Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Mark was wrapping up a package of hiking socks for Zachary, and was chatting with me while doing it. Which was his first mistake, apparently. He handed me the tag he had written out, with a disgusted look on his face. The tag said "to Zach from socks". He was either not paying attention to what he was doing, or he didn't want Zach to get too excited about a package of socks. Warning him maybe, just some socks, no money, no video games, nothing to see here.

On the 23rd, Zach and Thor and I went to Costco to buy Mark an acoustic guitar for Christmas. Mark decided he wanted one, and Costco had a package with guitar, lessons DVD, gig bag, stand, strap for not big big bucks.

Let me jump back here for a second...this Christmas was not a successful one for surprising Mark. I bought several of his gifts when he was there, because we shopped together rather too much. Actually there was at least one thing -- snow shoe poles, adjustable fancy shmancy snow shoe poles (like ski poles, pretty much) -- that he bought and handed to me to give to him for Christmas.

So I was kinda jazzed at the idea that he wouldn't know he was getting a guitar until he opened it. Until we walked into the house when we got home from Costco, Zachary walked up to Mark and said "we have your guitar." Then he clamped his hands over his mouth and had the most shocked and appalled look on his face. I laughed so hard I collapsed against Mark. Zach was devastated. He had meant to say "we have your Christmas present, so you have to get lost so we can wrap it." But he shortcut that accidentally to "we have your guitar."

christmas 2008_2946_edited-1

Turns out that Mark had assumed that we were buying him a guitar at Costco. I should have told him we were going to Best Buy or Target or JoAnn Fabrics.

Poor Zachary has inherited a tendency to blurt, coupled with a manic mind that is racing ahead to the next eight things we have to do. My Mom almost killed my dog once, because of that tendency...

She tied poor Theo to the garage door and then went around the corner of the garage (I know I just told this story to somebody on another blog, sorry if I just told it here too...) and into the garage through the side door. Then she opened the garage door. Yup. The one my dog was tied to, the one she had just tied the dog to thirty seconds before opening it. She turned around to see poor Theo dangling from the door. Lucky for Theo he wasn't a big fat dog, so she could get him down pretty easily.

But it just goes to show, Zach has zero hope of avoiding future "we have your guitar" type incidents. Ze. Ro.

To change the subject completely...

Is it just me, or did my neighbors make a little snowman that looks rather too much like a penis?
snow waves_2451_edited-1

Yeah. I thought so. It is just me. But in my defense, Mark has been gone a lot lately...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ship Creek.

bamboo coffee_3029_edited-1

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Ship Creek is near our house. I have been wanting to take photographs of it this winter. It froze over and then the ice broke up again, which looked really cool. Thick chunks of ice on top of ice -- chunks of ice that are a foot thick. Didn't make it to take those photos. On Christmas Day, after sledding, we drove past the bridge over Ship Creek and on into Cottonwood Park. The Creek runs along the park, but it is frozen over where the parking is, and plus the kids saw the big wooden fort playground, covered with untouched snow. So the photos that day were not the creek, but instead I photographed the kids and Mark playing in the snow -- those photos were in my Weekly Winners.

So a couple days ago, we were coming home, I had my camera, we were going over Ship Creek, we had a plan to park along the road so I could hop out and take a couple of photos...

Except that there was a snowplow ahead of us and one behind us, so there was no chance to stop along the road. And we had had a bunch of snow, so the road to the park was a no-go. It hadn't been plowed and I was not wearing my snow boots, so hiking through drifts was out.

I said "roll down the window" as I prepared to take a couple photos as we drove slowly over the bridge (the one silver lining in being sandwiched between snowplows, being able to go 10 miles an hour) . Mark rolled his window down. I guess driving behind a snowplow at almost dusk on a snow covered road with our three kids in the back seat is more important than me getting a decent photograph. Men.

