Category Archives: Alaska

“Oh, well. Guess the marriage is over!”

It’s been an odd week. This past Wednesday a big wind storm hit our fair city of Anchorage. Gusts built up to Hurricane speeds, and some people are even admitting to winds hitting 130 miles per hour. But, as the city has been joking since, it wasn’t really a hurricane. It was just Wednesday.

There was a lot of awesome damage around town. No, like really awesome. Totally cool. Visit the Anchorage Daily News site for some cool photos. I haven’t heard too much about lots of serious damage or injuries, though, which is a good thing. The biggest issue people have had since the storm is power. Lots of people are either still without or are just getting their power back at their houses.

Our damage here at our house was minimal as well, and luckily nothing happened that will take money out of our pockets. We lost a few shingles (which is fine because we’re signed up to replace the roof anyway) and we were smart enough to protect all our outdoor plants and such beforehand. There is only one, sad, difference to our house before and after storm.

This was how the front yard looked last winter, here’s what it looks like now…

Something’s missing…

Now, this tree wasn’t just any tree. It was a Blue Spruce. But beyond that, it was special.

When we first moved in, the tree wasn’t there. It was planted years later, by my parents.

Not being much for tradition, or even celebration, they decided on their 10th wedding anniversary to actually do something – they planted that tree.

My parents are celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary this September, and that tree has stood in front of our house for 17 years: enduring the cold, bracing against the wind, sparkling with Christmas lights until it grew too tall to cover, providing homes and resting places to birds. The yard looks empty without it.

Yet, when it first happened (at about 10:30 at night, just after beginning to head up to bed), Smidget joked [hence the post title] and we all laughed, but with a heavy heart and tired eyes.

It think this photo sums the whole storm up rather well…

Slowly but surely, we’re picking up the pieces. The city is coming back together again. Wood lots around town are filling up, and fence and roof repair companies are getting plenty of business. The wind, although still around, has died down. And, don’t worry, Smidget and Dad are still all lovey-dovey. It’s disgustingly wonderful.


A Quick Look at Washington D.C.

Just got back in from my small trip this early  morning, like midnight time frame. It was a pleasant little trip, but boy is my family tired. One of my cousins got married in Virginia on Saturday and someone needed to be able to bring my 93-year-old grandfather down from his house in Massachusetts. So we did! It was quite a travel/driving/flying filled week back east, including visiting Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. Oy.

The wedding itself was a beautiful, outdoor, evening wedding at the bride’s father’s place on base at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Since we were right outside of D.C., Smidget, Dad, my brother, and I all popped in to see some sights the morning/afternoon of the wedding. Here’s a quick peek for you of what we saw:

After our little sight-seeing trip we went back to the hotel and got ready for the wedding. We drove back to Massachusetts the next morning, so this is all we got to see of D.C., but it was worth the whole journey just to be there for my cousin and his new wife!

Congrats Rob and Sarah!


Iditarod 2012

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Dad and I had journeyed around town for Fur Rondy, including a stop at the Ceremonial Start of the great Iditarod race. Now, I am a bit behind on this, the race has been over for a little over two weeks, but it seems like the ideal opportunity to share the photos  I got of the race teams oh so long ago! A little bit of dog sleds to ring the the spring, that makes total sense. Doesn’t it?

Now, for a bit of background, the Iditarod race started back in 1925 with a, now famous, run to Nome, Alaska to deliver diphtheria serum. You might remember the story from the animated movie Balto, about the heroic dog who leg the pack on the trecherous trail. There’s also a statue of him in Central Park. (But really, the dog you SHOULD know about is Togo. Namesake for Girl Scout Camp Togowoods where I had one fond summer)

Since then, well, for the last 40 years. You do the math, I’m not too good at it. English major, what can I say. Anyway, the trail has become a great sporting event up here in Alaska for both mushers and dogs. This year the trail once again ran from Anchorage to Nome, a total of almost 1,000 miles! Well, ok, so it actually “officially” started in Willow, not Anchorage. But, part of the reason the race from Willow to Nome is not quite 1,000 miles is because of the tacked on “ceremonial” start in Anchorage which itself is 20+ miles long. Enough chatter, here’s a map I found via the Anchorage Daily News Website, which during race time was interactive.

