The temperature over the last couple of weeks has been well below 30 BELOW. The day I started writing this blog entry it was closer to -40F. On such cold days, we don’t go out unless we absolutely have to. But then we get a little bit of cabin fever. To combat S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), it is recommended that we get as much sunlight as we can. When sunlight is a fleeting 5 hours or less a day, it’s difficult to take advantage of it. I do try though.
I haven’t put up our Christmas decorations yet. They are in boxes under the house, and Steve needs to go down there and get them. Hopefully he’ll do that over the next couple of days. I like the ambiance of the twinkle lights on the tree, especially when it’s so cold and wintry outside.
We are in serious need of snow, and the warmer temps that usually bring snow. We’ve only got an accumulation of about 8″ and that is not enough to keep our septic system warm when the temperature drops so low. I hope we don’t run into the same problem we had back in 2008 when many of us had frozen systems and the wait times for help were long.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying the birds at my feeders. I’ve said it before, and will continue to say it - these birds bring me such joy during the winter! It is such a mood-lifter to see them out there, all fluffed up against the cold, draining my feeders. I don’t know how they survive this weather, but I’m glad I can contribute to keeping them fed.
The aurora has been making an appearance too. The bad thing is that with it being so cold, I’m not usually motivated to go out and photograph the lights. Fortunately, it’s dark enough here at my house to see them when they’re high in the sky and I have the nearby safety of a warm place to run to when my face starts to burn or my fingers go numb.
The stars have been amazing too, and I love to photograph our night sky when it’s cloudless and unlit by the moon. But even when the moon is out, it is gorgeous - creating long shadows from the trees and reflecting brightly on the snow.
THANKSGIVING IN PHOENIX
I spent four days in Phoenix with my dear friends Rachael and Susan. It had been nearly six years since the three of us were together and we were all very excited. There have been some changes over the last six years. Susan’s husband retired from the army, and is working over in Kuwait. He’s been doing this for several years. They don’t get to see each other much, but they’re making it work the best they can and keeping their goals in sight.
Unfortunately, Rachael’s marriage did not survive. When her husband came home from the war, he was a changed man. The effects of PTSD, going to war, re-evaluating his life, and a myriad of other things ate at their marriage until finally they decided to divorce. Rachael continued her education and is a Special Ed teacher. She loves her work, but teaching isn’t a profession that makes you rich (unfortunately), so it’s a struggle for her to repay school loans and support herself. She’s got some really great friends, and has recently started dating a nice fellow (also a teacher) who treats her well and makes her smile again.
Both Susan’s and my plane landed only ten minutes apart (around 11:30am). She got there first, so when I got off the plane at my gate, she was waiting! Rachael had to wait for us in baggage, and the two of us hurried to her. It was then discovered that Susan had left a bag of souvenirs (from NC, where she lives now) in the restroom! She had to get a pass to get back through security to look for her bag, but it was gone. She checked security, asked around, etc. but it hadn’t been turned in. She was so upset, and rightfully so. I felt bad for her that the trip had to get off to an aggravating start. But soon, the three of us were back into chatty mode, excited and laughing as if we had just seen each other the day before.
We easily found our way to the hotel, and they allowed us to check in early. After dropping our bags, we walked across the road to Chilis to grab a bite to eat, and then Trader Joe’s to pick up some wine and snack food. Later on that evening, the hotel hosted a manager’s reception, which was our dinner. We went back to the room to hang out and have a glass of wine, and ended up going to bed fairly early (we all had long travel days).
The next day, we enjoyed the free breakfast at the hotel, and then went in search of the Japanese Gardens. Even with Google Maps and GPS, it took us three wrong turns before we finally found our way to the entrance. The woman who took our admission money said that people always get lost trying to find the place.
The weather was gorgeous, and we enjoyed our walk around the pretty pond. There were koi fish, and ducks, and beautiful little stone sculptures and pagodas. We got a little goofy while there, and I photographed Rachael and Susan being crazy. We laughed so hard! It was such a good feeling to really let loose and be crazy and enjoy each other’s company.
We then stopped by the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, but nothing is blooming this time of year, so we opted not to pay the admission (which was pretty steep) when we could see non-blooming cactus all along the highway. Instead, we continued to our third destination: the Scottsdale Fashion Square. WOW! That place is HUGE. We really had a good time acting immature and taking funny photos window shopping and checking out some of the stores we could never afford to shop in (like Tiffanys!). Our shopping made us hungry, so we decided to head back toward the hotel and have dinner at Cheesecake Factory.
Happy Hour was awesome, with inexpensive appetizers and drinks. We ordered three appetizers, drinks, and saved room for a couple pieces of cheesecake that we split between us. Everything was so good, but the company was the best part. Again more laughter, some really great *girl talk*, and a lot of catching up. We fell into bed exhausted again.
