Monday, January 30, 2012

Photos from Le Week-end of Le Brrrrrrrrrr...

Friday evening, I walked across campus to attend the memorial service of Dr. Sentman, and arrived looking like this:

Saturday morning, I was cooking oatmeal on the wood stove, then looked up and saw a mama and behbeh moose:

"Follow me, behbeh!"

Leap, behbeh, leap over the deep snow!

Mama looks impatient:

I felt the same twinge of guilt that I feel when I see homeless people in San Francisco and Berkeley. I was in my nice warm cabin eating oatmeal, while they were out in the deep cold:

eating willow twigs:

My girls assumed the huskyball position:

I woke up in the wee hours of Sunday morning a touch too warm, so I threw off my top blanket and went back to sleep thinking, "Oh, good, it's getting warmer." 'Twasn't so. I got up later that morning to the coldest temperature I had ever seen:

I rebuilt the fire quickly, too quickly:

Ack! I slammed the dampers shut, then made cranberry bread for my young neighbor F's 17th birthday party:

I used tangelo zest instead of orange because that's what was on sale.

And last night, I made the observation that the girls had grown the fuzziest winter feeties I had yet seen:

Here are some selections from the Minor News for your reading pleasure:

Save the whales! (I love the photos, and I don't think it's at all weird to care for animals that you also eat. We in the Interior care for our moose.)

There are runners nuttier than I am! My Coldest Acceptable Running Temperature (CART) is -40. :)

Th-th-th-th-that's all for today, folks!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Brrr, baby, brrrr!

No records yet, but January has been cold in Fairbanks

Oh, c'mon, Minor News! No records at all? You've just stopped trying? How about informing us that this is the January with the most days below -12.5 in a leap year, not counting years with new moons? Or that this is the January with the longest stretch of days below -15 when we have a President in the White House with an odd number of letters in his surname? Hmmmmm? C'mon, you can usually come up with something!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lowering the Bar for Vanity

When I bought my first Carhartt pants, I was well aware that I was teetering on the edge of a slippery slope, but I wore them around town. When I bought an insulated Carhartt jacket to do yard work, I swore that I would never wear it into town, just around the neighborhood. When that didn't last, I made a new rule--I could wear the Carhartt jacket into town, but only if I didn't wear it with the Carhartt pants and walk around looking like a giant turd. Then--sigh--it got too darned cold, and I let that rule slide. My new rule is, when I wear the Carhartt jacket with the Carhartt pants, I must make an honest effort to look decent in every other possible way. Generally, this means pretty earrings, tinted lip balm, and combing my hair. The end result?

Well, I'm warm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


First of all, wowee to the awesome aurora this solar storm is causing. Unfortunately, it's been cloudy chez moi.

Secondly, here is some morbid humor for your day. Check out this ad posted for three adorable Pomeranian pups for sale:

Not much respect for little dogs around here!

Here we have Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, lounging in one of Linden's favorite positions:

And the dowgs:

Also, also: My local friend H, who did her bachelor's degree in Portland, OR, informed me that when she was living there, the first time she went camping, it did not occur to her to bring a flashlight or head lamp. And she was properly astonished when night fell. Wow. Fairbanks is a different place indeed!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Eats

I'm lucky to have grown up in San Francisco, because the combination of Asian, Mexican, and Italian cultures has given me such wonderful things to eat! Here are my latest food exhibitionism photos. These seem to be trendy nowadays, no? I see food photos pop up on my Facebook feed quite frequently.

Finishing up my pot of frijoles de la olla and Spanish rice the day before my Chinese New Year party. Gotta finish the pot to make room for the new leftovers that I know are coming!

Also need to finish: the beets I had roasted several nights ago. You can eat whatever bizarre combinations you like when you live alone!

The next morning, I had finished the rice, but still had a small bowl of beans, which had to, you must realize, vanish by that night. No problem--I made some tortillas...

(I make them Tex-mex style, with baking powder, because I like the charred bubbles.)...

Then smooshed the beans:

... added tomatoes and cheese, et voila! Brunch is served! And I seem to be spilling into another language, but whatever. Melting pot! Yay!

The day after the Chinese New Year party, I found this bee-yoo-tee-ful spinach in my fridge...

So put it into plain chicken broth, and had it with quesadillas and a leftover chicken leg from my New Year roast chicken.

(I love how Linden's hind end is lined up with her pepper shaker on the table in the above photo.)

I've become accustomed over the last few days to having a roast chicken sitting my in fridge. I've been scavenging off it for almost every meal. This might become a habit... Roast a chicken once a week, have enough bones for stock every two weeks. It all sounds nice!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year

Happy Year of the Dragon, y'all! It starts tomorrow. I hosted a Chinese New Year shindig last night, and made it easier on myself than last year by:

1) Doing the prep work for the jiao-zhe filling the day before. That way the veggies had plenty of time to soak up the salt and expunge their water. Who wants to be wringing out veggies at the last minute? Not me! Doing it the day before minimizes chaos.

