Tuesday, December 22, 2009

things I like about Fairbanks

So this afternoon I'm leaving Alaska (briefly) to go home for Christmas.  As a reminder to myself and all y'all who've been curious here is my list of things I like about Alaska:

1 - I am employed here
2 - My boss (also my branch president who's last name is almost the same as mine)
3 - The Ellen DeGeneres Show comes on at 5:00 here and as I get off work at 4:30 (I know, I know, the cushy life of a gov't employee) I can watch Ellen when I get home from work
4 - Yarn stores, I keep discovering more and more of them here
5 - The Fairbanks Public Library
6 - My view of the Chena River (from my lovely office windows)
7 - Only a 6 hour drive to Anchorage
8 - I am one of the best dressed people I know up here (thanks Mom for helping me out with a new work wardrobe)
9 - My heated garage
10 - New friends
11 - Nolan's Breakfast at the Cookie Jar (worth a trip up to Fairbanks just for their cinnamon roll french toast)
12 - Bragging rights
13 - If Only... (it's a store with beautiful stuff in it and it's only a couple blocks from my office - it's all about the retail therapy and with stuff this pretty I don't even need to buy it, even "just looking" makes me feel better)
14 - Giant cabbages
15 - Wildlife: Muskox, Caribou, Moose
16 - Northern lights
17 - Denali (though not in Fairbanks, Denali National Park is awesome)

I might even love some of these.

Monday, December 14, 2009

seasonal affective dissorder

We are approaching the winter solstice (December 21), the shortest day of the year.  Up here in Fairbanks, the shortest day of the year is only a few hours long.  If you're a map person like me, this shows real time daylight on the planet.   

I watch the sun rise and set from my office windows these days.  It is pitch black when I come to work in the morning.  For the first couple of hours, all I can see is my reflection in my windows until it the sky starts to lighten up.  The sky turns from black to dark blue.  The snowy hills turn pink as the sun rises on the southern horizon.  As it gets closer to noon, golden sunlight reflects off the windows of houses up on the hill.  On a clear day, I can see the sun from the south facing windows of the courthouse on the higher floors.  On rare days when it's above zero and sunny I like to take a walk out on the foot bridge over the Chena River where I can catch a few moments of sunlight on my face.  The sun begins to set as soon as it has risen.

These short days can be depressing but I'm doing okay.  I do my best to enjoy the few short hours of daylight that we do have and try to make it to the gym as often as I can.  I must admit that I had a couple bad days a couple weeks ago. I was exhausted and wanted oh so much to escape back to bed.  But I'm doing better these days, looking forward to going home for Christmas and really excited about going to Southern California later this month.  Lately, I've been holding onto ideas of warm California sunshine (at this point, anything above freezing is warm) and chocolate covered frozen bananas at Disney Land.  

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

21 days..........but who's counting

it's 11am, the street lights are still on, and all I can think about is how much I want to go back to bed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

it's all about choices

So yesterday (the tuesday before thanksgiving) I was painfully homesick and sad that I would not be spending thanksgiving with family this year. This will be my first thanksgiving without family (not counting my mission - which I spent with my mission president and mission mom (who are kinda like family)).  While I spent the last 3 years far from home, I was fortunate enough to be close to my very doting Aunt Nate and Uncle John, as well as my wicked awesome sister, Ashley. So when I found myself unsure of whether or not I'd even be eating turkey on thursday, I sorta had a little melt down.

I was so embarrassingly distraught over the whole thing that I finally decided to find out how much it would cost to fly home for the weekend. I went to the alaska airlines website, entered my dates and searched for the lowest fare. In case you're curious, it would have cost over $2000 to fly home for thanksgiving. I actually considered it for a moment - I truthfully have it in my bank account - and then decided that as much as I'd love love love to spend thanksgiving with my family, I'm not sure that it'd be worth $2000.

I will be spending thanksgiving with friends here in Fairbanks and the $2000 that I saved can go towards something much less fun but far more practical - my student loans.

Monday, November 23, 2009

baby stepping to Christmas

While talking on the phone with my Mom today, I realized that I have exactly a month before I go home for Chirstmas. A month feels like a really long time to wait - here's hoping that the time flies.  

I watched one of my favorite movies this weekend, What About Bob? - an absolute classic (if you haven't seen it, just watch it, it WILL change your life).  So, I'm taking Dr. Leo Marvin's advice and baby stepping. I'm not going to think about the long dark month that looms ahead, I'm going to take it one day at a time, one hour at at time if needs be. And if that doesn't work, there's always death therapy - which was ultimately more effective for Bob.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


This morning as I was getting ready for work, I was listening to the radio (npr of coarse) and was more than a little shocked when I heard that it was -22 degrees outside.  My bedroom was so toasty it was hard to believe that there was a 90 degree temperature difference across my threshold.  So this is winter in Alaska - yikes! I do not like it one bit. 

