Monday, February 28, 2011

Fur Rendezvous 2011

This weekend was the start of the annual Fur Rendezvous, a celebration of the miners and trappers that colonized this area. Back in the day, this was when they all gathered together to sell their furs and socialize a bit. Nowadays they have such events as The Running of the Caribou, the Out House Races, Dog Sled Races, Snowshoe Softball, Ice Sculpture Contests, and various Arts & Crafts shows throughout the two-week event.

Pretty much every single Fur Rondy (as the locals call it) in the past 40+ years has been bitter cold, with temperatures well below freezing – and this year was no exception. Although, I must say, it was actually one of the warmest ones in my memory banks: I do believe the temps only got as low as perhaps 10 below, although I did not have a thermometer with me so am only guessing.

Saturday was spent with Rob’s Snowshoe Softball games, so we didn’t get to do much else. We were both quite exhausted by the end of the day so just went home and slept it off. I honestly don’t know why I was so tired: I didn’t do a thing but sit there and watch. Perhaps it was the cold weather – that does seem to take it out of a person.

Sunday, after a breakfast of pancakes down at the IHOP, we finally got to see some of the sights around town.

Our first stop was at the University Mall. They had a coin collector’s show set up, along with the CanStruction competition. Both were not quite as impressive as I’d hoped for, but the coin show did spark my interest in my own collection again. I’m going to have to go thru and take inventory to see what I have. Who knows – maybe I have that ONE coin that’s going to ease all my financial woes?

Hey… It could happen!

From there we headed over to the Antique Car Show. Rob is really in to restoring old cars and happily fell into a nice long conversation with one of the guys there; talking about all the cars they'd ever restored and comparing experiences. I was content to sit in the corner and watch all the people since I really have no interest at all in cars other than to say “Ooo, a red one!”

We did eventually move on, heading downtown to view the ice sculptures. The wind had picked up again by then so we didn’t linger very long – but they did have some very impressive entries. It always amazes me that someone can do such intricate work with a chainsaw and a hunk of ice/snow.

By this time we were hungry again, so on our way to view the Native Arts & Crafts exhibit we stopped off at a little cafĂ© and had some really good sandwiches. The crafts were very impressive; I think we even got some ideas for summer projects even – not that we’d be half as good as these artists are. Still, it will be fun to try our hand at a few things.

The crowd downtown finally got to us so we opted to head to the Northway Mall on the outskirts of town to see the woodworkers show. Wow… what incredible work!

The first thing we saw was the most beautiful hand-made wooden canoe that was being raffled off: one ticket for $5, or 5 tickets for $20 – proceeds to go to the local woodworkers club. There just happened to be an ATM conveniently located just around the corner, so Rob went ahead and purchased 5 tickets.

Boy that would really be something if he won! It really is a beautiful piece of work.

All the other entries in the show were equally impressive, ranging in skill levels from the beginners to the experts. Interestingly, the chain that kept the crowds back from the tables holding all the entries was made of wood. It was one continuous chain all carved out of one piece of wood. I have no idea how long that took to create, nor how long the original piece of wood was.

It doesn’t seem like much when you read thru all this, but honestly we were exhausted by then so again just went home and crashed into bed.

But it was fun! We just might do it again next weekend…

Snowshoe Softball

Rob signed himself up for the Snowshoe Softball games at this year’s Fur Rendezvous Celebration. His first game was at 8:30 in the morning, so we bundled everything up and headed on downtown bright and early in the morning. His team was the first one out on the field so had several feet of fresh powder to deal with, not to mention the snowshoes that were probably 20 years old. But they all gamely strapped on their gear and took up their positions.

It was a riot! Have you ever tried snowshoeing before? It’s been a while for me, but I do remember it being a lot more work than it seems to the casual observer. And to have to run in the darned things is almost impossible, particularly in several feet of fresh powder. Most of the players kept losing their shoes mid-stride, causing some rather impressive face plants and tangled up legs.

Rob was actually one of the few who didn’t lose their shoes, but mostly because he had strapped them on with about 6 bungee cords on each foot. That doesn’t mean he didn’t do some face plants, however. As I said, it’s hard work running in those things.

