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2004 Susan L. Stevenson - All photos are copyright protected
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Wednesday, December 1 - The beginning of a new month and almost the end of a year.

December already! Hard to believe... Today daylight lasted 4 hours and 40 minutes. I was lucky to see a bit of sunlight, as my workday ended at 2pm. Yesterday (my 8-hour day), I drove to work in the dark and drove home in the dark. Those days are hard for me and I find myself feeling 'antsy' during my workday; craving escape to the outdoors.

The positive thing about December is that the winter activities/entertainment in Fairbanks get started and there are more and more things to do in town to stay busy and to force us to get out of the house. Each Saturday in December there are Winter Solstice Celebration activities. There will be live music, sleigh rides, holiday lights, and other entertainment available in the downtown area. Starting this weekend, there will be skijoring and dogsled races to entertain us on Sunday afternoons.

I haven't put my tree up yet. I was supposed to do it this past weekend. I hope to have it up this weekend. If so, I'll post photos when everything's decorated.

Steve and I are going to see Sandra ReAves-Phillips at the Hering Auditorium this Friday night, where she'll sing "Soulful Blues, Sizzling Jazz and Glorious Holiday Music". Susan Spivey gave us the tickets a few months ago. (She was the recipient of a season's worth of concert tickets as one of her perks at the newspaper.) She and Stephen don't care for Jazz or Blues. Steve and I are big fans of just about all types of music (well... except country and rap) and are looking forward to the performance. We'll probably go out for dinner before the show.

Next Wednesday (8th) is Steve's 50th birthday! It's hard to believe that he has already left the 40's behind. Because we can't really do much on that day - although I do plan to take a cake and possibly balloons and streamers to his office - we're planning to go out to dinner the following Friday (10th). We tried to get reservations at the Turtle Club - renowned for its prime rib - but they are booked solid the entire month because of Christmas parties. Now we have to find another 'special' place to have dinner - not an easy thing in Fairbanks. Perhaps we'll go to Pike's.... Following dinner, we plan to attend the "Live at Five" celebrations downtown - an evening of cafe/restaurant hopping featuring live entertainment. I think I'll ask Marcella and Brian, James and Rachael, and Stephen and Susan if they want to go out with us...

I'm working on a redesign for this journal. All of these pages will remain the same, but I'm planning to change the rest of the website - especially now that we're already here and it's no longer a 'Trip Journal'. Better late than never :) I'd like to have an online gallery attached to this site. Lots of work ahead of me - but it's the kind of work I love. Let's see if it comes to fruition.

Friday, December 3 - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
What a productive day! I have been busy all day, and I'm so glad it's done. The tree is up, the Santas are out, candles are lit and my house smells like peppermint.

I didn't put out all of my stuff, but enough to make the living room look festive. I'm not doing anything special to the kitchen except for putting the burgundy tablecloth on and a Christmas centerpiece and candles. I didn't want to go overboard, since I'll be packing the stuff up when we get home from Philly after New Years. I'm so glad I decorated! It has really lifted my spirits. And Steve has told me so many times how nice the house looks and how festive. It was good for both of us.

I set up the CD player with my music that puts me in the holiday spirit. Not necessarily all holiday songs; I like to listen to a lot of easy listening stuff during this time of year. But of course, I have what I consider my holiday "must listen to" CD's - because they make me feel good. Kenny G - Miracles, A Very Merry Christmas - Various Artists, and Jazz for the Holidays - Various Artists. I also love to listen to Enya during this time of year. Her music soothes me...

As the music played, I hung the lights and strands of pearls and ornaments on our tree. And I thought a lot about my father. And then of course, I started crying. I wish I could get through a tree decorating without blubblering like an idiot. I resigned myself to the fact that it's going to be impossible. I suppose I'll be crying while I decorate for the rest of my life. Only because memories of my father are so prevalent during this season.

My father loved Christmas. He loved putting up the tree. He loved unpacking the boxes of ornaments and tinsel and lights. My mother took care of decorating the upstairs with a tabletop tree she dubbed the Hanukah Bush (she is Jewish), while my father took care of the rec room (basement) and erecting the tree, covered in a zillion lights, and pounds of tinsel, and ornaments that dated back as far as 30 years.

