Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Moose Costume

There's a reason you will never see a beagle modeling dog costumes.

I went to snap a pic of our 10-month-old puppy, Lupine, wearing moose antlers. I figured three of us working together could wrangle her into the cute headpiece.

One kid held her still, while another slipped the costume onto her head. So far, so good.

Right as I clicked my camera, the dog whipped around, so I captured a crystal clear image of her back. Okay. Not ideal, but I'll call her name and she'll turn around, right?

She turned around all right. She proceeded to run as fast as she could in a tight little circle, shaking her head so hard I thought it might fly off.

A beagle in moose antlers is almost as ridiculous as a real moose.

Dinner last night: oven-baked parmesan chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Decor

I love the colors of autumn and the various motifs associated with harvest—leaves, pumpkins, scarecrows, and such—and try to use those in my fall decorations, rather than emphasizing the gory and supernatural elements of Halloween.

That said, . . .

Dinner last night: tuna melts, tomato soup

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Kryptonite

My youngest daughter has been getting away with a lot lately. She knows I can't resist a smiling child who's missing her two front teeth.

Every time I start to grouch at her about her unmade bed or dirty plate left on the table, she flashes me a toothless grin.

Growing . . . weaker . . . by the . . . second . . . 

Dinner last night: cheese pizza

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Changing of the Seasons

Autumn is rapidly being replaced by winter, but those are not the changing seasons that affect my daughter. She plays volleyball, and her team's final game takes place exactly one week from today. Yay! She'll finally get to hang out around the house and take it easy.

No more daily practices . . . no more weekend tournaments . . . no more returning home at 10:00 on a school night after a road trip . . .

until basketball season starts in a few weeks.

Dinner last night: barbecue salmon, rice, corn

Exactly two years ago:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October Sunset

Every year about this time, when the air cools and the snow begins dusting the mountaintops, we are treated to the most spectacular skies. We've witnessed so many gorgeous sunrises and sunsets this month. And the Northern Lights! You haven't lived until you've stood outside in the cold, dark silence under a dancing sky of blues and greens and reds.

I'm not sure which amazes me more: the colors of the sunset captured in this photo, or the fact that it was snapped on my husband's CELL PHONE.

Dinner last night: chili, rice, and cheese

Exactly four years ago:

Friday, September 7, 2012

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Hurricane-force winds blew into our neck of the woods Tuesday evening, knocking out power and wreaking general havoc.

Early Wednesday morning, we ventured outside to assess the damage.

Our 12-year-old was so scared by the loud wind that she insisted on sleeping the entire stormy night in our room. I guess her fear of a tree crashing over her head wasn't so crazy after all . . . that top window looks into her bedroom. Fortunately, the only real damage was to the rain gutter.

We recently marked several dead trees on our property with yellow tape for my husband to cut down this month. Not a single one of them fell over during the windstorm, yet a perfectly healthy tree (being run across by my daughter in this photo) was uprooted!

Who'd guess that a skinny birch's root system would be so massive? Well, sure, a biologist would know, but English majors like me might be surprised to see how much ground comes up with a tree.

One of the trees that holds the girls' playhouse cracked during the storm and probably would have toppled over if it wasn't attached to the structure. You can't really tell in the photo, but the treehouse is now leaning at a weird angle. The girls aren't allowed to play in this area until we can take care of the problem.

The electricity at our place finally came back on yesterday, but the power over at the girls' school was out until this afternoon. The kids had three days off, so I put 'em to work picking up the branches all over the yard and sweeping up the piles and piles AND piles of leaves on the deck and driveway.

Dinner last night: orange chicken over rice

Exactly two years ago:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do I Get Some Kind of Award?

School started today. I now have kids in each category:

One daughter in high school,
one daughter in middle school,
and two starting elementary school!

Dinner last night: wedge salad with blue cheese, baked salmon and halibut, and baby potatoes

Exactly three years ago:

Monday, August 27, 2012

End of Summer

Per our family's annual tradition, we attended the Alaska State Fair over the weekend. I didn't take my good camera because it was raining, so pardon the blurry shots from my phone.

Our eldest daughter is proving herself to be a gaming genius. Or as George Costanzo would pronounce, jeen-ee-us.You know those carnival games that are impossible to win? She wins them. We thought it was a freak instance of luck when at age 6 she beat all the adults who were shooting at moving ducks, but she's continued to dominate as she's grown.