The softballs they were using were a bright fluorescent orange color, the theory being that they would be easier to find in the snow. That wasn’t exactly the way it turned out, however. Pretty much every time the ball made it out into the field it would get lost in the deep snow, and they’d have to spend several minutes searching around for it. That did give the batter at least half a chance to actually make it to first base, however – so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

That first game was a long one, even factoring in the One Strike rule. By the time it was over (they lost) all the team members were completely exhausted. Thankfully their next game wasn’t until 2:30, so we had a chance to go home and switch out some gear. Rob had originally thought to bundle up, but having worked so hard out there in the ball field, he overheated.

The second and third games were basically a repeat of the first (they won the second, lost the third) with the exception being that the snow had been packed down by the previous games so was much easier to navigate. The wind picked up, however, dropping the temperatures way down. I managed to stay out in the bleachers for the most of it, but ended up missing the last 10 minutes or so because I just couldn’t take the cold anymore and had to go sit in the truck to warm up.

Oh Happy Day!

My roommate is gone!

She moved out this weekend, and I have my house back. She hired professional movers to help her, since she had so much stuff, and had a big moving van out in my driveway the whole day.

I spent the day with Rob, only stopping in once to make sure my girls were safely locked in the library. While I was there I counted at least 5 guys, all tromping thru my house with their winter boots on, getting ice melt and snow all over the place. I completely stressed out just in the 10 minutes I was there, so I am very thankful that Rob let me hang out with him.

When I got home that evening she was gone.

She left a huge mess, though. He room has nail holes all over the walls, garbage all over the floor, several cables and extension cords left plugged in, and various other items left behind. The bathroom has things I don’t even want to identify left behind, and will need a lot of attention and elbow grease to clean up. The garage is littered with trash, used tape, parts of boxes, and miscellaneous debris spread out all over. Even the kitchen was left in a wreck, with food out on the counter and in the freezer, and the fridge is filthy. She even left a pair of boots behind at the front door.

I’m going to consider all the things she left behind as payment for cleaning up after her – since I was not smart enough to have charged a security deposit when she moved in.

Mother has said that she would come in one weekend to help me shampoo all the carpets. Kelly, Heather, and Rob have all said they would help me paint the walls. Rob has already changed the locks on my front door (the roommate did not leave her keys when she left, so that was the FIRST thing I did the next day).

Room by room, I am slowly reclaiming my house – straightening up and getting re-organized again.

Life is Good.

The Art of Writing a Letter

I’ve had several comments lately about the fact that I write letters each week. And I mean actual handwritten letters sent in an envelope thru the postal service, not typed emails or short little texts over the phone.

It’s really not that big of a deal; I just love to write, and have several friends that enjoy receiving my letters. I’ve even gone so far as to make my own cards now instead of buying them like I used to. In fact, I’m now making my own envelopes even.

I wonder if I could make my own stamps… wouldn’t that be something!

Anyway, it all started back about 20 years ago when my Grandmother moved to Montana. She got set up in a nice little apartment that was close to my Uncle. It was just a one bedroom; big enough that she could live comfortably, and have guests over for tea occasionally – but still small enough that keeping it clean didn’t overwhelm her. It was in a fair sized complex that had a nice courtyard she could sit outside in the sun and socialize with the other residents.

One of her favorite things to do was walk down to the mailbox: she got to take some fresh air, chat with the neighbors along the way, and get a little bit of exercise each day.

Back then, I was buying cards. I would look for ones that had pretty pictures on the front, perhaps of flowers or animals. I would write about my day, how the family was doing, the things I’d done at the zoo that week, any interesting tidbits of news I’d heard – just little things like that.

She would take that card and show it to everybody she came into contact with that week. She’d display it on the table in her apartment, and even take it to the neighbor’s to have them read it. Believe me; those cards got a lot of mileage!

Grandmother has passed away now, but I still enjoy writing. I have two nieces in college that are on my mailing list. I have several friends spread out over the globe that get letters from me. I try to send everybody a birthday card, but am not quite as diligent as I used to be about that.

My only complaint would be that I don’t received nearly as many as I write. I suppose that’s why I have email and a phone!

