A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The passing of a prophet

President Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away yesterday. (Photo from www.lds.org). He was 97. I feel like smacking myself on the forehead.
I work for the state, with children that have been abused or neglected. One day, I was at the hospital visiting a baby that had been born positive for cocaine. As I was leaving the hospital, I passed an elderly gentleman sitting quietly in a chair in the lobby. He was wearing glasses and a suit. He was accompanied by two much younger men, that were clearly security or assistants of some sort. As I walked passed him, I glanced quickly at him as I hurried on my way.
As I glanced at him, I felt my face transform into this huge grin, and I felt suddenly full of joy. Before I could think further, I was already heading out of the hospital. I got in the truck, shut the door, and stopped. I thought, "Holy COW... I think that was President Hinckley!" I debated for a moment, and decided that it couldn't really be him, because, after all, what would he be doing sitting in a hospital lobby in Anchorage???
But the thought kept nagging me. As I drove away, I called my husband. He wanted to know if I had gone back in and talked to him, and I replied, No, and explained why. After talking to him about it, I felt more convinced it was really President Hinckley, and headed back to the hospital, but I was too late; he had already left. As I drove home, I convinced myself once again that it couldn't really be him.
A couple of days later, I heard from various friends that they had seen apostles in the temple that Saturday, and that President Hinckley did stop in Anchorage due to some unknown medical issue. Ever since then, I have called myself all kinds of an idiot for not stopping and at least saying hello. And now, unfortunately, I never will. At least not in this life. Although I have never met him, he will be missed.

Monday, January 21, 2008


We worked on more mud this weekend, and put primer on all the walls we have done.

This is Ryan and Becky putting primer on the kitchen wall. It's amazing how finished the walls look now. We are getting really close to being able to move in. Just gotta get the wood stove in.

A lesson in making do

We spent the weekend at our cabin. Because the cabin is only heated on weekends, we don't store food there, as it would freeze, cans would burst, etc. Every week, before we leave to go to the cabin, I pack what food I think we will need for however long we will be there.

When I am planning meals for the time we are there, simplicity is key. I cook on a Coleman stove, like this one:

and I use cast iron pans. We do dishes in a plastic tub with water heated on the stove. So I plan meals that require a minimum of preparation, can be cooked in a maximum of two pots, and doesn't have to be watched/stirred every two seconds.

Anyway, one of the things I planned on cooking this weekend was chili. Usually, I make chili from scratch, but I saw a mix at the grocery store that looked both easy and halfway decent. I quickly glanced at the back, saw that the instructions called for adding 7 cups of water, bringing to a boil, and simmer for 25 minutes. So, up at the cabin, I am throwing dinner together. I browned some ground beef to go in it, and was reading the back of the package again, and noticed "and whisk in 2 6-oz cans of tomato paste". WHAT???? TOMATO PASTE??? DAMMIT. So, I looked, just to make sure, and nope, I don't have any tomato paste. So, I asked Ryan how many cans of tomato sauce did he pack for the sloppy joes we had eaten the night before? One. Exactly how many I had told him to. DAMMIT.

James had been thinking about going to the store for ice cream. So, I asked him to pick up tomato paste while he was there. So, off he went for the 1o mile drive to the store. Back he came 10 minutes later. He wasn't going to the store. It had warmed up considerably, and had been raining. This turned the hill we live on into a solid sheet of ice covered in a thin layer of water. It turned out that even before starting to head down the hill, he had little to no control of his van. And there was a person in the ditch that also apparently had little to no control of their vehicle. Deciding (in an uncharacteristic moment) that discretion is the better part of valor, he came home, and informed me that I would have to make chili without tomato paste.

Chili without tomato paste? EEEWWW. I fussed over this a few minutes, and then thought about it. We had the ground beef. We had chili mix, and after reading the ingredients, found that it consisted of beans, rice, and spices. So, I made the chili, minus the tomato paste, and we had southwestern style soup. Topped with cheese and eaten with tortilla chips, it was tasty. Maybe not as yummy as chili, but no one complained.

I guess the whole point of this is that sometimes you have to make do. You don't always have everything to make the recipe exactly as called for, and this goes for more than just dinner. It goes for just about anything in life. With the uncertain times we live in, with problems ranging from global warming to recession, we might find ourselves needing to make do with less than what we normally would. And you just have to say, "DAMMIT" and make it work.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

it's the economy, stupid


More and more news articles are mentioning the possibility of a recession. Now the experts are saying that there is a 50-50 chance we will begin a recession this year. Each new story about economic data makes the situation look grimmer.