Before I married Steve, I made sure to show up at my parents' house on the day that Daddy was putting up the tree. I loved showing up after he had wrestled with strands of lights and had meticulously gone over each bulb trying to find the one which was causing the strand not to work. When he worked on the lights, his temper could be short. Of course these were the days when tree lights weren't a mere 99¢ a box. When you bought lights in the 'old days', they were expected to last for decades. You bought replacement bulbs - not new sets.

Once the bulbs were working and on the tree, the mood was once again festive. That's when I'd show up. :-) I remember all the boxes that Daddy took out from the closet he built under the basement steps. In them were treasures from my childhood. Hand blown bulbs of bright colors, hand made ornaments that my brothers and I had made in grade school, colored balls of all colors, and the silk balls they came out with later which would unravel after years of use, revealing a plain plastic ball beneath. Not as exciting when they were beat up...

Daddy and I would stand side by side, unpacking boxes, grabbing ornament hooks from the small box - trying in vain to untangle them. Pulling on one and dragging out 50 of them in a chain like the old "Barrel of Monkeys" game. Only after the ornaments were on, was the tinsel permitted to be applied. And Daddy was meticulous about it too. When I was little, my brothers and I would grab big handfuls of it and blow it into the air near the tree. Globs of the shiny stuff would land on one or two branches - looking like a tornado had gone through a tinsel factory. We were chastised for this, but would giggle and continue when Daddy wasn't watching.

But those later years, when it was just Daddy and me... they were the best. Christmas music would be playing; Merry Christmas - Johnny Mathis, White Christmas - Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra Christmas Collection and more. We would talk, and laugh, and sing. And we'd joke about setting up the electric color wheel - packed away in a box for almost 20 years. Bought at a time when we actually had a silver fake tree.

I miss my dad. I miss those days. I miss the joy and the excitement that my dad would have during the holidays. My father made Christmas such a joyous event for our family. He was a kid at heart and he allowed us to forget we were supposed to be 'grown ups' and be kids too.

My world isn't the same since I lost Daddy. Although Christmas is a joyous time for me, because I'm sharing it with the love of my life, I can't help but have some melancholy lingering just under the surface.

I took a few photos of my decorated living room...

The living room towards the china cabinet.
My Santa collection on the windowsill.
Saturday, December 4th - Finally we're below zero! (And also a new layout)

It is currently -13F. It's about time, is all I can say. If it's going to be winter up here, it has to get cold. I'm not talking 'wimpy' cold either. I'm talking cold enough to freeze the tears in our eyes! We're supposed to dip to -20F tonight. And then even colder tomorrow!

Which is just perfect because tomorrow is the first race of the Musher Challenger Series and we're planning to attend. It's about time I had to bundle up in layer upon layer of clothing and wear all my cold weather gear. What's the point of owning parkas and long underwear, if we don't get the opportunity to wear it? :)

I just stepped outside with Sedona to see if there was any appearance of the Northern Lights. When the temperatures drop, the aurora seems to make a more regular appearance. The skies are clear, but no sign of dancing lights. I'll check again before I head off to bed; it's still early (6pm). I was able to catch a photo of the Big Dipper - shining brightly in the sky.

Big Dipper from YardI love the way the stars look in the sky up here - but they look even better when there's not a lot of ambient light. I have new neighbors who are fond of their back porch light. What a bummer... Looks like I'll be finding another place to shoot the aurora when it makes an appearance. Either that or I'll toss a few rocks at their back porchlight. *laugh*

I changed the opening pages to this journal to a "Living in Alaska" journal. Check out the new layout and colors HERE. I've also added a few more links: one for Alaska links and one for Alaska travel, as well as a link to my online photo gallery.

Monday, December 6 - Frigid weather and Musher Challenges

It is -18F as I type this. Yesterday we dipped to -24F. Steve and I attended race #1 in the Musher Challenge Series yesterday - despite the frigid weather. These races are held every other Sunday in December and January and are lots of fun to watch. They have skijorers (people on skis being towed by a dog or dogs), and then dogsled teams of 2, 4 and more. The biggest team we saw yesterday was 16!