Time to look to the list....................

2. My boss

I first met the Judge when he called me back in October of last year.  I had sent my application to the Alaska Courts a week before and was a little surprised to get his call. It was past 8pm and I was watching America's Next Top Model in my PJ's when my phone rang. I ran out onto our splintery porch (only place we could get good cell reception) to answer the call.  He introduced himself and said that he noticed that I had served a mission in Finland and that he had served in Denmark. After asking me a few questions about why I wanted to go to Alaska, he offered me a job - right then and there barefoot on a splintery porch in New Hampshire. I shrieked as I hung up the phone - shocked, amazed and terrified. Needless to say I accepted the position. As scared as I was, it just felt right - also the job market was such that I didn't dare turn down a perfectly good offer for fear of not receiving another. 

A few months later I got an email from the Judge. He told me that he had just been called as the branch president of the singles branch. So not only is he my boss, he is also my branch president.     

Friday, October 30, 2009

skipping ahead

In response to Jay's comment on my last post, I am skipping ahead a bit to number 16 on the list.

16. The Northern Lights 

These would have likely scored a higher place on the list but I had not seen them yet when I made the list. And for that reason, I couldn't list them until last week. 

Around 1:30am last Friday morning, my roommate came into my room and woke me up. She said that I had to come outside and see the northern lights. I put on my slippers and a sweatshirt and went out the driveway. I looked up and the sky looked like this ->

I think that the northern lights may be one of the coolest things about Alaska - they surpass likability and are down right lovable. There you have it, something I LOVE about Alaska.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

it's begining to look a lot like Christmas

The snow came yesterday. While we had a few flurries back in September, but nothing substantial. All October, I have been hearing about how odd it was that he didn't have snow yet. Well it is here now and it's here to stay.  I'm not sure if I'm ready for this. Sure I have my michelin man coat to keep me warm and I invested into some burly snow tires but I am not ready to say good by to the sun and greet the bitter cold of the loooooooonnngg winter that lies ahead.

Time to pull out the list.  A few weeks ago, I was hate hate hating Alaska, I decided to be proactive and make a list. A list of things that I like about Alaska.  I've noticed that people really do love it here and while I have yet to fall in love with Fairbanks, Ak, there are surely things to like about it.  Now, when I find myself hating my life here in Alaska, I pull out the list and remind myself that there are plenty of things to like about this place - even if I don't love it, I can like it.

1.  I have a job here.  It feels pretty good to be employed and I feel very fortunate and blessed to have this job.

[more from my list to come.................]

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Today my friend Kris and I took a little day trip down to Denali.  It was an absolutely beautiful day - clear and sunny but oh sooooo chilly.  We had an awesome view of Mount McKinley - all white and snowy and glacier covered.  I was reminded of how much I love mountains and glacial landscapes.  

Awesome braided river - we climbed down there and threw rocks into the river. ahh, simple pleasures.

Mount McKinley - Alaskans call it Denali, but I think that's kinda confusing being that the national park is called Denali. We were super lucky to see it today because it is often hidden up in the clouds.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


The days are getting shorter and coupled with grey dreary clouds. It's depressing. I've come to resent my lovely windows because the view is so bleak. Occasionally there is a break in the clouds and the sun light spills through. Everything is so beautiful in the sunlight but these moments are fleating and rarely occur on my lunch hour or after 4:30. 

They say that this is the darkest part of the year. As soon as the snow sticks it will reflect the light. It still sounds bleak. 

Did I mention that it's cold.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trip to Anchorage

A couple of weekends ago I took a road trip down to Anchorage.  On Friday, after work I rushed home to pack up a few things, picked a couple of my new friends and we were off by about 6.  It's a 361 miles from fairbanks so with a few stops along the way, we got to anchorage shortly after midnight. 

Saturday we went to the Temple in Anchorage and in the afternoon we went to see Lion King.  The traveling show came to Alaska and it was AMAZING - seriously I was impressed.  I had heard that it was good but I wasn't all that excited to go.  I don't usually go to shows except when I'm in New York or London, no reason really - just never get arround to it.  But I've decided that's just stupid.  It was totally worth it.  If you ever get I chance, go! 

