Thursday, March 25, 2010

Keeping busy as winter winds down...

It's March, and all over the country, people are experiencing signs of spring. We are, too, but not like a Southern springtime. The temperatures are getting a bit warmer with highs in the upper 30s or low 40s. The snow melts during the day and freezes back up again during the night, giving us a good bit of ice that doesn't seem to be "right" for the long, mostly sunny days we've been having. There's still a generous amount of snow on the ground, but less new snow is falling, and that makes me happy. My brain still expects there to be green grass and daffodils, like back in Texas, and it seems odd to not have those things yet.

But there's still so much beauty around us. Remember this picture of Mt. Spurr from the Swanson River Bridge that Jim took back in September?

Here's that same view again, except it was taken last week on a bright wintery day:

Little Sweetie has also had his first taste of Alaskan snow. We drove around the storage unit parking lot to make sure everything was still working properly in the cold.

I've been working with fur since taking a fur sewing class with a local skin sewing instructor, and am working with another fur sewer to get her patterns published. I'm ghost writing the instructions. She also lets me do some of the tedious work for her in exchange for fur, which is nice, because fur can be pretty expensive. So far I've got three and a half hats finished, and a pair of slippers that I expect to finish tonight. Next up will be a pair of beaver mittens for Jim.

The dogs are doing well. Belle is still Daddy's girl and doesn't let him out of her sight much. She and Moya each have new pulling harnesses, and from what I've been reading, Moya should be old enough to learn to pull for real soon. We're not sure how serious we'll be with that, but she sure does love it.

Moya's started obedience school and has the teachers convinced she's a prodigy. She really is pretty smart, but if she doesn't want to obey, there's no way she's going to. She's the tallest puppy in her class, and her favorite part of school is recess! Six puppies having a free-for-all for ten or fifteen minutes before going home.

Tate has had a birthday. She's thirteen years old! Her health is deteriorating, but she's generally in a good mood and isn't letting life get her down. She survived to make the trip here and become a real Alaska dog, and we're proud of her for it.

Hm, it seems like there's something else big happening soon... What could it be?  Oh, I remember!
He'll be here the day after tomorrow for Easter break, and will be with us for eight days before heading back to college. We'll get to have him with us for Jim's birthday, too. I've been without him for a couple months now and I am certainly ready to have him back for a while.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New snowfall, new snowshoes...

Jim and Belle head out to get the mail through today's new snowfall. Lee's been by to plow the driveway, so Jim will be trying out the new snowshoes by cutting through the front yard.  

Belle isn't sitting down, she's trying to bound up out of the snow. But Jim is high and dry on top of the drifts.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fur Rondy - Part 7?: Jane Finds a Video

Jane found this video of the women's Running of the Reindeer. She's running right towards the camera! LOL! The announcer is counting down the headstart the reindeer give the runners before they start off. There is a brief moment when the camera zooms in to a beige building at 1:15. The figure in black is Jim, and the one in blue just to the right is me.

Ah, good times!!

Fur Rondy - Part 6: Jane Runs With the Reindeer

Jane wanted to run with the reindeer, but since she was flying standby, it wasn't really practical for her to register for the race in advance, and once she got here, she was told that she wouldn't be able to register last-minute. That was disappointing... But, before the races started, the announcer made a last call for on-site registrations! Yahoo! Jane can run!

Here she is, trying to get our attention. I've got her circled in the next few pictures, but I think you can find her on your own in this one.    ;^)

Milling around, waiting for the race to start...

Getting into a better position to run:

On your mark..... Get set.....


Fur Rondy - Part 5: The Running of the Reindeer

The Running of the Reindeer is patterned (loosely) after the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. Six reindeer (caribou) run two blocks down the road towards their trailer, which is scented like a doe in heat, while crazily-dressed people from who-knows-where run down the street in front of them. This was the third annual Running, with proceeds benefiting Toys for Tots. The crowds, both the ones running and the ones watching, were in high spirits and ready to see some action. I think the furthest distance someone traveled for this race was from Guam, and the oldest person racing was 63, I believe.

There were five races. The first was the celebrity race, the second was for the men, the third for women, the fourth was for couples and groups, and the fifth was a free-for-all where anyone who wanted to race a second time had a chance to do so. This was such a popular event, the spectators were crammed in as thickly as possible to get to see them. Jane's friends Rachel and Jeff graciously invited us to watch the race from the roof of his office building at the starting line, where we could easily see the race. Thank you, Rachel and Jeff, for giving us that opportunity!

These awesome butterflies were part of a group, obviously, and were certainly a crowd favorite.

The reindeer are being moved into position at the starting line behind the runners. Once the runners started off, they were given a few seconds' head-start before the deer were released.

Crazy costumes were encouraged. And given how cold it was, the less a person chose to wear, the funnier it was.

Here goes the men's race. You are definitely going to want to enlarge these pictures to get a better look at the costumes. While you've got the pictures enlarged, let's play a Rondy version of "Where's Waldo." Can you find the Easter bunny, people dressed like Pamplona bull runners, an anti-drugs sign, and Santa?

The deer are catching up with the men's group.

The women's group is waiting to start while watching the men run.

The deer are moved back in position for the start of another race.

The deer have caught up with this group and are right in the middle of the crowd already!

The couples and groups' race has just begun. THIS is where the really silly costumes were. Let's play "Where's Waldo" again... Can you find a package of french fries?

Can you find Sully from Monsters Inc, two bunches of grapes, an American flag shirt, and some Vikings?

How about Santa, some guys in red long johns, and and a guy in a pink skirt? The pink t-shirted women are The Happy Hoofers. And the stars of the show, the reindeer, are coming through the crowd, coincidentally in front of Santa. As it should be.

The butterfly group is coming through!

