Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Redoubt Still Rumbling

This picture of Redoubt is from the web cam this morning. Someone's a little grumpy! (I'm just saying.) I don't know when she is going to get tired of her little games and go back to sleep. She has been disturbing the airlines, which in turn disturbs our mail delivery, which in turn disturbs me. Notice how it all comes back to me? :0) Anyway....not a lot else to report. She is being monitored continuously and has had several more earthquakes. She keeps letting off steam, but then who doesn't every so often? I am off to decorate bulletin boards at the school. I know what you are thinking...all this excitement in one day? It's almost too much to handle! Yes, it is a wild and crazy life I lead. Happy Spring. Plant a daisy for me. We're still enjoying snow fall up here in the frozen north.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Day After Redoubt...

I tell you, it's a good thing that you weren't around here last night. Talk about chaos and panic. I'm pretty sure I heard Tink yelling "IT'S EVERY CAT FOR HERSELF!" at one point. Once we got her calmed down and convinced that the world wasn't ending (she watches too much TV), things went a lot smoother.
I went out this morning and took a few pics of the ash fall. It's a really fine grain, sort of between sand and baby powder. Does a lot more damage, though. The airport has been closed all night due to ash fall. I'm not sure when it's going to reopen. When you consider that everything in Alaska comes in by boat or plane, it kind of puts a damper on things. For instance, no mail until this clears up.

Everything looks just a little bit dingy this morning. You can see the thin layer of ash on the snow. We are expecting more snow today, so this will be covered up soon.
In the interest of science, I got a sample of the ash and put it in a little bottle. I'll make a cute little label for it later. Some day, when I'm old and gray (oh, wait, that's now!)...Some day, when I'm older and grayer, I will look back at this little bottle and tell my grand kids how I survived the volcanic eruption of 2009. Of course, the story will be a LOT more exciting at that point. I'll throw in a couple of fire engines and sirens to spice things up. No sense in boring the younguns!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hiding Out In The Basement

Our family is huddled in the basement, clinging together for comfort and shaking in fear. Ash is everywhere. We can not leave the house. We are prepared to eat the cats, if necessary. It's everywhere. It's everywhere! Aughhhhhhh! It's not really very dramatic here, so I thought I'd spice it up a little bit. Redoubt Volcano continues to erupt. We had a big eruption around 3:30 this afternoon, and the ash hit Elmendorf AFB and Anchorage around 5 pm. We hadn't been monitoring the news very closely, so we didn't get much warning. Besides, we have had a LOT of false alarms. Needless to say, we were surprised when the ash actually started to fall. We didn't get the truck covered, so we will have to go wash it off tomorrow when this dies down. We had another eruption a little after 7 tonight, so we expect more ash before morning. The winds still seem to be blowing it in this direction. We are hanging out and watching TV. The excitement of our natural disaster lasted about 10 minutes, then the kids were bored and on to other things. I guess after hurricanes, our little volcanic eruption was a bit of a let down.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Redoubt Volcano...Again!

She's been holding it in for so long that now she just can't seem to stop letting it all out. Poor Redoubt. She erupted a couple of times last night, and again around 9:30 this morning. The latest ash plume went around 50,000 feet above sea level. Winds have shifted, and it's heading our direction. Luckily for Anchorage residents, they are calling for "trace amounts of ash fall in the area". Not really sure how much trace amounts are. I looked at my measuring utensils in the kitchen and couldn't find "trace" on any of them. Must be somewhere in the category of "smidgen" or "tad". Snow has been falling all morning, so it would be mixed in with that and not very noticeable. We are under an advisory until 3 pm.
(Picture Date: March 26, 2009 21:41:00 UTC Image Creator: Dehn, Jonathan)
(Homer Lodge, Picture Date: March 26, 2009, Image Creator: Isaak, James)

