Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Goodbye, Old Friend

When I decided to go back to work after having Zoey, I wanted something that had very flexible hours. I also wanted a less stressful job than working for the legislature, being a finance manager or any number of other intense (but interesting) jobs I have held over the years. Basically, I wanted to go to work, do a good job, be around adults and clock out. I did not want my boss to call me up at 11 pm and have me write a press release. I did not want to go to capital budget meetings that went until 2 am.

So, I went to work for the local airline. I got a job with flexibility and flight benefits...WooHoot! I found an interesting niche there in cargo dealing with planning cargo payload. It is never boring. I help folks get what they need where they need it, hopefully when they need it. Sounds simple, usually is not too complicated. It does require some simple math, but mostly clear, concise communication skills and split second decision making, and ability to talk on the radio and the phone at the same time. These birds have to fly on time.

For nine years I have helped folks in bush Alaska get their milk, food, beer, sled dogs, building materials, diapers, pretty much whatever you can imagine. I have shipped millions of pounds of Copper River red salmon, halibut, live horses, alpacas and goats. And I have done it all on the Boeing 737-200 QC. The QC is for quick change. This aircraft can be configured for 100 people to no people, and anything in between, in less than 15 minutes. Once you move the seats out that you do not need, you load up the igloos of freight. These babies are fast and efficient. They are also forgiving and can land on short runways, gravel and ice. Interesting and useful up here.

This is their last week. We are phasing them out and I am finding myself so sad. I never thought I would become so attached to an aircraft. Sigh.... They are being replaced with fixed configuration 737-400s, but they are not the same. Apparently, I am not the only one sad about their demise. I heard a radio program this morning where a pilot recorded a story about these planes retiring. I cried listening to it. My children think I have gone around the bend, but I feel like I am losing a trusted friend. So, goodbye old pal, I will miss you.

If you would like to listen to the AK Radio program, click podcast look for the 3/24/2007 program titled "The Office."


Girdwood is about 33 miles east of my house. We have to head a little south first and then east. The highway is way improved since we were kids. It used to be a hairy death ride along avalanche prone slopes with the tidal waters of Turnagain Arm to break your fall. YIKES! It is so much safer now and it is gorgeous. One evening we drove down for dinner. On our way home we enjoyed the scenery, looking at the tide coming up the arm and the big blocks of saltwater ice moving with it. I always marvel that the beluga whale can navigate this skinny, shallow fjord with it's huge tidal changes. We were heading due west and enjoying the lovely sunset. We could see the Alaska Range across Cook Inlet. When we turned just enough north we could see Mt. Spurr and it was STEAMING! WOW! So, I tried to catch the steam plume for you out the window of a moving truck on a skinny highway. I hope you enjoy.

And in case you want a more up close and personal view here is the webcam for Mt. Spurr.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring Break

Last week was spring break here. Zoey gets some time off from her schooling. We still slip some stuff in that is educational and challenging, but we do not call it school! Tom gets a break from teaching and coaching. And I get to spend some time with my whole family. Tom and I work fairly opposite shifts so that I can homeschool and yet still work outside the home. It can get old sometimes, but we both keep our eyes on the prize. We love educating the kids. It also makes breaks like this pretty precious.

This break we had the extra challenge of Zoey's heel. She has to rest it and stay off it and when she does use it, wear this ugly black shoe-enstien. I think it is getting better, but we have to be patient. There were no ski turns made by either she nor I, not nordic not alpine. YUCK! I knew this waiting and resting thing would get old for Zoey, but I had no idea how much she would bounce off the walls. I did not know how much it would impact me, too. Ohhh my goodness!!!!!!

So, we did a lot of bird watching and waiting. We sketched birds and we fed birds. Zoey loves the elusive boreal chickadee and did some good sketching. We also made a new batch of suet dough. Vivi helped, too.

We even drove down to Girdwood for dinner. The drive home was lovely. I'll tell you more about that in another post. I loved how both the girls pretty much moved into the kitchen sink for hours on end, just to watch the action at the feeders.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bunny Love

The snow shoe hares are mad about the suet dough. All of these pictures are taken from the kitchen window. It really makes doing dishes a lot more enjoyable.

Does this remind anyone else of a chincilla?

Look at those big feet, just made for moving across the snow. Can the lynx be far behind?

Going Green

We had a fun time on St. Patrick's Day. Our friends, Kristina and David, threw a fun party. They have daughters close to our girls and the girls get along exceedingly well. I love the enthusiasm with which the kids embrace the green code of the day. Behold Vivi's choice for going green, her fabulous leg warmers.

