Thursday, December 28, 2006

Amazing Sky

The temp rose to about 6 degrees F today and it was quite lovely outside. At around 2 p.m. I went out and was bowled over by the beauty of the midday sky.

Our First

We knew we'd have a White Christmas, but we hoped it would snow. It did and it was lovely.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Tis Winter Now

’Tis winter now; the fallen snow
Has left the heav’ns all coldly clear;
Through leafless boughs the sharp winds blow,
And all the earth lies dead and drear.

And yet God’s love is not withdrawn;
His life within the keen air breathes;
His beauty paints the crimson dawn,
And clothes the boughs with glittering wreaths.

And though abroad the sharp winds blow,
And skies are chill, and frosts are keen,
Home closer draws her circle now,
And warmer glows her light within.

O God! Who giv’st the winter’s cold
As well as summer’s joyous rays,
Us warmly in Thy love enfold,
And keep us through life’s wintry days.

~ Samuel Longfellow, 1864

Friday, December 22, 2006

What The Highway Looks Like

It was chilly today!
Click to enlarge

Leaving Eielson; ramp to Richardson Hwy. Straight ahead is Moose Creek

Our view leaving the base at 1:30 p.m. I made Rick pull over so I could get a pic.

Richardson Hwy is the main road to Fairbanks. It has stayed fairly clear so far this winter.

Richardson Hwy closer to Fairbanks. Cold at 20-below.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Always Dusk

12 p.m. Today

3:00 p.m. today

Sunrise - 10:50 a.m.
Sunset - 2:40 p.m.
Length of day - 3h 49mi
Temp at 4:00 p.m.: 17-below zero F

These dark winter mornings just invite sleep. I love it, however, the wonderful man who has to bring home the bacon is having a difficult time staying verticle by about 2:00 in the afternoon. Some people have suggested he buy a "Happy Light" (a UV lamp) for his desk, but I think he's gonna stick it out. In three days, after the Winter Solstice, we will be gaining daylight every day.

I love winter, but look forward to the temps staying above zero consistently so I can get out and enjoy (I'm assuming I'll enjoy it) skiing and snowshoeing. I had it in my head that I would be able to be out for extended periods of time all winter long, but it's just too frigid right now. I am enjoying the cold climate though!

We finally got some more snow yesterday, but there's still less than 12 inches on the ground. I hope the clouds will be more generous in the near future. I love the snow.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The heavens declare the glory of God,
And the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
~ Psalm 19:1

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for
thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the
Spirit, Three in One!

~Francis of Assisi

photo courtesy of Stock.xchng

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'll Take That To-Go

These drive-thru coffee joints are very popular in this area. It would be interesting to find out how many there are in the whole state. I bet they'd give Micky D's a run for their money.

These first two are located in Fairbanks (credit to Bren for the photos). I like the name Kodiak Joe's -- sounds very rustic. The other, with the soft serve on top is called Sunrise Bagel and Espresso.

Lava Java is here on base right off Flightline Ave., convenient for those folks who work on the flightline. It is the first drive-thru coffee place we visited here and didn't have a good experience the first three times we visited. A version of a frappuccino was on the menu but they didn't have the ingredients to make them on our first two visits so Bren ordered a kiwi Italian soda which she loved and looked forward to getting again on our next visit. A week later we had our third visit (Lava Java gives out those buy 9, get one free punch cards that keep you coming back) and we hear, "Sorry, we don't have anymore kiwi syrup and the owner decided to not stock it anymore." As Bren's face fell I said, "Oh, okay. So, can we get a frappuccino yet?" The girl, who needs to lay off the tanning bed, replied no, the owner has also decided to not do frappuccinos, and would we like to try something else? Bren decided on the Blended Iced Mocha (you can see the ad on the front of the shop). It's a frappuccino. We don't go there anymore. Too expensive and too much of a gamble.

I took this last photo on Santa Clause Lane in North Pole today when I went to return movies at BlockBuster. It looks like it may be halfway decent, as it should be since North Pole does a lot of tourist business. Next time I'll stop and have a drink.

And while I'm on the subject of coffee joints, there is a Barnes&Noble Cafe that serves Starbucks coffee, and I know there is a Starbucks inside Fred Meyer.

Bren and I are looking forward to trying the few store front coffee shops we've seen in town. I hope we find some good ones.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cold and Miserable on a Scale of 1 to 10

The temperature has finally warmed up a bit and we recieved another several inches of snow. As I opened my bedroom blinds and saw big fluffy flakes falling I thought for sure I heard testosterone-fueled cheers in the distance. Just a few more inches of the white stuff and the commander can sign on the dotted line authorizing snowmachine use on base. Being that I don't own a snowmachine and have yet to set my backside on one and get completely addicted, I'm not particularly looking forward to the disturbance of my peace. I'm selfish that way. Snowmachines are noisy suckers.