After the show we piled back into my little car and started back to Fairbanks.  We stopped in Wassilla for dinner where we did not see the Palins - real disapointment.  And after a couple more stops we made it back arround 1:30 am.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

first snow

The first snow came in right on cue. The first day of fall here in Alaska was grey and drizzly and snow. It didn't stick but there were flakes floating through the air today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the days are getting shorter

Over the past month since I arrived in Fairbanks I have witness the days getting shorter and shorter.  The days were still long when I got here and it stayed light untill after 9 and the sun was up before I was. However, as the weeks have gone by it has been darker and darker each morning when I get up. Today is the equinox - which means that we here in Fairbanks, like everyone else on the planet had 12 hours of sunlight. It's all down here from here. I took a walk at lunch time to soak up some much needed sun because its going fast. 

It hasn't gotten to cold yet and I don't think that we've had a frost yet. The flowers are still blooming and strangely enough, the lilacs are still blooming. Its seems that the summers here are so condensed that the plants get kinda confused.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

tundra is beautiful

Ahhhhhhh, isn't it lovely. 

A couple of weeks ago, while my parents were still here we drove down to Denali National Park. And while we did not see mount McKinley, we did see lots of beautiful scenery and the tundra was in fine form. I never thought of tundra being so pretty but it is - especially in the fall when the plants change all sorts of pretty colors. 

Here's a close up of the fireweed. 

Meanwhile, fall is here in Fairbanks. The days are getting shorter and the leaves have all turned. I sense that winter is on its way, so I best live up this lovely weather and scenery while it lasts.

Friday, September 11, 2009

cabbages of unusual size

When I lived in Helsinki, my dear friend Gina and I would visit this crazy lady named Sister Tikkanen every other week. She lived in a little apartment and had collected so many things and so much stuff that her living room had the feeling of a storage closet at a museum. She was afraid to leave her apartment and was desperate for visitors, however, she was always angry with us for one reason or another. It seemed as though we could never win with Sister Tikkanen. I was always anxious on such visits as I was walking on eggshells while fighting off a claustrophobia.

On one such visit to Sister Tikkanen excitedly told us about the new cabbages that she had acquired. Confused at first we listened on as she jabbered away. Her English was quite good and our of fear of creating more confusion by our limited Finnish, so our visits were in English. We soon realized that she meant cabinets, not cabbages, but instead of correcting her we stifled out laughs and let her continue on about how much storage they provided. After admiring her cabbages we were on our way and I can't remember if we made it all the way our of her building without busting up.

I don't think that this picture really captures the shear enormity of these cabbages. They are so big that it is hard to think of a comparison - the only thing that comes to mind is a beach ball. Yet a beach ball seems a poor comparison because it fails to convey the mass - I can't even guess how much these suckers weigh. It seems that everything is simply bigger here in Alaska. And to think of all the storage potential.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

wishin' 'n' hopin' 'n' prayin'

You know those flat rate boxes that the USPS has been advertising lately? Well I did something pretty stupid  - I picked up a few of the largest flat-rate boxes and packed all of my books and pictures and other of my precious personal possessions that I couldn't leave at home. The boxes were shipped 11 days ago and they have not yet arrived. I'm beginning to wonder if I will ever see them again. I kick myself at the thought that I entrusted the USPS with my priceless belongings. I say priceless because they have little monetary value but are irreplaceable. Included in these boxes is my journal that I have been keeping for 5 years, jewelry and my camera. I'm hope hope hoping that my boxes are waiting on my doorstep for me when I get home because I am getting really really anxious that I'll never see my stuff again.

Alas, I've come to learn that stuff gets lost when you move. Tragically and inevitably, somethings never make it all the way to your new home.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

internet addiction

I took a little break from the internet this weekend - sunday and monday that is. It's a real addiction you know, npr even said so. Also, Elder Bednar talked about it in a CES fireside last March and when a general authority and npr agree, it's a special kind of confirmation. So, I was listening to the radio in the kitchen yesterday when I heard a story about internet addiction and how there is now an internet addiction rehab center in the US. It's at the summer home of a massage therapist and there is 1 patient (I'm pretty sure that's not the right term but the correct word alludes me at the moment). He is a college student who flunked out of school because he couldn't stop playing Worlds of Warcraft and now his parents are paying for him to feed chickens with a massage therapist and take interviews.

I'm no gamer but I can definitely spend hour upon hour online and not even know where the time went. So I felt pretty good about myself when I heard this story because I was going internet free and baking bread. You heard it, baking - whole-grain no less.

Motivated by boredom, frustration at the lack of good bread and a new book, I decided to make my own. I bought this book from a local bookstore that is a step by step guide to making whole-grain breads. The author is a total hippy and I love her for it.