The weather has been a little wacky lately, not even counting the volcanic activity. It's in the low 30's right now, and will stay in that area for most of the week. Big flakes of snow are falling, and sticking for the most part. Ice is melting off of the roofs and dripping down onto the snowbanks below. Essentially, Anchorage in a big slushy cup at the moment. Spring Breakup is not the most attractive season for Alaska. Kind of like seeing your favorite movie star without her makeup on. You know she is beautiful, but you aren't seeing much of that right now.
In case you were following out sad cat saga, there is much celebration in our household now. Grandma and Grandpa have saved the kitties. They have volunteered to babysit our babies for the 3 years that we are in Europe. Whoopeee! The kids have stopped moping around the house. Jess has stopped accusing us of "putting a price tag on family". Now we can relax in the knowledge that our cats will be well taken care of. I won't even complain when they weight about 30 pounds each when we return to the states (because Grandma loves to give the kitties treats). I will just remind her that Tink loves to sleep on your head, and that could be very dangerous for everyone involved if she were the size of a bean bag chair. Ashley will have a reading buddy to lounge with, and Tink will have a glass door with a whole new crop of squirrels to check out. Her heart will be broken many times, I'm sure, but she is tough and can handle it. We have given up on the cats Dutch lessons, and are now working on teaching them to speak southern. Meeeeeooooow, ya'll. Grandparents rock!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Redoubt Once Again!

Once again, Redoubt is doing her thing. She erupted this morning around 9:30. Twice. She sent a huge plume of ash and gas around 65,000 feet into the air. What will happen next is any one's guess. They are "officially" predicting that the ash will go south of us, with southeast winds carrying it into the Kenai. The local weather channel says that winds are traveling northeast at this time, and that would bring the ash directly to us. Ash could hit Anchorage within the hour or two. The schools are carrying on as normal. Planes are evacuating. Flights are cancelling. The cats and I have the weather channel on, are searching the Internet for news updates, and have a nice cozy spot arranged under the bed if things get worse. This is what the paper is reporting at this time.

"The wind is taking the plume in different directions at different elevations, with winds between about 40,000 and 50,000 feet moving the plume toward Anchorage.
"It's possible that we could get some trace amounts (of ash in Anchorage), but it may not be anything noticeable right off the bat. People might notice a film on their windshields," Waythomas said."

Everyone loves an optimist.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free To Good Home

It's not looking too good for the babies. While trying to book our overseas tickets, we have found that getting two cats to our new home is not as simple as we first thought. Or as cheap. Seems they don't really want any more cats over there. And they want to make it as difficult as possible to take any. Tons of forms and regulations, as well as approval from a foreign consulate. For cats? Did they commit some crimes that I'm not aware of? Are they on some "list" that I don't know about? (Did Ashley order too much off of the Home Shopping Channel and have Tink write a couple of hot checks to pay for it?) Not to mention that with all of their fees and tickets, it is adding up to about $1,500 to get them over there. Not to mention, we would have to go through all the paperwork and another $1,500 to get them back to the states in three years. If something is not 100% correct in their paperwork once we got there, they automatically put them back on a plane to their city of origin. That would mean the cats would be sitting in the Anchorage airport for the next 3 years while we were overseas. I've informed them that they need to be practicing their "cute" looks. It looks like they will have to shop around for a new home.

Redoubt and Black Bear

The excitement with the volcano continues, but for Anchorage, the worst seems to have passed us by. Luckily for us, the winds have been traveling north, so we haven't had any ash in the area. Flights heading north have been cancelled, but traffic to the south seems to be running smoothly today. It has given us plenty to talk about, though. I heard that we had 5 major eruptions at last count (could have been more or less, so don't quote me on that!), and the largest ash cloud shot about 60,000 feet in the sky. That impressive, by anyone's standards! Not much to see on the Redoubt web cams, though.

Apparently I was not the only one around here with visions of Spring dancing through my head this past week. A large black bear woke from his winter slumber last weekend, and decided to head out and pick up a little snack. Unfortunately, most snack foods for bear are still covered by several feet of snow. Mr. Bear was cruising around the park near the Campbell Airstrip. Enter a gentleman out for an afternoon of fresh air and exercise. (Once again, reinforcing my theory that exercise is not always good for you.) Mr. Bear said "Why lookie here! Fast food!" The gentleman took offense to this idea and proceeded to climb a tree. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but don't black bear climb trees? Aren't they EXCELLENT tree climbers? Why yes they are, but if you are in the woods with a hungry bear, no other humans around, and no way to escape said bear, you at least want to make him work a little bit for his meal. Now we have a man in a tree with Mr. Bear hanging out down below, tying to decide whether he should shake it a little and see if the meal will fall down or just head up and fetch it. Luckily for the man, another group of hikers came upon the scene, and they happened to have some dogs with them. The dogs chase the bear off and the man climbs down to safety. They all head back to the trial head, with Mr. Bear following at a not so discreet distance. The next time this gentleman considers a brick walk through snow during Spring Breakup, he might think again. Hmmmmm. That second cup of coffee is sounding pretty good, and maybe I'll just walk around the mall a bit after breakfast. Who needs all that pesky fresh air anyway?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thar She Blows!

