Saturday, December 30, 2006

The eyes don't have it

Heed my warning: don't sleep with your contacts in! I've been doing it since I was 13...I've also been sleeping with my contacts in since then and now, all the years of neglecting my big brown peepers has caught up with me. A couple days ago my right eye exploded. Ok, not really but it did erupt in infection goodness and now, after a stern lecture from an optometrist named Dr. Coon, I'm not allowed to wear my contacts for at least a week. A week! At least my glasses are funky, but still, it's a royal pain trying to mush dogs with glasses. I can't wear my neck gaitor up around my face because my glasses fog up and I can't see and so my nose gets frostnipped. Plus, the dogs like to swat them off my face and because I'm so blind (glasses since grade 3, thank you very much) I can't find them for some time. My glasses! Sigh.
A couple days ago I bumped up the dogs to 20 miles. We're still on the four-wheeler so when I do get them on the sled, we can easily double that to 40. They're really strong now and still happy and enthusiastic.
I think Sam's coming with me today which is always fun. We'll see. We've got a bonfire tomorrow night at friends Erin and Aaron's house to bring in 2007.
Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day!

I hope everyone had a very merry merry. We had a great Christmas and are now wallowing in turkey satisfaction. On Christmas Eve many friends came over to stand around our bonfire and enjoy homemade treats and spiked cider. It was a lot of fun with around 20 or so people showing up to celebrate. Again, it was an interesting mix of people and I think everyone had a great time. Our friend Bob brought over an eight-foot inflatable Santa, which added a nice amount of creepiness to the party. Christmas morning we rolled out of bed, ate some quiche (which I made, ahem, thank you very much) and unwrapped gifts from each other, friends and my parents. Sam got me a SB 800 digi Nikon flash that I've been eyeing for some time and some mushing clothes to keep me warm. Thoughtful and practical...what a guy.
We got some lovely things and we definitely feel spoiled this year. It's strange though; there were a few gifts that friends had stuck under the tree at the party one of which was a lump of coal in an ammunition box, wrapped in tin foil and masking tape. Very funny but also creepy because we have no idea who left it. We're thinking it was friend Jeff who works on the railroad but we don't know for sure.
I might run dogs today, if not, tomorrow when I will bring the 12 yearlings here to our house. We've gotten a little bit of snow over the past few days and I think it's time to get on the sled.
Anyway, here are some pics from the party and Christmas day.

Lil' Eli approaching the giant Santa.
Eric and Eli checking out the spread.

Chris and Meg...not sure what they're doing with that fork.

The Old Murphy Dome crew sticking together. No wonder they have no other friends...
Sam being shy on Christmas morning.Bully canoodling with a toy duck my mum sent for him. He has no idea what to do with it or why it makes such an obnoxious noise.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

For most people, December 21 is the first official day of winter. For us here in the north, December 21 is the longest night: winter solstice. From now on we will gain light each day. Hooray
Sam's gifts are wrapped and nestled lovingly under the Charlie Brown tree. We also got a couple boxes full of gifts (even one for Bully!) from my parents. Thanks guys! We're having a bonfire Christmas Eve and we'll make turkey Christmas day. The usual. We got a free turkey from Fred Meyer yesterday. We didn't read the fine print on the coupon we had, so the guy just gave it us rather than go through any hassle.
Sam and I were going to take a couple dog teams into the White Mountains this weekend but we still don't have enough snow. Even though there have been mushers training in the Whites on sleds, this would be Sam's first trip and rather than have a rough trail with lots of hazards, we decided to postpone the trip so that his first time isn't a bone-crunching ride.
Training the dogs has been going well. They are very strong now and hard to hold back. The other day I hooked up 12 dogs, set the brake on the four-wheeler and was walking (running, actually) to the front of the line to unhook the leaders. Well, the dogs managed to pop the brake and when I looked back the four-wheeler was coming right for me but the leaders (Bull and Hazel) were still tied to the post. The result was massive tangle in which I had to call Ken to come and help me. By the time we got out on the trail I was sweating buckets. The rest of the run was flawless, however. I've been running at night because it's easier to see cars when we have to cross the road. The dogs also run better at night and when it's clear out, it's really beautiful. Anyway, we'll go again tomorrow. I might hook a dog or two up to a toboggan at the bonfire and give kiddy rides down the driveway. We'll see.
Happy holidays.