My ideal bread would be whole-grain, baked locally and taste good (light but chewy and a little nutty) - it's surprisingly hard to find. My first attempt was a little disappointing. After hours and hours of kneading and coddling and watching and rounding and waiting and shaping and baking, my loaf came out kinda flat. It tastes alright but it is far from light and airy loaf that I was aspiring to.  But I won't give up, the bread bible says that it is really hard to get whole-grain breads to come out light and fluffy but it is possible.

It was a pretty feel good Labor Day. Supported a local business, acquired a new and healthy hobby, fought off a dangerous addiction, and I'm a step closer to really good bread.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

farmer's market

Ahhhhhh, Saturday. After sleeping half the day away I gave up my comfy bed, realized it was a beautiful day not to be wasted and made my way to the farmer's market. Alaskans are serious about their farmer's markets. The parking lot was full but I managed to see a car about to pull out so I squeezed my little car between 2 ginormous pickups and started shopping.

I had a hard time deciding what to buy but in the end I could not say not to the bag of lingonberries, a jar or Honey, a bottle of rhubarb syrup and a bunch of carrots.

I have been negotiating a use for the lingonberries since I first considered buying them. What to do? I asked the lady that sold them if she had any suggestions and she said that she eats them raw or frozen. I wasn't real excited about eating them raw because I remember being serve fresh puolukoita in Finland and they were too sour and bitter to eat. However, I pause at the idea of perverting my beautiful berries with loads of sugar to make preserves. My third option would be to bake them into something - I'll probably do that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

death by boredome

The temperatures here in Fairbanks are still quite mild and in the sunshine it is quite lovely. However, conditions here at work can cause mind numbing - by boredom that is. I am soooooooooooooooooooooo boooooooooooooooooooooored. I quited literally have nothing to do and I fear that if I don't get some work soon my mind will quite literally (not figuratively) go numb and I may suffer brain damage.

At least its Friday, you may say but I have even less to do at home and I am not feeling very adventurous. That's the problem with boredome, the longer it persists, the harder it is to cure. I guess its time that I buck up and develope some new hobbies.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


The courthouse is in the middle of downtown Fairbanks - which this time of year is still a healthy tourist trap. It's a little unnerving at times to pass through crowds of elderly people wearing matching windbreakers and fanny packs. Today I went to the Fudge Pot for lunch. At the Fudge Pot you get a free stuffed bear when you buy $20 of fudge - but it is also the closest place to buy a sandwich. The Fudge Pot was full of tourists today so I got my sandwich to go and wandered over to the park to eat in the sunshine. And that's how I discovered them.

One of the perks of working a tourist trap is the puppies. Next to the park is "Yukon Quest", a cabin with a sod roof that is dedicated to a dog sled race here in Fairbanks. Today as I was enjoying my lunch in the beautifully warm sunshine, I noticed them - the puppies that is. Around the back of Yukon Adventure is a dog run full of Alaskan Husky puppies. They are adorable. When my camera gets here I will take lots of pictures and maybe a movie.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Golden Heart of Alaska

Day 3 on the job and I have almost completed the mountain of paperwork from HR. I probably could have finished it yesterday but as I don't have anything else to do (no judge = no work), I'm spreading it out.

Today I received my Fairbanks relocation guide. Which includes a lovely letter from the former governor, Ms. Palin herself. I sure do feel welcome now.

Facts about Fairbanks:
-Population: almost 100,000
-Known as the Golden Heart of Alaska
-Mt. McKinley (highest mountain in the USA - 20,320 ft.) is visable from Fairbanks on a clear day.
-Temperatures range from the 90's in the summer to -50 degrees (or below) in the winter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Visitors welcome!

I've moved into a surprisingly roomy house and I have it all to myself until my roommates move in next month. So I've decided to issue a special limited time offer to my readers.

--Special Limited-time Offer--

Come and enjoy the fleeting autumn in Alaska's interior!

To anyone* who comes to visit me in the month of September**, I am offering free lodging in a private room. Complementary airport shuttle.

*subject to certain limitations of number (only 2 rooms available) and relation (friends and family only) - contact me here for more information.
**free lodging will be available after September but private room offer is will expire at the end of the month and accommodations will be limited to couches, futon and floor.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Greetings from Fairbanks!

First day on the job and surprise surprise, I gotta window - a whole wall of them actually with a view of the river. I cannot see Russia today as it is drizzly and grey but maybe tomorrow.

I've been in Fairbanks for a few days now and it is a decidedly beautiful yet quirky place. I don't have any pictures yet as I have yet to find my camera but I hope that it will be arriving soon in one of my boxes.

My Judge is out of town and won't be back for 2 more weeks. So, I'm doing my best to kill time and look busy until he gets back, hense the blog.