As mentioned, Dad and I went to the ceremonial start in Anchorage, and while we weren’t in the thick of things Downtown, we had a great view of the teams rushing by as we cheered them on and I snapped photos. Including one of this guy:

2012 Iditarod First Place Winner Dallas Seavey!


Here are some other great shots I got of the mushers as they made their way towards Willow (eventually, the next day) to begin the race!

13th place, and fastest Rookie Musher, Brent Sass

Hank DeBruin, 49th place

Ed Stielstra, 25th place

Aaron Burmeister, 4th place! (also, "Look Ma, no hands!")

Colleen Robertia, 21st place Colleen was so photogenic and happy that day, I got a few great shots of her!

Colleen again

Justin Savidi, 45th place

Mitch Seavey, 7th place, and Dallas Seavey's dad, in fact there were three generations of Seavey's this year and the youngest won


It was snowing a bit that day, can you tell?

There were 67 racers and teams this year, out of which 53 finished and, unlike what has sadly happened in the past, no dogs died on the trail for the third year in a row! This is a big thing for mushers, the Idiatrod big-wigs, and the fans alike. These dogs are treated like little furry kings and, as you can tell from some of the photos, they love running and pulling the sleds. It is literally what they were made to do.

I know I left out a lot of information on the race in general, so please if you have any questions feel free to ask via comment or email!

Rondy…Rendezvous…Come on!

Over the past few weeks, a celebration in downtown Anchorage has been continuously raising the spirits of those of us living in the Alaskan city during the long mid-winter. This celebration is known as Fur Rendezvous, or Fur Rondy, or even just Rondy for short. This year, Alaskans celebrated the 77th Rondy, pinning the start of the celebrations back in 1935.

4th Ave in Downtown Anchorage

The Rondy website gives this brief introduction into the festival that is Fur Rondy:

“The Fur Rondy Festival is a significant part of the history and tradition of Anchorage. In the mid 1930’s, Anchorage was just a small town of about 3,000 people that stretched between Park Strip and Ship Creek. There were no televisions, malls or movie theaters, no video games, iPods or computers, not even an Iditarod! Winters were brutal and stoking fires, shoveling snow, and surviving the elements was the basic daily pastime in those days.

Vern Johnson, the father of the Fur Rendezvous, was a likeable, outgoing Anchorage citizen with a keen understanding of social conditions. He and his friends decided to establish a 3-day Festival to coincide with the time that the miners and trappers came to town with their winter’s yield. It began as a three-day sports tournament on February 15, 16 and 17, 1935 and featured skiing, hockey, basketball, boxing and a children’s sled dog race down Fourth Avenue. Nearly the entire population of Anchorage turned out for the bonfire and torchlight parade.

Since then, the Fur Rendezvous has earned national and international notoriety, and visitors from throughout the world descend on Anchorage every February.”

Since I’ve been off at school during February for the past four years, my family hasn’t done much participating in the festivities. When my brother and I were young we used to go just about every year, but it had been a long time since we had last seen the fireworks, the Running of the Reindeer, or even Canstruction. (Running of the Reindeer is just what it sounds like: it’s basically the Running of the Bulls, but with a Reindeer. Canstruction is something the local state University’s engineering club puts on. Students build sculptures out of canned good and donate profits to charities.) This year Dad and I ventured downtown, picked up some of the necessary Rondy pins, and checked out some of the festivities.

Every year a new pin is released for Rondy. The profits from sales go to charities, but if you don't get a pin and are at a Rondy event the Keystone Cops can "arrest" you!

The festival lasted from February 24 – March 4 this year, and with more days to celebrate winter comes more activities to check out. These past few weeks have been kind of nuts around the house (I’m starting to get a spring on Spring Cleaning, but more on that later. Maybe.) so Dad and I were only able to catch the tail end of what there is to see at Rondy. There were two main events that I recall/recognize from pictures of when I was younger that I wanted to see this year – The Snow Sculptures and The Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod.

So guess what I’m sharing first?!

