Friday, September 29, 2006

Bend it like Beckham

Ok, we're almost completely moved into the new cabin. Good thing, too. We have to be out of here tomorrow and we are very (VERY) eager to live in our new home. Yesterday evening I went to run dogs with Gwen. We ran a team of 13, which included 11 yearlings and two adults. The yearlings did really well and with the exception of a few tangles, everything went smoothly. Tangles are to be expected, especially with young dogs because they haven't quite figured out what the lines are all about. Trucker was the only one who managed to chew through his neckline. He's a real spaz but cute as hell. In lead I had Puck and Rulon, both really great command leaders. With a team of young dogs, you need reliable leaders otherwise you're pretty much hosed from the start. Anyway, Gwen and I discussed what my race season might hold and we've been talking about me entering the Quest 300: a 300-mile race (450 km) that runs along the Quest trail simultaneously with the 1,000-mile race. It's a qualifier for the longer version.

Anyway, we'll see. Here are some pics from yesterday's run and some of the many puppies out at Windy Creek Kennel. My head is about to explode from all the cuteness. I'm serious. These pups are SO adorable I just want to carry them all around in my pockets.

Me, walkin' the line on a short break along the five-mile trail.
Puck in lead.
A pup I call Dingo. Look at those ears! Fly away, little puppy! Fly!
A pup named Beckham.
Sunset over Windy Creek Kennel.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Frosty Freeze

Woke up this morning to below-freezing temperatures (Celsius, of course). Although I've wintered several years in the north, it's always a bit unnerving just knowing what's to come. It takes a week or two to adjust to the cold and dark once again, but then it just becomes routine. However, this morning was a bit of a slap in the face with frost on the ground and visions of minus 40 jumping around in my head: the bitter cold, the endless layers of clothes just to go to the bathroom, stumbling around the dog yard with a headlamp on, frostnipped fingers, the squeaky sound your boots make in the snow when it's colder than 20 below...ahh winter. There are some things I'm looking forward to though: The northern lights, which have already made a few appearances here; being out with the dogs; and the stark beauty when everything's covered in snow and frost.
We moved this weekend, although we haven't made the final transition into the new place just yet. The fridge will get delivered today. The cabinets are in (except for the broken one which should be here next week), the wiring is coming along and so, in goes the furniture. Before we actually start living there full time, we'll have to install the wood stove which shouldn't be too big a job. We're hoping the weather holds up for a few more weeks so we can get settled and maybe pull the canoe out and take a day float somewhere. We only paddled once this summer and that was a four-hour trip down the Chena River through town. It was nice but we'd like to get out for at least one semi-adventurous trip before the snow flies.
Anyway, there are things to move (mostly Sam's crap...and by crap, I mean crap...he's a packrat like I've never seen before. He wouldn't let me throw out a stack of outdoor magazines from 1994, or boxes of random parts and pieces of nothing, or a Chia-Shrek (that's just creepy), or a glass dish thingy that he salvaged off an old power pole. "It makes a good shrimp cocktail dish," he said. Sorry sweetness, but shrimp cocktail went out with acid wash and our parties consist of bonfires and beer anyway...the moving saga continues...stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Long time, no verbal abuse

Well, well, well. Have I got some stories for you guys. Ok. Not really. But here's an update. My dad came and went. He was a huge help and Sam and I are grateful. He helped us get a handle on the wiring and the cabinets are pretty much installed. I say pretty much because we had a little glitch with a smashed cabinet and are waiting for it to be reordered and shipped from Seattle before we can call it finished. For the amount of cash that Sam and I forked over for these cabinets (Visa. It's everywhere you want to be. And where you don't want to be like, oh I don't know, IN DEBT!) , you'd think they would at least be a tad careful when shipping. But no, of course not. Several cabinets were damaged but we managed to glue and nail and 'humpty dumpty' them back together again. This one however looked like someone took a sledge to it so we have to wait for a new one. We're moving this weekend and are desperately looking for help. So for those folks here in Fairbanks c'mon over to Goldhill on Saturday morning! I mean it. I know where you all live. This isn't a threat but if you don't show up, well, let's just say, I have a lot of dog poop and some paper bags...and a lighter...get it?