Run, people! Run! Those deer are way in front of you! Enlarge this one at your own risk, though. A group wearing fake bottoms was running, too. Pretty realistic from a distance...

After the group race, we bid our goodbyes to start home to pick up the dogs before the kennel closed. We were able to get a few street-level pictures of the racers as the free-for-all started. Chefs wearing sausage neckties, and a caveman:

The free-for-all has started! That guy in drag is about to catch up to the Viking.

Run, Sully! There's another Viking behind you!

That ballerina seems to be in no hurry...

And the deer catch up with the crowd!

I really had a great time all weekend, but this was the best part of the weekend for me.

Stay tuned for the next post, in which Jane runs with the Reindeer!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fur Rondy - Part 4: Meet the Reindeer

One thing I was most looking forward to this weekend was seeing a real caribou in person. The caribou, or reindeer, were available for a meet-and-greet before the Running of the Reindeer race, so I was only too happy to participate. These are ranch-raised caribou from Palmer. I learned that their toes (which are pretty weird looking) flatten out and act as snowshoes when they're on snow, and when they swim, the deer can cross their long front toes to help them paddle through the water. They have really sweet faces, I think.

Here's Jim with a four-year-old. The ranch-raised caribou aren't as large as wild ones are, but I was kinda surprised they weren't taller. However, if you take the antlers into consideration, that adds a lot of height!

Jane took this picture of Jim and me next to a trailer of more reindeer:

Jane meets a caribou:

The deer are being moved into position at the starting line of the race. 

"Neener neener, I'm gonna getcha!"

Next up: The Running of the Reindeer. Stay tuned!

Fur Rondy - Part 3: The Hide and Horn Auction

If you're not someone who tolerates fur, this isn't the post for you. But then again, if you're not a fan of fur, the entire Rondy is probably not an event you'd enjoy in the first place. Use your own discretion regarding whether or not to continue reading...

The Fur Rendezvous began when trappers and miners would bring their wares into Anchorage for sale. Seventy-five years ago, an enterprising Alaskan decided to make a bigger event out of it and organized a three-day sports competition to coincide with the incoming fur traders. Before long, we had the Rondy as we know it today.

This is the auction. We thought about buying our souvenir fur here, but many of the hides were untanned. That means an extra expense and a long wait until summer before the fur would be ready. We decided not to buy anything that wasn't already tanned.

The second day of the auction was a lot of large bear hides. Oh, and see the guy in the fox hat in the left of this photo?

He had the best hat at the whole Rondy. Awesome. All four paws, tail, and taxidermied head.

This weener dog is wearing a dyed rabbit fur coat with a crystal fox ruff. As much as I love my dogs, not one of them are getting a fur coat. Nope. 

Here's Jane on the left, in her new fox hat. Jim's wearing his beaver hat that I made for him during my fur sewing class. I'm wearing my "Illiamna Grandma" work hat, which is shearling and raccoon trim.

Here's a better look at my work hat. Very warm, and quite nice on my second ride on Jim's snow machine.

I brought this beaver dress hat with me, but I didn't wear it at the Rondy. I wanted something to cover my ears better in the low-20-degree weather. James got me this fur for Christmas.

Jim and I decided on these two fox pelts - a blush fox, which looks white unless you stroke the fur or the wind blows it, and then you can see the reddish undercoat. The other fur is a crystal fox. It has a lavender look to it when the light hits it right. Jim will probably have something made of that, and I'll have something made of the blush fox.

I'm really glad I took the fur sewing class. Now I know how to treat the furs and make the things we'd like to keep us warm and stylin' through the winter.

More Rondy posts are coming, so check in again later!

Fur Rondy - Part 2: The Outhouse Races

You can't take yourself too seriously around here, especially as winter nears its end and cabin fever can start to set in with a vengeance. Imaginative Alaskans are always thinking up some strange and hilarious way to stave off the crazies.

Or embrace them. Same thing.

The Outhouse Races involve a team of five to ten people, depending on the division, pushing a person on a toilet seat in an outhouse on skis. The monies from the entry fees and pylon fees go to University of Alaska students going to disaster-stricken areas to lend aid. The rider in the outhouse must remain on the throne for the entire race, which is up and back a one-block course. The outhouses must make a loop around a pylon at the end of the block. If the outhouse comes in contact with the pylon, the team must forfeit the $10 bill clipped to their outhouse as a donation to the Architecture and Engineering club. The $10 bill must be replaced with another before the outhouse can run again. This is a single-elimination race, so the outhouses might make more than one run.

The military teams went first. We didn't get a picture of the other military outhouse, but it was pretty cool. Shaped like a fighter plane. This is the one that won the military race:

The more outrageous the outhouses, the better. At least two Boy Scout troops had outhouses. One was called the Turdinator 3000, and the other troop had this pioneering project:

Other notable outhouses included a women's hockey team dressed as brides:

La Mex Mexican restaurant entered their "Montezuma's Revenge" outhouse:

A very woodsy one, indeed - much like you'd expect to find in the bush, I guess:

Random silliness:

A play on the movie "Cool Runnings":

The people in yellow were from a hospital group, and are walking behind their outhouse. I forgot what PCV stands for, but it's a volunteer organization of some sort:

"Go #2" is a team from Seattle that won last year's race:

The Tyvek-wrapped outhouse here is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the tendency of Alaskan houses to be wrapped in Tyvek for a while before they get around to having siding put on:

Crowd favorite - The Fabulous Flying Duck Farts.

Before the race, all 43 outhouses paraded through the course, so that anyone who wished to pay $1 for the privilege could vote on People's Choice. The pushers threw candy to the crowds and hammed it up. 

We didn't stay to see who won, but that's okay with us. Our main focus was on seeing the fun of the outhouses and the zany ideas that people put into play.

Check the blog later, because I've got more to tell you about!