The rest of us plop down our money, miss the target, and walk away empty-handed. My daughter plops down her money, flings darts at balloons, and walks away with a huge yellow monkey.

The twins were obsessed with the farm animals, particularly the baby chicks.

I finally had to drag them away from the tub, so some of the other kids could have a chance to ooh and aah over the little cheepers.

As our husband led us over to look at the four-wheelers and R/V campers, we happened upon a booth containing a small group of face painting jeen-ee-us-es. The twins asked for the Jewel Princess look . . .

What an awesome job the make-up artists did (in about half the time and price as the other place we've used in the past). We'll be back to this booth next year!

Dinner last night: corn dogs, gyro sandwiches, cotton candy, kettle corn

Exactly two years ago:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oh, Look! A 500-Pound Grizzly. Can I Pet Him?

A lot of men with guns in their holsters were fishing this area, so don't freak out as you watch. Had this bear started charging, which would have been VERY UNLIKELY, he'd have been taken down before he could reach the shore.

Grizzlies are a fairly common sight at the Russian River. Our friends camp here regularly throughout the summer and have lost count of how many bears they've seen. Basically, if you leave a bear alone, he'll leave you alone . . .

unless you keep your bag of Doritoes in the tent with you. Then you might as well kiss your tushy good-bye.

(click arrow to play)

Dinner last night: taco lasagna

Exactly three years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, August 20, 2012

A New Era

Although my eldest daughter won't be starting high school for another week (*gulp* SHE'S GOING TO BE A FRESHMAN *gulp*), volleyball tryouts have already been held. The girls have been practicing for a couple weeks now, and the team participated in its first tournament of the season over the weekend.

You know me. I snapped a bunch of pictures of my child as well as of her teammates, thinking my daughter could post a couple on her Facebook page. Isn't that what kids do these days? Post pictures of themselves and their friends, and tag them, and whatnot?

My teenager told me in no uncertain terms that she absolutely would not display them. When I asked why not?, she simply said, "Because I don't want to."

Welcome to the high school years.

Dinner last night: teriyaki turkey burger

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Inspired by the Olympics

Mary Carillo recently presented a feature on Olga Korbut, and boy, did the memories flood back. The '72 Olympics were the first Olympics I can remember watching as a little girl, and I clearly remember Olga, her cute little pigtails, her big smile, and her amazing gymnastics. Her incredible performances prompted both my sister and me to beg our mom for gymnastic lessons, and she enrolled us in a class where we learned how to cartwheel and backbend and do the splits.

This summer is the first time that any of our kids have watched the Olympics. I don't know where we were or what we were doing four years ago, but it didn't include watching sports. This year is different. We've all been pulled into the fascinating world of elite athletes and their respective areas of expertise. I keep the TV on during the day, and we stop and watch depending on which events are being broadcast. My eldest daughter is hooked on women's volleyball and the twins love the swimming and the bicycling. (My middle daughter occasionally plops down to watch a gymnastics routine or a running race, but she's more interested in the Winter Olympics and will wait for the skaters.)

I've noticed that after she watches a volleyball match, my 14-year-old heads outsides and practices. She sees how long she can bump the ball without losing control and she works on her serves by batting the ball against the garage door (which drives me crazy, it's so loud, but I don't say a word).

Meanwhile, the twins have been working extra hard at their swim lessons. Just yesterday, the teacher remarked to me how much better they've gotten. Can a little girl really be inspired to improve her own athletic endeavors by watching Olympians compete? I think so.

Dinner last night: (turkey) lasagna, garlic bread

Exactly three years ago:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I'm Not Kidding About the Wild-Haired Children

A couple months ago, a bear ambled past our family room window. Yesterday, a moose and her calf walked by. The baby was too quick for me to catch on camera, but I was able to snap a picture of the mama.

Please stop focusing on my dirty windows.

Much better.

Kid! Get out of the way! I'm trying to take a picture of the moose.

On second thought, forget about the moose. Ignore the dirty windows.
Let's go comb out that rat's nest.

Dinner last night: teriyaki beef, rice, corn

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, August 6, 2012

What to Do With an Old Wedding Dress

I've been wanting to take a picture of each of my twin girls sitting in my wedding dress while they're still small enough that it looks cute and not weird.