Our days are getting shorter - 4 hrs 27 mins from sunrise to sunset today. Bren and I thought it was pretty cool to be watching the sunrise after 10 o'clock this morning on our way to town. As I type this at 3:02 p.m. I can see the beautiful full moon rising as it begins to get dark. I love the darkness and don't find that it has affected me in any way as of yet (if you don't count getting the urge to curl up with a good book and cuppa cocoa) but Rick says he is beginning to get sleepy earlier in the day.

A couple days ago I spoke with my mom on the phone. She was bundled up on the sofa with her electric blanket in Branson, Missouri, staying safe inside from the ice storm. It was cold - in the teens and 20's, but she hesitated to complain about the cold to me being that I'm in Alaska and all.

After I hung up with Mom I thought about it and came to the conclusion that colder doesn't necessarily mean more miserable. It does get very cold here, but where we are in the Interior we don't get much wind (or snow for that matter, and when we do get snow it's powder), and I have decided that wind is the key factor in getting you from a 1 to a 10 on the Cold and Miserable scale. Where it took me being outside in 25-below for 5 minutes to reach miserable, it would only take me 30 seconds (or less) to reach miserable in 35 degrees + wind and rain or snow.

So family and friends, feel free to tell me how cold you are, I hear ya!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

City Swap

Shelley, from At Home in Rome, has been blogging for just over two months now. For her two-month anniversary she created and organized the very first At Home in Rome Great International City Swap. You can read all about it on her blog. I was fortunate and found out about City Swap just two days before the deadline. Whew.

Today was my day! I received a little package in the mail from Dorothy in Ypsilanti, Michigan which I enjoyed opening very much. Dorothy even enclosed a beautiful note for me.

Included in the package was a bag of Michigan Cow Patties (which froze solid in my mailbox, but were quite yummy once thawed), a tin of "Helmints" (UofM football), two pair of festive Christmas socks, and a little book 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Michigan.
My favorite item is this lovely tealight candle holder that now sits on my kitchen windowsill. Thank you, Dorothy!

For the City Swap, I sent a gift to Linda who lives in Port Orchard, Washington, not far from where I went to high school in Poulsbo. I tell ya, it is really hard (for me anyway) to buy a gift for someone you know nothing about. After browsing the Knotty Shop for an hour I decided to get Linda something I would love to recieve myself - a tall, handmade pottery mug, pictured below. I hope she's getting some use out of it in that wintery weather they're having now.

I extend a huge thank you to Shelley for facilitating such fun!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holiday Celebration in Fairbanks

Bren getting some puppy love from a sled pup

Ice Skating Rink set up at Pioneer Park; The sun is low in the sky at 2:30 p.m.

People coming and going from the bazaar; Bren heading to look at the pups; 18-below zero

More Pics

I guess fireworks don't mind what the temp is outside.

Busy bazaar; Where's Waldo Bren?

Kids getting pictures with Santa by the train at the Children's Museum. We ducked in to escape from the cold.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Gaze Upon The Sky

This looks like sunset, but I took the pic upon arriving at church just after sunrise at 9:50 this morning. It was 22 degrees below zero.

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.
~ Isaac Watts

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Love This Shop

The little store to visit in this neck of the woods is called The Knotty Shop. We passed it on the Richardson Highway on our way to Eielson when we moved here in September, but had not gone back to have a look, so on Tuesday I decided to surprise Bren and drove her to the store after picking her up from school.

As soon as I walked in the door I wanted to stay for the winter. The lighting, wood, and vaulted ceilings provided a rustic feel with an amber glow, my eyes were drawn to different focal points in the store by miniature lamps. Country music was playing and the slight aroma of coffee had me looking around for the source. In the corner to the right there was a snackbar where you could buy ice cream, drinks, and pick up a complimentary coffee, which I did.

The shelves were full of Alaskan-themed pottery, carved wood items such as mugs, bowls, and walking sticks; beaded bags and jewelry; authentic animal skins (complete with intact claws). There were beautifully painted pans (for panning for gold) and saw blades, tapestries, big animals and Santas carved from logs; a children's section carried an array of plush stuffed wild animals, pillows, toys, and books. In the back of the store was a very large display of stuffed animals that used to be very much alive, and quite an array of animal skins. Oh, and let's not forget to mention the t-shirts and winter jackets.