Monday, December 18, 2006

My polar bear can beat up their polar bear

Well, this is my last day in Barrow. What a not-so-long, yet-very-strange trip it's been. I now find myself in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at, sucking the last bit of wireless out of the King Eider Inn. I was just informed that the washroom is for guests only and since I've already checked out, I can't go pee in their loo. Hmmm. Tricky. Very tricky. Instead of making a big deal (they are letting me loiter in the lobby until my flight) I might just have to pull a Trisha E. around back. We'll see. I'm also chugging their complimentary coffee like it's going out of style. I should probably stop drinking since there's no facility.
So. This morning I was at Pepe's for breakfast and the manager (owner?) Joe was telling me about how he has a museum in his house. He informed me he has a stuffed polar bear that measures 10 feet. "It's about three feet bigger than the bear in the lobby of the Top of the World Hotel," he said. Then he giggled (he's kind of a sketchy dude) and said, "My polar bear can beat up their polar bear." I laughed, a little too hard, and he got serious. "It can," he said.
I wanted to remind him that the beasts were in fact dead, and therefore not capable of fighting each other, but instead I nodded solemnly and bolted for the door. A while later, my cab driver told me that Friday night he was bombing along the point road doing about 80 km per hour when a polar bear sauntered out in front of him. He told the story with such gusto that my heart was racing. "What did you DO?" I half-screeched. He said he just sat there, in awe, and watched it. The troopers showed up a minute later to scare it out of town.
Ok, one more polar bear story.
Yesterday, I got dropped off by a woman cabbie on the beach of the Arctic Ocean to take photos of some old whaling boats and bones. I told her to come back in about half an hour. When she returned, I was still down on the beach, but I had left my camera bag in the snow bank where she dropped me off. She pulled up, saw my belongings but not me, and thought I had been dragged out to sea by a polar bear. When I finally did show up, she was near panic. I apologized and said I didn't realize that I shouldn't have done that. After hearing stories from a friend who lived in Rankin Inlet for a while about how a siren would be set off whenever a polar bear came into town, I just thought the same would go for Barrow. Not so.
On one of my walk-abouts around town yesterday I passed a house with a couple of German Shepherds tied out front. As I was passing, a guy opened the door and came outside. By his side was a little puppy, probably three months old or so. The puppy ran to me and I played with it for a minute, waved at the dude and kept walking. The puppy followed. I tried to shoo it off and told it 'go home'. It kept following. Finally I looked back at the guy, hoping he'd call it back. He didn't. "Just take it," he said. I almost did, but really couldn't. I resorted to using my big-boy voice and scaring the crap out of it until the puppy realized that going home was the lesser of two evils and trotted back to the guy, who let it in the house.
I sent my photos off the Chicago Tribune last night (they asked for 10, but I sent 14 because I have trouble editing my own work). They were received and the editor seemed pleased. I was so nervous coming here for this assignment but it worked out really well. Despite the darkness thing, there are some great shots to be had. I went to the Inupiat Heritage Center, the library, the grocery store, the rec center, a local craftswoman's home, bingo (bust) and just walked around town. I took a tour out to the point to photograph some old houses and walked along the beach. I like this place, it's neat, but after only three days, the darkness is driving me a little batty.
Here are some leftover pics (not the ones I sent to Chicago) from the trip. Even though some of the outside shots don't look like it's that dark out, I was using long exposures with a tripod.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Carhartts on a plane

Welcome back, sports fans.
Ok, I don't have time for long-winded post but here's a little teaser about Day 1 and 2 in Barrow, Alaska:
- Getting felt up (not in a good way) by a husky woman in security because my Carhartt bibs kept setting off the metal detector.
- Explaining to two half-cocked women on the plane that the white things in the sky were clouds.
- Realizing that the 'hour of twilight' in Barrow wasn't really light at all. It's dark here, and it's dark all the time. Creepy.
- Getting yelled at and then kicked out of Bingo for trying to take pictures. (I shared a ciggy minutes later with the woman who did most of the yelling...I think she had forgotten.)
- Laughing with my Philippino cab driver about getting kicked out of Bingo.
- Eating sushi as big as my head.
- Eating breakfast at the Mexican food place.
- Taking a self-portrait in front of Arctic Hair and Tanning in downtown Barrow.
- Watching the desk clerk make a face of disgust when I came down to the lobby in my long johns to get more coffee.
- Getting asked in the library if I knew whom Beth Ipsen was. Very Creepy.
Ok, I'll elaborate more on these stories and more in a while.
Things are going well here but, honestly, Fairbanks is enough wacky Alaska for me. I am, however, enjoying the running water, cable TV and wireless internet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