The lodge is nice and toasty warm and you can buy coffee and cocoa in there - as well as watch the race through big plate glass windows. I prefer to be out next to the trail though, getting photos of the dogs and the mushers. We were thankful for the warm lodge when Steve locked his keys in his truck (while it was running, no less). We called our friend Charles - who works for a locksmith company - and he had the truck unlocked in no time. (Thank you, Charles! We really appreciate you coming out to help on a Sunday afternoon!) Steve gave Charles some halibut, salmon and a moose roast in appreciation of his help. It's the least we could do.

I'm glad I'm off today. I'm having an outbreak of shingles on my eye again. This is so typical and almost predictable for this time of year. It's caused by the chicken pox virus and usually appears when I'm stressed or tired. I'm both. Hopefully it will run its course quickly and ease up by Saturday night - the night of the company Christmas party.

I need to run to the commissary and pick up the stuff to make Steve a lasagna. That's the birthday meal he has requested on Wednesday. I'm thinking I might just make it today (since I'm off and it takes so long!) and then re-heat a pan Wednesday night and freeze the other one for enjoying at a later date. Sounds like a plan.... although I can see him wanting to eat it tonight too. I don't make lasagna very often - but when I do, we can eat it for dinner every night.

Here are some photos from the race yesterday. As you can see the sun was just coming up over the range and it was about 11am. The days are getting shorter every day, but after December 21st (winter solstice), it's all up hill again!

This was published in today's local newspaper (Daily News Miner) I just had to share because it made me chuckle. *edited somewhat since some of the stuff won't make any sense to my far-flung readers*

A newcomer's guide to Alaska - By David A. James

The following glossary of terms used by Alaskans on a daily basis is provided as a service to newcomers confused by our regional colloquialisms.

Cheechako: Derogatory term used to describe anyone who arrived in Alaska more than 20 seconds after the person using the term. A cheechako is an ignoramus who hasn't lived here long enough to clearly understand how things work. Those of you planning on moving to Alaska should, if coming by land, pass as many vehicles as possible on the Al-Can. If coming by air, claw your way to the front of the cabin upon landing in order to be the first to deplane. Anyone behind you upon arrival will, by definition, be your inferior.

Lower 48: Analogous to Purgatory. Refers to the 48 contiguous states that are notable for their heavy traffic, high crime rates and concentrations of relatives most Alaskans quite deliberately left behind. Also the location of good shopping, genuine cultural opportunities and plenty of gullible folks who will believe absolutely anything they are told about Alaska. Note: there is also a Lower 50th, better known as Hawaii, which Alaskans look upon with a mixture of envy and longing, particularly in January.

Indoor plumbing: Technological advance that greatly enhanced the daily lives of citizens of the Roman Empire. Still a novelty for many Alaskans.

Outside: When capitalized, this term is similar to, but not synonymous with, Lower 48. Outside is anywhere beyond the borders of Alaska and is to be feared and avoided. When not capitalized, outside refers to the outdoors, a place which any real Alaskan has kept out of ever since getting indoor plumbing and that lovely satellite dish.

PFD: Permanent Fund Dividend. Annual check the state provides to every legal resident, regardless of age. Also the primary reason most people live here. The true sign of Alaska manhood is to sire at least 15 children and confiscate their PFDs in October so that a down payment can be made on a decent snowmachine.

Wal-Mart: Large discount retailer. The arrival of Wal-Mart is what made our unique Alaska lifestyle complete. Many Alaskans camped overnight for the first time ever so that they could be on hand for the grand opening of the Fairbanks Wal-Mart. (*this is true!*)

Transfer station: Location of Dumpsters from which many Alaskans obtain a decent living. Social status in Fairbanks circles is always enhanced when one makes a good find at the transfer station. It's not Dumpster diving, it's wealth acquisition.

Wedding shower: Prenuptial bathing ritual undertaken by residents of Goldstream Valley who are otherwise not noted for exemplary personal hygiene. These showers are generally taken in large groups in order to save shower stall fees at the Laundromat. (*because there isn't running water in many 'bush' homes, you go into town and shower at the laundromat; most laundromats have showers on the premises*)

Mush: What your bank account becomes when you invest in a dog team.