Bren loved the shop, but didn't seem to be as smitten with it as I was. I kept wishing my mom was there to ooooooo and ahhhhhhh with me.

I ended up buying a bear pillow for my nephew, and a small tapestry. Bren bought a silver and gold snowflake pendant for her silver chain.

I will have to go back to the shop alone sometime just to spend more time looking at all the beautiful things there. I'm not much of a shopper, but I really enjoyed the trip.

Mucho apologies for the multiple posts to those reading on Bloglines. I'm not very good at arranging photos yet

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's The Wind Chill That Gets You




I think I'll stick around close to home tomorrow. I was going to go to Fairbanks in the morning with two friends from church, but the thought of breaking down in these conditions doesn't sound too appealing -- or safe.

I realized today that I'm getting used to what "normal" winter weather is here in Central Alaska. It was "only 10 below", so I went out to clear the morning snow off the driveway. Rick usually does it, but he was running late this morning and didn't have time. I bundled up and put on my super-duper anti-cold gloves, and in about five minutes I couldn't feel my fingers. Well, that's not exactly right. I could feel them; it felt like my phalanges were on fire inside, but my skin was completely numb.

I think I muttered something about being a wimp and went inside to warm up. Once warm I went back out and shoveled for another few minutes. I looked around hoping that none of the neighbors were watching me . I expected some helpful soul to emerge from their house and offer me free shoveling advice. Whereas our neighbor's driveway (which is connected to ours) was neatly shoveled in perfect little rows, ours looked like my four-year-old nephew had been let loose with a Little Tykes plastic shovel. Evidently my disorganization extends to executing a snow removal plan for a 10 X 15 slab of concrete. Good grief. I quit after I had cleared two-thirds and Rick finished it when he got home. I think I got a C for effort.

Life is never boring when it gets this cold, especially when it comes to the vehicles. Yesterday Rick got in the car to go to lunch and he couldn't get the driver door closed because it was frozen. He had to hold it closed and shift gears alternately with his right hand while steering with his left. While talking to Rick's boss, he told me the previous day he made the mistake of opening his hatchback and it froze open. He had to drive home with it that way and was able to close it after it thawed in the garage.

The only silly thing I've done so far is continuing to open the screen door - which has a metal handle - with my bare hands to let the dogs in and out. I now have a little burned patch of skin on my index finger that hurts a bit. Pushing on the glass isn't much better because it's almost always heavily frosted with ice. I just need to keep a glove on hand (no pun intended) to put on when the dogs need to come and go.

I thought the swings at the playground looked real neat covered with several inches of snow. I took the last pic of the cars plugged in at the highschool when I went to pick up Bren this afternoon. Engine heaters are installed on vehicles to keep them warm and to keep the oil from freezing. On base we are permitted to plug in when it's 10 below.

Click pics to enlarge

Monday, November 13, 2006

Books With Violins On The Side

On Saturday evening Bren and I went to Barnes&Noble in Fairbanks to warm up, read, and do homework. We were delighted to hear beautiful music when we walked in the door, and very suprised to see it was live, being played by these wonderful people. I wish they had played all night!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Iceman Falls

Now I know why the locals laughed at me when I suggested that 20 degrees was cold. At 20 degrees you can stand outside for quite awhile before you actually feel really cold, but at below zero, you feel it in just seconds.

This afternoon we took a drive up to Iceman Falls (You can read all about it here), the ski and sledding area here on base. There is a nice little lodge with a fireplace, snackbar, tables and chairs, and an equipment rental area. We ran into our friends there, so we sat and had coffee and cocoa in the lounge while watching the sledding from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

I took the last shot on the way home. The full moon was rising and looked stunning. It's not a very good photo...I had to ask Rick to pull over and I was a bit wary of the traffic on the icy roads, so I took it quickly. I'll be glad when I can someday get a nice digital camera. Click on pics to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Got Snow?

So yes, it's been awhile since I last posted. Due to this incident, our internet and phone service hasn't been consistent, so I used the opportunity to take a mini-blogging sabbatical. My DSL was up all day yesterday, so I took that as a sign that I should get back to my regular updates. I missed writing about our adventures!

The big news is we finally have snow! It started last Saturday and we've had several inches since then. I was telling Rick last night that it is wonderful to have snow actually stay. In all the places we have lived, it would snow and maybe hang around for a day or two at the most.

I'm loving this! These two pics are taken from my back porch. The three of us went for a long walk in the snow last night, but it was too dark to take photos. I'll be posting a lot more picutres in the days to come.