It was just a matter of time, but Redoubt finally put her money where her mouth is. She has started to do her thing. Volcanoes in Alaska aren't what you typically think about when you hear the word "volcano". There is no red hot lava flowing down the sides and hitting the water with clouds of steam. Just a big plume of ash and smoke. Picture that old woman sitting two stools down from you at the local bar. You know the one. Ethel takes a big drag on her cig, holds it a second, and then releases it into a huge cloud that slowly fades out across the bar. Then she hacks and coughs up a lung for a little bit. Another drag, another coughing fit. That's Redoubt. So far, the winds are in our favor, and the ash is staying to the west of us. We hope that is the case throughout the day. The city continues on as if nothing has happened. People are at work, the kids are in school, life just maintains it's normal pace.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Spoke Too Soon!

What light through yonder window breaks? Tis but the reflection of the morning sun off 4-5 inches of freshly fallen snow. Not exactly romantic, and definitely a bit of a surprise. I should have known better. I blame myself. The streets were clear of snow. We took both vehicles to the car wash and cleaned them. I was so excited about the prospect of Spring that I got a little cocky. I mentioned riding the motorcycle. Apparently that angered Mother Nature and she decided to send me a little message. Point taken. I have hung my head in shame. Embrace the winter. Don't get ahead of yourself.
Tink took advantage of my distraction to sneak outside and look for Romeo, her plump rodent boyfriend. He was no where to be seen. I think the romance is on the downhill slide. Ever since his robust frame broke the rope hanger on my bird feeder and he robbed us of all the seeds inside, he seems to have traveled on to "greener pastures". He never calls any more. She is starting to get depressed. Most days you can find her sitting by the back window, looking longingly for her lost love. O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy species and refute thy hunger!

Speaking of Romeo and the bird feeder, I decided to salvage what I could. I couldn't find a rope small enough to thread through the little opening at top of the feeder, so I tried a shoestring. It worked wonderfully. I was very proud of myself until my daughter took one look and said "Mom! That is SOOOOOO redneck! I can't believe you did that! How embarrassing!" Well, I am from the south. She's just lucky I didn't slather it with duct tape. Besides, I think the bow on the top is a nice touch. My hopes of Spring are covered with snow. Are you admiring how shiny and clean the truck is? Or was. Or might be once we dig it out from under.

On another note, we are still riding the Redoubt Volcano see saw of fun. We have once again been upgraded to "Watch" alert status. It would seem that we have been having continuous small earthquakes, approximately one every minute, prompting Observatory Geologists to release this statement.
"Seismic activity has continued to increase and conditions may evolve rapidly culminating in an eruption within days to weeks," an observatory geologist reported Sunday morning. “We are watching closely.”
Does this sound familiar? It should, because it's the same statement that they have been using for a while now. I am starting to feel sorry for the geologists. Can you imagine the flack they are receiving about this. Is it going to erupt or not? Hey, Frank, did you feel something? Release statement number three.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It Harley Looks Like Spring Here!

Today is officially the first day of Spring! Yipee! It's that time of the year when a young man's fancy turns to...motorcycles. You southerners might not understand it, but up here on Elmendorf there is an official "motorcycle season". You can't get them out until the ice melts and the gravel is cleared. Not exactly today, but it won't be too long. Normally it's around middle of April. The Commander will call "All Clear!" and the motors will start to rev.
These pics are from this past summer of fun. One of my favorite places to ride is on a windy road on the back side of base. We always stop at the lake to enjoy the scenery. Of course, it always help when you take along a super model. She tends to make her own scenery. Whose kids are these anyway? I think I've ruined them with the camera. They strike the strangest poses now in hopes that I will give up and not take their pictures. Tough break. This is great bargaining material for later in life. This is the pic that I'll pull out in a few years when Brandon brings home that girlfriend.