I pulled out my dress box which had been heirloomed and sealed shortly after my wedding—I literally had not laid eyes on my dress since I got it cleaned and packed. I was afraid of what I might find . . . moths? water stains? dingy lace? But the dress was in pristine condition. Heirlooming is worth every penny! I can't remember exactly how much it cost way back then, but I do know it was over $100 and seemed like an absolute fortune to my poor, newlywed self.

I was married during the month of August, and since this past weekend not only ushered in August but some nice weather as well, I thought it would be a good time to go outside and snap some pictures.

My 12-year-old daughter felt left out and wanted me to take her picture in the dress. I told her that she was too big, that she would look more like a hillbilly teenage bride in an ill-fitting frock than a cute kid dressing up in her mother's gown, but she insisted.

Kind of weird, I admit, but posing in my old dress made her happy.

Then the bee showed up . . .

Now that's weird.

Dinner last night: pork loin roast, roasted veggies and gravy

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Medals I Could Win If These Were Olympic Sports:

BRONZE: Pinning an absurd amount of organization ideas, while sitting in the chair next to my "junk closet" that I haven't cleaned out in two years.

SILVER: Simultaneously complaining about drivers who go too fast, drivers who go too slow, drivers who pass, drivers who tailgate, drivers who look too old to be driving, drivers who look too young to be driving, drivers who cut me off when they merge onto the road, drivers who slow down and crawl along the shoulder of the road rather than merge in front of me, drivers who don't know their signal light is still blinking, and drivers/pedestrians who flip me off.

SILVER: 50-yard dash through the rain while holding child in one arm, cake platter in the other, purse over right shoulder, diaper bag over left shoulder, and pushing stroller by pressing my stomach into the handle and directing it with my hip bones.

GOLD: Avoiding commitment without ever once uttering the actual word, no, when someone corners me at church and asks if I can help out in the nursery

GOLD: Eating chips and salsa faster than anyone at the table. (I believe I could also set the World Record in this event.)

Dinner last night: homemade chicken & veggie soup

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Brave Beagles

A moose decided to hang around our mailbox, snacking on the tasty alders. Wrong move, moose. I've got some pretty ferocious dogs who will eat you for breakfast.

Daisy and Lupine confronted that moose and let him have it.

Of course, a beagle's idea of "confront" includes standing safely on the deck.
But they did bark!

The moose turned its head.

You should have seen our 7-month-old puppy. Tears of pride filled my eyes as I watched her risk her very life to protect our family from the crazed moose.

Perhaps "risk" is too strong a word . . .

She moved back behind Daisy and continued barking.

The moose was very scared.

Dinner last night: white chili, sweet cornbread muffins

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

I've been out of town for a week, but I'm back and ready to . . . not blog. Summers are short in Alaska, and I can't bring myself to sit down at the computer when there's so much to be done outside. We've only got another month of decent weather to enjoy, and I want to take full advantage of the warmth and daylight. So the girls, dogs, and I are spending most of our time outdoors.

Yesterday, a beautiful shiny-coated moose yearling was hanging out in the woods behind our house. I raced inside to grab my camera, thinking I could post a wildlife photo on my neglected blog, but by the time I got back outside, the skinny-legged twig-eater was gone. Usually I at least can capture a shot of a moose's heinie in the distance, but this guy had completely vanished.

So here's a photo of my desk instead.

Now you know the real reason I stay outside.

Dinner last night: chicken pot pie

Exactly two years ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Snack of the Devil

Have you noticed that salted caramel is trending? It's everywhere. I've seen salted caramel chocolate bars, salted caramel coffee, and even salted caramel milkshakes.

For my birthday, my mother presented me with an institutional size container of salted caramel biscotti that she had purchased from Costco. She said I would like them, that they're quite delicious when dipped in coffee. Good grief, does the woman actually expect me to consume a virtual vat of biscotti? It would take me months to finish off such an enormous amount of tasty little biscuits.

I ate the last three this morning.

Dinner last night: fish sticks

Exactly four years ago:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Better than a horrible strip of advertising logo

Yesterday, I turned on my computer to find a surprise visitor at my screen. A logo had moved onto my blog, with a strip of advertising that ran down the entire length of my page, covering posts and everything. Sort of like when my cousin comes to visit and settles into my sofa with his beer in one hand and my remote control stuck in the waistband of his sweatpants. Unexpected, rather rude, and too fat to roll him off the couch by myself. I'm kind of stuck with him in the middle of my living room.

