Monday, August 31, 2009

Alaska State Fair

I've never been to another state's fair, but the people I know who've moved up here from the midwest all agree that the Alaska State Fair is something special. It's an annual tradition for most Alaskan families who, at the end of each August, head toward Palmer for the food, rides, exhibits, and performances. Off-the-gridders who live way out in the backwoods ride their 4-wheelers to the main road and come on in to town. The Russian Old Believers make their way up from the Kenai Peninsula. Alaska Natives fly in from the villages. And the rest of us pile into our cars and drive to the Valley.

What is it that makes the State Fair so much fun? I think that part of the appeal is the palpable sense of familiarity and friendship. We're so far away from the rest of the U.S. that we don't have the usual assortment of traveling vendors who move from fair to fair to fair. Our booths are operated by Alaskans who have been here forever and who can be counted on for their consistency, hard work, and appreciation for tradition. You don't have to worry about your BBQ turkey legs or your halibut tacos or your favorite cream puffs; they'll be there and tasting just the way you like 'em year after year after year.

Plus, fair days are the time of year when you're bound to run into people you haven't seen in ages. I once was waiting in line when I recognized my old Girl Scout leader standing in front of me. Another time my husband and I walked into an old friend we hadn't seen since college. At the fair, we cross paths with all kinds of family, friends, and acquaintances from our various circles of life.

The main reason to go to the fair, however, is the food. Oh, my heavens, the food. I've found it's best not to mention my favorite fair food to others, because like politics or religion, the discussion ends up quite heated. Start insisting pork chops on a stick are the best, and someone will argue No, cheese curds are much better, then someone else will jump in yelling about beef pasties, and before you know it, blows are raining down on your head.

Suffice it to say that each person in my family has his or her favorites. My husband goes for the Polish dogs, the Husky cheeseburgers, and the cream puffs. I like the roasted corn on the cob, the gyro sandwiches, and the cream puffs. My girls like the corn dogs, the cotton candy, and . . . the cream puffs.

Cream Puffs . . . the Great Uniter

Eating one's way across the fairgrounds is most important, but there are many other reasons to attend the Alaska State Fair. So I'm dedicating the next couple of days on my blog to rides, crazy hair, and 90-pound cabbages. Prepare yourself.

Dinner last night: fair food, including but not limited to cream puffs

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Crocs and Tree Climbing Don't Mix

My 9-year-old daughter broke her left wrist several weeks ago. Both bones. Displaced. After the rush to the ER and then into surgery, her arm was placed into a splint wrapped in lots of fluffy stuff. I thought for sure she'd be put into a hard cast at her first follow-up visit to the orthopedic surgeon, but he merely wrapped some neon orange casting tape around the entire filthy mess and left it all on for another two weeks.

A trip to the doctor's office is the perfect time to ask your emotional mother if you can clip gaudy monstrosities onto your earlobes. She'll say YES! and then offer to buy you ice cream.

At the second follow-up (over four weeks after the injury . . . has it really been that long?), she was placed in a short cast made of lightweight WATERPROOF material. Oh, happy day! She can now take a bath and wash her hair by herself. She'll stay in this cast for 3 to 4 weeks, and then should be good to go. The x-rays show both bones in good position and remodeling nicely.

Dinner last night: heavenly halibut, cous cous, peas

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Pop Tart Saga Continues

When my husband came home from work, I showed him my finger and told him that I had burned it. When he asked how, I cleverly sidestepped the issue of my eating Pop Tarts for lunch by muttering, "In the kitchen," before distracting him with my demands to look closely at the world's worst injury and to agree with me that it was the most painful burn any woman has ever experienced and wasn't I a brave warrior.

Later that night, my husband walked past me with a plate of Pop Tarts and a glass of milk. He said, "Did you by chance burn your thumb on a Pop Tart? Because I just burned the snot out of my thumb trying to get one out of the toaster."

If you look closely, you can see that he actually developed TWO blisters.
However, my burn is much bigger, so I win.

Dinner last night: mushroom & Colby cheese stuffed meatloaf, mashed potatoes & gravy, steamed asparagus

Friday, August 21, 2009

Please Sign My Petition

You'd think I'd have learned by now. It's absolutely useless to send my husband to the store. Not only does he not get what I needed him to purchase in the first place, but he returns home with Oreos, several bags of potato chips, and various flavors of ice cream. And not the cheap stuff, either. He just grabs whatever looks good, whether it's $7 a pint or not.