So, the rough wiring is in and I went to Home Cheapo (I gave up trying to find anything at Blowes) the other day and bought lights (and a fridge...Visa. It's everywhere...never mind)
I got another dog (I now have eight). Her name is Hazel and she's a two-year-old wild child. I actually named her my first summer here in Alaska back in '04. I ran her this spring and she's turning into a nice little leader. The Quest plot thickens. I now have five Quest-eligible dogs. Anyway, that's about it for now.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

All work and no play makes Jill a dull boy...

I mean girl.
Very busy. Little time to update. Here it is in a nutshell: (deep breath in) My father arrived and he and I have been installing wires for electricity throughout the house. My truck's brakes are failing. I like to sleep in and work late, but can't because the guilt fairy comes and punches me in the face. (She'd like to sleep in, too, ya know!)
Cabinets are being installed today by dad and I. Our balcony is failing.
I'm building a dog shack today to house, meat and supplies for the dogs.
Ok, that's it in a nutshell. (Sorry, I have to) Here's me in a nutshell: "Help! Get me out of this nutshell! How did I get this nutshell anyway?"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Dog teams and leaf peepers

So I started fall training today. I ran two teams, the first with eight dogs and the second with 10. I ran mostly yearlings so it was pretty crazy, especially leaving the yard. These are the yearlings of Ken and Gwen that I will train and race with this winter.
Bully, Strider and Sister (my dogs) also ran in harness today and did really well. Bull hasn't run since he was injured on the Yukon Quest this past February (that's why I got him for free) so I was really proud of him for keeping up with the young ones. We only did a three-mile loop and went really slow. When training young dogs, it's important to make their first runs short and fun with lots of breaks and encouragement. Otherwise, if you push them too hard at a young age (or ever, actually), you can sour them on running with the team. All the yearlings did really well today, they pulled hard and were happy the entire time. With one exception. A young, clunky goofball named Luke. He's really adorable and kind of a weirdo...maybe that's why I like him so much. Anyway, a minute or so after leaving the yard, Luke decided he didn't want to run. So he just stopped. But the rest of the team of course wanted to keep going. They dragged him for a second or so, before I stopped the team and went up to see what was the matter. Nothing was wrong with him; he just didn't want to go. I loved him up for a minute, gave the rest of the dogs some pets and then tried again. Nope. Luke was not going to run. I stopped the team again and went up to Luke, unhooked him and took off his harness. I was going to continue the run with one less dog, but I looked around and realized that Axel, an old (11years old), retired and quite rotund boy was following behind the team. I called him over and put Luke's harness on him. He immediately started wagging his tail so I hooked him up. What a pinch runner he was. Axel had a great time and pulled harder than any other dog on the team. He obviously won't accept retirement lying down. So we were off again. Luke followed the team and occasionally would leap into the middle of the group causing big tangles and one fight. Near the end of the short jaunt, I decided to give Luke another chance. I unhooked and unharnessed Axel and put Luke back in. Same result. I stopped yet again and let him run home loose.
Other than Luke, all the dogs were great. I'm sure Luke will come around with some extra attention, but if he still doesn't want to run, he'll make a nice pet for someone.
I'll continue training with the four-wheeler about every other day until the snow flies and then the dogs will come to our property where they'll live for the winter. Our new property butts up against the Alaska Dog Mushers' Association trails so I can leave on a sled right from my own yard. If today was any indication, it's going to be a good season.

A beautiful day for running dogs.

Taking a break for water at the local watering hole. In lead are the old reliables Oreo on the left and Alikat on the right.