We were told during our winter briefing that the snowy roads on base do not get cleared very often, and that has proven to be true. The priority is keeping the flightline clear, so all the snow removal resources are used to that end. Rick put the studded tires on both the car and SUV which has made driving uneventful so far. Bren and I went to Fairbanks the other night after school and found the roads to be well cleared of ice and snow on the main thouroughfares.

This past Saturday the 20th Annual Friendship Day was held in Fairbanks at Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts. Bren was loaded down with homework, so Rick and I went out for about an hour to check it out.

The event, which had a variety of exhibits and performers representing different cultures around the world, was very well attended. There was a scavenger hunt for the children, as well as crafts. Cultural food was available for purchase and it all looked delicious. We walked around the main floor and the balcony looking at the display tables full of items unique to each country.

The pics are of the front of the Arts building and the interior. Click on any picture to enlarge it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Random Bits

  • $2,396 was what it cost us to drive from Virginia to Eielson. Actually, that amount is what we charged on Rick's government travel card for gas, and lodging. There were a few times when the particular gas pump we used didn't accept the gov't card and we used our debit card.

  • For a Ford SUV, a Kia sedan, and renter's insurance, our insurance bill went up $700 a year when we moved here.

  • In Alaska, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. So if you're in the street and get hit by a car, it's your fault.

  • Also, in this state it is legal to have marijuana for your own personal consumption. (But of course if you're active duty and want to take advantage of this liberal law, prepare for a court martial if you get caught)

Perdy interesting stuff.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ignorance Kills

I haven't posted here in awhile as my attention the past ten days have been concentrated on the house. The day after our household goods arrived I got sick, so the going has been slow in getting everything unpacked, but we'll get there, we always do.

On October 5th Rick and I went to the "Cheechako" Winter Orientation (Cheechako is Native Alaskan for "Tenderfoot", aka: newcomer or foreigner). The meeting was held from 9:00 - 12:00 and covered the following topics:

  • Fire Safety
  • Services Activities: What is there to do on Eielson? (There is A LOT to do!)
  • Winter Health and Fitness
  • Dressing for Cold Weather
  • Coping with cabin fever
  • Winter Activities: What is there to do in Fairbanks?
  • Winter Driving
  • Pet Ownership in the Sub-Arctic
  • Northern Lights Snowmobile Club (The presentor told us a story of two teenage boys who went snowmachining up in the mountains without the proper clothing - you know, since teens are invincible and all. Their $11K snowmobile broke down, stranding the boys. They ended up setting the it on fire that night to survive the 20-below night (we got to see a photo). Them boys shoulda listened to their mothers!)
  • Military Family Life Consultant

I must have picked up about 20 handouts that were available at the meeting. Topics included:

  • Instructions on how to make a coffee can survival kit for winter driving (who knew you could get all that in a coffee can?)
  • Recommendations for survival kits
  • Cold weather checklist
  • 101 Things to Do In Alaska #6 - Land a barn door-sized halibut
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder: Helpful Hints to Keep You From Being "S.A.D."
  • Winterizing your car and camper
  • Winterizing your home
  • Use of vehicles for shelter in cold
  • The adverse effects of alcohol in a cold environment
  • Choosing winter gear
  • Care of outerwear garments
  • Hypothermia and frostbite
  • Information about the Aurora (Northern Lights)

The Fairbanks newspaper, the Daily News-Miner, puts out a Winter Survival Guide, which has a lot of information, articles, photos, and advertisements for local businesses that can supply your needs.

Fairbanks Convention & Visitors Bureau puts out my favorite schedule of events for the year. A sample: the month of October:

12th - Ladysmith Black Mambazo (I tried to get tickets but they were sold out. Bren and I are still going tonight to see if we can get in).
21st - 20th Annual International Friendship Day
27th-29th - International Sled Dog Symposium
29th - Nov 12th - Arsenic & Old Lace
29th - Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra in Concert

In summary, if we are bored or freeze to death here it wasn't due to a lack of education!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Northern Lights

Last night I was doing the dishes when the phone rang. It was my friend, Julie. Our conversation went something like this:

"Hi Donna, it's Julie. Have you been outside recently?"


"Well go outside. The northern lights are out."

She may have said something else after that, but after I heard "northern lights", I was gone. Bren was in the living room doing homework. I yelled at her,
Bren! The northern lights are out! Come on!". I ran outside, the phone still pressed to my ear. When I looked into the sky and saw the green light making waves in the sky I was in awe. It is so beautiful! I kept saying into the phone, "Oh my gosh! It's so pretty!"