He recently came home with three boxes of Pop Tarts. I haven't had a Pop Tart since . . . well, since the last time he brought them home. But that was a couple of years ago.

Yesterday, I thought I'd make myself some lunch. But who needs lunch when there are Pop Tarts in the cupboard? The hubster was at work, the older girls were at school, the twins were napping . . . who'd ever know that I, Defender of Healthy Food, had two Pop Tarts for my midday meal? No one, that's who. I could snack away to my heart's content.

I gently placed those bad boys in the toaster and set about selecting a small plate, a napkin, and a nice tall glass of cold milk to go along with my lunch. Finally, after an eternity, the Pop Tarts emerged from their toaster slots. They were literally smoking and black around the edges. What the . . . ? Aargh! Somebody had turned up the dial on the stupid toaster as high as it could go—which meant my Pop Tarts were now burned to a crisp.

I reached in to pull one out and . . . yowsa! I don't know if it was a blob of frosting or escaped "fruit" filling, but some kind of boiling goo adhered itself to my left thumb and burnt me soooooo bad. I couldn't shake it off and had to run to the sink to wash it off.

You're thinking, So what? Your Pop Tarts were a little warm. Grow a pair. I'm telling you, I received a second-degree burn from that evil Pop Tart.

I'm considering entering the world of politics, with the sole mission of enacting legislation that will prohibit any and all males over the age of 18 from stepping foot inside a grocery store.

Dinner last night: tuna noodle casserole, green beans

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mushrooms and Fairies

I've been noticing mushrooms on the forest floor this year. I don't know if the unusually hot weather this summer had something to do with their size or appearance, but the wild mushrooms growing in the woods behind our house seem larger and more colorful than usual.

I can't decide if I like the looks of this mushroom or not . . . Is it pretty? Or scary? A sign of healthy soil? Or of creepy, poisonous spores?

There. Much better. Now the mushroom looks charming and even useful. Those little fairies can take shelter under the mushroom when it rains, or sit in its shade when the sun's too hot for their delicate wings.

Dinner last night: sour cream enchiladas

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to School Blues

Today is the first day of school. Is it just me, or is August 18 early? I'm feeling bereft this morning, and a little out of sorts. This day caught me by surprise—no, not by surprise because obviously I knew it was coming, but maybe off guard or unaware.

The first huge red flag was waved at me yesterday, when the school nurse called to say my daughters would not be allowed to attend school unless they had their chicken pox vaccinations. My oldest daughter has received one varicella shot, but evidently needs a second, and my 9-year-old has had none, although I swear I went through a frantic visit to the doctor to prepare her for preschool, but chicken pox never got marked down on her shot record. So yesterday afternoon, right when my 3-year-old twins should have been going down for their naps, we all piled into the minivan and headed to the health clinic where free vaccinations are offered to Alaskan children.

Let me just say that if my experience at the Department of Health Services is any indication whatsoever of what Obamacare will be like, then mine will be the next face you see on your television when ABC news reports on "angry mobs" and "town hall meetings." Because, people, that was an afternoon I don't ever want to experience again.

It was government bureaucracy at its most stereotypical: old building, cramped waiting room, long line waiting to check in at the computer, then waiting over two freakin' hours to check in with a human sitting at her computer—a woman who will soon be promoted to a position at the DMV if her dead eyes and uncaring attitude have anything to do with it— followed by another long wait to see a nurse.

In summary, the day was horrible but at least the girls got their shots. We didn't arrive back home until almost 5:00 and I rushed to get dinner on the table. Then, because her left arm is broken and in a cast, I had to help my 9-year-old take a bath and wash her hair, which led to the twins jumping in the tub and my having to give them both a bath. By the time everyone was powdered and pajama-ed, I was too exhausted to run to the store to buy my girls the school supplies they needed but that I hadn't yet purchased because this day snuck up on me and I wasn't ready.

So my girls are attending school with band-aids on their deltoids but without new gym shoes or zippered pencil pouches.

Dinner last night: rotisserie chicken, pasta

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alaska State Champions

My daughter's soccer team just won the Alaska State Cup. Wow.

Albuquerque, New Mexico . . . here we come!