AIP: Alaskan Independence Party. Kind of like the NRA on methamphetamines. Avoid these people at all costs.

Gas line: Long-hoped-for pipeline that will convert hot air emanated by politicians into saleable (and renewable) resource.

Sourdough: Name for someone who has lived in Alaska long enough to clearly understand how things work up here. Sour refers to the expression on his face as well as the scent escaping from his bunny boots. Dough is what he lacks.

Wednesday, December 8th - Happy Birthday to the Love of my Life - Fifty Years!

True Love
Helen Steiner Rice

True love is a sacred flame
That burns eternally,
And none can dim its special glow
Or change its destiny.
True love speaks in tender tones
And hears with gentle ear,
True love gives with open heart
And true love conquers fear.
True love makes no harsh demands
It neither rules nor binds,
And true love holds with gentle hands
The hearts that it entwines.

Happy Birthday, Steve! I love you more than words can say. You have made me happier than I ever dreamed possible. Your gentle ways, your sweet heart, your strong arms, and your tender gaze envelope me completely; always reminding me of how truly blessed I am to have you at my side. How thankful I am that our paths crossed 14 years ago. How thankful I am that the stars aligned and our lives became entwined. I want to grow old with you. I want someday to have that little house near the mountains, with the porch we've always envisioned, and the two rocking chairs. And I want to sit beside you; holding your hand; watching the sun rise and set. For fifty more years if possible.

It's your birthday, and you should be receiving a gift. But I am the one with the best gift of all. I have you.

Saturday, December 11 - Birthday Celebrations and a Christmas Party

Last night, Steve and I met up with some friends to celebrate his 50th birthday. (He told me that it was a night to celebrate my birthday too - even though mine isn't until Tuesday) We made reservations for 12, but only 10 of our friends could make it after all. It was wonderful to have dinner with the Spivey's, the Hoffman's, the Trujillo's, and the Gee's. The food was good; I really enjoyed my pecan-encrusted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes.

After dinner, the Spivey's left to head to the theater to see "The Nutcracker". The Gee's had to go as well, because Tesh had to work (she's an RN on the graveyard shift at the hospital). So Steve and I, Marcella and Brian, and James and Rachael headed downtown to check out the Live After Five entertainment. Live After Five is a series of events at various cafes/restaurants in the downtown area. The schedules of entertainment overlap, so that you can move from one place to another throughout the evening. All of the places are within walking distance of each other (if it was a warm summer day), but not on a night when the temperature hovered at around -18F!

Our first stop was Cafe Alex. It was crowded, and by the time we got there the music was almost over. So we decided to just head on to our second stop at Lavelle's Bistro. At Lavelle's we were disappointed to discover that the jazz band had canceled and instead a DJ had been brought in play some recorded music. We had never visited Lavelle's before, so we decided to stay a while anyway and have a few drinks. They have a very impressive wine list, so I'll definitely be going back for dinner in the future.

After Lavelle's, we headed to Bobby's. Bobby's serves Greek fare and had a small three-piece band that included a trombone player. We grabbed a table, and looked over the drink menu. I threw caution to the wind and decided to try a raspberry martini. It has been YEARS since I've had a martini - over twenty in fact! It was really good and I ended up having three. We stayed until nearly midnight, and left as the band was packing up. Steve and I fell into bed exhausted but content. It was a wonderful evening and a great way to celebrate our birthday.

We didn't want nor expect any gifts, but nonetheless Steve got a gift certificate from the Hoffman's for the sporting goods store to pick up some fishing lures for next spring and summer. He also got a really neat moose bottle opener! The Gee's brought him a good bottle of champagne. Marcella had a gift for me too - which was a total surprise! A simmer pot and tons of scented candles were wrapped up pretty in a gift bag. I love scented candles! I was surprised to receive a mulberry scented candle from Rachael. How sweet! Having our friends around us to help us celebrate is the best gift of all - and the only gift required. They are all a blessing in our life and we are thankful to know them.