Guess Who Got a Ticket

I was heading off to work the other day and got pulled over by a cop. I figured that he had seen me not quite stopping at that last intersection. Oh, I slowed down - enough to shift down to first gear (which is pretty darned slow) at least, but I did not come to a full and complete stop.
I pulled over at the nearest side street and waited while he walked up to my window. He was very nice, polite, and courteous.

“May I see your license and registration, please?”

I handed them over, having already gotten them out of the glove box & my purse.

Then he informed me that my windows were tinted to dark! He got out his meter to show me, even. According to state law, the left/right front side windows can’t be darker than 70% - mine were at 36%. The left/right rear side windows can’t be darker than 40% - mine were at 14%.

This was a $160.00 ticket!

Thankfully, it was a correctable ticket: all I had to do was have the tinting removed and then take the car down to the Anchorage Police Department and show them. If the car passed the meter test at that time, the ticket and the fine would be removed from my record.

Once again, Rob came to my rescue. He took me down to the parts store and we got some window tint removal goop and got to work on it. We did the right front window first, just to see how it was done.

First he had to take my door apart so that we could get at the whole window. Then he sprayed the goop all over the tinting and covered it up with plastic so it wouldn’t evaporate off. After setting for half an hour (longer, actually, since we went upstairs and had dinner while it set) we peeled the tint film off. Surprisingly it came off rather easily; I expected a lot more difficulty. Then he sprayed the goop all over the window again, and set to work with a razor blade scraping all the glue off. That was the real messy part! But it worked, and soon enough the window was clean. Putting the door panel back on was tricky, since several of the clips had broken off when he removed it. A little glue strategically place, and my door was back to normal.

The next three windows went relatively quickly after that, since he knew what he was doing by then. And best of all, when I took the car down to APD it passed with flying colors and the ticket is history.

No More Ticket!

Of course, now everybody can see into my car – and I have zero protection from the sun while I drive. I’m going to have to get a pair of those hideous glasses that wrap completely around your face to block out the knife blade of sunlight as it flickers thru the trees.

But hey, I’m compliant to the law.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Giving In to Temptation

I tried to resist. In fact, I did resist - for a whole weekend. But today, I finally gave in. I just couldn’t hold out any longer.

I went to the bookstore.

The bad news is that Borders is going out of business. They are closing down their Anchorage store, and will no longer be my supplier – unless I order online, of course.

The good news is that everything is on sale. Not so great a sale right now as they only just announced the closure. I’m sure as time goes on the sales will get more and more impressive. The supply, however, will continue to diminish so the odds of getting that specific book you’ve been looking for will diminish as well.

Like I need more books!

But I ended up getting three:

The Diamond of Darkhold
By Jeanne DuPrau

At Home: a Short History of Private Life
By: Bill Bryson

Seeing Further: the Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society
Edited by: Bill Bryson

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marian Call in Concert

I treated myself to a night out on the town this weekend. Rob was off ice fishing with his buddies, and I was really not interested in hanging out in my house because of the whole roommate issue – so I got tickets to a jazz concert at The Organic Oasis.

I arrived about 40 minutes early (I am chronically early for everything, it seems – heck, I was even born early) so ordered my dinner and wrote a few letters while waiting for the music to start. The Organic Oasis has probably the best salads in town, in my humble opinion at least. Their yam stew is pretty tasty, too. Add to that a nice hot mug of Yerba Matte tea, and I was quite content to sit there and wait.

They had their normal layout of tables and chairs but added numerous folding chairs to the mix, and even so ended up with several people standing up at the walls to watch. Tickets were just $15 a head, but even so I’m thinking they made a pretty good profit that night.

Finally Marian Call came on stage, wearing a “slinky dress” as promised. She is normally a “jeans and sweater” type of girl, so this was rather unusual for her. She looked quite stunning, I have to admit. Accompanying her on stage was the standard electric guitar player, a base player, a piano player, a drummer, and a tenor saxophonist = all of whom were very good, and got plenty of opportunity to strut their stuff. The only thing missing was her old typewriter (circa 1930s?) which she uses as a percussion instrument occasionally.

Marian sang quite a few well known songs as well as several that she wrote herself. One that got a lot of audience participation was “I Wish I Were A Real Alaskan Girl” (or something like that) wherein she talks about how tough a real Alaskan girl is, able to skin a bear – fix a flat – and eat Rudolf for breakfast and Bullwinkle for lunch. She also made mention of the popular bumper sticker that states Alaskan Girls Kick Ass, and when she brought up the fact that a real Alaskan girl has long flowing hair on her legs I had to laugh as I realized it’s been probably a good 6 months since I last shaved.