Alaska is the most beautiful place in the world to ride. There are lots of windy roads that travel around lakes and through mountains. Russ and some friends often cruise the area down along Turnagain Arm to Aleyeska, and sometimes on to Hope. That is one of the most scenic drives in the United States. You have mountains on one side, and the water on the other. Eagles drifting over head on the breeze. The occasional group of Beluga whales popping their white heads up out of the water while chasing a school of fish. If you are into motorcycles, you can call our local Harley and rent one for the vacation of a lifetime. Plan ahead, though, because they are usually booked up at least a year in advance. Enjoy your first day of spring!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pets Run The Show

It turns out that I am not the only human being trained by their pets. Who knew? Just about everyone up here seems to have a dog. (Not me. We'll stick to the cats right now. Less maintenance!) They also take their dogs everywhere. In any parking lot, you can see them sitting in the vehicles, longingly looking toward to door through which their masters have disappeared. The other day, I was running some errands and ended up at the Bx and Commissary. As I got out of the van, I heard a car alarm going off one aisle over. I glanced in that direction and didn't see anyone around the car, so ignored it. It went silent, and then started again. At this time, I was about even with the vehicle, so I looked inside. There on the drivers seat was a German shepherd, grinning happily and looking for his owner. He would sit still while the alarm was going off and just look toward the store. When it stopped, he started jumping up and down in the seat until he set it off again. When when it started to beep, he would sit and wait. I have a feeling he's done this before. He did it three times that I saw. I would imagine it hurries up his owners shopping. I wonder if he give his human a treat when he responds quickly to his signal. Good human. Good boy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Did The Moose Cross The Road?

Why did the moose cross the road? It doesn't matter, because you are going to stop and just let them do whatever they want. When you are that big, you always get the right of way.
It's interesting to watch, though. Each moose has their own personality and style. The young ones are a little cautious, and keep stopping to what you are doing. They aren't very trusting yet, and aren't sure if you are going to try to run over them or not. The adult females are very protective of their young. They aren't watching to see if you are stopping for them, they are watching to make sure you don't mess with the babies. If you get too close to the little ones, you might as well paint a big target on your head, because you are in trouble! The adult males just go wherever they want, and seldom even bother giving you a glance. They own this town. You are just something they have to tolerate. The really big adult males are seldom seen because they know that now they are targets themselves. You look at them and picture how lovely they would look mounted above the fireplace in the den.
This is Junior crossing first. He is about a year old now, so he's not exactly a baby any more. Just the same, Mom is waiting on the left and keeping a close eye on his progress.
He's just about all the way across and has decided that maybe he is in charge of this situation after all. He starts to really take his time.
Poor old Mom is bringing up the rear. Junior is safely on the other side and munching on a tree. She might as well join the party. Just another day in the frozen north. We are in the middle of Spring Breakup, and are anticipating warmer weather soon. Of course, the forecast is calling for more snow later this week. Spring might have to wait a little longer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Irish Blessings:
May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks,
May your heart be as light as a song,
May each day bring you bright, happy hours,
That stay with you all the year long.
May good luck be your friend
In whatever you do.
And may trouble be always
A stranger to you.
Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!
- Unknown

Monday, March 16, 2009

Redoubt and Tink - Two Unpredictable Women!

Someone can't make up her mind. Redoubt has quieted down again and although we are still on orange watch status, it looks like she is planning on behaving herself for the near future. Then again, she could blow her top tomorrow and we could wake up under a thick blanket of ash. Your guess is as good as mine (and the personnel at the volcano observatory). Either way, I have no choice in the matter and will simply stand at alert with my trash bags and duct tape at the ready. (I'm from the South, so I always have these things at the ready.)

