Thursday, April 30, 2015


Art is not always a painting hung on the wall or a print of a famous piece of art work next to the bookcase.

For some people, paradise is going to Fairbanks, Alaska to compete in the World Ice Art Championships.  People from all over, Russia, Japan, the US, Europe etc. come to change blocks of ice into fantastic art.  Not just sculptures, but intricately carved in full detail.  During the day, you see the ice clearly but at night, when then lights are turned on, the sculptures come alive and become total fantasy.

These artists  start with a design and one or more blocks of ice.  it looks like it might be easy to  create these sculptures, people spend time planning the design, the technique to be used, number of people, tools, etc. After spending a couple  of weeks working on their art using saws, chisels and any other tools that will their visions to life, the park is opened so these pieces of fantasy can be seen by everyone.

The artwork may range from serious to whimsical but it is a competition so people come here to compete against each other for awards in the single, double and multiple block categories. It is not easy when you are spending several days working outside in temperatures that are in the -30 to -40 (C or F doesn't matter, its cold!) range.  Personally, I hate being out in temperatures like that but these folks are determined and are definitely artists of the highest

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Paradise for Alaskan Kids

I have absolute proof that it is spring.

I saw  two guys arrived by snow machine with shovels in hand to dig out the basketball court. 
The basketball court is a wooden platform built in the hockey rink by the school's carpentry class a few years back.

Yeah you read that right.  They built a basketball platform out of wood because the kids would rather play basketball.  The rink was built here when they built the new school but no one plays hockey so they built something more usable.

Out here, kids play basketball from the time the platform is cleared all the way to the fall when the snow stays.  In fact they spend from about 6 PM to sunset right now playing.  Sunset is around midnight.  Yup, midnight.  I need to take a picture and post it.

On weekends and in the summer, they go all day long till it is dark.

Just beyond the basketball court is the lake.  It has a nice layer of water over the ice but the many of the extreme sports guys are waiting till the water is fully melted so they can rev up the engines and plow their way across the lake on their snow machines.

 Yes!!!! YOU read that right.  They rev up their snow machines, get up to a certain speed and go for it, hoping they get all the way across the lake without sinking.  Snow machines become Jetskis. I am not kidding you!  They think nothing of sinking, once, twice or even three times in a day!  I have seen that happen!

Their machines produce a high whiney sound that makes me think of fingernails on the chalk boards.  To quote people out here "So annoying!"  I found out today  that the snow machine has to be powerful enough to even try it or you don't stand a chance of going all the way across. Right now, they rev up and push their machines through the standing water. 

It is sooo funny watching them.  Last year, my neighbors and I stood on the front porch, watching them and making bets on who would make it all the way across the lake.  Its like watching a car go through a deep puddle of water!  When it happens, I"ll record a short video for people.  Yes, we laugh as the guys sink because they miscalculated, didn't have enough power or were just unlucky.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

North to Alaska

When I first came to Alaska I  ferry hopoped from Washington State up through the waterways of Canada into Alaska.  I had my car packed to the gills and it was so stuffed, I was lucky it did not explode.  This event took place in the month of September, just after school started, and before it got too cool.

Throughout the trip, the scenery was breath taking.  It was an experience that was like Alice tumbling into Wonderland.  It was wild seeing whales as we headed north to Alaska!

Yes, I felt I should be hearing that song "North to Alaska!" playing in the background.  If this had been a movie, we might have had gold miners on board headed for the promise of striking it rich.  Going all the way to Skagway so they could head up and over the Chilkoot Pass while trying not to fall prey to Soapy Smith, a con-artist who had men planted all the way up to the Canadian Border to rip people off.

Did you know he had all sorts of cons set up including a telegraph line so people could send a telegraph home to let loved one know that he or she had made it safely?  They paid $5.00 for the privilege.  Often, they even received a response that was collect, so there went another $5.00.  Of course, Soapy didn't bother telling anyone, the line dead ended just outside of town......LOL.  He died an early death due to a bullet and was buried there.
 Little bit of history there.
Since it was fall, the temperatures were cooling off but the scenery was as beautiful as it would be in the middle of the summer.  I spent as much time as I could on deck so I wouldn't miss a single  breath taking moment.  Sometimes we saw pods of whales as they swam by the ferry.  It wasn't till a couple years later that I learned you can distinguish whales by the markings on their tales.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bargain shopping

I am a reader.  I love reading science fiction, certain historical novels, gardening books, cookbooks.