Another song that was well received was about Karaoke. I have no idea how she managed to do this, but she stood up on stage and belted out some of the WORST singing I’d heard in a long time, as typically you would find when listening to the general (drunk) public singing Karaoke. It was hilarious, because she’d switch from her beautiful voice singing the verses to that awful caterwauling at full volume for each chorus.

If you ever have the chance to listen to Marian Call sing, I highly recommend it – but in the meantime, you can look her up on the internet and download her songs from there.

New Digs for an Old Rut

For the past few years I’ve been carrying all my letter writing materials (pens, cards, address book, stamps, and labels) in an old Victoria’s Secret bag I got when I went to Seattle with my sister and her daughter about 6-7 years ago. The bag was already quite old when I started to use it for writing my letters each Sunday; it finally fell apart this weekend, giving me the perfect excuse to buy something I’ve had my eye on for quite some time now.

I got me a brand new Star Trek Lunch Pail (the original series with Captain Kirk, Spok, and the whole crew) from Hallmark! It’s so cool.

As an added bonus, it had actually been marked down from the original price.

Next time you see me at The Perfect Cup on Sundays, sitting at my corner table drinking my cup of tea, you will see my lunch pail proudly displayed on the table next to me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rearranging The Furniture

I’m going thru a lot of changes lately. I’m not very good with change, so I’m fairly stressed out even though I know it’s all good and I’m actually the one initiating this change.

Rob came over the other day and helped me change out my old computer desk. It was just about ready to fall apart as it stood there, so we were just in time. In fact, it actually did fall apart when we started to disassemble it. It’s now a pile of broken pieces in the garage waiting to be hauled away to the dump.

A good friend had given me her old computer desk which was much nicer than my old one, so it is now in place and looking so fine! That meant, however, that I had to find an alternate place to file all the paperwork one acquires in life, since the new desk doesn’t have a filing cabinet drawer in it like the old one did. So I had to clean out the desk upstairs that has been unused for the past 10 years or so, and was just gathering dust.

Mother gave me one of the beds from the farm, so that is my next big change. It’s a queen size bed; my old one is a double size. Since I had to clean out the desk anyway, I went ahead and rearranged my bedroom a bit to squeeze in the bigger mattresses. I will again call upon Rob to help me move things around, since there is no way I can do it by myself, and in the process I will give him the double sized bed for his daughter’s use.

Once my spare room empties out (End of March – just hang on till the End of March!) I will be rearranging the heck out of that room, too! I plan on asking my sister to help me paint it some fun colors – maybe a soft terra cotta orange, or a quiet avocado green? – and get some nice wooden blinds and a pretty valance for the window. I have an old wooden table waiting for me in the garage that will go in the room after Rob fixes one of its legs and helps me refinish the top. I’ll add the 5 antique chairs Mother gave me to that, as well as the lamps, end tables, bookshelves, and craft cubbies – and voila! Instant Craft Room!

I’m actually pretty excited about it.

The Job Situation


The job I’ve been counting on fell thru. It was with an architectural firm, and they currently are “experiencing a lull” so are not hiring at this time.

Yeah, where have I heard that before?

But they do still have my resume on file and will contact me when/if things pick up.

Again, where have I heard that before?

Honestly, it’s enough to make one just give up on the whole industry! What I’m doing instead is accepting the fact that I will be working for less than unemployment wages for the next few years, and will just be happy that I have a job at all. It’s not that bad of a job, either.

They are getting a new program; I will have to learn it in the next few weeks, before the season picks up. I’m fairly excited about that, except that I know it will take me even farther away from ever getting a “real job” in the future.

I’m still putting out an ad for pet sitting, and am currently working one of those jobs as we speak. Tommy is a huge orange fluffy boy who is just the sweetest guy. He’s here at my house till his human can find a place to live that will accept both a cat and a dog. Thing and Djuna are not very happy about having a yucky boy in their house – but they’ll get over it, I’m sure.