There are no ethics in Christmas cards

Well now. All I have to say is: it ain't easy being cheesy (or sleazy). You will all see what I mean when you get our Christmas cards. They're cute. Ok? CUTE! AND FESTIVE!
Who am I kidding? Fromage. Meh. And if you don't get a Christmas card from us, you know why.
Anyway, I ran the huskies today and took out a 14-dog string. I only got run over once. It's a Christmas miracle. Fourteen dogs can muster up a lot of power. When I stop the team, which is not often when there are 14 dogs on the line, I set both the front and rear brakes, turn the engine off and make sure it's in first gear. When I began training the yearlings, they didn't know how to work as a team but they've learned and also caught on to the fact that when they do work together, they can pull the 500-pound ATV with brakes set. That's when I a) run beside the thing and hop on (a la Dukes of Hazzard) or b) throw myself in front of the four-wheeler and get run over which only slightly slows the team down. So all went well today. It also went well on Saturday when Sam came with me. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of Sam on the back of the ATV. He was a big help and I appreciate it. Are you happy, now?
What else? Oh yeah, I got a photo assignment for the Chicago Tribune which will send me to Barrow, Alaska, on Sunday. Barrow is the northern-most village and is very cold and very dark this time of year. I will fly in for the day to photograph the subject and the town and then fly home that night. Details still have to be worked out but I'm pretty stoked about the whole thing. What a cool assignment. I hope it all works out. I had an impromptu meeting (ok, we went for a beer) with the staff photog from the Associated Press last week and whad’ya know? He called today with this assignment for the Tribune. And the best part is, the subject is a dog musher!
So, anyway, I'll keep you posted. I'll be spending Friday and Saturday out at Windy Creek Kennel to run the dogs some longer distances and also to keep Gwen company. Ken and their handler will be at the Sheep Mountain 150. Ken won it last year and is hoping for another good race. Gwen was supposed to compete but has come down with a mysterious illness that has left her incapacitated. All her joints are swollen and she's in quite a bit of pain. It came on suddenly and so far has doctors baffled. So, I'll get some movies and some junk food and hunker down with her for a couple days. I'll bring my dogs with me.
Decorated the tree yesterday. We don't have much in the way of tree bling so I found some random things around the house to adorn the Charlie Brown branches. Sam even got a picture of me topping the spruce with a flying Santa on a weathervane ($0.99 at Value Village). I realize I'm telling you about photos and not actually showing any and yeah, there's a reason for that. Maybe tomorrow.
We're planning a Christmas Eve (housewarming, green card) party/bonfire here. Pass it on. (Purple monkey dishwasher)

Methamphetamine is just a fancy name for trouble

Ok, so I've been slacking on the blog. I have to go run dogs right now but stayed tuned. I've got stories and photos from the trail. Sam came with me on a training run on Saturday and though he was a little stiff, he was a big help and I think he might have even had a little fun (don't tell him that). We hacked down a Christmas tree from our yard and the house is looking very festive. Still no snow but we're coping.
Christmas cards are on the way...for those of you who haven't been kicked off the list...
I still need addresses for Gramma Rogers (you can email me), Libby, Theresa and Jeremy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Bohemian by default

This week, for the first time in a while, I was actually busy. I was, if you will, a woman on the go. (I miss you Barb.) I got some freelance gigs, I ran dogs a few times and yesterday I did some Christmas baking. Now, I like Christmas, don't get me wrong. But gone are the days of panicked shopping, wrapping, consuming, buying...for me at least. Again, I like Christmas but in a mellower sort of way than even just a couple years ago. I guess it was Finland that made me see that you don't need all the crap to enjoy the season. We exchanged small, mostly homemade gifts, had a sauna and ate a fine meal. We still worked, just not as much.
So yesterday, I went out with Meg (Mumpkin) and got some neat second-hand decorations as well as some funky new ones that were half-off. It's not much but it's nice and it's enough. Then Meg and I tried our hands at making Christmas candy. Some of the candy was good. Some was really, really bad. I made a spicy peanut brittle, which is good, and some hard-rock cinnamon candy, which was bad. Meg made some cheesecake bites, which were good and some truffles, which weren't as good. The cinnamon candy didn't harden (I don't have a candy thermometer) and I put too much cinnamon oil in it (on Meg's insistence) and when I tried the goopy, red candy it burned my mouth really, really bad. Meg caught the whole thing with my camera (me chugging water from the tap and then chugging milk from the jug), but the pics are a little too dark. There were some useable pics of us showing off the goods however.