You ever check out those cookbooks that are also travelogues like those by Naomi Duguid and or Jeffery Alford? 
You know, the ones where they talk about going round the country, where they stayed, and the great foods they found in the little hole in the wall place?  The one they stumbled across in their wanderings around the city?

I love  reading those types in addition to regular cookbooks.  The thing is,  I am a vegetarian who leans towards being vegan but I still buy many of the meat based cookbooks because the recipes sound sooooo good and many of them have some great recipes that can easily be changed, so I can eat it. I made one that required ground meat and I substituted TVP and it was awesome.

Mostly I go after Asian, Vegan, or Latino cook books.
by Christopher Porter

You ask where this is all going?

 I finally discovered e-books.  It took me quite a while to switch over to e-books because they don't have the same smell or texture that regular books have but I can now travel with 150 books and no real added weight.  It also means I do not need more book shelves!

I just keep getting a bit off track.  Anyway, I prowl the two big sources for sales.

Who can resist a sale.  I love looking for bargains.  I just stumbled across one of the happy herbivore cookbooks (vegan) for $1.99.  In addition, I found a wonderful book on Burmese cooking marked down.  It is not vegan but it has some really delicious looking recipes.

The other area I love is gardening. With the long winter and tons of snow.  Alaska really is a state where the ground is white and the sky is green.  I love gardening books so I can see green in the middle of the winter.  When spring fever hits, I pull out my gardening books.

Unfortunately, gardening has lots of imitators who throw together a 20 to 32 page book on one of the popular topics such as square foot gardening, slap a $2.99 sticker on it and sell it as an ultimate guide.   Come on folks, 32 pages for the ultimate guide to whatever?  Dream on.

 On the other hand, I was able to purchase the original Square Foot Gardening  by Mel Bartholomew for like $3.99 on sale.  The one that birthed this trend.   Just saw one on vertical gardening and one on vegetable gardening, both are considered excellent resources and are full length books but are on sale for $2.99.

I always feel like I scored something awesome when I stumble across the bargains.  Can't do it in person since there are no stores larger than the 7-11 type corner stores and all I really have is the internet to fulfill my desires for bargain hunting.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring has spring with a vengence.

Friday, the department secretary announced to everyone when arrived at work.  "Spring is finally here.  the air smells different!" 
Her comments came back to me yesterday when I walked, slid, struggled, sank, or swished over to the Post Office.
Yes, I did all those things!!!
I woke up in the morning and checked the weather.  It was beautiful.  You could see the mountains out in the distance past the snow machine.

So later in the day I headed out to the PO in my regular mistake.  I wore my regular hiking boots, spring coat when I left the apt and I didn't get too far before I realized how nasty it was out there.

I had bits and pieces of song lyrics running through my head!
"Splishin and a splashin"

or "Slip sliding along"

None of the snow was solid.  It was either:
1.  Soft so I traveled sideways as I put weight on my foot
2.  Partially melted underneath so I sank to my knees.
3.  Wet and puddlly so I got everything wet from my shins down.
4.  Muddy under the standing water so the mud tried to capture my boots and pull them off.
5.  Icy and slushy so bits and pieces of ice fell down into my shoes.

By the time I made the complete round trip, my jeans were totally soaked, my shoes squished every time I took a step and I had to wring the excess water out of my socks before I went into the house.  I do not wear shoes in my house because it keeps the house cleaner, especially the socks.

One of my co-workers tried to fly in yesterday and she could not make it.  It was not the weather that prevented her arrival, it was the ground.  Apparently the gravel runway was too mushy to land on and she will hopefully get back today!