My boys. Bully on the far left and Strider checking out the trail ahead on the far right.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I'm not your average Asian woman

I guess that's because I'm not Asian.
So I rented a big floor sander yesterday. The guys at this particular local paint store are so nice, I really like going in there. One of the men who was helping me with this gargantuan machine was telling me how to use it and added that a lady friend of his would just sit on the top of the sander and push herself around with her feet instead of pushing it around with the handlebars. I shrugged, acknowledging his suggestion but thought nothing of it. So once I got it home, and turned it on, I realized that the thing vibrates at, like, five million RPMs, (of course it does! it's a sander) and kind of laughed to myself because, well, duh! of course the woman liked to 'sit on it.'
Sam ended up having to use the machine because I couldn't control it, while I used the smaller hand sander to get the stuff he couldn't with the machine. (the floor is beautiful by the way).
ANYWAY, I took the machine back and the guys asks me 'so, did you sit on it?' and I was like 'uh, no, but I can see why your lady friend liked to.'
And, seriously now, he looked at me with a totally blank expression and said 'whad'ya mean?'
I said 'well, the thing vibrates and...well, I can see why she liked it so much.'
Still. Nothing. The guy was clueless.
"nevermind," I said, thanked him and left still snickering to myself.
Sam and I are chuckling about it this morning. Good times.
We're off to paint the new floor (it's a clear coat, mostly just to protect the wood floor).
Sunday, I will begin training the dogs (hooked to a four-wheeler) for the upcoming mushing season. It's a little later than I would have liked to start, but with the new place and all there hasn't been much time.
The yearlings (the young dogs) are absolutely bonkers. Sunday should be fun, if I survive.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Happy Sam-iversary!!

Today is our first wedding anniversary. A year. Sam and I have been married for a year. It's just flown by. Perhaps because I was in Finland for the first six months of the marriage. Maybe that's the reason we're still in the honeymoon phase. Anyway, life is good (couldn't be better) married to Sam Harrel.
We'll be celebrating our special day by Sam going to his regular job and me renting a floor sander to get the upstairs floor ready for painitng. Our cabinets will be delivered today and installed some day, hopefully before we move in. Saturday evening we've reserved a nice room for a little one-night getaway and some jacuzzi fun.

Here are some quotes about love and marriage that mean absolutely nothing but are mildly amusing:

Behind every great man there is a surprised woman."
-Maryon Pearson

"A man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished."
-Zsa Zsa Gabor

"I haven't spoken to my wife in years. I didn't want to interrupt her." -Rodney Dangerfield

“Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?” -Barbra Streisand

“My mother once told me that if a married couple puts a penny in a pot for every time they make love in the first year, and takes a penny out every time after that, they'll never get all the pennies out of the pot.” -Armistead Maupin

"Marriage has no guarantees. If that's what you're looking for, go live with a car battery." -Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Day trip to Denali

So today I took a (well deserved) day off and went to Denali National Park with John and Meg. Denali is home to Mount McKinley (Denali), North America's highest peak. We didn't see the mountain today because it was socked in, but the fall colours were beautiful and it was a really great day. We hiked around the Savage River and I finally got to pull out the big glass (500 mm lens) and do some real shooting. It's been a while. We didn't see any wildlife unfortunately, except for a sassy groundhog which posed for a quite a while. Here are some of the scenics I shot today. The photos of me are taken by John.

John had a little lens envy.

Fall colours in Denali.
The bridge over the Tanana River, entering Nenana on the way to Denali.

Me doin' a heel clicker outside Anderson on the way to Denali.

The Savage River.
Our wildlife experience in Denali.
The braided Savage with the Alaska Range behind.
Fireweed on the side of the Parks Highway outside Fairbanks.
More of the Savage.
Fall colours.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Very little labour today

The grouting is done. Thank the lord. Yesterday wasn't as bad. Only nine hours. It was a good day except that I finally did it: I worked my fingers to the bone. The grout wore the skin away from the tops of two of my fingers and now I'm left with cracked, grout-covered digits that Sam says look like the fingers of the dead. A long shower is definitely in order today. Later we'll start moving some of the bigger stuff over to the new property.
Here's a pic of me filling the crack sack for the final time.

So far today we've been lounging, drinking coffee, complaining about sore muscles and reading the paper. I made pancakes but Sam didn't eat them. Too chewy for his likes. They didn't come from a box, and I kind of wung it on the recipe. Meh. Whad' ya gonna do? Let him eat toast.
So Raven, Strider and Ruffles have taken to cramming themselves into one doghouse. It's just too damned cute! I can't take all this cuteness. None of them are particularly small dogs either. Sam compared it to a clown car where the clowns just...keep...coming...out...
Pretty funny. Duck-hunting season opened on Friday and since we live right on the refuge, hunters are all over the place. The dogs freak with every shot fired. Maybe that's why Ruffles, Strider and Raven have taken to one house. Ruffles is the mama of Strider and Raven. Sneaky Pete and Parker like to be in the same house as well.
Time to work.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Grout 'til you puke!