So these are my placeholder photos, until I manage to get to Ship Creek to take photos I actually frame and format and think about, instead of sticking the camera out the window as we roll by...I am happy with these photos but running water! I love running water and I love taking photos of running water! I lived in the desert where the only running water came out of a tap, so running water!

In other news, the sun is now so low in the sky it is blocked by the two story house south of us. And it is ten below. A high today of zero, if we are really lucky.

And yes, Lou, I still love it. The air is crisp and cold and fresh, the snow is white and fluffy, and the dogs like to sleep on my feet.

And oh, yeah...the snow on the branches? It's always there. We have had a very calm windless winter, so it doesn't blow off, and the sun is so low in the sky it doesn't stand a chance of melting anything, and it's been well below freezing for months, so no melting there either.

It is colder than normal. Usual for this time of year in Anchorage is 20-ish...I seem to attract weather extremes. I cannot tell you how many times I have been places on record hot and record cold days. It's a curse, bad karma, something. Apparently I was mildly evil in a previous life.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

my new toy...

a Bamboo Pad. bamboo coffee_3020_edited-1 Awesomely fun. A complete time waster, for sure.

Zach needed it for a project for his English class, but doesn't think he will have much use or time to use it, so it's mine. And Awesome. Last night I was ready to fall asleep at oh, 7 pm, but didn't actually go to bed until after 11 because Tess and I were messing around with it.


Because you can do stuff like this with it. The program I used is Corel Painter Essential 3. There are a ton of settings and brushes and stuff that I haven't even looked at yet....But I did discover that at the moment I cannot recreate the brush strokes that give the grass texture in the work above. Of course. Because I really like the texture of the grasses.

Some stupid texture or design or effect that I don't want to use, I will recreate endlessly and accidentally. But the perfect texture to suggest grass, lucky one-time accident.

You can even upload a photo and create watercolors and stuff outta them. The hardest part is finding time to do all this stuff. As usual.

Since it was rather pricey, it's gonna be my birthday present, I think. No IPod Touch this year. Good thing my old first generation Nano still works...

Instead I got this new fabulous item for Christmas. bamboo coffee_3012
It's really nice to have a reliable source of espresso again. My old red beast is adorable,bamboo coffee_3016_edited-1
but has become increasingly unsteady and unreliable. bamboo coffee_3011
Never a good thing when you rely on it for creamy goodness of the coffee variety. Old Red still made espresso, but the pump for the steamer seems to be kaput. Espresso without hot steamy milk is just wrong and a waste of caffeine.

Incidentally, that white box next to the source of all things espresso is my Happy Light.

Seems appropriate. My morning psuedo-sunlight and my source of happy caffeine, snuggled up together on the counter.

I turn it on in the morning and it blasts my retinas with the white hot light of a thousand fluorescent tubes. To make my brain think that I do not in fact live so far north that polar bears go "damn. The North Pole must be right around here somewhere."

Fortunately for my retinas, I have been waking up so late lately that the sun is already up, thus negating the need to sear said retinas with psuedo-sunlight. Or it's a day like today, when the sky was completely cloudless and bright sunshine shone down on us for all five and a half hours of daylight. That does mean it was zero degrees out. Step outside and your nose hairs freeze within 37 seconds, but it looks good from inside, especially if you are standing directly on the heater vent. Sunshine and cloudless skies and cold, or cloudy gray and slightly warmer. I go for the sunshine every time. We have lots of heater vents, and the Army pays our utilities.

Weekly Winners!

Snow, Christmas -- complete with a new drum kit for Tess!!!, sled dogging, sledding, and more snow.

sledding on Christmas Day
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Tess opening her drum kit. She was a little excited
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hugging the drum kit
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Christmas Day
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throwing snowballs
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using Zach as a shield against Dad's snowballs
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christmas 2008_2823

frosty morning

Mojo and Abe giving Zach a ride
aaazach dog sledding_2625_edited-1-1

More Weekly Winners can be found every Sunday at Sarcastic Mom!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Today in the snow, Now with EXTRA ZACH!!!