I spent far too much time yesterday researching this intrusive ad that wouldn't go away. Was it a bug in Blogger? a hack into my template coding? a manifestation of Malware Monday? I really couldn't get an answer from anyone. And worse? No one else seemed to be experiencing the same advertising smack down.

The best advice I could glean was to customize my template and maybe the obnoxious ad would be deleted in the process. Well, I customized my blog a year ago, when I transitioned from The Mommy Machine to Alaskim. I created a new header and widened my posting area so I could display extra large photos of moose eating pumpkins on my deck. I improved fonts and colors and styles. I added tabs and pages and gadgets. I don't remember exactly how I did it all, but it took many attempts and lots of messing around with the dreaded HTML code. After stumbling through that design adventure, I swore never again to mess with the technological underbelly of formatting and tweaking templates.


I crawled under my blog into the "advanced" area of custom formatting and knocked out a quick and dirty re-design. And by re-design, I mean I just needed needed to clear the template. Bye-bye pretty little labels and unique wallpaper and fancy little dividers. I simplified and changed the color of the background, adjusted the width of my column, and re-set the fonts back to default. It probably looks ridiculous, but I won't care if it will get rid of that dadgum ad. I can deal with the aesthetics and flow later, after I've had some sleep and a chance for my anxiety about this snafu to subside.

And now, I shall press Publish and pray I haven't blown it all up . . .

Dinner last night: steak, sautéed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, salad

Exactly three years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Another Day, Another Broken Bone

On the Fourth of July, my 12-year-old fell off her skateboard and smashed shoulder-first into the pavement. I suspected that her collar bone might have broken, but she insisted that she had just jammed her shoulder. It hurt, but she was tolerating the pain.

I took her into the doctor's office the next day to make sure she was okay, but of course, she had broken her clavicle. Fortunately, it wasn't displaced and didn't require surgery; however, her left arm must remain immobilized in a sling for 2 weeks. My daughter will not be able to finish out the season with her rec soccer team, and more upsetting to her, she can't participate in the Top of the World Figure Skating Competition scheduled for next month.

This is the same girl who, when she was 8, badly sprained her ankle after leaping off a swing and who at 9 years of age snapped her arm in two after jumping out of a tree. When she decides to get hurt, she really goes for it. Sigh.

Off topic: I sincerely hope that Blogger got hacked, because if that "shop wiki" ad that's currently running down the length of my page is a deliberate new feature, I'm going to be ticked.

Dinner last night: barbecue chicken drumsticks, mashed potatoes, corn

Exactly three years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Dogs Were Harmed in the Filming of this Independence Day Celebration

Fireworks in Alaska are never too exciting, at least on the Fourth of July, mostly because it's so light out. The full majesty and glory of bombs bursting in air is lost when the sun is still shining and birds are flying around. Still, we try.

We headed outside at about 8:00 last night to shoot off some whistlers.

Daisy was intrigued.

She investigated.

She lost an eye. JUST KIDDING.

That picture is awful, I know, because it looks like she's getting her face blown off by a firework, but she's actually snapping at the whistler, trying to catch it. Over and over again, as soon as my husband would light one, she'd run over, wait for it to shoot up, and try to catch it.

I finally dragged her inside and locked her in the house.

Dinner last night: barbecued salmon, salad

Exactly two years ago:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Catch Up

I recently whined about anxiously detailed mentioned how I reluctantly agreed to take senior photos of a friend's daughter. I say reluctantly because I am an amateur photographer at best, and am intimidated by the responsibility of shooting someone's portrait. I've kept my terror at bay by reminding myself that I have plenty of time to practice. We decided on a date in late July, and I figured I could experiment with light and angles and lenses, using my daughters as unwilling models. No pressure. I will be an expert in portraiture by the end of July!

Then my frenemy called me last week and asked if I would do it the next day, because her daughter really wanted to get her pictures taken before she left on a 3-week missions trip to Peru. These people! Who do they think they are? Helping the needy, and stressing me out. I said sure, let's give it a try.

