25 January 2010

Father Thomas' Birthday

"If nothing else," I thought as I approached my first Alaskan Christmas, "it will be snowy."

And I was wrong.
I was so wrong.

It rained. Nonstop. For days. For weeks, actually, never showing so much as a flake of snow to encourage the skiers and snowshoers of Juneau. So we did what we always do when it rains interminably---we zipped up our raincoat collars a little higher, put our hands in our pockets, and kept walking the dog and going to work and shopping for groceries. In the grey rain. Christmas turned to Epiphany and Epiphany turned to mid January, and we found ourselves in Father Thomas' apartment, celebrating his 41st birthday with about a dozen friends.

What the outdoors lacked in warmth and joy, the inside made up with festive zeal. Lights were lit, 42 candles adorned a giant chocolate cake. An ice cream-making ball was produced and tossed and kicked from wool sock-wearing guest to wool sock-wearing guest, churning the cream inside to gooey goodness. Drinks were poured and passed. Gifts in bright paper, almost mocking the cloudy sky outside, were opened and applauded. Food was prepared and presented and eaten in abundance. Halibut enchiladas and corn salad. And for a few hours, surrounded by good friends, good food, and good drink, we all forgot about the rain outside as our galoshes sat in a pile next to the door, drying. When it was time for the cake, each person stood and told Father Thomas something they appreciated about him before accepting their slice. We laughed and we smiled and we joked and we thanked, and Father Thomas, ever the humble friend, sat and grinned through it all.

And as friend upon friend shared a smile and a memory...it started to snow.

22 January 2010

Friday Photo Shoot-Out: Sounds

This week's theme, Sounds, is courtesy of one of my favorite blog friends, NanU, who lives in France being all academic. She's basically living my dream, just exchange Biblical and Theological academia for science. Check out her blog and her excellent interpretation of her theme here.

Sounds in Juneau are surreal...often because of their absence:

A walk by the Inside Passage will sometimes grant you the sound of the waves lapping against the rocky beach. If you're lucky, you might hear (and see) some whales breaching or spouting, like I did yesterday!

Lately we've been hearing the crunch crunch of studded and chained tires on snow and pavement

We've also been hearing a lot of rustling and general mischief happening around the apartment with our kitten, whose name has been withheld until now...

Meet Tillamook!
Yes, he is named after a brand of cheese, mostly because he kept begging us for it with those big kitten eyes. He makes all sorts of fun sounds while he's playing, and he also purrs incessantly. He sounds like a very content cat, especially around four in the morning.

The slide of a sled and the giggle of its occupants often sounds outside

And then, when it snows, sometimes you can't hear anything but the soft, white flakes falling on top of each other


19 January 2010

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten Things That Made Me Smile This Past Week:
1. Our increasing comfort with the kitten, whose name shall be revealed in a post tomorrow
2. Kip's surprise gift of a first edition copy of Julia Child's cookbook. What to make first?
3. Our decision to start a subscription to a CSA from Full Circle Farms, a family-owned, organic and sustainable farm outside of Seattle that will fly up boxes of seasonal fruits and vegetables to Alaskan residents. Tomorrow morning, we will have a head of broccoli, apples, pears, salad greens, mini beets, a bunch of carrots, cucumber, zucchini, and tons more produce in a nice little box...and all for much cheaper than it would have cost to buy those things at the grocery store up here. Huzzah!
4. Whoever it was that left my followers list after one of my ten things last week was "Seeing that 33 people" were followers. Either they were offended and weren't really that fond of my writing, or they had enough gumption and humor to leave so that the count would be off. If it was the former, I'm sorry. If it was the latter, I salute you, Mystery Followers Leaver Person!
5. The way that the kitten has started nipping the tip of my nose when I come home and pet him. I looked it up--it's a way of showing affection, as if to say, "Purring just isn't doing this justice. I love you and your magic hands!"
6. Getting new photos of Alli in the mail
7. Talking to my Chicago friends on the phone during my lunch break
8. Having a really cool chat with Sister Marie in the bookstore about how she used to live in the "bad" section of Washington D.C. and still walked to services at midnight alone.
9. The Texas Toast that Kip and I devoured because it was so tasty
10. Tessa's post on edible flowers in her garden. I'm so inspired!