Today we took Zach dog sledding, Holmquist style.

Unfortunately the snow is really deep these days, and Abe absolutely loathes deep snow. Loathes it. Fortunately the street is snow-covered, so Zach got to experience dog sledding anyway.

aaazach dog sledding_2625_edited-1-1

Tor gave it a try too, and we were momentarily concerned that one of them would be damaged...the dogs were really moving out, and coming to a stop was rather problematic, since the dogs stopped before Thor and the sled...
aaazach dog sledding_2669

Zachary has been living in Tucson, where it was 60 degrees last week. It was closer to 6 degrees this afternoon. This is Zach's face on cold:

aaazach dog sledding_2715

And the familia, in the snow. Mark was making goofy faces when Abe was looking at me, and as soon as I got Mark to start smiling, Abe was fascinated with something behind them. Of course.

aaazach dog sledding_2703_edited-1-1

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Removal

snow lot

Snow removal and storage is a big deal here. We get lots of snow, and they need to do something with they load it into dump trucks and haul it to vacant lots, big fields, special lots designed specifically for the snow, and stash it there.

It's a big deal, because the snow really piles up. We got about a foot of snow, and they hauled ten or eleven dump trucks worth of snow off just my street, which is probably two blocks long.
In the photo above, you can see one of the lots they use for snow. It's mid-December, and there is a shocking amount of space left for snow...Everywhere we go, I see huge piles of snow, and lots that are like a quarter full of snow. I am thinking this winter has a very long way to go.

Good thing I am still thrilled to have snow!

Also, you can see the sun going down...I think I took this photo between 2:30 and 3:00. The sun sets at 3:30. Still weird, that. But there is sun sometimes, which is very important to me. It's also very important to those around me. Very very important to those around me...

Friday, December 19, 2008

I am not alone...

Several people have admitted that they too misplace presents.

(I found the expensive one for Mark, the little very flat and easy to tuck away one, the one I bought and stuffed somewhere and promptly forgot where, Ifound that one. IPod Touch This very afternoon I am going to wrap it and put it under the tree. Then it will be Mark's responsibility to keep track of it. Whew.)

Tess has finished her shopping. Zach has finished his shopping, except for the most important one, for his girlfriend (Hi, Jessica. I have tried to help Zachary figure out what to get for you...I really hope you like it!) Mark IPod Touch and I have finished most of the shopping for the kids, and I have given Mark BIG HINTS about what I would like ...

Just in case you have forgotten, though, honey, here's the list once more:

An IPod Touch. It doesn't come in Orange, the way the new Nano does, but I can always get a skin for it.

One of those little teeny laptops. Handy for email and surfing teh internets.

A new espresso machine, since my old faithful has finally bitten the dust.

I cannot remember the other thing, so you might as well buy me the IPod touch...

We found a great present for Zachary, but I cannot tell you what it is because (Hi, Zach!) he reads this sometimes. After Christmas I will fill you in.

Thor is still thinking about whether or not he has all his presents. Apparently not. So we still have a little shopping to do. Argh. Unless of course it is a present for me, in which case Mark and Thor have some shopping to do. I can go along and wander off to a bookstore or Starbucks while they try to figure out exactly what they are going to buy me. IPod Touch...I am sure they have some nice potholders and wooden spoons at Target. (And IPod Touch, too...)

If I were a truly good person, I would mention to Mark that I got an $75 digital photography program that he thought would be a good Christmas present for me, and which I opened and started using a month or two ago. If only. IPod Touch.

And the Daily Joools photo...We were shopping at Target the other day (and man, I am so very very very very very very very very very very very very very happy that Target has finally come to Alaska!!!!!!!) and we saw these ravens in the parking lot as we were leaving.
Ravens at Target

And a bonus Daily Joools photo. Just because.

almost sunset

Oh, yeah, IPod Touch.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Thursday.