Rachael and James

Judson and Brian

The Spivey's

Band at Bobby's

Marcella and Tesh

Downtown Fairbanks Lights

Tonight is the Charlie Co. Christmas Party. We're cooking a ham. Other families will be bringing a side dish or dessert too. We found a soldier to play Santa and packed up kiddie gift bags to distribute to the children yesterday. I'm sure it will be a fun time and a good chance for all of us to get to know one another a little better.

Monday, December 13 - A Christmas Party and Christmas Shopping

Saturday night, Steve and I had a lovely time at the Christmas party. It was so nice not to have to do anything besides bring a ham and enjoy ourselves. I was able to spend some time chatting with friends and watching the children have a good time with Santa and playing games. It's hard to believe that next year at this time, our husbands will be halfway around the world and we'll be alone. As much as we try not to think about it, it's always something that hovers just under the surface. I hope that next year, we can have some sort of a celebration to try to relieve the sadness and melancholy that is bound to be in all of our hearts.

Today, I finished up my Christmas shopping for Steve. I can write about it here because he doesn't read my journal very often anyway. I managed to find XBox at Sam's Club (XBox is like Playstation of the old days). Why my husband wants a video game player and games is beyond me, but I got it for him. I also picked up three additional games. While I was there, I came across the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas CD's that I wanted. So I picked them up too. I'm currently listening to them in my laptop as I make this entry. I love to listen to Christmas music throughout the month of December...

While out and about today, I came across a barn that I just love. I've photographed it a few times before. Something about the weathered wood of the barn, and the bales of hay that surround it (and sometimes fill it) really catch my eye. I suppose it's the textures and the shades of brown of the wood - and the way it all contrasts with the snowy landscape. Today, there was a carriage in front of it.

The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty.
It fell and fell,
lacing day and night together in a milky haze,
making everything
quieter as it fell,
so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a
way no other
season did,
hushed, solemn.

~ Patricia Hampl ~

Wednesday, December 15 - Another Birthday and The Great One

Yesterday I turned 45. Just another birthday in a long line of birthdays. It just seems like they are happening too close together now. I received some birthday cards in the mail, some birthday wishes via email, and still more in a few of the groups I belong to online. It was a nice day, despite the fact that I had to work 8 hours and I wasn't really in the mood to be there at all. I left work a little early and was thrilled to see Denali on the horizon silhouetted by the orange-red sky of sunset. What an amazing birthday present from Mother Nature. Despite being cold, I drove up to the UAF scenic overlook and took a photo of this magnificent sight.

DENALI is the highest peak in North America. It is a huge snowy mass, flanked by five giant glaciers and countless icefalls. It dominates the horizon from as far south as Cook Inlet, 200 miles away, and as far north as Fairbanks, 150 miles away. Its steep unbroken south slope rises 17,000 feet in twelve miles. The mountain is increasingly known by its native name, Denali, which means The Great One in the Athabaskan language.

Here's a photo of Denali with the different peaks labeled. You can see how it matches up to my silhouette.

Steve cooked me a delicious dinner of pork loin roast, a loaded baked potato, vegetables AND a delicious birthday cake (which he's helping me eat, thank goodness!). He also bought me a new watch - which I desperately needed, and some slipper socks because I guess he's getting tired of me putting my cold feet against his nice warm legs. That's not really the reason. My slippers are too hot on my feet, and these slipper socks are just right. There are two more gifts under the tree that I have to wait until Christmas to open. We agreed not to spend a lot of money on each other since our airline tickets set us back a bunch. But the trip to Philadelphia is going to be the best present of all! I can't wait to see everyone again!

Friday, December 17 - Moonscapes and Sunrises
Waxing CrescentI love the sunrises, sunsets, and moonrises here in Alaska. They just seem so much more pronounced. This photo was taken at about 5pm - just before nightfall was totally upon us. The sky was a lovely navy blue in color and the moon looked huge where it hung between the trees.

This morning, Steve and I took a drive around post to just admire the snow and nature. I never grow tired of driving around here - even though the landscape is basically the same, the sunlight or moonlight, or additional snow accumulation or wildlife make it a new experience every time.