Friday, April 24, 2015


Up in Fairbanks, I love visiting Hot licks which is across the street from Buns on the Run and Beaver sports. 
Hot Licks!!!!!  a name that conjures up some interesting images and makes you wonder what they offer!!!
It has even made a magazine as one of the top 25 in its classification nationwide!  Made a news magazine and that is impressive.

HOT LICKS is an artisan ice cream maker. In other words, they make small batches of ice cream so that each one has the attention and detail.   They use the best ingredients they can and they buy locally if possible.  In the summers they always have a sign in the windows of their small pink building telling locals they want to buy blueberries and cranberries for some of their signature flavors like Aurora Borealis or Arctic Refuge Wildberry Snap.  MMMMMMMMMM
As soon as I get to town, I always want to stop through there and pick up something.  They have a great selection of ice cream.  Some flavors include some sort of Ale or Lager from the local micro brewery, while others are a bit more creative than my taste buds like.  I enjoy green tea ice cream but I drew the line at Asparagus.  One of the hot lick flavors
Yes you heard that right!  Asparagus!  It was a lovely shade of green but didn't appeal to me. Others said it was great.  I love one called ginger sprinkles.  It is vanilla ice cream with bits of chocolate and chunks of candied ginger mixed in with it.  mmmmmmmm.  They don't offer it that often but when they do I go for it. 
Maybe I'll tell you more about Buns on the Run in a future post. <grins> 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Middle Earth

I came home from work tonight to find the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy playing on the tele.  Imagine, someone actually tackled the fantastic piece of literature, preserved the essence of Tolkien's work and converted it into a visual epic.  As I watched the last 30 min or so, it brought back fond memories of friends who fell in love with the world Peter Jackson created.  I also remembered a friend who passed away after leading a tour to middle earth.

There are always going to be people who want more and when Lord of the Rings was released,  Middle Earth became a reality to its fans.  Ohhh the breath taking mountains, the rivers, everything was so much bigger than life.  We cheered the white hats and boo'd the black hats. By the third part, with the signal lights were lit and the camera soared from mountain top to mountain top across the lands.  It was so impressive that you felt as if you were flying across the land.

Yes I know the thousands and thousands of the orc, warriors, etc were computer generated but things were done so well, it was easy to suspend your disbelief and dream yourself into the action.  The movies served as a catalyst for folks to create tours of "Middle Earth"  better known as New Zealand.
 New Zealand, a land once known as the country that had more sheep than people. A country made up of two islands and a few cities. A country that suffered a major earthquake to rival those found in southern California. 

Did I ever think about going on one of the tours?  Yes but it never fit in my schedule.  You want to go on the trip so you hit their spring, summer or fall which is usually when I'm working. Do I have a desire to go back?  Yes and yes you read that correctly.  I've been down there but I only spent a weekend there on my way to Australia.  I have memories of staying at a hotel where I sank so deep in the bed that the top sheets lay straight across the bed.  No bodies were visible.  My father talks about someone pitching(throwing) the morning paper in so it landed on his stomach while he was asleep in bed. Said it was a horrid way to wake up. <grins> 

I never got out of the city on that trip but I do have dreams of going back some day and enjoying the country side and maybe go on my own tour of the countryside where Lord of the Rings was filmed.  I know that many of the buildings for places may be all gone but until I actually go there and have reality intrude upon my dreams, I can visit the hobbits, I can see the elves, I can cry when they are struck down, I can tsk, tsk, tsk, when fathers try to keep their daughters from following their hearts.  I can pretend to be a part of Middle Earth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fruits of a different sort

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to try different fruits and vegetables. Some that turned out to be quite good and others well, that is a whole different story.  One day, while in the Hilo Farmers Market, I stumbled across two different fruits that were at opposite ends of the enjoyment scale.

The first was this kind of large, spiky fruit that the sales lady assured me was really good and such a treat.   Never having seen it before, I decided what the heck! I bought it to try.  I wondered why she was giggling and whispering to a coworker just she gave me my change.  There was something she neglected to tell me.

 Pop forward a couple years to a hotel room in some US city.  I do not have a television signal so when I'm traveling, I will often watch TV  shows just as a change.  I happened to turn the channel to one of those cooking shows where three or four chefs are given ingredients to create appetizers, main dishes, or desserts and their creation is judged by some famous chefs.

One of the ingredients was Durian!!!!!  You open it and eat the fleshy part in the center.

Back to the Farmers Market!  So I took the fruit back to my hotel room.  It wasn't too long before I started smelling something strange, kind of like something died.  I didn't pay too much mind to the smell but later on, when I opened the fruit, the smell got really really offensive and the guy I was with started gagging and headed to the bathroom.  I didn't actually get a chance to try the fruit because of all of His gagging made it hard to even give it a try!!!!!!

So when the contestants, the judges and the MC were all turning green while trying to not puke their guts out, I KNEW exactly what they were going through!  Ohhhhh Yeah!!!!!!  They barely made it through the round.  I was fun watching the judges force themselves to eat the creations.  It was cool.

 The second fruit I found was soooo much nicer.

The second is this fine red kind of hairy fruit that grows in a cluster on a tree.  Kind of looks like tribble with very course hair or a spider with tons of feet.
The fruits are not all that big, maybe 2 inches by one inch but once you peel them, the inner white translucent fruit is so alluring that you can't help but take a bite. It is called a rambutan and hidden in the center is a nice large seed so you have to be careful eating the fruit.

Yes, it is juicy and the juice can spill out of your mouth, down your chin.  I don't think I've actually squirted anyone when I bit into it but honestly, I was too busy enjoying the luscious flavor.  Its kind of like a lychee, sweet and exotic with a hint of mmmmmmm good in it.  If you ever get a chance to taste these, please do so.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Oasis is a word that conjures up images of something beautiful in the middle of a desert for most people.
Photo by Dennis Jarvis

For others it conjures up a restaurant that has the best french toast stuffed with a cream cheese filling and drenched in strawberries topped with whipped cream.  mmmm, mmm, good, mmmmm, mmmmm good. 

 While others see it as a beautiful spot where they can hide in a green house, a small garden area, or the sunroom. 

For me an oasis, besides the restaurant, is going to be a patio that will have built up planters around edge with several levels so as to provide privacy.  I don't think I want a pool but a nice little pond that will recycle water for that lovely whishy sound.  I would also like a four poster bed similar to one you might imagine in a decadent hotel but low to the ground with tons of pillows. 
Imagine something like what is in the picture with the bed in front, just off to the right of the picture with an outdoor kitchen to the left just out of sight.  Scattered through out the area we see, I want edible plants, vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs. 

A place I can escape to when I need to charge my batteries and get away from it all.  Where I can dream those dreams that may or may not ever come true.  Where I can wear as few pieces or sleep outside if it is beautiful and if it is in a place with no mosquitoes.  My private oasis cannot have any mosquitoes.

You ever try to sleep when there are mosquitoes around?  They like to buzz around your ears, trying to find the perfect spot to land.  Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite and suck blood?  Did you know that certain mosquitoes actually hibernate through the winter hidden under leaves covered in snow and when they wake in the spring, they are the fully grown ones.  The little ones that are newly hatched are extremely aggressive and tend to bite before they land?  Enough about mosquitoes.

Monday, April 20, 2015


I grew up moving around and living in various places.  When it came time for me to learn to drive, I lived in Australia.

If you are an American, you think Australians drive on the "wrong" side but the Australians think the same of Americans.
When I was younger I was lived in a small town, about 100 miles north of Brisbane, Queensland.  At the time, you had to be 17 to even consider getting your learners permit.  So when I turned 17, my father took me in and I got my learners permit.  My father took on the job of teaching me to drive.  Drivers education was not something schools offered  and insurance companies did not give discounts for students taking drivers ed classes.

It was ok driving in town where there were lots of cars and center lines to help me stay on the correct side of the road but once we were out of town traveling down some of those back roads, I lost my visual clues.  One day when I was at an intersection.  I looked left! I looked right!  There were absolutely no cars in sight!  Not even one measly center line!  Center lines are important visual clues

None!  Geez.  Having grown up in the states, I couldn't just trust my instinct when I turned.  I think I must have sat there two or three minutes while I worked out in my head, which way I needed to turn.