2) Soliciting more help. I asked for N/2 people to show up early and wrap dumplings. All N of them did so! I also only made filling and roasted the chicken. I solicited help with the rest of the menu. My noodle-maker, upon hearing that noodles=longevity in superstition-ese, decided to up the ante by making each person one 3-foot long noodle! I'd never had a personal noodle before! The person who volunteered to make the nian-gao had never had a proper one before (my lousy one from last year definitely does not count!), so I was very impressed when hers turned out much better!

3) Switching it to the nearest weekend night rather than doing it on New Year's Day. Then we can stay up late, sleep in, etc. Of course, I don't want to spend New Year's dinner alone, so I'll be trudging across the street to my neighbors with leftover chicken and the rest of the uncooked jiao-zhes, which we can cook then!


My cabin, evidently, fits a friendly crowd of 12 humans, 4 dogs, and 1 very patient rabbit!

Charcoal came from across the street. He was holding Linden's paw, whispering sweet nothings to her, when I rudely interrupted with the flash:

Sam's papa brought the trout:

My personal noodle!

Portrait with Charcoal fail:

The jiao-zhes came out in batches:

Another beautiful chicken! Damn, I'm good! This one was stuffed and infused with herbs from BT's garden.

Some dogs that I won't name have no discipline and jump on the couch!
Mine, who have much superior manners, wait until I leave the house, and then jump off it when they hear my car pull up in the driveway!

Five! Five fuzzy things in my cabin! Ah, ah, ah! Wahndurful!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What passes for news in Fairbanks

An Olive Garden is opening in Anchorage.

Thanks to TwoYaks for this earth-shattering link! It did make the front page of the Minor News, but it was lower down, so I might otherwise have missed this momentous announcement.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Special double post today in honor of...
da, da-da, daaaaaaaah!

A tolerable weather forecast!

Oh I sure hope it comes to pass! Then we can go skiing!

How to stay warm

There's an adage hereabouts: "There's no such thing as 'too cold'; there's only 'insufficient clothing'."

I've come to realize that there are four main lines of warm clothing tactics in Fairbanks.

1) The REI/outdoorsy thing. The high-tech stuff. This is what I started with when I first moved to Fairbanks, with an insulated jacket, ski pants, and warm boots from Sierra Trading Post, which definitely has the outdoorsy/sporty vibe.

Pros: Lightweight, packable, breathable, and water-resistant or waterproof. Industry trend turnover rate is so high that you can almost always buy last year's top quality model for half price. Although possibly in a bizarre color that didn't sell. That's why I currently am sporting bright pink.

Cons: Delicate fabrics that snag easily, not generally easy to wash (often require special care). The jackets tend to be short, to allow skiing and snowboarding movement, when I'd really prefer a longer jacket for walking around in freezing temps.

2) The Native thing. Furs, skins. Mostly obsolete, except in small doses (parka hood trims, gloves, mittens, boots, hats).

Pros: Super warm.

Cons: Super heavy. Super expensive and/or laborious.

3) The Carhartt thing. Preferred by folks who do blue-collar work outdoors. Kind of perfect for Interior Alaska because we have so little wind and moisture that the lack of wind-proofing and moisture-proofing is not a problem.

Pros: Cut for sloooower movement than the REI stuff, so the sleeves are longer, the waistbands are higher, the jackets are longer. So it's consequently better for deep cold, when all exposed skin must be covered. Very durable. Machine-washable and dryable with ordinary laundry soap. Stains are invisible. You can use your pants as a napkin. The more beaten-up and worn the clothes get, the more comfortable and warm they are.

Cons: When I wear my 'Alaskan tuxedo', I feel like a brown Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. However, I get major Alaska street cred.

4) The Macy's/Nordstrom thing. Not that we have either of those stores, but you get the idea. Back in the heady days of the oil boom, Fairbanks did indeed have a Nordstrom, so the wealthy wives of the oilmen could look nice. Today, there are still folks in town whose vanity trumps comfort. Pretty, business-dress-worthy things. Long, dress-length coats. Leather shoes that don't have lug soles. Nice hats instead of knit toques.

Pros: They look nice. I'm not gonna argue there. I'm content with my lot in the looks department, but I'm surly not winning any beauty pageants in my clothes!

Cons: You'd get a less friendly reception in my rural neighborhood. You'd also fall down a lot due to lack of traction on your shoes. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holy Brrrr!

Both my old home and my current home are in deep brrrrrrrr!

I have to say that my -40 quality of life has improved much of late. Firstly, I'm burning nothing but nice, hot birch. Secondly, I've really gotten clothing down pat, and I've found that I can still run a few miles at -40. And finally, my dogs have grown really thick fur around their paw pads, so they, too, can run a few miles at -40. I really cannot fathom what it'd be like to be completely homebound. That would suck.

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Cuddle

Ayup, another cold snap. I never thought I'd wake up, see the thermometer at -40, and say, "Hey! We didn't go below -40! That's not so bad! Let's go for a walk!"

Last night, it came up to -35F, and I thought, Yaaaaay! We can go for a run!

Also, we cuddle:

Friday, January 13, 2012

We are allowed to think of spring?