Disapproving Chickadee

So, ma'am, how close are you going to get? I really do not want to move and go back out into the 40 mph wind. It is so cozy here and I am close to the suet. Yum. Now, run along and get into the moving boxy thingy and let me be!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spot the Bunnies

Yup! There are two snowshoe hares in that picture!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Seeds, Yummy!

Seeds are yummy! (all these pictures are clickable and some are even worth seeing a bit larger)

Someday I will be able to leave my home and show you picutres from around the neighborhood. Right now the wind is blowing from the north. The only place with colder wind chill numbers yesterday than Glen Alps was Thompson Pass and Cantwell. Now, that is saying something. Also, Vivi has been miserable with something that makes her cranky, stuffy and fevery. Lovely. I love having vacation! Seriously, this is my week of vacation. I will quit whining now.

There have been some great things about this week. Our little feeding center outside the kitchen window has proved to be an awesome and creative source of procrastination and fascination. I got to spin up some gorgeous merino wool that I have had since the fall. Here are some tidbits from yesterday.

Henry loves bird watching. He is so distracted he doesn't mind that his tail is in the dishwater. What a goof!

I think he can eat that seed. It's a big bite.

Look at this gorgeous red head!

And this dashing red breast. My, you are handsome!

Some soft merino with only one place I could find that was totally over-spun. YIPPY!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Big Sister

I loved having a big sister when I was little. My sisters taught me how to tie my shoe, they taught me how to multiply by nines, and how to get along with others. Zoey and Vivi squabble and that four-year-old really knows how to get her sister's goat. However, Zoey is an awesome big sister.

Last night was Vivi's first official swim lesson. She was nervous, she told me so. Her instructor, Alex, is a nice young man, but he could not get Vivi to stop clingiing or not be afraid. Tom and I were sitting on the side of the pool, trying not to be typeA micromanagement parents. Zoey could not stand it anymore. She walked up to the side of the pool, and talked her sister into having a more relaxed attitude and a good time. I wish I could have that effect. Zoey is just so unwaveringly positive. She amazes me everyday.

By the end of that lesson, Vivi was smiling, kicking her feet, putting her ear on the water, and not holding Alex in a death grip. I know Alex was doing a fine job, he was silly and reassuring (Vivi told me so), but I am not sure he would have gotten as far without Zoey's pep talk.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Teetiny Bit of New Snow

It was so nice to have just a teetiny bit of new snow to freshen up the landscape. Our old snow was rotten and icy. It was also covered in road pucky or dust. It looked like a volcano had spewed ash all over Anchorage. Yuck! Today dawned with a bit of sunshine and fresh snow. We also got some treats at the feeder. We got our first two boreal chickadees and a grey jay. The grey jay was HUGE after watching the chickadees at the suet feeder. That bird looked like a giant.

I also saw a female pine grosbeak at the seed feeder. She was too funny. She dwarfed the feeder and tried to keep all other birds at bay. Until today I had only seen the grosbeaks ground feeding.

Nice beat down, Ms. Grosbeak.

Vivi and Mick

On Tuesday this week our local public TV station had a BBC production from the '60s on with the Who, Jethro Tull, Stones and other characters from the time. A baby Mick Jagger was singing, he was cute and not all gnarled. Vivi turned to us and petulantly pluncked herself down on the couch, glowering. I asked what was the matter, she replied "I don't like this song! He says you can't get what you want. I don't like that!" This is so how Vivi rolls.

I saw her today at a reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she would meet her connection
At her feet was her footloose man

No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

Saturday, March 03, 2007

North Wind

The north wind has been blowing for days. It has been holding steady at 17 mph with gusts as high as 47 mph. Brrr!!! This is with air temps below zero in the evenings to single digits above in the day. The snow is rotten and crusty. Dust is flying everywhere. I am ready for green things and fresh smells. I am ready for a little more humidity. In this wind some hardy or naive (not sure which) redpolls try to hang on the feeder and get some seed. They look like they are on a fair ride. Maybe they like it? Others go to ground. That has been interesitng, the jockeying for position is more subtle when the seed and suet dough is spread out.

The magpies when they come in, usually bring several friends and they scare away the smaller birds. They are so vocal. This one I could see him calling to his buddies and watch his breath steam. I always think they should have little fedoras on and be carrying briefcases.

Zoey, Vivi and I made a cool discovery this week. Not only do redpolls, pine grosbeaks, magpies, black-capped chickadees, and squirrels like the suet dough, so do snow shoe hare! I love how their coat perfectly mimics the rotten dirty snow of this time of year. I figure we have about a month before Brother Bear wants his share. Then the feeders will have to come down and all seed will have to be GONE! The blackies really, really want the seed.