Sunday, March 19, 2017

return of the sun

Sunshine has returned to Alaska, with ferocity.

The winter sun mumbles across the horizon for about a quarter of the day.  December is our darkest month.  I'm often asked if the darkness is difficult.  It becomes very routine.  I would say the sudden jolt of sun is more unsettling.  

It's almost alarming how rapidly the amount of daylight hours increases.

As the time sprang forward the use of blackout curtains at bedtime became necessary once again.  It certainly feels more strange to go to bed during daylight than it does to spend five pm in darkness.

But the shift of weather has been wonderful.  It's still cold, but the sunshine and good gear help to enjoy the magic of winter.

 The sun helps with house-training (adjusting to dog-life once again).

Having a high-energy puppy is such a shift from my lazy Stella.  Walks are now a daily occurrence.  After school it's become habit to meet up with my friend, the language arts teacher, Victoria, and her pup Maggie.  Ada is finally learning how to play with other dogs.  

 After collecting water at the village's freshwater spring, we walked back via the river.  Justin, Victoria's boyfriend, is getting ready for summer fire-fighting.  He carried their bottles of water, eight gallons, on his back.

The walk on the ice inspired our Saturday adventure.  Isaac, myself, and Ada met up with Justin, Victoria, and Maggie to walk across the river.  There is at least six feet of ice on the river right now.  It's the main route of travel between the villages.  I've also heard of another village driving trucks between their village and the neighboring hub airport.

 Mountain Village from the other side of the Yukon.

 There are well-traveled snow machine tracks through the willows.

 We couldn't help but venture down this tight trail.  I was amazed at how straight the willows grow. 

The moose have been rutting on the trees.

It was when I traveled to Nunavut that I first shifted to the uniqueness of winter.  In winter we were able to walk around on land that would be nearly impassable on foot.  We were able to just walk across the river.  It was really incredible.  

Isaac and Justin had a little fun shooting on the river bank.  

Don't let the snow fool you, Spring is certainly here.  I've noticed the return of a few birds and a some willows beginning to bud.  There is still plenty of snow and ice to enjoy.  I'm looking forward to getting out on Isaac's snow machine and taking more walks over the frozen tundra and river.  All this winter wonder is only buoyed by the fact that there are only eight weeks left of school for the year.

Friday, February 24, 2017

and then there was Ada

We'd been talking about it.  On the way back from Mexico we almost went looking for one.  But then it came to us.

One day word of mouth reached me and so I asked Isaac, Do you want a puppy? To which he replied yes.  Not much later a puppy arrived at our house, well, two.  We chose which one we wanted and that was that.

But we soon realized the puppy was far too little to be away from it's mom.  After one night of feeding her every two hours via syringe, she was returned to her mother.  We wanted her, we named her and so we requested that when she was ready to be away from her mother she be returned to us.

And a few weeks later she was.

Ada, dubbed so by Isaac in honor of the first coder Lady Ada Lovelace, came back into our lives.  It was a Thursday night, and I had just finished up quarter two parent-teacher conferences.  As I neared my porch a four-wheeler drove towards me.  The driver pulled up and Ada was produced.  She had just had a bath and she was ours now.

Isaac and I were just as unprepared for her as the first time, but at least now she could eat and drink on her own.   Food was prepared from frozen moose, and I retrieved Stella's old kennel from the storage closet.  We learned that unused shelving made good barriers and that Boston Fern leaves are not poisonous.  

 We were glad that Ada's arrival was a Thursday night, so we had the pending weekend to adjust to life together.  Our life that no longer involved sleeping in or wearing socks around the house.  But did involve snuggles and licks and having our arrival at home be celebrated as the best thing to ever happen all day ever.

 Those first few days we found out that she would go do sleep if we swaddled her.

 Mostly she just always wanted to be near someone.

The outdoors were not her favorite.  Hopefully this will change as she gets older because Isaac has high hopes for a skijoring companion.

 She was a little unsure of other dogs.  Ada and Maggie, a fellow teacher's dog.

 And when walking she mostly just tried to step on our boots in an attempt to be carried.

 On the trail to the old airport after a good snow.

 One day we saw Ada's mom when returning from a walk.  I had only met her once, when we returned Ada, but I immediately knew her by her eyes.

Puppies are so much work.  This I knew from when Stella was a puppy.  With her I remember regretting the decision for a solid two months after I brought her home.  It was no different with Ada.  Constant attention, pee, food, pee, poop, pee, play, pee, poop, pee, pee, and repeat.  She has her own little behaviors that made me think what was I thinking?  But after a few weeks she was growing and we started to get to know each other more.

 And then one day I actually thought I kind of like having a dog again.  

 She brings some spunk into our lives and its nice.

 With Ada, I've been getting outside more.  Taking a walk in -7 degree weather is just another Tuesday.

 And she's growing.

 She's learning to sit and to stay.

She was a good choice.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

todos santos

The Monday after our wedding, Isaac was back to work almost as soon as the plane touched down in Anchorage.  We decided then that my winter break would be for our honeymoon trip.  There was talk of Europe, talk of Spain.  But in the end we just wanted to get away somewhere warm and somewhere Isaac could practice his Spanish.  I wanted good food and he wanted to surf.  That is when we discovered Baja Sur.  It's the peninsula off the bottom of the California and the flights were less than twelve hours from Anchorage.  So it was decided on spending nine days in the town of Todos Santos.