Dinner last night: leftovers

Friday, August 14, 2009

Beach Week

I've mentioned that I like wild grass and that I like drift wood. Well, in sorting through our 26,000 photographs these past few days, I've happened across a picture I snapped a few years ago that shows both.

I've always loved this photograph, because it reminds me of the many fun boat trips our family's taken across Kachemak Bay. We'd anchor my dad's boat just off the beach, drive in on the little Zodiak, and spend the afternoon hiking and beachcombing. Toward evening, we'd build a campfire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows.

We haven't been able to go the last couple of years, because my dad piloted his boat across the Gulf of Alaska to fish in Southeast waters. "Thanks for nothing, Dad! You've ruined my summers!" screamed the ungrateful daughter, as she stomped her feet and shook her fists in the air. "Why do you have to go and make a living? WHY?!"

Dinner last night: spaghetti and meatballs, steamed green beans

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If Looks Could Kill

While hiking around the beach the other day, I came across a rock wall that I thought might make an interesting backdrop for a picture of the girls. I sat my two oldest daughters down in front of it and asked them to smile.

Bad idea. Let's separate everybody and try this again.

This child wouldn't stop laughing and goofing around.

This child refused to say cheese. Still irritated with her older sister for some injustice or another, I'm guessing.

This child wanted nothing to do with me, the camera,
or the stinkin' rock wall.


One out of four ain't bad.

Dinner last night: barbecue chicken, potato salad

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shades of Grey

We hiked around a rocky beach over the weekend. The day was overcast but warm, although it's always a tad breezy at the water's edge.

The tide was out, exposing the mud flats.

She looks so lonely, doesn't she? She actually just ran down to the water to rinse the mud off her shoes.

I'm surprised this picture is clear since my hands were shaking, along with my voice, as I shrieked at my husband to "Get her!"

Whew! They made it to the top . . .
and now it's time to roll rocks off the cliff.

There's something about wild grass. I just like it.

I also hold a spot in my heart for driftwood
— or should I say drift trees? —
that years of water and wind have bleached out.

Right as we were climbing back into the car to head home, the sun came out. Still no color, but at least the water is sparkling now.

Dinner last night: pork chops, stuffing, mushroom gravy, steamed broccoli

Friday, August 7, 2009


Sometimes I feel like the inside of my mind must look like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc, an unending labyrinth of mysteries and treasures that are impossible to inventory. Instead of crates containing magical objects, my head houses memories that are stacked on top of each other, with one occasionally tumbling to the floor and knocking loose an avalanche of recollection.

It's unsettling when something triggers a memory that I've heretofore completely forgotten. It's been hiding there in my subconscious, packed in mental raffia and shelved among all the other memories gathered across my lifetime. A smell or the snippet of a particular song or a glimpse of water sparkling in the sun can trigger instant recall. I'll remember some small event with crystal clarity, though I literally had not thought about it even once since it originally took place.

On occasion, the opposite phenomenon occurs. No matter how hard I try, I cannot remember an important detail or some event in which I'm certain I took part. Perhaps a conversation I know I had, yet cannot remember with whom I was speaking. Or the name of the author who wrote the play I spent a good 3 months out of my life preparing for the stage. Or this picture I found while cleaning up the 26,000 photos that are clogging my computer. I don't recall ever seeing it. Yet it's smack dab in the middle of several that I took of our newborn twin daughters, shortly after we brought them home.

How can I not remember such a precious moment?

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers, corn on the cob

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aaargh and Double Aaargh

Sooooo. Veeeeeeerrrrrrry. SLOOOOOOOOOW.

I'm pretty sure there's an amendment to our Constitution that states something about American citizens possessing the right to quick Internet service. Enough with the health care reform already; how about some relief for those of us who are forced to rely on technology installed sometime during the Medieval era?

I've complained at length about not having any cable TV where we live, and while I really don't care about our inability to watch MTV or ESPN, I do care very much that my computer is moving liking a turtle. I'm about ready to dig into the ground and place cable myself if it'll help me post to Blogger in less than 45 minutes.

Not only is our absence of cable slowing me down, but I believe that our photo storage may be taking up too much space on the hard drive. I use iPhoto, and I've noticed recently that it's holding 26,502 pictures. Is that a lot?

I'm going through our 26,000 pictures, deleting the blurry and transferring those that I don't think I'll need any time soon to CDs. Maybe freeing up a few hundred gigabytes will help speed things up around here. I'm learning quite a bit about my husband in this process of sifting through our massive assortment of pictures. Basically I'm realizing I've married a crackpot.