Then the most brilliant idea popped into my head!

"The driver is always next to the center of the road."

Yeahhhhhhhh!  Now I had a rule that would keep me safe!   Well,  safe enough in most places.

Out here, people use the rules of the road as suggestions.   Most drivers whiz around people, other machines, etc and it is sometimes a challenge to navigate through the parking mess aka parking lot at the store. Machines are parked any old way.  No lines, no asphalt.

Australia was also the first time I encountered a roundabout.  There were rules for going around one but they made no sense for me as you approached from the side that seemed wrong to my sensibilities. I am glad to say, that I survived with no scratches and Fairbanks, Alaska has put in a bunch of roundabout and I can navigate around them with no trouble.

One thing I saved for last was a ritual my father performed during the lesson.  About halfway through the lesson, my father had me park outside a put so he could pop in and fortify himself.  Of course, this gave me practice parking on a hill.

The only other issue with learning to drive is that my parents owned an old Ford station wagon with a manual shift instead of an automatic.  What made it more challenging was the shift was on the column so I spent a lot of time, trying to signal with the shift and shift with the signal. This is not something you want happening in the middle of passing another car.

 By the way, he did survive the experience and went on to teach 3 more siblings and he did it without loosing any more hair than he already had.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mutter, Mutter, Mutter

To paraphrase someone "My kingdom for reliable internet!"  I have two different posts I have been trying to post for a couple of days.  The issue is that every time we have a nasty wind or blizzard.
Yesterday, when the blizzard hit, I couldn't even see the railing and by the time it finally wound down, we had about 6 to 7 inches dumped due to a late spring storm.   Whenever blizzards hit, strange things happen.  Two storms in a row, a wire coming into the apt building broke and everyone lost half the power to their apts.  I was fortunate, I still had the fridge, freezer, and TV working.  My washer went down with laundry in it and the dryer quit working along with the power to the hallway and to my bedroom.  I ended up rigging an extension cord from my bathroom to my bedroom so I had light.
The other thing, that can happen, is the internet gets fuzzy.  It arrives by satellite dish, is relayed to the router and broadcast but a nasty storm can readjust the dish a bit so the signal does not work as well as it should. 
Today, paradise would be internet that works fast, does not restrict me to downloads between 10 PM and 6 AM.  I love when I travel, the internet in most airports is so much faster and more reliable then what I have here.
I have aspirations to make my writing more well known, even to the point of regularly publishing books but its hard to do when you don't know if your upload actually makes it the first, second or even 15th try.  I want to create apps and interactive books but again I feel constrained by the health of my internet.
Even at work it is nasty and not always reliable.  They block things and make it harder to upload things from there. I have dreams and aspirations for what I want to accomplish.  I am hoping I can publish the two entries I have waiting.  One is on art and one is on driving.  Only time and the internet gods will tell.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Easter Island

I woke up to a total white out today.  Actually, I woke up to a call from someone from work asking me if a meeting should take place.  I was thinking "Of course, why call me?  I am not the boss!"  He explained there were 44 mile an hour winds with total white out.  I looked out the window and I couldn't see anything.  I think I muttered something like "Yeah, postpone it and went back to bed.  I just got up and looked out the window. It is still nasty out there. 
When ever we have a total whiteout like this, I immediately pick out a place that has no snow and would take me away from this reality. 

Sunset on Easter Island

This time it is Easter Island.  I had a friend, who has since passed on, who actually visited Easter Island.  He told me all about the visit.  It sounds like a cool place to visit.  I remember pictures of those heads from textbooks when I was growing up.  It wasn't until my friend mentioned his visit that I even thought about the idea that maybe people lived there. In school they only mentioned the statues, never that the island was inhabited now.  At 12 or 13, you don't think about things like that.

I just looked up Easter Island to find out more about it.  Turns out you can fly there from Chili, Peru or Tahiti.  There are several hotels to stay at and lots to do.  I found there is even an website for the island.  I wonder how many people have a visit to Easter Island on their Bucket list?  I wonder if I could get a job there like others who get jobs teaching or such so they can travel the world.  Hmmmmm, this is something worth looking into. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


I have a dream of going to Tahiti since I first heard that Robert Louis Stevenson lived there.
Image result for Tahiti

I've been to some of those presentations where they try to sell you lodgings at a bargain if you join their organization.  You know the ones, they are like the folks selling time shares, except you buy the ability to get hotels or condos for a reduced price. I went to one where they showed us pictures of an "exclusive" resort.  I know personally, I prefer the older hotels, the ones that the locals stay at.  Those can be so much more fun.
I seldom sign up for a tour of anything.  I prefer taking local transportation, renting a car, or bicycling round to see what I want to see.  One place I'd love to see when I get to Tahiti is Radio Tahiti, the international shortwave station.  I've heard them over the air before and I'd love to see where the station.
I want to see where Paul Gaugain the painter stayed while he lived there.  Perhaps take time to see where Robert Lewis Stevenson lived while he was there.  I did a quick web search and found that people like Herman Melville, James Norman Hall (Mutiny on the Bounty), Jacques Brel (singer) all visited there at one time or another.
I want to take dance lessons.  There are two types of dance.  One is the one most of us think of when we hear Tahiti with the fast hips and the other is more like we think of when we hear about hula.  I want to learn both.  I enjoy the music I've heard off of recordings. 
Next step, figure out how to get this dream to come true.  I am often afraid that when I make my dream come true, the reality will not be as good.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The good time girls.

A few years back, I stumbled across a book called "Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush: Secret History of the Far North"   I stumbled across this book many years ago and found it to be fascinating.  It was like reading a history book combined with a juicy soap opera digest.  I loved learning about the various characters, their lives and their specialties.
Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush: A Secret History of the Far North
Each of the girls mentioned came alive with their stories, telling of their lives across the cold north as they struggled to make living.  Since I live in Fairbanks part of the year, I enjoyed learning more about the ladies who worked in Fairbanks.  It was awesome hearing how some of the businesses catered to those girls without "soiling" regular society.  Of how the boys could deliver things and mothers know their sons would not get hit upon.  Or of how the type of girls changed over the course of time. 

Yes I know its a book review but it gives a flavor of a time up in Alaska.  Even now, traveling can be challenging.  Back then, getting up here required you to travel by ship and then by foot up and over mountains in the early days and ship to Nome for later days.  Gold sparked the thirst of adventure to become a millionaire.  Even today, gold still calls to certain people. 

The cold hard reality is many people who struck it rich, ended up dying as paupers.  Many of those "good times girls" married and usually ended up out of the profession and considered respectable.  I thought the dichotomy between the two sides was facinating.

I may talk about some of the places they minded gold.  Remember for many, getting rich for some hard work was their idea of paradise.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mt Mckinley/Denali

This photo was taken on the air plane while flying from Fairbanks to Anchorage.  The day was beautiful and clear.  Sometimes, if it is especially clear, you can see Denali from Fairbanks but it doesn't happen every day.

Such a beautiful shot.  Denali is slightly to the right of the middle.  When my mother was growing up, this beautiful 20,000 foot high mountain was called Mt. Mckinley.  It was named after William McKinley who was running for president at the time.  Denali is the currently accepted name and is the original indigenous name.
This is a better shot of Denali.  When I was young,  I had a relative who climbed this magnificent mountain.  He was pretty young and at that point in time gained the title of "Youngest to ever climb Mt. Mckinley.  I think he was the reason I even knew about the mountain. 

In the spring, they open up the roads on one day to go in but only so far.   If you want to go further, you can sign up for a tour and sit in a rattly old bus whose springs are pretty much shot.  The seats, well what do expect but the view is wonderful.  The buses stop whenever wild life is spotted and at regular stops along the route. 

I can say that seeing Denali in the flesh is so much better than any picture.  Even viewing it from the highway that passes by the park, still provides a spectacular view.  It is even more spectacular if you get to look at it around sunset when it is surrounded by the beautiful fiery rays of the setting sun.