Woo. I have gotten most of the Christmas presents for my kids. Yesterday we mailed off the packages we need to mail.

Have done no Christmas cards at all yet. Not a single one done. Guess that's this weekend's job.

And I bought something for my husband, and promptly misplaced it. It's flat and small and I could have tucked it in many places. I have a few days to find it...I think I stuck it somewhere downstairs, which means it could be in the kitchen cupboards, the computer cabinet, the several bookcases and cabinets with books and dishes. Sigh. I stuck it somewhere and then instantly forgot about it.

Classic me. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have misplaced something. My kids have gotten presents a couple days after their birthdays because I just found something. And a couple times I have stuck whatever I just found back in its hiding place so that I could give it to them for the next big giftie day.

We have Christmas Day food taken care of. I do not cook on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is our big crazy day. We go shopping during the day, pick up last minute tiny little gifts, the whipping cream or other indispensable food I have forgotten, wrap the last few presents, and make a big meal. This year I think we are gonna do steak and potatoes. Never ever turkey, because once we finish eating, EVERYONE helps clean up, as fast as possible, because once the kitchen in clean, we get to open the presents. It's the way my family has always done it.

Christmas Day starts early, because the kids dig into their stockings, but they have to do it together, and Mark and I have to be there to watch too. The stockings just have small things in them, little goofy toys and gum, candy, maybe some socks and underwear.

Christmas Day is spent hanging out. We play the new games, check out our gifts, watch the new DVDs. Food is our favorite appetizers and deli sandwiches, soup I made a couple days earlier. Anything that does not require me to spend my time in the kitchen preparing a big meal and then cleaning up again. It's my day off too.

The Christmas Eve menu is still way too vague...Steak and potatoes. The kids would be fine with this idea, because they don't want a big meal with lots of clean up after. Less we eat, less we serve, the faster we get to the presents. But it's so much more fun to torture the kids with the reality that we must sit and eat and chat and laugh and spend some real time over the meal, and every single thing -- every fork, every glass, every bit of food, must be put away and taken care of before they are even allowed to touch a present. It's a family tradition.

And as always, the photo...

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Role Reversal...

yesterday I found this message on my answering machine...

"Mom, this is Zach. I have been calling you for two days, but nobody me sometime and let me know if anyone is still alive."

Um...I thought I was the one that was supposed to be making those kinds of phone calls...

(edited to add...I did call him. He was calling to tell me his girlfriend was really excited about helping buy a blazer. Which is cool with me -- one less thing for me to do next week!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reactions to my camera tossing...

No cameras were damaged in the birth of my camera tossing photos.

I am with Lou on this, my camera is too valuable and beloved and precious to me to risk the toss. So my new plan is that I buy my husband a new camera -- one that has the very important shutter priority setting -- and then use that to take camera toss photos. I doubt he will be thrilled with this idea, but he travels, so he may never know. (By the way, honey, I know you read my blog sometimes, and I would never ever do this for real...completely changing the subject, your camera's memory doesn't hold enough pictures, right? So maybe we should get you a new one.... ... ...)

And Patsy -- I cannot wait to try this out with a candle. My pyromania and my new camera tossing obsession...This could be very very fun. Dangerous to life, limb, camera, household furnishings and well, the house, but fun. Too bad it is now 10 am and the sun is finally coming up! But sunset is at 3:30, so I only have to wait six hours or so for it to be dark again. Another advantage to living in Alaska!

Thanks for all the comments...I am glad you thought the shots were interesting, because you will be seeing more of them. For sure.

And yet another shot of Tess buried in the snow. I am beginning to wonder about this girl, because she really seems to like being buried.

Monday, December 15, 2008

an explanation of the camera tossing.

Lou is right. I didn't throw my camera. Yet.

I was logging onto my flickr account and noticed this cool photo, which I followed to a blog about camera tossing. Which is what it sounds like. You point your camera at a light of some kind, trip the shutter and toss it. Hopefully to land on something very soft.