One of the first things that slows down in a recession is construction. It is already happening. Alaska lost 800 construction jobs in the past year:


This is much more immediately concerning to me than the national news. I really don't particularly care if Citibank loses $10 billion. It doesn't affect me. But I care if my husband, who just happens to be a carpenter, loses his job. So far, he is doing ok, because he is lucky enough to work for a company that does insurance work. And this time of year there are lots of frozen pipes to keep him busy. But even his company has not hired anyone new in a while. And there are a couple people leaving soon, and James reports that the company has no immediate plans to replace them. So, while his job is secure for the moment, we are trying to make backup plans. James is looking at other options, such as working on the slope. That would mean he would be gone two weeks at a time, which is hard on everyone. And we are trying to figure out what changes we would need to make to live for a while on one income (most likely mine) if it becomes necessary.

We have lost jobs before. A few years ago, James was laid off right after I found out I was expecting Steven, two weeks before Christmas. And we got by. We even managed to salvage Christmas for our kids. So if it does happen, it is not the end of the world. But it is always better to go into such things prepared.

But right now, he has a job, and it pays well. And I will keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Not a lot going on right now. We are slowly adding sheetrock to our cabin. James got 8 sheets hung yesterday, so now the kitchen and dining area are done. He was the only one that went up there yesterday, and it was a good thing. When he got there, the thermometer in the truck said it was -10 outside. He kept the kerosene heater burning all afternoon and evening, and it only got up to 18 by the time he left. If the kids had been up there they would have been miserable. We really need to get the wood stove in.

Took this picture today of Steven and the new kitty, both of them sound asleep. The kitty finally has a name: Monkey.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

... and a happy new year!

We spent the new year's weekend at our cabin, Saturday through Tuesday. For New Year's Eve, we built a fire, set off fireworks, and let the kids do the sparkler thing....

It was a first for us, doing fireworks and sparklers and such in the snow. But it is a typical Alaskan thing. We don't do fireworks on the Fourth of July, because we can't see them, as it is light all night. So we do them when we can. And judging by last night, boy, do we Alaskans do them. It sounded like we were being bombarded, there were so many firecrackers going off in all directions. And we could see lots of other people's in addition to our own. It was a lot of fun, and it was also very satisfying and symbolic to bring in the New Year in our own home.

So, now it's 2008, and along with probably just about everyone, I have been thinking off and on all day about what this year is likely to bring for us. And although there are lots of issues out there that could impact the way we live our lives, for the purposes of this, I will assume (and no one needs to tell me what assuming does ;)) that the big picture stays relatively constant, that we are not, in fact, going to see TEOTWAWKI in 2008. (TEOTWAWKI = The End Of The World As We Know It)

1. We will (hopefully sometime at this end of 2008) move into our cabin. It will still be incomplete when we move in, but saving approximately $1000 a month in rent will mean we can get it finished much more quickly.

2. We will probably live all year with limited electricity, using only what we can run on the generator, charge in the power outlet in the truck, or maybe get some solar. We will probably have to switch to a laptop computer, with satellite internet access.

3. We will hopefully get a well dug, so that we have running water, instead of depending on a truck to fill up our 150 gallon tank every so often. Then we will just keep the tank full for emergencies, such as a broken well pump.

4. We are going to plant an immense garden. I plan on lots of potatoes, carrots, and parsnips for staple crops, as well as the obvious onions, garlic, lettuce, brocolli, etc. We will plant apple trees, raspberry bushes, strawberries (duh), and blueberries. We will try arctic kiwi. We will probably save the walnut trees for next year. I am absolutely vetoing any non-organic fertilizer, and working hard on a compost pile. For moose control we have a .30-06. If shooting into the air doesn't scare them off, we will have fresh meat, in season, of course.

5. Unfortunately, the pounds have crept up on me a little bit recently. They are going to go away, and quickly. I have better things to do than get fat.

6. We will decide at some point this year whether we are going to simply put an addition on the cabin we have built, or build a house, as was the original intent. There are pros and cons on both sides, and lately it seems we have been changing our minds on this subject every few days. We have at least decided that we are going to move into the cabin, get it completely finished, and not start building again until summer of 2009. That will give us time to get settled and decide what we really want, and what we have the energy and money for.

7. I am getting a piano, and I am going to continue to learn to play, as I am finding it very enjoyable, even on a 15 or 20 year old electronic keyboard.

8. I will vote for President. I will not vote for Hillary. Or Mitt. Or Rudy. I don't know yet who I will vote for. Maybe Ron Paul. Maybe I will write in Al Gore (I am regretting not voting for him when I had the chance). We'll see.

So, that's my to-do list for this year. What's yours?

Happy New Year!