On to other issues. Last night, I was awakened by a scratching sound near the end of the bed. It was a faint, repetitive grinding noise. I grabbed the flashlight, aimed it at the offending area, and clicked it on. There on the dresser sat Tink, mouth open and teeth attached to the corner of a box that I had placed there. "Mrp?" she asked, as if I was the one doing the disturbing and not her. "Go to bed Tink" I replied, shut off the light, and went quickly back to sleep. Some time later, I was again awakened by a strange sound. This time it was the tinkling of a little bell. I'm pretty sure I can guess who is to blame, but just the same, I aim the flashlight and click it on. There is Tink, knocking one of her many toys under the dresser and then fishing it back out again. (She had to pick the one with the bell inside it?) "Mrp?" she asks me once again. "Go to sleep, Tink!" Click into darkness. I can hear the claws digging into the mattress as she climbs up the end of the bed. The mound appears under the covers and slowly moves up the bed to my pillow. (She takes great pride in her shark imitation.) She climbs up onto my pillow and lays down on the top of my head. She is finally ready for bed. The alarm will go off in five minutes.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's another lovely day in the frozen north. The weather is a little chilly (it's around 19 degrees right now), but the hope of Spring is in the air. Well, we did get another inch or so of snow last night, but still...the HOPE of Spring is still in the air. The kids are relaxing and enjoying the last few days of their Spring Break, Ashley is curled up in slumber on a dining room chair, and Tink is sitting between me and the computer screen, looking at me with that lazy eye and preparing to climb onto my shoulder to catch a few winks. Tink is an unusual cat. Therapy might be in order. She "talks" to you and carries on serious conversations. When you call her name, she answers with the cat equivalent of "Huh?" She plays fetch with little fur covered mice when she is in the mood. When she isn't, she rips the heads off of the mice and hides them around the house. It's kind of like living with a furry little Mafia boss. She is in love with a squirrel. (The FAT squirrel who tore up my bird feeder the other day and is now on MY hit list!) When she is tired, her left eye droops half shut, and she crawls on my shoulder for a little nap. She hides her head in my hair and purrs sleepily until her nose starts to run. OK, it's not her most attractive moment, but it is endearing in a weird sort of way. Only Tink can pull it off. She also finds great joy in tormenting me in unusual ways. Lately, she has been jumping up on the kitchen counter and sitting on my kitchen sink. This apparently provides the best view of her boyfriend in the back yard. I've opened other windows, and provided seating for her, but this is boring, because she doesn't get any attention from those. Yelling and putting her down have no effect. I've started turning the water on and shooting her with the spray nozzle to scare her off. Now it's become a game. She jumps up on the kitchen counter and looks at me. She waits until I turn the water on and grab the nozzle, and she is off. She has to get around the corner before I shoot her. Sometimes she wins, sometimes not. Then yesterday, Jess told me that Tink comes into her bathroom sometimes when she is washing her face. Jess has been getting her wet, because she seems to enjoy it. Wait a minute! She enjoys getting wet? Are you kidding me? The cat has trained me to spray her with water whenever she likes, and I have taught her nothing. Cat - 1. Human - 0. Why am I not surprised?

Anyway, if you are interested in visiting glorious Alaska, or just want to check out what is here, the new Anchorage Visitors Guide is up and running. For your copy, go to this site and fill in your info! http://www.anchorage.net/454.cfm They will mail it to your front door and it's completely free.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday The 13TH

Happy Friday The 13TH. (cue dramatic music...duh, duh, duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.) Most people seem to be a little intimidated by this day. They seem to think it brings bad luck and chaos. Personally, we seem to have the best luck on Friday the 13th (duh, duh, duhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.) I think you find your luck where you look for it. Kind of a cup half full versus cup half empty sort of thing. The Iditarod is cruising along at a steady pace. Lance Mackey is currently in first place. The closest musher was about three hours behind him. So far, three mushers have dropped out. This is a tough race, and a dangerous one. One of the scratchers, Bjornar Andersen from Norway, was seriously injured in a bad accident in the Buffalo Tunnels. They suspect internal injuries. They are only a little over half way through the race. If interested, you can check out the official Iditarod website. There is a link on the right side of this page.

I hope you all enjoy your lovely Friday the 13Th (duh, duh, duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) and make the most of it. Buy a lottery ticket. You never know...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shopping at the 5th Avenue Mall

Well, the 5th Avenue Mall is a little more empty today, thanks to Jess and her birthday money. And it's a little more quiet since we left it, too. At least our shopping trips are much quicker now, thanks to Abercrumbie & Fitch. Would you like to buy a car, or three A&F shirts? The shirts, please. At least until she gets her license. Then it will be a tougher choice.
Although the forecast has called for snow all week, the weather is just beautiful. Just a little nip in the air this morning, followed by thaw this afternoon. I really need to wash the ride, but what's the point this time of year? Spring thaw means that the roads are covered with brown slush. After 5 minutes of driving around, it will look just as dirty as it did before I washed it. Still, I will be off to the car wash soon. Remember when we lived in Florida, and every weekend we were outside in the driveway, washing the vehicles until they sparkled in the sunlight? (Well, Russ was outside washing the vehicles, and I was inside with the AC on giving him my mental support.) It won't be long until summer is here and everything will be shiny and clean.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Alaska Zoo

The high got up to the low 30's today, so we took advantage of the warmer temps and headed out to the Alaska Zoo. We haven't been there in quite a while. There was a lot of activity for such a snowy day.

Maybe we should give these two the number for our orthodontist. They could certainly use some help.
These two were enjoying a nice nap. This was the only spot in their huge area that wasn't covered with snow.

The harbor seals were a nice addition to the zoo. They have been doing a lot of work on the place, and added a new entrance, gift shop, and this harbor seal enclosure. We had a really great time just walking around and checking everything out.