18 January 2010

A Verse I Liked Over the Weekend

Found on a sandwich shop wall during a frustrating day at work:

"Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."
Proverbs 3:3

15 January 2010

Friday Photo Shoot-Out: Birds

Finally, my computer and I saw eye to eye and I was able to upload these photos for our *ahem* Friday Photo Shoot-Out. This week's theme was "Birds, Real or Otherwise" chosen by our good friend Scriptor Senex all the way over there in jolly ol' England. I sit here in non-jolly Alaska thoroughly jealous and missing Oxford.

I finally got a chance (and a swatch of good enough weather) to go out into the city and shoot this week. As you can see, it was snowy and grey. Welcome to Juneau! It's always like this. I was happy for this assignment because the birds of Juneau were one of the first things I noticed when I moved here. They're huge. Freakishly huge. Like, I can't approach the Jeep when five of them are sitting on top of it because they will peck my eyes out huge. So here's some pictures of the not so gentle avian beasts:

A raven for every street light on the way home.
Aside from boringly normal birds like swallows, Alaska has two main bird populations: ravens and eagles. Both are plentiful and both are HUGE. "What's the difference between a crow and a raven?" you might ask (or, if you're me circa 2008, "What's up with the crows here?"). About ten pounds of body weight and the beak--it's longer and hooked on the front instead of straight.

Totem pole outside the Goldbelt Building on 10th Street.
The First Nations of Alaska took their inspiration from nature, and so even to this day, the Tlingit (pronounced "KLINK-it") tribe (I'm not sure about the Haida) is separated into two clans--Eagle and Raven. Eagles can only marry Ravens and vice versa. It's sort of their way of preventing incestuous marriages. The two birds show greatly in native art as well as culture, and especially in totem poles around the city, like this one.

These symbols are popular in native art--the one on the left is Raven and the one on the right is Eagle.

Sea birds are also a big part of Juneau's heritage--we are a fishing town, after all! This statue stands outside the Federal Building against the backdrop of a snowy Mount Juneau.

A raven, the US flag and the Alaskan flag outside the Montessori School.
How Alaskan-American.

Sorry I couldn't get any eagle shots--they're everywhere (especially by the dump, sorry to burst your bubble, but they eat trash), and they're also incredibly fast, so I couldn't get a shot. One day, one day!

13 January 2010

Ten Things...Wednesday?

Okay, so I had a busy day and a kitten who needed attention. It's a day late.

Ten Things That Made Me Smile This Past Week:
1. Seeing that 33 people wish they were in Alaska enough, or maybe are just mildly amused by my writing, to be followers of ...Just Alaska. I'm honored. :)
2. Having one of my photos chosen as a feature photo for this week's Friday Photo Shoot Out! Check out the post on the FPSO gang's blog here.
3. My dad telling me he was proud to hear that toy sales were up in the bookstore.
4. Getting our kitten, whose name will be withheld until a further post.
5. Watching the kitten's antics. He is especially amused/amusing with a certain foam golf ball that he bats and throws around. He also gets it stuck on his nails and then looks at it quizzically. It's great.
6. Going to the US Coast Guard Auxilliary meeting last night and scoring a full set of free work uniforms for me, some free dress uniforms for Kip, and sweaters for the both of us. Seriously, that was about $400 worth of uniformage. Victory!
7. Snow! Snow! SNOW!!!!
8. Going to Father Thomas' birthday party on Sunday. A post will follow
9. Figuring out my May travel plans--I get to see (in order):
Seattle and the Cheshires
Philadelphia and Aunt Verna
New York City
Pennsylvania and all the Andersen clan (who are Norwegian, which is why Aunt Verna and I are going to Norway)
Maryland and the Hansons (I get to hang out with Alli! And Becky! And Scott!)
Chicago and all my friends at Matthew and Alethea's wedding
Seattle and the Cheshires again
Juneau and Kip, finally after two weeks of travel.
10. Watching Kip with the kitten. He's much better with animals than me. Sometimes he's like the kitten whisperer.
11. Having the editor of the Zondervan dictionary accept all of my articles! They're being sent to secondary editors before publication!