We went to see King Island Christmas tonight with the Spiveys. I enjoyed it - despite the fact that it was more like a choral production and not necessarily a musical (with props, etc.). Despite some glitches with the sound (I couldn't hear all the words to the songs) and a few off-key singers, the storyline was very interesting. I might just visit the University library and read some more about King Island, as well as Eskimo folklore and stories.

Sunday, December 19 - It's Christmastime in the City

Steve and I took a drive downtown last night, so that I could take some photos of the Christmas lights in Golden Heart Plaza. I love that Fairbanks decorates the downtown area with lots of lights and free-standing light sculptures, and huge lit snowflakes on the streetlamps. The lights will stay up all winter - bringing holiday cheer to us throughout the long dark, nights. We also stopped to get a photo of the angel ice sculpture that was carved in front of a local dentist's office. Last year, he had an angel as well. But this year, the sculpture includes a little girl and a cat - so cute!

We're taking a drive up the Steese Hwy in a little while. I want to go for a drive. It's snowing out; I hope the roads aren't too slippery. It's also a 'blue' day. When it's overcast here, the sky, snow, and the atmosphere takes on a blue cast. This makes it extremely difficult to get good winter photos, as I have to mess with my white balance in my camera to compensate for the low light and the blue cast. So, if you ever see photos taken in the winter time that have blue snow in them, it doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with the exposure. It could very well be an accurate photo of an overcast winter day.

Photos of Downtown Fairbanks - a Winter Wonderland:




We trust in plumed procession
For such the angels go -
Rank after Rank, with even feet
And uniforms of Snow.

~Emily Dickinson~

Wednesday, December 22 - Gaining Daylight and Our Newest White House Ornament

Yesterday was Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year. The sun rose at 10:57am and set at 2:39pm. There's generally an hour of visibility on either side of sunrise and sunset if it's a clear day. Yesterday was a nice, sunny day - which made watching the sun move in a horizontal low arc very interesting. When I left work, I took the longer way home so I could take a few photos of the beautiful pink and blue pastel sky and white snowy landscape. From here on out, we'll be gaining daylight - minutes by minutes - until we reach the endless days of summer. It's a definite turning point for those people who are suffering from S.A.D.

Today, I found a surprise in my mailbox! My dear friend Michele sent us the 2004 White House Ornament to add to the collection she started us on back in 1998. It is a beautiful addition to the set and always reminds us of Michele and her family when we look at it. Thank you, Michele! You can read more about the White House Historical Association Ornaments here.

I can't believe that Christmas is so near! The year has flown by. I'm not really sure if we have plans for Christmas Eve or not, but I believe we're having dinner with Marcella and Brian on Christmas Day.

And then - on the 28th - we leave for Philadelphia! I am so excited about going home to see my family. It's been 18 months since I've been to PA. It will be wonderful to hang out and talk and laugh. It will be a lot warmer than it is here.... we're expecting to dip to -35F on Christmas Eve . Positively invigorating!

Friday, December 24 - Christmas Eve and a sick dog :(

About a week ago, Sedona began eating strange stuff again. Her favorite item was the material which is stapled to the underside of our bed boxspring. Then she ate two elastic straps off of one of my undergarments. She vomited several times, had a very bloated belly, had the dry heaves, and paced the house, licking the rugs, the furniture, the walls - everything. My concern was that the elastic straps would get caught in her intestines and cause blockage.

We got an appointment at the vet here on Fort Wainwright. After hearing our story, she insisted that Sedona would need x-rays to see if there was any blockage. Unfortunately Fort WW doesn't have an x-ray machine, so we had to go to a civilian vet. We requested Aurora Animal Clinic on the recommendation of several of my Fairbanks friends. The Fort WW vet called and explained the situation. Fortunately, they were able to take Sedona immediately.