Here I am with my too-hot cinnamon candy. If this doesn't put hair on your chest, nothing will. Oops.

Here's Meg's tasty cheesecake. Well done.
Here I am packaging up some peanut brittle for Kelly in Whitehorse with a special ingredient from me.

And in it goes...I'm just kidding!!! We all know Kelly's not getting any. (I didn't actually lick it, either.)Move over Martha! That, by the way, is my fake smile. The thumb's-up is real but I much prefer the high-five.

A few days ago I ran Ken's Iditarod dogs while he was away and man, it was a lot of fun. There's still no snow, so we're still training with the ATV, which is really not much fun anymore, but running teams of strong, fast race dogs made me realize how much work training the yearlings really is. The yearlings are great and it's exciting for me to see them progress but they're still young and there are minor problems are just about every run. The race dogs however, know exactly what to do and they just go. Fast. So Ken's back now and it's back to training the yearlings for me which is good but I have to prepare myself for some tangles and fights and chewed lines. If anything, I'm learning how to stay calm in stressful situations.
Today, I'm making more candy to send out for Christmas and getting ready for John's birthday party tonight and a Christmas party tomorrow night.
Tis the season.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don't try the 'I'm crazy' run-by...

Yesterday morning I was upstairs when Hazel went berserk. Now, the dogs have different barks and howls for different occasions and usually I can tell them apart. For example, Ruffles barks 'Stop it! Settle down!' when the puppies are playing too rough, which is a different from her 'Someone's here! Someone's here!' bark. The difference is subtle but there is a difference. So when a moose comes into the yard the dogs have their 'Holy crap, there's a moose!' scream/bark. This is what Hazel did yesterday morning. I went to the window but instead of seeing a big moose, I saw a bushy, red fox skulking around near Hazel's circle. The fox, which I called Mary, completely ignored the crazed, gray dog just a few metres away. No, Mary had other plans.

Just past Hazel was a big, fat raven (not my dog Raven, an actual raven) scavenging for some meat scraps near the chopping block where I, you guessed it, chop the meat for the dogs. Mary Fox crept closer then bolted toward the big raven, which cumbersomely flew to the nearest tree for cover. This made Hazel go nuts, but the other dogs couldn't see what was happening so they just sat there on stand-by waiting to burst into a frenzy. Mary sniffed around where the raven had been but then turned her attention back to the bird in the tree, which by now had squawked for backup luring several more huge ravens to the area. Mary circled the tree a couple times, tried halfheartedly to jump up in the tree, then lost interest and trotted into the woods leaving Hazel still barking and a disorder of ravens ready to defend their meat scraps.

Since the fox was gone, the ravens turned their attention to Hazel. Time went by and when I looked out again (because Hazel was suddenly silent) about six ravens had surrounded her. She tried to scare them with her bark but they sat, just out of reach, and stared at her. Eventually it must have freaked her out because she stopped barking and retreated into her house. The ravens just sat in a circle around her house. It was really creepy. Finally I let Bully and my Raven outside and they clumsily bounded into the birds sending them flying off in all directions. I haven't seen the birds since.
Wild kingdom indeed. I hope Mary comes back; she was a great source of amusement.

On a sidenote, I wanted to explain that the majority of my blog titles are song lyrics. However, sometimes titles are inside jokes or things I've heard or witnessed. In this post's case, the title is something the doorman said at the Marlin last night. A drunk woman and her man stumbled into the bar and when the doorman told them there was a cover charge, they both mumbled something inaudible and kept marching toward the bar. A guy sitting next to the doorman asked what happened, and the doorman said "He says his wife has the money, but she just did the 'I'm crazy' run-by." It was pretty funny. The doorman told the bartender not to serve them until they paid the cover charge. The woman took off into the back of the bar with the doorman in hot pursuit but the drunk guy just sat in the corner, enjoying the music and hoping not to be kicked out. Sam, being the ever generous beer drinker that he is, gave the drunk guy some beer. We left shortly after that.