If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I can hyperfocus. It's kind of weird and freaky. My sister first noticed this annoying ability of mine when she would beg me to go outside and play. Only I'd be so immersed in a book that I literally could not hear her. I wasn't behaving willfully or trying to be a brat; I was just concentrating 100% on what I was reading. She'd finally give up and leave. Fifteen minutes later, a tiny echo of her voice would niggle its way into my mind, and I'd look up and ask the empty room, "What? Did someone ask me something? Hello?"

At the risk of using understatement, I've been hyperfocusing on this photographic assignment.

We took a range of pictures in several locations. Any extra time I've had has not been spent blogging (or cleaning house), but transferring RAW images from my camera into jpeg format on my computer.

What? It's the Fourth of July? Hello?

Dinner last night: kalbi beef, rice, corn on the cob

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, June 25, 2012


My older daughters are off to summer camp—one glorious week of swimming, arts-and-crafting, playing outdoor games, hiking, and singing around the fire . . . without any nagging parents telling them to clean their rooms or annoying little sisters trailing after them.

Have fun, girls!

Dinner last night: chicken parmigiana, spaghetti

Exactly four years ago:

Friday, June 22, 2012


Now you are a very decent flower,
A reticent flower,
A curiously clear-cut, candid flower,
Standing beside clean doorways,
Friendly to a house-cat and a pair of spectacles,
Making poetry out of a bit of moonlight
And a hundred or two sharp blossoms.
—Amy Lowell

Dinner last night: baked potatoes with various toppings

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly three years ago:

Exactly four years ago:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


We had three sunny days in a row. Temperatures reached 72°, people! That's probably parka-wearing weather for some of you, but for us, it's time to put on the swimsuits and go play in the sprinklers.

 We Alaskans have learned to enjoy the sun while we've got it. Yesterday: 72°. Today: 52°. I wish I was joking. We woke up this morning to rain. Oh, well . . . there's always storytime at the library.

Dinner last night: carnitas

Exactly four years ago:

Monday, June 18, 2012


My friend asked me to take her daughter's senior pictures. WHAT? Are you kidding me? My first instinct was to scream NO WAY and run. Senior portraits are a major deal. They sit on parents' mantels and hang on grandparents' walls for decades. Everyone sees them. They represent a person's entire adolescence.

Against all better judgment, I agreed to a photo shoot . . . on one condition: my friend must form a back-up plan, and I provided her the name and number of a professional photographer who specializes in portraiture. I prepared her for the likely scenario in which my photography attempts go horribly wrong and her teenager spends two days locked in her room crying and sobbing about how everyone else will have beautiful pictures in the yearbook, while hers is just a snapshot missing her head.

We settled on a date in late July, which gives me a little over a month to figure out how I'm going to pull this off. I'm researching and thinking and worrying and planning. My mind is filled with all things photographic. I vacillate wildly from cheerful declarations of "I can do this!" to thoughts of suicide.

Thank goodness, my eldest daughter is home all day on summer vacation. I can drag her outside and use her as my test subject.

Here is my first attempt, with no tripod or light reflector. I was just using a hand-held camera and trying out a couple locations and poses. I quickly learned that one needs to be careful of the ghost hand appearing out of nowhere.

Despite the smile, my daughter was annoyed with me because she didn't have a chance to put on makeup or even comb her hair. I assured her that these photos are merely for me to practice and learn from . . .

. . . and to post on my blog for everyone to analyze and give me feedback. Smile!

Dinner last night: crockpot cream cheese chicken

Exactly four years ago:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dog Day Afternoon

We took the dogs with us to the beach, and boy howdy, did they have fun.

Daisy ran around like she was 20 pounds lighter. She was bound and determined to keep up with our 5-month-old puppy, Lupine.

Of course, when we returned home, Daisy lapsed into a coma and slept for 14 hours straight.

Those dogs sprinted. They jumped through the air. They wrestled and rolled. You couldn't tell the difference between them and my human children.

Lupine didn't know what to think of all the seaweed laying about on the sand, but she made sure to shake it and drag it around until it was dead.

I would have thoroughly enjoyed myself at the beach without the dogs, but I must admit that Daisy and Lupine transformed what would have been a nice time into an even lovelier day. There's something about frolicking beagles that makes me smile.

Dinner last night: orange chicken over fried rice

Exactly four years ago: