Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy new year, Papa!

Papa and everyone else, wishing you a happy new year! We're off to see the fireworks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ester Dome mushing

Sonja joined me at work for a couple hours today (Emilie was at her daycare, which is open this week). After a lunch at home, we went to the top of Ester Dome with the dogs. Good inversion: -10F and below in the valleys, while it was probably around +20 at the top of the Dome. Sonja went on her sled, I on the skis, and each of us had one dog. We started in the saddle between the two main tops, and went on the out-and-back to the last top on the west side. Beautiful view of the alaska range and denali and the sun.

It took some trial and error, but at the end we had a system: on some downhills I took my skis off and held the handlebar of Sonja's sled and ran downhill that way. On some downhills I skied, tied only to one dog (too bad we can't let both of them run loose at the same time if we want to see them ever again) and was holding the line to Sonja's sled so close that the sled was pretty much right behind me. On the smaller uphills, each of us had one dog. On the bigger uphills, I took the skis off too, let my dog loose, and helped the dog that was pulling Sonja. And thus we went. At the end, Sonja was tired, and when I fell down and her sled tipped across my skis, and that caused some tears to be shed. Luckily it was only a 100 yards or so from the car, so we got home without problems.

Nearly back home, here is a picture of the Alaska Range at 3:20pm or so, about half hour after sunset. Mt Hayes is on the left, Hess and Deborah near the center. The hills closer by were the location of the fire/smoke that plagued us this past summer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LARS open house

Around Solstice the Large Animal Research Station (LARS) of the University of Alaska Fairbanks had its open house. We went there and enjoyed seeing the animals.
Sonja with Martin, and Muskox in the background.

Emilie running after them.

Reindeer, I think. Or was it caribou? Apparently the reindeer, having been domesticated for meat, do have a wider ribcage, and shorter legs.


Martin and the kids watching some muskox.

Overall, I think we will need to come again next year (may be during the spring/summer open house too), but it is one of the good activities that Fairbanks offers during winter. The lighting of the Christmas tree at Creamer's field was another such activity (my notes for next year...).

Another blog to follow

Martin left yesterday for fieldwork for a couple months. While he will have very limited access to email etc, he said some colleagues of his will be continue posting notes on the following blog:

Erin, one of the bloggers on that blog, did add me to her SPOT mailing list, and I already got some wonderful details such as that they were right here. (The map that this leads to is pretty much white everywhere, which is an unusual experience since even alaskan maps on google maps are not white - they are from summertime.) That part of the fieldwork Martin luckily? unluckily? missed, but now he is joining Erin and who knows who else on a cruise.

On a note only related to the color white mentioned in the previous paragraph, I thought that it might be time to say good bye to those cranes I had in the header of the blog, and instead put in a more season-appropriate picture - featuring some (not all) white.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Various shades of white

We've had an inch or two of snowfall here and there in the last week, which is good - we need more snow! As a result of the snow, we're back to a world in various shades of white.

Last few turns before our house

Look! A hint of yellow - the "End" sign on the bottom of the pole visible near the center of the photo.

Today at creamer's field, where we went skijoring with the dogs. There are colored lights on that spruce tree, it looks like they don't really show up on this picture. Too bad.

We went there to Creamer's ten days ago when they were lighting the christmas tree, it was a wonderful thing to take the kids to. Even though, as Martin said, if Santa Claus has musical inclination and he was listening that night, he might skip Fairbanks :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meal planner

I like the idea of a meal planner as seen on here (and she lists the dishes themselves here). (As an aside - I really like Meg's blog - she is creative with kids' things, sewing, crafting in a way I wish I was. Two years ago I grabbed a copy of her 'yoga poses for children' that she still has on her blog, got those pictures printed, and to this day Sonja periodically takes the photos out.)

Now, in order to clean up the house before Martin arrives, I thought I should copy down some of our weekly shopping lists that we have actually managed to do in the last two months... similar to the meal planner on Meg's blog. For inspiration for the future time when we don't know what to eat. Then at least I will be able to toss those tattered and torn shopping lists out. They have been sitting around for a few weeks already.

These are probably equivalent to about half of the weeks - the other half we have just not managed to make a menu and do the shopping all at one time. Quite a few repetitions - might be good to figure out some other dishes into our standard vocabulary. It would have been interesting if I had jotted down what we ate five years ago - I am sure there are some dishes that we ate regularly then that we forgot about for one reason or another by now (e.g. the shrimp with tomato / feta sauce; or the potato / sausage / leek dish). In fact, there is no overlap with what we ate for one week a year ago.

OK, here I go. Some week we thought we might eat the following - and at the end the menu might have changed as circumstances dictated:
  • Chicken with sundried tomatoes cream sauce
  • Martin's mom's rice with veggies (rice cooked with bouillon and veggies and at the end topped with layers of cheese that melt on top)
  • Roesti (potato pancake from cooked then grated potatoes) with creamy mushroom sauce
  • salmon with potatoes
Some other random week:
  • Pasta casserole (Baked dish of egg pasta, yellow bell peppers, leeks + peas in gorgonzola / egg sauce)
  • Beef and broccoli stir fry
  • steak tacos with guacamole
  • Sicilian spaghetti (a sauce consisting of anchovies, raisins, and some other potent flavors, topped with fried breadcrumbs, from Jamie's cookbook - that british chef)
  • Salmon + rice (that might have been a very basic curry consisting of zucchini and red bell peppers in coconut milk together with the salmon)
  • Mushroom ragout
Another week
  • Martin's mom's rice
  • Spaetzle (sort of fresh pasta that's dripped into boiling water), fried up with some veggies and may be cream
  • Salmon chowder
  • Pork Roast + potatoes
  • Fried rice using the pork meat
Another week
  • Fettucini Greta Garbo (from the Fiddlehead cookbook - pasta with smoked salmon in garlic cream sauce, if I remember the recipe correctly)
  • Homemade pizza (I like this crust)
  • Chuck steak + potatoes
  • Roesti with mushroom suace
  • Potatoes, onions, sausage
  • Salmon + Rice
  • Stir fry - beef and broccoli
This week, we have made
  • Pasta carbonara
  • Martin's mom's rice
  • pizza
  • pasta in an italian sausage + canned pumpkin pasta sauce
Now the question is, what to cook tomorrow. May be I will take the pumpkin risotto out of the freezer, even though Sonja didn't like it the first time I made it - but she can have scrambled eggs, from the fresh eggs we got both from Marin and Anne.

Martin's blog

Here is what Martin has been up to:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thirty five degrees, or no more various shades of white

This morning, the local temperature as announced on the radio was "thirty five degrees" in Fairbanks. I kept waiting for the "below" part, but it never came. Indeed, a chinook (warm wind) came, and with it our winter wonderland scenery that we got to enjoy for a week or so around here disappeared. Before, everything was white or various shades off white, except for kids or dogs. As the wind came and knocked the snow off, the trees are now in various shades of dark gray.

We went to get the Sunday paper, so one of the dogs got to pull the kids in the sled (regular sled, not a dogsled) on the uphills, and then run as fast as they could on the downhills to keep up with all three of us barreling down the hill in it. Here is Saphira in her skijoring harness, ready to go for the paper.

I do keep hoping for more snow, so whenever that happens (hopefully soon), the scenery may change to the various-shades-of-white again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

White Friday (aka dogsledding and skijoring on Creamer's Field)

Instead of a black Friday, we had a white Friday, and enjoyed a ride around Creamer's field with the dogs. Sonja was on her dogsled, I was skijoring, and Emilie was in a backpack on my back.

This is not a very good video, but it gives an idea of how this first time went (we did take the dogsled out yesterday too, but I was walking, not skiing). Even though it has been very warm (around 20F), the camera conked out on us a bit later, complaining it was too cold, so I thought I would post this one for Martin as is - he is having a white Friday too, a whole white week or more, probably, somewhere on the snow (or rather, Ice) off here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Emilie the doctor

Today, Emilie started grabbing some of the toys the kids never play with, and put on the gloves, and took the stethoscope, and started checking out what might be wrong with me. I have never seen either of the kids play with that stuff before, but she sure knew what one does with it - she went to listen to my chest to make sure everything was ok.

Time to skijor again!

Monday I went skijoring for the first time this year, a full month-and-a-half later compared to a year ago. And probably on less snow. And it is now November, with November temperatures, so a bit cool(er). We went to creamer's field. The dogs puled like crazy, even though the skis did not quite glide in the close to -20F weather.

Same thing Wednesday - creamers field, dogs pulling, cool temperatures.

And today, Friday - I went to explore the Chena Flats area off Chena Pump road. They are trying to get a greenbelt in there, sounds like a good project. One trail access is off Chena Point Rd just past the gravel pit on the north side of the road. Today, it was a couple degrees colder than the other days, or may be I was not dressed as well (note to self: that neckgator which is loose is a bit too loose, it sure makes for a cold face when it's not hugging it!), so we didn't stay very long exploring (20 mins?), plus due to the low snow, the trails were not really punched through. But I look forward to getting to know that area.

Pics from wednesday, with the good neckgator, after our run: both the dogs and I have some small icicles hanging from our faces, in addition to that nose of mine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The changing Tanana

In the last couple years, the Tanana river by Fairbanks has really changed. In particular, this was noticeable in the late fall before we got permanent snow, when the water levels were in their lowest of the year (since there is no melt of snow or glaciers, and no rain input) - I could cross easily onto the island that's across from the airport (the main mass that does have some channels cutting across it, here). There was just a trickle of water, together with some ice covering bare rocks... but really, no water to speak of. If the dogs hadn't run off ( I stupidly let them both off the leash since I was on 'an island' - well, they could get off that 'island' just as easily as I could get onto it), I would have checked out the main channel of the river, which is now on the far side of that island. As a result of it, all of that water heads straight into the bluff visible in some of our pictures and then continues into the slough (this one). This slough that Sonja played in two years ago as a toddler no longer has the lazy water it had then, nor the mud beaches that provided so much fun. It is amazing to watch that river change so much in such a short time. Glad our house is nowhere next to it - definitely a dangerous neighbor.

This picture is looking west from the end of the trail by the airport (map) towards where the Chena enters the Tanana (by the leaning trees visible on the right side), October 2009:

Summer 2007, same spot:

Closeup (Saphira, Mica, Sonja):

2007, looking upriver from the same spot:

October 2009, looking upriver from across the "river", the only flowing part of the river across which I had to jump across is visible in the lower portion of the picture

I wonder how different that beach where we've been hanging out every now and then will be next summer, if indeed more and more of the water is flowing in a different channel. Time will show.

Goofing off

Friday, October 23, 2009


One of the dogs had to go pee in the middle of the night. Good thing. Otherwise I would have missed this.

When I first opened the door for Cooper and saw the aurora, I decided that it was so good that I was going to wake up Martin, so I called out his name, only to remember that he left for a conference two hours earlier. Maybe he saw it from the windows of the airplane.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Smith lake is frozen

The snow that fell three weeks ago melted within about a week... then it got superhot (60F)... then it got cooler (consistently below freezing).... this morning a dusting of snow fell from the sky. Can't go skiing, but we'll have to try skating.


Two and a half weeks ago

Fall colors three weeks ago

This is already three weeks late: some pictures of last little bits of color around.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Equinox snow

Happy equinox! Days are getting shorter fast, and just to prove the point that winter is coming, it was snowing today...or trying to. Not sticking. Yet.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Labor Day camping

We went camping two weeks ago (Labor day) over in the Mt Prindle area. Car camping. Beautiful weather, beautiful fall colors, a ton of blueberries. Blueberry pancakes for breakfast. (This pancake mix recipe, which we really like). Sonja loved camping, and we had to sleep in a tent the next night too (though it was just our driveway that night).

Here Sonja crosses a small creek to get to our tent (green, in the background to the right of her head). We were right off the dredged rocks, so we just threw some flat ones into the creek. She loved going across.

Fun in our Hilleberg tent (too bad it's only three person tent... we will very soon need a four person one).

After dinner

Breakfast: blueberry pancakes. We did bring some sand toys for the kids to play with, so the sand buckets made for good emergency buckets for blueberries, since we didn't have any other container to store them in. Martin is holding one of them in his hands.

Cooper thinks the sleeping bags make for a nice mat.

There were a ton of blueberries - even more blueberries than hunters (and there were a lot of hunters, since the hunting season started two days earlier). Bushes like these right next to our tent and everywhere around... mmm good. We just need to teach Emilie to pick the blueberries herself instead of the bucket.

Beautiful colors.