So, I guess it’s not all bad news. Just not what I wanted…

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Just Want My House Back

My roommate is being a very mean and vindictive person. It seems like she goes out of her way to irritate me with all the petty things she can dream up. Her latest: she thawed a hunk of meat in the fridge. Nothing wrong with that, per se, except that she neglected to put in on a plate so it ended up bleeding all over the fridge – and I had to spend an hour cleaning it up. This is the THIRD TIME she’s done that! You cannot tell me a 50-year old woman who cooks all the time doesn’t know that meat bleeds! Even a vegetarian knows that.

To be honest, I have to admit that my tolerances are stretched extremely thin at the moment. There has been a lot going on lately, and I really didn’t want a roommate to begin with. But my last roommate didn’t give me nearly this much trouble so I know it’s not just me.

As soon as this one leaves I will never have another roommate, not ever.

Well, at least not for a year or so; that’s how much money I have saved up to pay for my house bill. After that, we’ll have to see what I can come up with. Theoretically I should have a real job by then, with good pay and full hours. Of course that’s what I said two years ago, so I honestly don’t hold out much hope on that side of the equation.

The refinance went thru, so now my payments are $170 lower each month: you gotta love that! In fact, there was no payment at all for February, so I get to “stockpile” the rent money and have just a little bit more breathing room out of the situation.

End of March: all I have to do is survive till then.

April 1 I have my Mother and sister coming over to help me clean the carpets and paint the walls in there (I’m thinking a nice terra cotta color, or perhaps an avocado green). Then I’ll get Rob to help me decorate (oddly enough, he’s better at that than I am). Then I’ll set up the antique table and chairs I have in waiting for me in my garage, move the craft cubbies up from the dining room, and be good to go! Heck, I may even set up a nice heated bed for the girls in there.

This Makes Me Sick To My Stomach

So, Stan’s two daughters came up for the memorial. Apparently, neither of them had been very close to him. He’d been up here in Alaska for over 25 years, but they had only come to visit him once each. Neither of them ever sent a Birthday Card or a Christmas greeting.

Anyway, a week prior to their arrival for the memorial they phoned Mother, the realtor, the lawyers, and the neighbors so often that they all stopped answering their phones. They also called each of us, asking for money and rides and a place to stay. They ended up staying at the farm and driving his truck while they were here. I don’t know who picked them up at the airport, or who took them back either.

While they were here they continued making phone calls all over the place, their main objection being to cut my family out of the entire process as much as possible. They thru accusations out left and right about us all, and tried to get Mother taken off as executor of Stan’s will. They even managed to “steal” Mother’s lawyer out from under her, since he couldn’t represent both at the same time.

Worse yet, they managed to pack up and steal well over 4000 pounds of stuff from the farm. We are only just now realizing what’s been taken: antique furniture that Mother bought in Mexico when my brother was born almost 50 years ago, shooting medals that Mother had won in her Colorado days, a full size quilt that my Great Aunt Kathryn made as she lay dying from cancer, tools from the shed out back, 2 lawn mowers, the wood stove that was in the barn (which didn't even work, but left a big hole in the roof in the taking of it), gun cabinets belonging to other people. The list goes on…

One of the more shocking things taken: they very carefully went thru the rolodex and took hundreds of address cards, some of which had account numbers and personal information, all gathered by Mother and Stan over 20+ years. They left all the blank cards, which meant they very carefully looked at each one to make sure they got them all – then they tried to hide the rolodex behind a built in bookshelf.

They even vandalized the farm before leaving! There are broken windows and the place is just trashed.

Just the other day an obituary showed up in the paper: written by them, not by us. They very skillfully cut out a whole 25 year period in his life by not even mentioning Mother, any of us kids, or even the grandchildren (Stan was the only Grandfather most of them had ever known).

My brother is livid. He may very well go down to Oregon and physically get all that stuff back - and break some kneecaps in the process. I do know he is threatening to press charges. I support him 100% and will do anything and everything I can to help him – not to get the stuff back, but to … I don’t know, get even? Make them pay for what they’ve done to my family? Try to make them see just how awful they are?

The will has a clause in it that states if anybody contests the will, they get $1.00 and that's final. In my mind, they both more than contested the will. I would love to see mother enforce that one on them both: they deserve it for what they’ve done.