottle anymore (which takes more time, and makes you have to wait longer for the beer as it carbonates in the bottle), and I'm excited at the prospect of a regular supply of blackberry wheat on tap! I'd post a picture of Jason opening the box with the supplies in it, but all the pics I took make it look like I was trying to blur the individual to protect the innocent or something, so we'll skip those! Instead, here's a sample shot of a couple of gifts from Maryanne and Jim. Unfortunately, we have no pics of us opening gifts from Mom and Dad, because we were actually chatting with Mom on the speakphone as we opened! So, here's Jason with his new bear beer tap, and me with a fabulous down vest!!

Although we got Fred a couple new toys for the big day, he, of course, was more interested in the wrapping paper. He was so interested, in fact, that he would stare at us as we unwrapped, waiting for us to ball up the paper and throw it into the pile for him! Eventually, he just buried himself in the giant pile, and rooted around for a while. Somewhere in that pile are four very nice new toys, complete with rope, felt and stuffing, suitable for dogs. Note that there is actually a piece of wrapping paper IN Fred's mouth in this shot. Yep, sure am glad I spent that money on the toys. Jason said we shouldn't bother, but I didn't listen!!

The cool thing about having Christmas a day early was that it wasn't actually a holiday, so the post office was still open. That came in handy when some last minute gifts came in from Maryanne and Jim. Of course, we missed the second package slip in the mail (they don't deliver packages bigger than a mailbox here... we have to go get them), so Jason made two trips to the post office in our winter wonderland. I just had to share a shot of his first run - I made him go before he had the chance to put real clothes on or anything. Sadly, he fit right in without anyone batting an eye in this get up!

Doesn't he look Kodiak fabulous?!!? And, for those with a keen eye, you'll see that he's sporting his XtraTuffs, which I referenced in our Christmas party post. XtraTuffs are fully accepted as everyday wear here in Kodiak... just not as formal wear. On a day like today, they're almost necessary!

Speaking of referencing old blog entries - I had to share the contrast of our giant Thanksgiving dinner with the Koehlers to our intimate Christmas late lunch by ourselves. Jason decided on steaks, which he was probably regretting when he saw the weather out there today, but he braved the storm to cook us up some NY strips. My job was the mashed potatoes and zucchini. It's a little sad to see the table, but we REALLY enjoyed it. It was nice to have a quiet dinner with little fuss, lots of flavor, and the chance to just sit and enjoy each other for a little while.

I know, it's not much, but it was nice! We think you should learn something new everyday. Today, we learned that Jason and I have been married a LOOOOOONG time. How did we figure that out? We opened our cards to each other. I'll leave it at that.

I thought that was too funny not to share!

Again, it took me forever to get this blog done, so we're back from Aaron and Melissa's - we had a great time and it was so nice that it worked out that they could throw something together real quick! Now we're about an hour away from heading out to church... we'll be giving ourselves at least double our normal 10 minutes to get there since the snow is blowing around so much that we're seeing white out conditions. It'll be slow going, but worth the trip in the end! We promised we'd call Mom when we got back so she'd be sure to start her Christmas morning nice and early, but we'll probably cut her some slack on that and just wait to chat again later in the day. Depending on the weather, I may join Jason out at the base tomorrow for dinner. If I don't feel like driving in the blizzard, though, our friends (and neighbors - handy!) Mary and Keith invited me over for dinner with them and their kids. I've also been invited for the morning gift-opening festivities, but I'm going to guess that I won't be awake time for that! I'm excited about joining them for dinner, though... it'll almost be like a taste of home - Mary is planning a few different types of soup, just like Mom does for Christmas day!

I should wrap this up. I've got to go find something that matches my snow boots to wear to church tonight. As much as I'd like to get all dressed up, tonight calls for practicality! I'm not sure exactly how much snow we've gotten, but it's not just a little bit - and it's drifting a LOT! Instead of heels, I'll sport my LL Beans (no XtraTuffs for me!), and just realize a little bit more how much I've acclimated to Kodiak!

We wish everyone the Merriest of Christmases!!!! We're missing our friends and family off the Rock, but we're also enjoying our first Christmas in our own house, surrounded by all of our new surrogate family here in Kodiak.