Another 12-hour day of grouting. We're headed back today to finish up the floor. Although my invention has made grouting more tolerable, it still really, really sucks. Here's a brief rundown of how I feel after six days on my knees:
My back is screaming.
My knees, I fear, will never recover.
My hands are so weak from squeezing that damned bag that petting the dog has become a chore.
My hands are soft, but only because the first few layers of skin have been ground off from the grout. (gritty, gritty grout)
My fingernails are permanently black.
My spirit is broken.
My hair is too thick and my butt's too big.
Ok, the last couple have nothing to do with the house but they're still valid complaints.
Complaining aside, I (as is Sam) am super stoked to move in to the new cabin. It's beautiful. And I'm really eager to get out of Crazytown. (pop. 1)
Sam has already packed one box of books. We are on our way.
It's getting cold here at night and darkness has returned with a vengeance. Winter is definitely on its way.
Since my digital camera got stolen (I also can't find my Ipod) I can't post a photo of the house. So here's an artist's rendition. Enjoy! Peace.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Grouting day 4

My dad keeps calling me Oscar the Grout. At the moment, it's true. That's why I'm stopping now before I type something I'll regret.
Peace, I guess.
This is for you, Dad. Gotta love Photoshop.

Friday, September 01, 2006

This is a one time offer, so act now!

I've been saying this for years, but now I actually have proof. My head is not just a hat rack, people! There is, in fact, something inside. It may be pea-sized and rather dusty, but I have a brain! I think I might even go so far as to say I'm a genius. Why? I'll tell you.
A couple days ago after we had our 15-hour 'On-our-knees-but-not-in-a-good-way' day of putting in tile, I had the arduous task of grouting the 400 12x12 tiles. Normally, I don't think it would be so bad, but slate is very uneven and not uniform in any way (different thickness, different sized tiles) Plus there are so many little nooks and crannies that grouting proved to be very frustrating. I slogged away for several hours and made very little progress.
(This is where the infomercial part starts)
Are you tired of plopping down messy grout and then spending hours cleaning off the excess? Are your arms ready to fall off from all that scrubbing? Do your knees hurt from last Saturday when Sam, that's not right.
Anyway, listen up!
Invented by a quiet genius (that's me) way up in the armpit of Alaska, and made specifically for those do-it-yourself homeowners it’s: That Crack Sack!
So I was scrubbing away at the grout and thought 'there must be an easier way to do this' and 'what the hell am I going to have for lunch' when it came to me.
I filled a big Ziploc bag with grout and snipped off the end. Voila! The Crack Sack was born. Now I can squirt the grout right into the cracks with precision and very little mess, which means very little clean up. Is that good or what???! (Johnny H may think he had something to do with this but he didn't.)
So here are some helpful tips on using the Crack Sack followed by ordering information for this one-time offer.
1. Don't overfill your crack
2. Watch for air in the bag, it makes for messy farts from the hole
3. Be gentle and patient
4. Don't squeeze the sack too hard; your hands will get tired
5. Massage the sack from time to time to keep the goop moist
Ok that's enough of that.
Somewhere in the Yukon, Babs M's head is exploding.

So, the Crack Sack. Good for grout, great beyond doubt! Yeah!
To order your Sack send cheque or money order for $5,000 to:
Phil McCracken
212 Cherry Tree Lane
123 ABC
The Crack Sack is available in all 50 states with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. And North Carolina. And Kansas, Denver, Arizona, Florida, New York. It is also not available in any state starting with the letter W. Or ending in the letters IA. It's not available in Canada. Or Mexico.
Void where prohibited. Member FDIC. Supplies are limited. May cause drowsiness. Or insomnia. Dry mouth. Wet mouth. Diarrhea. Constipation.
BUT WAIT. THERE'S MORE! Order in the next 10 minutes and you get this handy children's toy absolutely free! Occupy the kiddies while you're using your Crack Sack. It looks the same, but it's different. ORDER NOW!