Julie must have known I would react that way, like an excited little kid, as I've been giddy since I arrived here. I'm so glad she called me to let me in on Alaska's big show.

(I found this photo via Google Images and posted it here because this is is what the lights looked like last night. You can read about the Aurora Borealis here if you like.)

The temp dipped into the 20's last night and the sky was clear. Later in the evening Bren and I went out to the back porch and were amazed when we looked at the sky; there was an incredible amount of stars visible. What captivated us the most, though, was how close the Big Dipper seems. The last time I remember seeing that many stars at night was on a scuba diving trip in the Philippines in 1987. I look forward to getting out to a place where there are no lights and a good view of the sky here.

The high temp today was around 50 F and it was beautiful. We took the dogs on a nice long walk this afternoon. They really like their new stomping grounds!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

It Snowed Today!

The day began cool and wet, but we were eager to get out the door and enjoy our afternoon off together. At 2:00 Bren and I headed to Fairbanks to look for school shoes and we were not disappointed at Famous Footwear. The store had a very good selection of shoes reasonably priced, and more importantly, practical. A lot of times we'll venture into stores where we look at the shoes and wonder who would ever wear something like that, and where?, but that wasn't the case in this store. I was especially happy to see they carry shoes in women's size 11 which is what I wear.

Bren bought a pair of these Eastlands, and these Adidas in mossy green.

PetCo, nextdoor to the shoe store, was quite impressive as well. I suppose all of them are, but I had never been in one before today.

Tired of walking around, eager to get out of the rain, and quite thirsty, we walked a few stores down to Barnes and Noble and felt at home as soon as we walked in the door. Soft jazz was playing over the intercom and a warm glow emanated from the gas fireplace by the cafe. The fireplace was encircled by several cozy chairs.

The line at the cafe was long but moved very fast, and the staff was friendly. Bren ordered the Chicken Chipoltle grilled sandwich with a coconut-raspberry Italian Soda, and I, an Italian and Artichoke Stratta. The food was delicious, but I did not find what I went in for: an 18- or 15-month wall calendar.

On the way out of Fairbanks the rain turned to sleet, and by the time we pulled into our garage, it had turned to snow.

I love winter!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Will Pay For Food

I haven't done too much shopping off-base yet, so the only place I have experienced "sticker shock" thus far has been in the produce department at the commissary, which I fully expected.

In Virginia we were paying 35 cents per pound for bananas, today I paid 79 cents for the same. Apples are quite pricey at anywhere from $1.40 to $1.70 per pound. We buy Eggland's Best eggs at $2.36 per dozen which is just a little more than we paid for them in Virginia. We don't drink cow's milk, so I haven't really noticed the price per gallon here, but I've heard from others that it's very close to $4. We pay about 60 cents more here for the soymilk we drink most often, 8th Continent. Rick and Bren went to the Safeway store in North Pole last week and Bren reported that her favorite pizza was over $2 more there.

While I was shopping today, sneaking around taking pictures of food (very odd behavior which drew a few stares), I noticed the incredibly low prices of pints of Ben and Jerry's and Haagen Daaz ice cream. Almost all flavors were around $1.80 a pint. I recall paying at least a dollar more - or even two dollars more at convenience stores - in the lower 48 (I keep wanting to say "back in the states", because I feel like we're overseas. Maybe I'll do as we did in Hawaii and say "Mainland") Anyway, the frozen food section was pretty busy and all of a sudden I was embarassed about taking a picture of pints of ice cream, so I passed.

One of the women I was corresponding with before I arrived here said it was her opinion that the commissary was "pretty sad". I couldn't disagree with her more. Yes, it is small, and the selection of items is limited, but one would never go without or be deprived in the least. Also, Fort Wainwright, which is just 20 miles down the road, has quite a large commissary and BX where it is completely possible to fork over a resonable amount of money to indulge all your senses, should you desire to do so.

(I did buy these roma tomatoes for our salad and sandwiches. The regular toms were $2.25 per pound)

You can read more stats on the cost of living in Alaska (without the military benefits) here at

One thing we love here is Alaska has no sales tax. However, North Pole has a city tax: 4% (some exemptions) $8.00 maximum collected per sale. Tax collected from businesses within the Corporate City Limits or any sales made within the Corporate City Limits. That explained the tax we were charged for our movie at Blockbuster.

As we get out and experience more, I will put together a page of merchandise, services, food, etc. and what we pay for them, with a link to it in my side bar.

The Lord has been gracious and has provided for our every need, and for Him we are so incredibly thankful!