Okay, it was eleven things because it was such a good week.

11 January 2010

Whiskas Lied

When Kip and I brought home a fluffy, white bundle of kitteny joy from the Gastineau Humane Society on Friday, I had visions of feline bliss in my head. Yarn balls, little squeaky toys, a witty name. A life where Kitten would live in harmony with Sparky. Kip and me sleeping through the night with Kitty purring at the food of the bed, dreaming of chasing dragonflies and other such Cindy-approved pests. In short, I imagined an eternal Whiskas commercial, where the sweater-wearing cat owner sits on a fluffy chair reading a book as the spunky little furball crawls along the top of the chair and gently nuzzles its affectionate owner.

Lies! All lies!

First of all, we don't have a fluffy chair.
If we did, it would be scratched to smithereens by now.

Second, several of my sweaters (and my favorite pair of jeans) now have pulls in them because aforementioned furball loves to scratch on everything except the twenty dollar scratching post we bought it.

I can't read a book without him sticking his butt in my face, and typing with my laptop on my lap is impossible, because Kitty likes to walk across the keyboard, thereby typing up deep and introspective reflections on his new life that I'm sure he'd love to post on the blog. Seriously, he's figured out ways to type symbols that I had no clue my keyboard could type. Also, he has now gotten his little nails stuck in the holes in the side of computer more times that I care to mention.

He tries to eat my wedding bouquet on a regular basis and looks at Sparky with alarming mischievousness.

His poop smelled so much that it sent both Kip and I diving under pillows and gasping for air. And that's saying something when a man constantly surrounded by other men finds a stench too odoriferous.

He spent so much time hopping between me and Kip the first two nights we had him that I had to take the kitten to the living room and entertain him on the couch so that Kip could get some sleep before starting work at 6:30 the next morning.

And, the piece de resistance, I have realized why the Whiskas commercials were always accompanied by touching piano soundtracks. IT'S BECAUSE IF THEY INCLUDED THE SOUND OF THE KITTEN PURRING IT WOULD SOUND LIKE THERE WAS A FRIGGIN' BLACKHAWK HELICOPTER HOVERING NEXT TO THE CAMERA.

In conclusion, Whiskas, with their snide little commercials showcasing feline bliss, lied.

...but our as-yet-unnamed kitten is still adorable.

08 January 2010

Friday Photo Shoot-Out Is Back! With Fences!

Many apologies for my absence from the MTFPSO for a few weeks there. The joys of working my first retail Christmas meant that I had no time for anything else. I love Christmas, but I'm glad the retail side of it is over. I'm happy to be back and participating in this week's Shoot-Out on Fences, chosen by Sandra Leigh from Vancouver Island.

The beginning of the week, when I was working, was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny (mid) days, a little snow....until (of course) my days off on Wednesday and Thursday. It's still too dark for most of the day to shoot before or after work, and it was so soggy on my days off that I couldn't risk the camera to take new photos, so here are a few old ones of fences in Juneau.

Juneau is fenced in by the Gastineau Channel on one side...
(Here, we're also literally fenced into the boardwalk, away from the channel and its freezing waters. People never swim in it, although they do kayak on it, and there are some adorable harbor seals that stare up at you with huge, dark eyes. Every once in awhile, some intrepid whales make the swim into the channel's waters during a high tide. They tend to cause accidents on parallel roads. Not so good.)

...and huge mountains on the other.

Then of course we have our regular fences.