For the Snow Sculpture Competition, each team or person is provided with an 8ftx8ftx8ft block of compacted snow out of which they create some incredible things. Those who are winners for Division 1 (aka a team of three, 21+ years of age) get to compete at US Nationals for Alaska. Here’s a brief glimpse of what the sculptures looked like this year, along with the title and sculptor’s/team’s name.

*Side note: It’s difficult to get good pictures of snow sculptures because of the bright white of the snow, but it was even harder to do so on a grey skied day (it was cloudy, no matter how blue the sky may look in some pictures), so with editing some of the pictures do actually look like snow, others maybe not so much. But it is indeed all snow. Have I mentioned how much snow we’ve gotten this winter? Over 120 inches of snow. There was plenty for these masterpieces. Anyway, on to the pictures!

This is what the sculptor's had to work with. This one wasn't used by the time the competition was over, so it became a graffiti block.

Peace! by the Call Family

Halo Kitty by team Halo Kitty

Call of the Wild by the Service Partners Club

Detail on the husky's tail on Call of the Wild

Something Miner by Resident Genius

Detail of the little miner in Something Miner

Another side of Something Miner

Until Tomorrow by Sneeuw

Another view of the head and tail of Until Tomorrow

Waiting for the Thaw by

Detail of some of the bears in Waiting for the Thaw

Whole Lot of Shakin Going on by team 3 Dudes from Alaska. This sculpture/team won first place in Division 1 this year and will go on to represent Alaska in the 2013 National Snow Sculpture Competition!

Check out some of the details of Whole Lot of Shakin Going On, including this little guy popping out of the piano. Also, the squirrel, just chillin

The widdle walrus

He's so excited he kicked over and broke his stool!

Details from another angle. Check out the sheet music! Did I mention this sculpture was my favorite this year?

There will be a few more posts on winter-time activities up here in Alaska, including more Rondy and some information on the incredible journey that is the Iditarod. Keep on coming back for more!

Fur Rendezvous sign hanging over 4th Avenue

Meandering Moose

It snowed a lot this past week, in fact Anchorage has gotten over 100 inches of snow this year – almost a new record. If we get a little over 30 more inches this winter we will break the old one. Winter Wonderland stays well after Christmas up here.

A few days ago my Dad was washing dishes and looked out the window above the sink to find two moose munching on our precious raspberry bushes. Turns out these two had traipsed their way through the front yard and made their trek to our backyard for a bit of a snack. Luckily, they moved away from our raspberry bushes by the time I had fetched my camera and instead decided to partake in our neighbor’s tree that hangs over the fence.

See? The snow is so high it’s tickling this poor boy’s belly. And he’s huge!

He went over to our rose bush, under the pine tree, and joined his buddy who had just gotten a face full of snow off the branches. Sorry for the awkward glare, I was inside (as one should be when photographing moose at this close) and didn’t realize the glare was so prominent until it was too late.

Rusty has decided he won’t let those moose sneak up on us any more, so he’s going to keep watch of the front lawn from his little window perch. Besides, if there are any new moose that wander through, Rusty can take em down. 😛

There you have it – just another winter day in Anchorage, complete with moose.

Anchorage in Fall

I love fall. It’s just so beautiful.

A Day at the Alaska State Fair

Have you ever been to a state fair? They may be among one of the most awesome things. Usually they are filled with animals, arts and crafts projects, cooking and canning, even flowers and produce all vying for various awards and ribbons. Plus there are usually rides. Also, fair food. You know, turkey legs, funnel cakes, elephant ears, cotton candy, hot dogs, and many a strange deep-fried thing.

Well, you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve been to the Alaska State Fair.

Ok, maybe you have seen something, but there is still plenty that makes our fair unique and fantastic. Here, let me show you what my afternoon looked like at the fair the other day:

This was the 1st place giant pumpkin. It weighed 1,287lbs which officially made it the biggest pumpkin to ever get the blue ribbon at the fair. However, it was not the biggest pumpkin at the fair.

This behemoth weighed at a startling 1,723lbs! Sadly, they discovered a small hole at the bottom of it which meant disqualification from getting the blue ribbon. I just keep picturing it hollowed out and used as the giant jack o’ lantern in the Halloweentown movies. Plus lots of pies. I see those too. Only this time I wasn’t sleeping when I saw them.