The x-rays revealed no blockage, however her intestines are definitely irritated, as is her stomach - most likely from eating foreign matter. She's also running a slight fever. She was prescribed three medications and a special diet for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The filet mignon of all dog chow at $41.00/18lb bag! We were relieved to find out that she wouldn't require surgery - our biggest fear. She's been on her medicine and new food for almost 24 hours and we've already seen a remarkable improvement. I'm so glad! We were so worried about her, and the fact that she's going to be boarded for ten days when we go to Philadelphia. Happily, we found out that the place we're going to board her at came highly recommended by the veterinary clinic, as the owner is a client herself and would take Sedona there if she needed any medical attention. *big sigh of relief*

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal,
and that every path may lead to peace.
~ Agnes M. Pharo ~

Today, the cold snap will return to Fairbanks for a few days. Although the temperature is only supposed to drop to -30F, with the windchill, it will feel like -55F. Last night, Steve and I were watching the weather channel and it showed that Philadelphia was 46F. I can imagine my family dressing warmly to go outside. If it remains in the 40's, Steve and I will no doubt be comfortable being outside in merely a sweater. I remember hiking, wearing only a light fleece, early last spring when the temperature was in the high 30's and low 40's.

We don't have any plans for tonight. It will be a quiet Christmas Eve - which is just fine. Tomorrow, we are having Christmas dinner with Marcella and Brian. I'm looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to waking up with the love of my life, exchanging the few gifts we bought for one another, and having a quiet morning. As is our tradition, we'll make a big breakfast of eggs and toast - maybe even bacon or ham - and we'll have a champagne toast by the tree.

And then Tuesday evening, we leave for Philadelphia! It will be wonderful to spend New Years Eve with my brother and sister in law and their family. I'm planning on taking my laptop so I can download photos while I'm in town. I don't know if I'll be able to update this journal while visiting, but if I can, I will. If not, there will be a lot to write about when we get home. I hope to take lots of photos while I'm in PA, and during our stay up the mountains for New Years weekend.

Merry Christmas (Happy Holidays if you don't celebrate Christmas) to all my readers. May 2005 be a year of good health, much love and happiness.

Sunday, December 26 - How we spent Christmas

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas! Steve and I exchanged gifts - only a few small gifts, as agreed upon. Santa Steve left me two boxes under the tree. The first box held an Eskimo porcelain doll to go with my collection. She's beautiful with an extra outfit, a doll, and an extra pair of mukluks, in the event I want to change her out of her parka. I used to be very heavily into collecting porcelain dolls and have about 20-25 of them packed gently away in the garage. I keep about 5-6 of them out on display - my favorites, and some small ones who have sentimental value to me. This cutie will find a home with them and no matter where life takes us (even if we remain here in Alaska), she will remind me of this Christmas.

Steve also got me a beautiful Alaska picture frame and a new Alaska photo album (I've already filled one to capacity) that I look forward to filling.

I picked up the DVD collection "Band of Brothers" for Steve. We've been watching it on and off over the last two days. I also got him two more games for his X-box - one of them a race car game so that 'maybe' I can play too.

After we exchanged gifts and had breakfast yesterday, we packed up and headed over to Brian and Marcella's place. We planned on spending the night, so Sedona went with us - along with her crate, her medicine, her food, booties, etc. We took over a tray of appetizers and picked up a pumpkin pie too. Marcella was following Christmas tradition and making homemade ravioli for dinner. Yummy!

When we arrived, Marcella and their houseguest, Amy, were already in the middle of rolling dough, stuffing the ravioli mold, and cutting apart the tiny squares. They got me involved immediately and we continued assembly line style. While the men played video games, the women made batch after batch of ravioli. We sat down to dinner not long after Edwin and Jillian arrived. Dinner was fabulous!

After dinner, we stayed up until nearly 1am playing Phase 10 and Uno. What a great time we had! Steve and I fell asleep almost immediately upon laying down. It snowed some more last night and we awoke this morning to an additional 4-6 inches. We stayed at the Hoffman's house until after noon. We've been spending the day watching Band of Brothers and being extremely lazy.

Lots of ravioli!

What's in the Christmas ball? Me!

What a way to greet Christmas morning!

Edwin, Brian, and Steve playing X-box

Tomorrow, we have a lot of preparation for our trip to Philly. Lots of laundry to get done, and packing to do! Our friends, James and Rachael are taking us to the airport on Tuesday. We're going to give them a key and have them stop in and visit with Airborne while we're gone. She'd be fine alone, but I know she gets lonely. Even if she hides, hearing people's voices will be better than nothing. I can't wait to go HOME!!!!!!