Not a terribly prolific post this week, but I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of shooting during the week. It's getting brighter every day, and I'm just itching to work on photos with the new editing software my parents got me for Christmas. The software is fabulous and also incredibly complex, so it's taking me awhile to really grasp it. Next week should see some improvement!

For more information about the Shoot-Out gang, visit the blog here.

05 January 2010

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten Things That Made Me Smile This Week (okay, the past three weeks because I was a slacker who didn't update as usual):
1. Getting a compliment from the Bishop of Juneau on my cello playing at the midnight Christmas service
2. Christmas Day in general...it was surprisingly cozy and wonderful despite none of our family being around for it.
3. The lights hanging over our door. On the other hand, they've also made both of us swear as they get caught in the door frame due to the fact that the paint around our doorframe is mysteriously resistant to any sort of tape.
4. Hearing that toy sales were up from last year, while the rest of the bookstore's sales were down. Not to sound cocky, but I would like to claim just a teensy bit of responsibility for that one.
5. Hearing from our landlords that we're allowed to a) put up curtains, b) hang more pictures and c) get a kitten
6. Brainstorming various names for aforementioned kitten. Current options include, but are not limited to: Augustine of Hippo and the name of Kip's police chief.
7. Running my absolute hardest at the gym for possibly the first time in my life. Strangely, sweat pouring down my face makes me smile. Go figure.
8. Further celebrating the season of Christmas by keeping up our tree and still giving little presents...Kip got "Batman Begins" on Blu-Ray last night.
9. Michael Buble's newest CD, "Crazy Love". "Haven't Met You Yet" is fab.
10. Getting up early in the mornings and actually getting something done with my life. I love to putter. I think it's the curse of the Andersen women. My grandmother did it constantly. My mom does. My sister does (I think...having a baby sort of takes away puttering opportunities). I do it. It's great.

04 January 2010


Our apartment is slowly, surely, and increasingly becoming more and more like home. It comes in starts and stops--five months ago, throw pillows on the couch were a revelation, cause for celebration, whereas now I am completely entranced by curtains. I spend hours (okay maybe more like 45 minutes) staring at the sample drapes hanging at eye height in the home decor aisle of Fred Meyer's, fascinated. I have become thoroughly jealous of anyone who lives within driving distance of Ikea (which we are not). It probably has something to do with how much time I've been spending inside our hallowed walls due to winter weather. I love it, though. And I love how "home" really boils down to a few physical things that reference myriad intangibles.

...like wearing my favorite booties next to our first Christmas tree...

...and the garden gnome lights we picked up in SeaTac airport because they made us laugh.
"Schnitzfeit!" (double points to whoever can tell me where THAT 80's gem is from)

Lots of laundry hanging across the living room because we go through spurts of being entirely too cheap and entirely too eco-conscious to run our energy-sucking drying machine.

I look at this wedding photo, which sits on my bedside table, probably far too much.
But I secretly smile every time.

And sometimes this one makes me well up when I miss my mom.
It's us, and it was taken on the day I was baptized.

Admittedly, I have a hard time not comparing our living space to Pottery Barn-designed rooms that are perfectly lit and beautiful, or even friends' houses that seem more colorful or comfy or brighter than ours.

But then again, I doubt that Pottery Barn carries garden gnome lights.

01 January 2010

Happy New Year!

A collage of 2009
(click to enlarge)
I'll admit, the champagne in celebration of 2010 has a bittersweet taste for me. When we toasted 2009 into existence a year ago, it was with a sense of anticipation--I had graduating from college, meeting my niece for the first time, moving to Alaska, and getting married to look forward to. Short of winning the Nobel Prize, I don't see how 2010 could be any bigger than 2009. But I will try, with a sense of curiosity and mischievousness, to encounter 2010 and the adventures it will hold.
For now, I have the day off from work and I intend to spend it crafting and cooking and cleaning, generally puttering around the apartment like the housewife I sometimes wish I could be.