The guy's got photo collections of the cosmos, which are pretty cool, but the ice sculptures? And all the LOL catz? Okay, those are funny, but we don't need to keep them on our computer when they've got their own website. Hubby's got a folder of pictures of food that he's taken with his cell phone: plates of blueberries, Mexican lunch platters, piles of doughnuts that co-workers have brought to the office, and our dinner from the fancy restaurant we patronized on our anniversary. We've got literally hundreds of pictures of the Orient that his mom has taken on her 3 or 4 trips over to China. Don't ask me why they're on our computer.

I found a bunch of scenic photos labeled "New York in the Fall." Not that we've ever been to New York, in the fall or any other time of year.

I came across a group of wooden boats carved to look like cars. Slug bug.

Speaking of cars, my husband has a fascination with trucks that have fallen through the ice. Up in Fairbanks, there's a lake that people use as a road during the winter, when it's frozen solid and as smooth and wide as the Autobahn. Every year, drivers push their luck by continuing to use the shortcut across the lake after the weather has warmed; one or two end up breaking through.

This is one of many toilet pictures that my perfectly normal spouse has collected. Although the male model in that photo is no relation, he rather resembles my brother-in-law. I showed it to my sister-in-law and casually mentioned that I didn't think it was very classy of Bill to let himself to be photographed like that. She believed me and started to read him the riot act, before our laughter alerted her to the joke. Good times.

Then there are all the photographs of toys that don't sell very well in the U.S.

I am deeply disturbed by the knot pictures. I know they are photoshopped, but still.

While we're on the subject of "deeply disturbed," I absolutely HATE the many, many alien pictures my husband has collected. I particularly loathe the family shots—a loving couple posing for their engagement photo, a mother holding her baby, a family sitting for their portrait—where one of the subjects is an alien, posing just as naturally as can be, like there's nothing strange about it. My husband thinks it's hilarious to slip a few into the screensaver folder that runs our own family pictures across the computer monitor when no one's using it. I'll be walking through the family room and glance over to see something like this:

That alien baby is almost as traumatizing as my slow computer.

Dinner last night: orange chicken, chow mein noodles

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Name is Kim and I'm a . . . Soccer Mom.

Years ago, when I was a DINK, I completed a marketing survey. It asked a few generic questions about my husband's and my ages, genders, professions, and housing situation. After filling in the questions and running it through some kind of software, I sat back skeptically to see what, if anything, this survey could tell me. I was SHOCKED. It correctly stated the type of car I drove, the barbecue grill on my back deck, the brand of vacuum I used, and the clothing stores I frequented. I was not the unique, independent, impossible-to-categorize person I thought I was. Rather, I was totally predictable in my buying habits, by mere virtue of my vital statistics.

Fast forward many years to the moment in time when I first pulled into the parking lot of a soccer field, opened the back of my vehicle, and began pulling out a fold-up chair and my 4-year-old's ball. In a moment of perfect clarity, I realized that I was a bonafide soccer mom. Driving a minivan. With 2 children inside. And a dog at home in the backyard. Marketing executives would drool at the thought of my purchasing power.

My 4-year-old is now eleven, and still playing soccer. In fact, she's a starting defender on a competitive team headed for State. You may have heard horror stories about parents going ballistic at their child's sporting event. I've never witnessed a fist fight, but I have seen and heard my share of dads yelling and moms griping. While I've come to accept, sort of, the label of soccer mom, I chafe at the stereotype and really don't want to be defined by the small but vocal minority of parents who attempt to live out their own failed athletic dreams through their little girls. So, a couple years ago, I picked up my camera.

I may be a soccer mom, but I'd like to think that I'm a creative, generous soccer mom. And good-looking. We musn't forget slender. Where was I? That's right. To resist getting sucked into the negative energy produced by a few loud-mouthed malcontents on the sidelines, I picked up my camera and started snapping action pictures of my daughter. Which led to inadvertently catching some cool shots of her teammates. Which led to publishing a team blog featuring my photography. Which led to creating individual posters for each of the players.

Which led to this long-winded post . . . which is all my way of explaining why I haven't been around lately. I'm busy pretending I'm a sports photographer instead of a soccer mom.

Dinner last night: rice, chili and cheese