Friday, December 10, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Ah, the wonderful sight of a snow-covered landscape. The cedars frosted with snow. Icicles hanging from the eaves. The snow-covered majestic mountains glowing with reflected sun. I promise you there is a lot of snow covering the landscape here. We live just "off the Bluff" but not quite up as high as Diamond Ridge. What that means is, "Holy Cow! We get a lot of snow!" I expected this. Really I did. I thought very carefully about what clothing I would bring with me.

The Wonder Dog and her coat
I relentlessly sorted, donated and gave away my endless choices of apparel. How best to layer? Will I ever wear this coral -colored jacket again? (No, it is pretty but come on, I was moving to a place where mascara is an oddity.) Should I bring my toe socks? (Yes, and one of the best choices I made!) With each choice I was thinking "Will this end up as footage on 'What Not to Wear'?"  I was down to a lean, mean 9 or 10 suitcases (and that included a little of my yarn stash, most of my knitting needles and The Wonder Dog's darling houndstooth coat.)

I thought I had done the same thing with my shoes. (For those of you who are my friends on Facebook you heard me whine endlessly about it.) I whittled my 80+ (that is all I am admitting to) pairs of high-heels down to 3, okay 4  (well maybe 8 but don't tell Danger SAM I still have that many.)  I of course brought my fugly shoes (you shoe aficionados out there know EXACTLY what those are.) A family-friendly definition would be "comfortable shoes." Sooo, my Danskos, my Birkenstock clogs (I also brought my super cute high-heeled Cole Hahn clogs, but if you are able to hang in there with me, you will see that was a very, very, very bad idea) my UGGs, my Merrill hiking shoes. I was set! Bring it on Homer!

It turns out that most of the stuff  I brought is inappropriate for winter here in Homer (and maybe even summer ... but only time will tell. Check back in July and I will let you know.)  I would like to clarify that when I say most of the stuff I brought, I mean EVERYTHING (Well, except the toe socks.)  It is hard for me to admit that my "planning" turned out to be so poor. For the sake of the many, I am about to share some "stories" (I like to think of them as fables with a nice moral at the end so others can learn. I mean it takes a village right?) of what may or may not have happened due to my stupidity.  Warning: I come off badly in all of these"fables." If you have any sense of kindness you will leave this page now. For those of you who want to laugh at my misfortune (No names mentioned, Leslie A.) please continue reading.

Lesson 1: Snow doesn't remain pristine
Okay that seems obvious right? I lived through the snow in Kansas City. I know that it melts and becomes slush. I know that snow plows put down sand, too. But this is Alaska and we have Alaska-sized mounds of  slushy, dirty snow berms that immediately become quickcrete when exposed to any source of indoor heat. Hmm, wonder what color my beautiful, shearling-lined, suede winter jacket with the bone buttons is? Why, it is winter white! On the first wearing of the above mentioned dry-clean only coat I brushed up against my car while putting groceries away. Now my little car used to be a lovely shade of orange called Sunset but at the time of "The Coat  Incident" was a not so attractive Snowplow sand brown. Please take a moment and refer to the sentence regarding quickcrete above. (Oh, we don't have a dry cleaner here in Homer. The closest one is 75 miles away. They do not have a pick-up/drop-off service.) Just so you know my favorite perfect-for -layering hoodie was white until an unfortunate fire-building "incident" (soot doesn't come out so well) and the biggest ball of yarn I have is ivory. Oh yeah, my winter parka? White.
Moral of the story: Do Not Wear White After Labor Day. I would like at this time to acknowledge that Danger S.A.M. should be nominated for some kind of  Best Boyfriend Ever award for his conduct immediately following "The Coat Incident." He not only did not laugh at me when I started bawling hysterically but helped me into the car and later unbeknownst to me cleaned my coat. It is currently hanging at the back of the closet in its plastic bag shroud.