We love you all... Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007


I promised a follow-up to the Christmas tree hunting fun and here it is! We FINALLY got around to actually decorating the tree on Saturday night... only a week after we dragged it home from the woods. It DID have lights on it by Wednesday, though, so at least we had that going for us. Now I'm just crossing my fingers, hoping it'll last at least until Christmas. It's drinking water at a rate of almost 2 gallons a day, so that's good for now. But it's also lost quite a few needles, which is bad! We've heard that the trees from the woods will either last forever, or for about a week! We've made it past the one-week mark, so I hope that's a good sign!

So, here's the first stage of getting it into the house. I have to tell you all, this was a pretty funny endeavor. It came about only after about 3 trips in and out of the house to measure the ceiling height, taking a guess as to the actual location of the tree so as to take fullest advantage of the highest possible part of the sloped ceiling. Then we went back and forth on how much to take off the top versus how much to take off the bottom... or both. We ended up hacking about 2 feet off the top (I'm not kidding!), and probably about a foot from the bottom. When we got it inside, Jason had to get out the handsaw and trim a bit more off the top - that's right, it didn't fit. We couldn't take any more off the bottom, though, because we would've lost the good branches, and a LOT of height! So, as you can see in this pciture, the top was looking a little stumpy for a minute there. We just trimmed back some of the new growth on the ends of the branches, though, and it seems to be ok now. In fact, I think it's gorgeous!

It didn't get it's gorgeous-ness, though, until Jason (I love this man) took about an hour or two to string 11 light strings onto the tree. FINALLY, after how ever many Christmases we've shared together, he GOT the "I like a lot of lights" that I utter every year! Well, I got my lights! And, poor guy, he had one small branch toward the top that ended up without any lights, so he had to work in an extra string just for that one! Yep, ELEVEN strings of lights. On, I think, 10 branches! Oh, sweet! You can even see that one last branch that necessitated this last strand of lights... it wasn't even a big branch! Doesn't he look like he's really enjoying himself? I think he'd been up on the stool for about 45 minutes at that point.... better him than me!!!

So, finally, on Saturday, we got the ornaments out and up on the tree. As much as I wasn't sure about this kind of tree versus my usual full and bushy one, it was really fun to tuck ornaments in next to the trunk and over and under all the branches. What wasn't fun was the really pokey nature of these needles. YIKES!!! As if the wait to decorate wasn't bad enough, I then had to finish wrapping all the gifts we're sending out so that I could get a shot of the tree with all the pretty presents under it. Since we then had to pack everything up to send out, this was an important shot. The pokey needles and the wrapping were worth it, though... what a great tree!

And, because it's funny.... here's what it looked like after the shipping packaging! :-D

And, finally, because I bought all my Christmas cards on the post-Christmas sales last year, so no photocards will be going out, I figured I'd share this one with everyone. The Air Station had their fancy-schmancy Christmas party on Friday night, so we got all gussied up, following the dress code pretty closely! The dress code, by the way, specifically said no jeans and no Xtra Tuffs. For those that don't know, these are Xtra Tuffs...

I think there might be a Jeff Foxworthy joke in there about "You might be from Kodiak if..... "
Anyway, I think we did pretty well in throwing aside the fishing gear and pretending we don't live in the country for just a night! (Pay no attention to the fact that there are no ornaments on the tree!!!!

That's all for now, folks! Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas in Kodiak!!!

Well, I've been meaning to get the blog updated since we got back from last weekend's festivities, but I'm sure everyone can appreciate how crazy this time of year is! I still haven't started baking yet (I'm only two weeks overdue on that), I have a pile of partially wrapped presents sitting next to my coffee table, waiting for ribbons and bows and their trips cross-country, and I STILL haven't finished shopping for Jason yet. But, we have a Christmas tree, and this is its story.

As you can imagine, with butter at the Safeway running $5.20/lb on SALE, things in Kodiak are not cheap. Christmas trees fall into that mix, so we decided to go with the idea of wandering off into the woods and just cutting our own down. Yes, this is an option here, and they even have rules. You're not supposed to cut them down near the road, and you're not supposed to cut down a tree that's all by itself. Let me just tell you - if a tree isn't all by itself, it probably doesn't have any branches on one side. That's something I learned while we spent roughly two hours trying to find the perfect tree. We ended up with one I'd be happy with... and friends who have vowed to never look for a Christmas tree with us ever again. Mom would be so proud. As she pointed out, though, at least it took me two hours to find one in the woods, where it's hard to find one that has a decent shape. It used to take Mom two hours (OR MORE!) to find one from a Christmas tree farm where they groom them to be pretty. I don't think I'm as bad as Mom. Beth and Zach probably disagree.