The real prize of the Alaska State Fair, the one written about all over the land (like in the September issue of Food Network Magazine. Seriously, check it out, page 155) is the giant cabbage. Now, if you are wondering how our vegetables get so giant the answer is simple – steroids. Just kidding. The answer is all in the state nickname: The Land of the Midnight Sun. With a lot of sunlight in the summer and the grower’s tender loving care, these babies reach up to at least 100lbs! Actually, the results from this year’s cabbage contest just came in and the winning cabbage was less than one pound shy of a new world record at 126.4lbs!

Here’s what happens to the smaller cabbages

Also, I realize this may not be the best quality photo. I apologize about that, but the lighting in the barn wasn’t exactly stellar for photos. Plus it’s just so much better in person.

These are the prize-winning raspberries. What do you think, should we enter ours next year for the fun of it?

There are also lots of pretty flowers that won ribbons.

On to the birds! This is a Golden Ptarmigan. The Ptarmigan is the state bird.

These funny lookin fellas are Polish Roosters. They have big fluffy heads. The name of the one on the right is Crazy Head. I think I am in love.

Bunnies! There were two in here, and one of the them was cleaning his buddy. Too cute.

This guy reminded me of Rusty. Actually, as we entered the small animal section of the barn and saw a bunch of sleeping roosters Dad says “Oh look, just like the cat.”



We entered the main barn, where they keep the big animals, just in time to catch the Great Pig Move. The pigs were getting slowly shuffled forward to be judged and have their pretty pictures taken. Some weren’t too happy about the whole schlep and they squealed which echoed throughout the big open barn. Attention hogs.

Here is something you might possibly only see at the Alaska State Fair, but I’m not sure, they may be elsewhere. What is he? Why, Rudolph. Actually this one may not be named Rudolph but he sure is a reindeer!

Oink. Oink oink.

Little Oinks.

Little curly tails!

These guys were getting judged. For all they know I was judging them too, but in a different way. But I wasn’t. Dad may have been.

These guys can be seen on the cliffs that border the highway as you head down south. Little cuties.

It may be surprising, but we actually have a good amount of Llamas up here. Although this guy, aptly named after the towering mountain Denali, was the only one at the fair.



Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here’s what the barn looks like from the front entrance:

From the barn we just kind of wandered around. Looked at all the booths. Smelled all the state fair food smells. Mmmmm…kettle corn….and then headed into the competitive crafting and the like areas. Small warning, I didn’t take many pictures of this stuff, not sure why I didn’t, but oh well. The few I do have seem to speak volumes.

Sigh. Look at that cake! The HANDMADE bass! The guitar and book quilts! The teeny tiny things in the dollhouse! The stained glass car! Oh, I wanna bake and play music and go for a drive and read a book and do lots and lots of crafting. All at the same time. You may want to stay off the streets.

After oohing and ahhing over the awesome stuff our great states-persons created we went off to the races!

The pig races! No. Really. Look.

Race Track + Pigs =

Pig races. Who said I couldn’t do math? Oh, right, my Algebra teacher.

Dad, a former Boy Scout, and I, a former Girl Scout, decided to see what the local 4H kids had been up to in their own display of their fair goods and projects. All I can say is there are some really awesome and smart kids up in Alaska. I think this blue ribbon photo says it all. It’s that one in the middle there. The really awesome one.

This gives me confidence in how the children of today will shape our future world.

We kept wandering around the fair and saw things that you would always expect to see in Alaska…

Giant cabbages…

Gargantuan kohlrabi…

Beautiful brussel sprouts…

And…kangaroos? Yes! There was a big display on animals from the Outback this year, including these adorable little buggers.

After devouring a funnel cake and buying a huge bag of kettle corn to bring home to the cat, we headed out and drove the hour back to Anchorage from Palmer. Bye bye fair.

This had been the first time I had been to the State Fair in four years, had I mentioned that?

Man, I missed it. All I can say is, job well done Alaska!

I hope you all enjoyed the glimpse of the uniqueness of the Alaska State Fair and are now buying your plane tickets to come up before the fair closes this Monday!

Happy 75th Birthday Alaska State Fair!


Side Note: I am currently enjoying…erm…I have recently enjoyed the first pumpkin ale of the season. Fall here we come!