On Thanksgiving Day, we had reservations for an ‘all you can eat’ turkey dinner at a restaurant in Scottsdale. It was located on a lake and we got there too early for our reservation, so we walked along the lake for a little while. It was really pretty and the sky was a lovely shade of pink-orange as the sun set.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving dinner was not good for me. I started with a salad, and I immediately got sick. My stomach just couldn’t handle the creamy dressing. I knew there would be some foods I’d have to be careful of so soon after gallbladder surgery, but I didn’t think it would be salad (and dressing). Needless to say, I couldn’t eat a thing. I felt so terrible for the girls - who felt terrible for me - and I just wanted to go back to the hotel. So much for our plans to go to a holiday Christmas light show after dinner and then shopping at midnight for Black Friday. We spent the rest of the night in the hotel room. It was such a bad day for me. I am so thankful for good friends who stayed *home* with me and kept me company.
Thank goodness I woke up feeling fabulous the next morning. A good night’s rest did the trick. We started our day with the free breakfast, and then prepared our shopping itinerary. It was Black Friday, after all! We started off at Biltmore Fashion Park, only a couple of miles away, and then moved to Arizona Mills. Arizona Mills was a MADHOUSE! But the people watching sure was fun. I didn’t buy much at all, but the girls (especially Susan) enjoyed themselves. Again, we had fun doing crazy things and laughing. But one of the neatest things we did was go into a formal gown shop, where Susan tried on sparkly sequined gowns and I photographed her. It was great fun.
We had to get up very early the next morning as we had to be at the airport by 5am, for our early flights out. The time had passed much too quickly, and I was sad that our visit had come to an end. But I am also so thankful that we were all able to meet up. It was so much fun! I can’t wait to do it again. We talked about maybe doing it in Seattle next time, so that Rachael could visit her family too.
We found a nice lady to take our photo in front of this poinsettia tree at one of the shopping malls. Of course this was after we had spent some money in the Vera Bradley store. Left to Right: Rachael, me, Susan.
BACK TO FAIRBANKS
It was nice to be in 60-degree weather for a few days, but I missed Alaska so much too! I was seeing Facebook posts from friends of the beautiful aurora and I was jealous that I was missing them. But I sure wasn’t missing the -30F! Nevertheless, I was happy to be back in my winter wonderland, and the day after I got home, I took Raven out for a drive to Chena Lakes so I could take some winter photos.
A few days later, I got together with my friend Julie, and we went for a drive around town looking for pretty winter photos. We drove all over Fairbanks, but ended up behind the Carlson Center where the ducks have been over-wintering. It was so cold! We couldn’t believe there were so many of them still here!
There was a little straw on the river bank for them to nest in, but I didn’t see any food. Fortunately the river is warmer there, as the power plant upstream discharges hot water into the river, keeping it from freezing. But still - with air at -30F, the poor ducks had frost building up on their wet back feathers. They seemed to be huddling too, which made me feel terrible for them.
There was recently an article in our local paper about a man named Marv Hassebroek who has been feeding the 300 or so ducks that didn’t leave Fairbanks with the others. He can’t do it by himself, so he’s solicited donations to help cover the costs of grain and straw. According to the newspaper story, he can be reached at (907) 456-3066, or you can send a tax-deductible donation to: Feed the Ducks, 518 Slater Dr, Fairbanks AK 99701.
After visiting with the ducks, we drove up on Birch Hill for some photos of the Alaska Range and Fort Wainwright below. After dark, we visited Pioneer Park to photograph the Christmas lights in Gold Rush Town. The lights didn’t seem to go up with the same amount of care as last year, but it still is a pretty place to walk. It’s so festive!
I took this photo while Steve was filling the truck with gas. It was about 40 below zero, and everything was covered in frost. The morning moon was full and low on the horizon, and the sky was a lovely but chilly pink.
I did some of the First Friday rounds (great fun and so much talent!), and stopped at Creamers Field to photograph the Christmas tree in front of the farmhouse. The mastodon cut-outs are still standing, and they have decorations hanging on their tusks. It was a cool thing to see Ice Age creatures standing in the snow in front of the beautifully lit tree. Only in Fairbanks!
A few days ago, I gathered the family - to include the furkids - to attempt a family portrait for our holiday cards. Well, things didn’t go as well as I hoped. Raven was distracted, Airborne was cold, and it was FREEZING (-35F)!
I only shot four frames (using a timer, so I had to run and jump into the photo). But I managed, on the fourth frame, to get a photo that would work for our cards.
After sharing the ‘rejects’ with some friends, they insisted I should use those photos for our cards too. Here are the two designs I put together:
This card has the ‘good’ photo, even though Airborne is trying to climb over Steve’s shoulder:
And here is the card that includes the reject photos:
There’s always fun at our house!
Today, I plan to get the house straightened up so I can put up our tree. Notice that I wrote PLAN. We’ll see how much I accomplish. Once it’s all together, I’ll take some photos and share them in my next blog entry.
Until next time…