Anyway, to get to the rest of the story, we caravaned out to a rumored good tree spot with Beth and Zach, and proceeded to try to help each other find a tree. I'll just say that Beth and Zach are not as picky as me. Beth and Zach are smart. Beth and Zach had a tree about an hour before us. Beth and Zach stayed in their warm car while Jason and I got out a couple times to tromp around in the cold just to decide we needed to drive a liiiiittle further down the road. Also, Zach made Jason do the bulk of the work in getting their tree down a hill. Jason picked a tree that had to be dragged UP a hill. We're just not that smart.

Finally, after two hours, though, we found a tree that we were happy with. We cut the top 10 feet or so off a 15-20 foot tree, stuffed it into the back of the truck, and headed back out of the woods. As I look at the tree (complete with lights, but no ornaments yet because we haven't had time), I just can't believe that I got a tree out of the woods. It's not the full, perfectly groomed blue spruce that I'm used to, but it smells good, looks gorgeous with the lights turned on, and we GOT IT FROM THE WOODS. I like that part!

I'll leave the writing at that, and just share some pictures with you. If nothing else, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon, and a neat Kodiak experience! Enjoy!

Here's Jason (with Beth and Zach ahead of him) hiking out - I just had to show that we REALLY did hike into the woods to get out tree!

Here's Beth enjoying the snow. This is how we stayed occupied while Jason and Zach tied their tree to the roof of their truck.

Next up, Jason looking useful. Or not.

Cutting it down was easy. Getting it back to the truck... not so much. Here's that uphill climb!
Check us out... aren't we cute???
And, for a non-tree related picture... I can't leave this one out. What's not to like about getting to see this on a regular basis!?
So that was our tree-hunting fun. As soon as we get the ornaments on the tree I'll post a picture of the finished product. Oh, and in case hiking into the woods to get a tree doesn't convince you that I'm being acclimated to Kodiak life, I also ate deer meat twice this week - once in a pasta dish and once just as a burger. Add that to my waders and fishing fun, and I think it's safe to say the "city girl" will do just fine around here!
Hope everyone is getting to enjoy the season a little bit amidst all the rush! Miss you all!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Man vs. Wild?

Well, after having a great Thanksgiving with our new friends here in Kodiak, I was lucky enough to partake in the required survival training for being stationed here in Alaska. Monday and Tuesday we're just classroom days, with a trip to the tide pool. They taught us about what we should carry on us, and what to do if we were ever stuck in the wilderness for any length to time. It was a very informative couple of days.

The highlight of the training was the trip to the tide pool. They informed us that the tide pools are one of the most abundant sources of food if you are ever stuck in the wild, and the best part is that you don't have to cook any of it. Well for a individual who didn't like pizza when he was a kid, this trip was approached with much caution. So we arrive at the tide pool and one of my fellow pilots who has been through this training scrapes a shell off a rock and tells me it's a limpet. Well a limpet is a snail, yes a snail, that attaches it's self to rocks in near the shores. It's very abundant. Well Bill (the other pilot) scrapes the snail out of the shell and hands it to me. I look at him and say there is no way I'm going to eat that. Well, I ended up eating it and it was really good. It was like a little neck clam, and was already salty from the water. I ended up eating a few more.

After the limpet, we moved on to the chiton. Well a chiton is also basically a snail. These are bigger though, and you only eat the foot. Well they weren't all that bad either, but much more chewing which was kind of weird. After that we finished with sea cabbage, and uni. Uni for those that don't know is sea urchin roe or eggs. Believe it or not the uni is very expensive (Japanese delicacy) and also tastes really good. It's like a salty mushy peach. So when everyone comes up we'll be taking a trip to the tide pool and having at least one meal there. =)

Well after two days of training we were marched out into the woods and forced to live for 2 1/2 days on what we could fit into a quart size bag. Well if you try to do this, it's not much, especially when they don't give you fire until dinner time on the second night. This proved to be interesting since we all brought rice and bullion to cook as our food. Secondly there is only about 7 hours of daylight right now. It's very interesting being stuck in the woods at night when it gets dark at 4 pm and you aren't allowed fire. It gets very dark and cold. It was 30 and night and 40 during the day for our stay with misty weather. It was great !!!!!! Well we built our shelter and found some items in the woods to keep us entertained. I hope you appreciate the pics. We were "rescued" on Friday morning and proceeded to head home and peel our clothes off and warm up. Needless to say, I'm glad I won't have to do this again for 10 years.

That's all for now. Hope all is well with everyone.