Apparently, the chickadees are.

Meanwhile, unusually harsh weather continues in the Southerly regions. Check out this article about how some birds are having trouble flying as their wings are getting coated with ice! So sad.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Your dinner tells a lot about you...

So here we have my latest single girl meal:

Truly multicultural meal:
Soup comprised of chicken broth with spinach, tomatoes, and a squirt of sesame oil
Reindeer sausage with insanely fancy-pancy French mustard, hand carried from its farm by BT
Brie with bread
Ravenswood zin blend (my house wine)

Reading material for the short attention span:
Physics Today
Bat World's quarterly publication
Kate Vaiden, a recommendation from BT.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In response to the concerned...

... about yesterday's post.

Here is a map of Alaska:

I live in Iowa, and the storm is in Arkansas.

(Thanks goes to Flying Fish for the idea of using this graphic to reassure Outside folks.)

As for us in peaceful and sheltered ol' Fairbanks, all we'll get is cold. But that, my friends, is not news.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Weather Drama 'Round the State

Record snow in Cordova has led to a shovel shortage, and the National Guard has come in to help residents shovel. Meanwhile, a Russian tanker is inching toward Nome to bring much-needed fuel.

"City spokesman Allen Marquette said if any state should have stockpiles of shovels, it should be Alaska. But the city has contacted stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks and other cities and has not been able to find a stash, so it's working with a manufacturer to bring shovels north from another state, he said..."

It sounds amusing, but it's serious business. Roofs are caving in. Stay safe, our Southerly neighbors!

In the meantime, I'll be freezing my okole off again!

"The cold front that moves into the Interior Thursday night will be even colder than the one that persisted for the past two weeks, based on models Freeman was looking at Monday."

Um. Brrrr?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Per request, a photo of Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan:

The dowgs. Sammypants and her parents joined us for supper last night:

Four! Four fuzzies in my cabin! Ah, ah, ah!

My flamingos. We've gotten quite a bit of soft, light, fluffy snow lately! And such little wind! Only in Fairbanks do flamingos look like this!

Dressing in layers, as discussed. This is what I wear for a run when it is -30F/-34C:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tips for living in a 16x20 foot cabin

Firstly, kitchens tend to clutter easily, and I have a low tolerance for kitchen clutter, so I don't have any fancy kitchen gadgets, not even a blender or a mixer. I use wooden spoons and good, top of the line hand tools (whisks, knives, a mortar and pestle, etc). Not because I think it's amusing or quaint, but because it's very spatially efficient.

Secondly, I have a low tolerance for possessions whose only purpose is aesthetic. The adorable and otherwise useless Miss Millie is an exception! My decorations are limited to a 14x6 inch shelf above the wood stove, and flat things that hang on the wall.

Finally, I am positively ruthless when it comes to editing my personal possessions. I can do this due to two factors. First, I am quite picky about what I purchase. With e-commerce as prevalent and accessible as it is today, and with most online vendors offering free or very reasonable shipping costs, there is no reason to keep anything that is less than perfect. I'm talking that otherwise nice, warm coat whose collar doesn't quite keep the chill off your neck, or that backpack whose strap adjustor digs into your clavicle, or those beautiful shoes that squish your little toe. Do not accept such things! Send them back! The second factor is that I get rid of older things on a regular basis. This is something I either learned or inherited from my mother. I am not at all sentimental about inanimate objects. Have I used it in the past several years? No? Then out it goes. I also abhor waste, so when I find the perfect new home for my outgoing goods, that just makes my day. Here are my favorite places to rehome things, in rough order of the amount of satisfaction they give me:

1) A friend who just happens to need the exact item in question. Need is the operative word there. No fair using friends as trash dumps! It has to be a perfect fit!

2) Any of the local shelters for abuse victims or the homeless.

3) Value Village, the local thrift store. My warm fuzzy with them is slightly dampened by not knowing exactly which "local nonprofits" benefit from them.

4) Finally, the last resort is the "recycle platform" at the transfer site.

5) There are also several consignment stores, but until last year, they have all been located downtown, where I seldom go, and making a special trip downtown is just too painful for me to contemplate. Recently, one opened near me, but I've had $20 worth of credit there since the week they've opened, and have yet to find anything in there that I actually want, so... why not go for the warm fuzzy and give stuff away?

In other news, we came up to a balmy -15F/-26C yesterday. That made front page news.

Hangin' out

Linden looks very ladylike. Autumn, as usual, looks like she is cringing. I don't beat her up, I swear!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


No, I no longer blow bubbles out of doors, but although I no longer feel a sense of novelty, I also no longer feel a sense of pain. Cold weather is just... part of life. :) My minimum running temperature has also dropped from -30F to -40F. This morning I ran 3 miles, wearing hiking socks with my running sneakers, wool shorts under wool pants under running pants under ski pants, a running bra under a synthetic shirt under a wool shirt under another synthetic shirt under a wool vest under a windbreaker, and a neck gaitor, a hat, and two pairs of gloves. The girls wore... nothing but their reflective vests. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012