Lesson 2: Ice is Slippery
Not super cute clogs but cute as possible snow boots
Again, this should not be a lesson that I had to learn. Kansas City gets way more ice than snow right? (or is that an Urban Legend?) Anyway, I have fearlessly and fallessly walked around on the ice for years while wearing my stilettos (my logic being they acted as ice picks and would keep me falling. And IF I did fall, I would look super cute doing it.)  Case Study One:  The Wonder Dog needs to go out. She can't go out by herself because she is: a) untrustworthy-she loves to root around in the dirt under the snow where the pig lived.  b) would make a tasty little snack for varmints that love to eat small dogs. c) her fur is white and she might get lost in winter wonderland.
I slip on those darling Cole Hahn clogs and trot on out with Maddy so she can do her dog duty. Next thing I know I am sprawled on the ground, one clog on, one clog off, while my faithful dog companion is off eating dirt. Danger Sam to the rescue--he thought I was gone entirely too long for dog duty. So the high heels as ice pick theory (not to mention the looking cute part) are completely out the window. In the meantime I have discovered that while my UGGS (brown thanks to the foresight of my super smart mom) make great HOUSE shoes, but crappy outside shoes. They are NOT waterproof (a key element in winter wear) and have no traction (not admitting to any falls here but trust me on this one.)
None of my other very carefully selected KC shoes would do either! YEAH! Shoe shopping!!!! Granted, it was for practical winter boots but quite frankly my derrière was getting sore. Danger S.A.M. knows all the best shoe stores, in this case The Gear Shop. I felt great with my new, as cute as possible, waterproof, warm to -40 boots. Although the weather outside was frightful, inside my new boots my toes felt delightful! Until Case Study 2: The Wonder dog has to go outside. Now being sorer and wiser, I slip on my snow boots...boom! Sprawled on my backside on the freezing cold ice that was cleverly disguising itself as snow while my trusty dog companion is off eating dirt. Luckily I  kept both my shoes on this time but it did take S.A.M. much longer to come help me up. As fate would have it, I had taken my dog-walking flashlight with me and was able to "flash" an S.O.S. to Danger before I became a permanent feature of the driveway.(Are you aware of how cold it gets when you lay on ice?).
Moral of the Story: Waterproof and made for snow do not always make you safe. Turns out you have to buy an "add on" if you will called "Polar Cleats" (Their Logo says "Embrace the Elements." Really.) that slip on the bottom of your boots to keep you from falling. Great, yet another thing to make me a candidate for What Not to Wear...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tsunamis, Volcanos and Bears...oh my!

Actual bear in Homer
I was talking on the phone the other day with on of my best friends, Gigi (which is short for Girlie Girl I am not sure how that nickname came about but that is how we always refer to each other. She has many redeeming qualities, but her best is that she is TALL and still loves to wear high heels! Gigi doesn't knit, but I am willing to overlook that small blemish  - since she has so much more to offer.). Anyhoo, Girlie was just checking to make sure I was still alive. Apparently, she was concerned I might have been tragically eaten by a bear.
Actually, of all the things here in Alaska, I AM afraid of bears. I know it is very possible, and maybe even probable, that I will see a bear up close and personal one day. Danger S.A.M. tried to tell me this scenario is highly unlikely. I would, however,  like to go on record that within the first days of being in Homer, the lead story of the Homer Tribune (Danger's OWN newspaper) was about a bear wreaking havoc around town ... right there in print! Clink on this link for proof (and shameless publicity for the Trib) : Bad day ends for nuisance bear.

View we have of Mt. Iliamna and Cook Inlet from our porch
So once I had assured Gigi of my aliveness, we went on to chat about what else Homer has to offer in the way of life-threatening attractions. I didn't mean to scare her! I was casually talking about the view of the Kenai Mountain range that we have out the kitchen windows. I then made the mistake of bragging about the view of Cook Inlet and Mt. Iliamna that we have right outside our front door. (It really is gorgeous. I promise. Especially in the evening with the sun setting across the water...ahhh.) I guess the news that there are two active volcanoes just hanging out in the inlet was rather startling to Gigi. She didn't even want to hear about how Mt. Redoubt (which you can also see from the front porch) erupted Summer of '09 and covered Homer in inches of ash for days. She just kept saying "Active? There are two active volcanoes?"

Sooo, now I was in a pickle. My good friend (whom I had always thought of as fearless) now demanded to know what else she might need to worry about. I should have just pretended it was just bears and volcanoes and gone on to talk about pigs and my lack of cute shoes (naturally a huge worry to both of us.) Quite frankly though, I am more afraid of Girlie Girl kicking my butt than I am of being mauled by bears! If I just glossed over the earthquake thing and she found out later, I am pretty sure I would be sorry. So I totally just blurted out - "Tsunamis,"  (which is really a very, very, very small chance of being damaging. I mean the one a few months ago caused like an inch increase in the tide for goodness sake!) and in tiny, quiet voice, "and earthquakes." Let's just say this was a serious lapse of judgment on my part. The butt-whooping would have been more enjoyable.

I don't think Gigi will be coming for a visit anytime soon. She was even a little freaked out about the 600-pound baby moose in the front yard. I was sure that would be a charming story to distract her from the "perils" of  Homer.Oh well, I did learn that if I want my friends and family in the Lower 48 to remain unworried, I just won't mention the impenetrable blizzards, eagles carrying off small dogs and frequent house fires. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to keep your shampoo from freezing

Or the fine art of building a fire in a wood-burning stove.

Homer is in the "Banana Belt of Alaska" (which means that first snow doesn't come until Halloween and the temperature doesn't dip below -50 too often. OK, OK, the -50 is an exaggeration but the snowfall thing is true!) Banana Belt, Schmanana Belt, it is COLD here.  If you think I am still exaggerating please refer to my Facebook (final authority on all things factual) status dated Oct. 5, at 8:52 am, "Can toothpaste freeze?" (link to said status for all you non-addicts with real lives and Doubters in Gerneral.)  "Easy fix," I thinks to meself! Turn up the heat! I hunted high and low for that thermostat. I finally had to ask S.A.M. (that wonderful Strapping Alaskan Man of mine) where it was. After he stopped laughing (which took awhile. He likes to live dangerously) he informed me that there is not central heat here in Homer and that big, black oven-looking thing in the living room was our main source of heat (wood-burning stove for those of you citified people. I refer to it as Butch: Bullish, ugly, temperamental, crotchety, horror.) After I stopped laughing, crying, banging my heels and bargaining with God, I began to understand the severity of my situation. I am going to be cold all the time...

I like to think of myself as a woman of action (Bubbles of the Power Puff Girls is one of my heroines) or at least smart enough to figure most things out. I asked Danger S.A.M. for guidance, but he is a self-admitted crappy wood-burning stove fire builder. Danger Jr. is a pretty decent firestarter, but being a teenager, he sleeps waaayyyy too late to be of any use to me in this arena. I used my fail-safe girl scout fire builder techniques. They failed. (I did get the wadded up paper to burn completely.) I did a Google search which gave about 3,650,000 useless links in 23 seconds. You Tube: 75 videos of no value. I cannot (and by cannot I mean don't really want to) overcome that huge, hideous, gaping maw of blackness. 

So, since that fateful morning I have come to enjoy the refreshing sensation that actual ice particles embedded in toothpaste impart to my twice daily (and as needed) oral hygiene routine. (OK, my routine is just brushing. Please don't tell my dentist that I don't floss. I do use the "tooth polisher" brush head on my electric toothbrush when I think about it. Now that is refreshing.) I don't, however, enjoy scrubbing my scalp with frozen shampoo. It hurts quite frankly, and is also difficult to squeeze out of the bottle with my icicle fingers. I don't even want to get started on the conditioner! (Luckily for me my facial cleanser has those tiny little pieces of granite meant to leave me with the glow of a young girl in it so I have no idea if it freezes or not. I already had to use a C-clamp to squeeze it out.)  We do have a couple of very nice electric heaters (Sally, it's a Suntwin!) to supplement Butch's erratic warmth, but Danger S.A.M. told me that it is unwise to actually bathe with them. (Ironic huh, with a name like Danger.)

I guess for now I will just have to knit my shampoo bottle a cozy, wear my ugly fake sherpa slippers  and warm my frozen digits from the heat of my laptop. (Note to self: use this as an excuse to shop for fabulous fur slippers AND cashmere yarn for fingerless gloves.) Maybe The Wonder Dog will share some of her Bichon body heat.
Maddy The Wonder Dog hogging the blanket!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

There is a pig in my front yard...

and I don't mean Petunia either. There is - in fact -a largish swine dining on hog finisher and leftovers right outside the bay window (insert Green Acres theme song here.) Now, I have never known any mammals of the porcine persuasion before (unless you count the short time I referred to Maddy, The Wonder Dog, as Senorita Porcina due to her unfortunate weight gain.) And, if  truth be told, I haven't been formally introduced to Pig, even though we have shared the same residence for the last 12 days. I guess that is really my fault. I haven't even said "howdy," let alone knit her up a quick scarf  or cute pair of mittens (it is cold here remember.) I have been able to get by on the excuse that I really don't have the right shoes for mucking through mud and swilling the hog. (I am not sure what the right pair of "hog shoes" looks like, but I am sure that I don't own them and don't ever WANT to own them. I did see a darling pair of alligator print 5 3/4 inch platform heel Pradas online yesterday that I would love to own, though...) I really think it is Pig's responsibility to initiate the relationship anyway. She was here first, after all. In the meantime, I am happy to set aside the food scraps and potato peelings for her (I do love bacon.)

Pig is not a pet. Her sole purpose is to be food (for our own consumption and used for trade for other non-pork consumables.) As I mentioned above, I do LOVE bacon, but have always been content to purchase it from the grocer in that lovely hermetically sealed plastic package. (On really lazy days, I go for the pre-cooked, microwave kind.) I am not sure I want to see my food in its original form. I don't even like chicken on the bone. It is too gruesome a reminder that my sustenance was once walking around. (Note to self: should I be a vegan?) Pig is getting closer to her final destiny every day now. She is really packing on the pounds. That hog finisher she is oinking out on is apparently a swine's last supper of sorts. Well, at least Pig won't have to endure an Alaska winter right? Hmm, I wonder if you can make a pair of shoes out of pig  hide?

Pig and her playmate Baby Boy Moose