Since I was trying this out in front of my kids, and I knew they would want to try it as well, I opted to modify it a bit. We used the shutter priority setting, set the shutter speed to five seconds, and pointed it at the Christmas tree. Then we flipped it around, spun it, zoomed in and out, whatever WITHOUT ACTUALLY THROWING THE CAMERA. I love my camera. I would be more willing to throw one of my children, they heal. I know at some point I will GENTLY toss my camera, but not when my kids are around to get the wacky idea that it is okay to hurl Mom's precious across the room.

We ended up with what look like a lot of really bad shots of a Christmas tree, but an intriguing idea.

camera toss_2545_edited-1

Much much more experimentation is required...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

My auto's warranty has expired!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did I mean to let my auto's warranty expire? I can speak to one of their representatives and get it re-instated...

Yeah. I am always tempted to push one to speak to one of their representatives and ask about a warranty for my vehicle. I don't think it would do me much good though, since I have a almost 13 year old Suburban with 150,000+ miles on it.

Or maybe they would like to warranty Mark's Jeep, because it's only ten years old, or Zach's car, which is eleven years old...

That's right, we have no vehicle made in this century. Maybe next year we will replace the Jeep, or not, because Mark still likes it, and we are thinking of getting a sedan so that Thor doesn't have to learn to drive in the Suburban.

Why does my spellcheck think doesn't isn't a word? Or isn't? Is spellcheck an elitist snob what thinks people shouldn't use contractions? Plus it doesn't recognize spellcheck as a word, either. What a snobby elitist program. That I can no longer live without, and I find myself ocassionally writing a word WITH A PEN AND PAPER and then watching to see if the little red line appears because I am not sure if I spelled it correctly.

I also want to TIVO my world -- I find myself wanting to rewind radio programs and conversations, the way I can rewind TV shows on my DVR.

There are portions of life and conversations I would be thrilled to fast forward through, the way we rush through commercials to get back to the's appointments would take place at 4X speed and last about a minute. Washing dishes would be over in seconds. A visit from awkward friends and relatives would be hours long, rather than days and weeks and months and eons (come on, everyone has had a house guest that made every minute feel like hours.)

Right. Thor and the Suburban. I had to scroll back up to see what the hell I was talking about in the first place...

I think it will be good for Thor to learn big vehicles. I learned to drive in a 70's station wagon, probably with those fake wood panels on the side. I remember driving it once with the back seat down, and when I twisted around to look behind as I reversed, thinking that it felt like I was driving a lumber wagon, it was so far from me to the back door.

Now my parents drive a sporty little Lincoln, a great car, fun to drive, and isn't a geezermobile like the series of Grand Marquis that they used to drive, and before that those big station wagons.

Any way, I learned to drive in a big car, and I have no problem with driving big things. I love driving my Suburban, and I loved our F150 pickup. In Europe we rented big vans, nine passenger vans, sometimes, and even in the insanely narrow streets and crazy drivers of the Netherlands, I liked driving those big vans. Parking them, no. European parking lots are designed for teeny little fuel efficient cars.

But the Suburban is kinda big for Thor to start we are thinking that we should get some older sedan for him. There's no hurry though, Thor isn't really thrilled with the idea of learning to drive in the middle of winter when there is snowpack and ice on every road...

I was happy about changing phone numbers, because we got so many telemarketer calls on our Tucson phone. Unfortunately somebody named Barbara had our number before us, and apparently not only was she a bad driver -- we kept getting phone calls telling us "someone at this number may have a pending court date", and when I pressed one to talk to a court representative, she didn't believe I wasn't Barbara, and we kept getting those phone calls for a long time -- but she was a deadbeat as well, apparently, because we kept getting cranky collection calls.