 We boarded our flight in Saint Mary's.

 Took a snooze in LAX.

We flew into Los Cabos airport and drove an hour to Todos Santos on the newly completed highway.  It was really easy drive and we were careful to watch out for stray cattle and goats on the roadway.

One of my criteria for our stay was booking a place with a kitchen.  Lessons learned from experiences in travel this past summer taught me that having the ability to prep meals independently is very valuable when dealing with food intolerances.  We found a newly listed airbnb location.  The whole first floor was ours and it was perfect.

Down a dusty dirt trail, the directions on our app took us right there.  

Due to weather delays we never had time to get an international sim card but with that app, and a local tourist map, we were able to navigate successfully.  It didn't take long to get oriented.

 Sunshine!  We left the village during its darkest time of the year so it was really refreshing to have sunlight.

 The view from the front porch.  Over that far hill is the ocean.  It took me a day to realize the sounds I heard as we were falling asleep was the surf breaking in the distance.

 The garden was beautifully landscaped and I enjoyed these flowers off the front porch.

 We took a nice walk along the shore our first day.  There were not many other people as this is not a swimming beach.

 These flowers made up the hedge in front of the house.  

 One evening the owner was away for the night and gave us permission to enjoy the view from the rooftop patio.

 I believe this is an aloe in bloom.  It was so interesting that I had to include it.

 Our morning coffee was enjoyed while watching the whales in the bay.

With responsibility thousands of miles away it did not take long to feel creative once again.

 One of the decorated streets in the historic street in town.  

Most of the city is just a small town, full of dust, dirt and life.  I enjoyed seeing the architecture shift away from what I'm used to seeing. Many of the building we saw included interior outdoor areas.  They would be walled into the property and seating was outdoors.  I believe there is a rainy season, but the same protection against the elements that exists farther north is not as necessary in this more temperate area.

 This desert garden was inside one of the restaurants where we ate dinner.

Acclimating to ordering and getting my feet on how to order without dairy and gluten took a little while.  The first few meals in town were a bust but it didn't take long to find places that accommodate for annoying gringos like me.  Though not as infiltrated as Los Cabos, Todos has a pretty large ex-pat community and a steady stream of day-time tourists.  The last time I traveled outside the US I didn't have the same restrictions.  Ordering in the English in the States can often be unsuccessful or difficult so I had to be patient with the outcome.  Once we found delicious destinations we kept going back.

La Esquina was a great restaurant.  Their fresh juice and giant mugs of coffee were the delicious.

 Getting inspired by the thatched roof.

 And sketching the surrounding trees.

 Isaac's activity of choice.

 Said mugs of coffee and one beautiful wall.  The tables and chairs were covered in leather.  It was interesting.

 Isaac surfing.

 We made two trips to Los Cerritos beach.  Isaac took to the water while I found some shade.  It was nice just to sit there and enjoy the ocean.  (I get it now Mom and Dad.)  I did take a few books (which I never read) and some stitching to work at on along the way.

 Realizing it was going to be Christmas, our first Christmas together, I felt the sudden need to make stockings.  We asked the local english bookstore owner where to find fabric and she recommended a shop.  What I ended up buying was dishtowels.  But I like them.

 After the trip I used my sketches to show my classes how different things can inspire us.  I also gave them some time for sketching what inspired them.

 Isaac saw this flyer at La Esquina.  We had to check it out.

El Refugio might be one of my top experiences from our trip.  The food was so delicious and the chef came out to explain everything.  They offered two plates of the day - one carne and one vegan.  Perfect. 

 Seating was outside, in front of the restaurant.  And then there was the Mezcal.

 Mezcal is made from agave.  It is a traditional drink.  El Refugio offered flights to taste the many flavors.  I ended up enjoying the smoky varieties the most.

 The lure of mezcal a bloody Mary brought us back for a Christmas day brunch.  It was a Feliz Navidad!

 And then there is this.  While watching the Packers game we ran into Romeo, again.  I was very amused by this lounging St. Bernard shaved like a lion.  He's a regular around town.

 We also enjoyed La Bodega de Todos Santos.  

They hosted tastings with live music and good company.  Of course we made an Alaska connection and have another stop added to our plans in Homer this summer.  It was great to have an easy place to pop into to grab a bottle for a nice evening back on the porch enjoying the stars and the sound of the surf.

With the arrival of our last day in town we wanted to take a little adventure elsewhere.  The tiny town of El Triunfo proved to be just the place.  It was once home to 10,000 miners when silver and gold were discovered.  Now there are just a little over 300 inhabitants.

 The church.

 We found this relic on the street.  Unfortunately, it didn't work.  It's a shame because Isaac could have used it after I lost his cellphone at the beach.

 We snapped this shot with El Triunfo's claim to fame in the background.  The smoke stack was designed by Gustav Eiffel, the same guy responsible for the town in Paris.  

I thought the Cafe El Triunfo was a pretty interesting structure.  It was a tiny store front with seating out back that rambled on and on.  It was pretty cool.  We also learned that Mexico is a great place for a romantic get away with your dog.  There were many people dining with their pups wherever we went.  

The next morning we navigated our way back the airport and back to the States.

By evening we were back in Alaska.