I realize it's the oldest trick in the book to claim you are not the person they are looking for, but damn it, I am not Barbara. My name is Julie. I didn't get a traffic ticket and then ignore it. I didn't run up a big credit card bill and then not make the payments. I am not a scofflaw and a bad credit risk. The calls seem to have stopped, but since I don't answer the phone if I don't recognize the number, maybe there are still people on the other end of the line hoping Barbara will answer...

And finally, because I can, another random photo of snow. This one was taken by Thor, while I was shoveling the deck in our back yard...


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hey! I got more smarter!

blog readability test

Last year when I checked, this blog had an elementary school reading level.

It's embarrassing, really, to think that I am not writing convoluted sentences of great import, but instead writing Dick and Jane.

Except what is high school reading? Which high school? Thor's English class read the abridged version of Huck Finn, the censored and cleaned up version for those who might be offended by being reminded that slavery and racism were once accepted in this country. (I think it had something to do with needing to finish the book quickly, but it's really pathetic that a sophomore English class can't handle the full text of Huck Finn. ) Thor had to write about it, and he said it was really hard because all the controversial and interesting bits were gone.

Now they are reading Anthem by Ayn Rand, so it seems the abridged Huck Finn may have been a fluke.

And because I have to add a photo to every post, here's a photo of the rose bush in my front yard.

Rose Thorns

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mystery Revealed...

First, here's a slightly less close up shot of the object...

Patsy, Vickie and Cat all had the right idea -- ice, but it's not ice on cobblestones or windshields, it's ice hanging from my front porch!


It's a close up of the icicle hanging the farthest to the right.

Sunrise today was at around 10 am, and it will set at 3:30 this afternoon, which means we are down to about five and a half hours of daylight. It's very strange, and I am not used to the idea at all, but I am happy that we have even that much daylight.

It snowed last night, so everything has a nice white cover again. Thor and I shoveled tracks for the Suburban tires before I took him to school this morning, because it's so much easier to shovel when the snow isn't packed down.

I shoveled off half of the driveway, but left the rest for the kids to deal with when they get home from school today. You can see how much snow we got last night. Not as much as the last time it snowed.
snow, dec 12, 2008

The dogs had another big morning, completely losing their minds over the fact that the snowplow, snowblower, and dump trucks invaded their territory again. Ijiot dogs.

A shot from my front window...
snow blower and dump trucks
This huge snowblower comes around, followed by four dump trucks, and gets rid of all the snow. It's a pretty great system, because it doesn't dump snow across the end of our driveway. That enormous pile of heavy snow is my very leastest favorite part of winter.

Except for stepping in puddles of melted snow by the back door when I am wearing only socks. I hate wet socks.

That happens to me a lot, because I never wear shoes in the house. Summer or winter, hot or cold, at home I never wear shoes and only wear socks if my feet are cold. I don't know if this is a Minnesota thing, or a family thing...I do know that my Mom never wears shoes inside, and that her mom never did. Mom remembers her mom yelling "Lorraine! Find my shoes!" any time a car pulled up into the farmyard.

I am not sure how I got from a photo of an icicle to my maternal grandmother, and I am not sure I could do it on purpose. But we are very good at tangents and digressions in my family. That and having hot feet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mystery Object...

Kim of Frog Ponds Rock has been taxing our brains with extreme close ups of random objects and challenging us to figure out what they are...

So I decided to steal the idea.

Here's the first object. It seems pretty obvious to me, but your mileage may vary.

Close Up

Go ahead! Take a shot! Guess what this is!

(Oh, yeah, genius that I am, I almost named the photo close up of [mystery object]. That kinda would have taken the mystery out of it for anyone who happened to run their mouse over the photo...)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Weekly Winners...

A couple of these may have appeared on my Thursday Thirteen snow edition. I guess they are really my favorites for this week.

snow striping
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war games
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the crown
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the snow is deeper than the deck
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painfully cold

up on the rooftops
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my favorite big yellow machine
2008 11 12_0515_edited-1

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas