Friday, March 30, 2012

My Favorite Ice Sculpture!

Playing "Ice, Ice, Baby."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Nenana Ice Classic!

When we visited Alaska in 2006, Betsy told us about the Nenana Ice Classic. Every February, the people in Nenana place a clock on the ice in the frozen river. The clock is designed so that when the ice breaks up and moves, the clock will stop. The townspeople then sell tickets for people to guess the date and exact time when the ice will break up. The winner(s) receive a portion of the jackpot.

I have been fascinated with the Ice Classic and every year we check to see when the ice breaks up. Tickets can only be purchased in Alaska, so I never thought I would be able to participate.

We were there when the tickets were being sold, however, so on our last day in Faribanks, we went to one of the local stores to purchase some tickets. I know I don't have a prayer of a chance to win, but it was fun guessing dates and times, all in support of the people of Nenana.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


One of the main reasons for going to Alaska in March, besides seeing Betsy, was to see the aurora borealis. We had been watching the aurora forecast, and the solar storms were extraordinary right before we left. So we knew we had a good chance of seeing them.

The day we left, the forecast for the aurora was high. When we were flying from Seattle, the pilot told us they were beginning to pop up in front of the plane. Unfortunately, just as Don and I were getting a chance to see them, the plane started its descent into CLOUDY Fairbanks. Susan and John, who were in Anchorage, were able to see the spectacular show, but we didn't.

On Saturday again the forecast was pretty good. We were in Chena Hot Springs by then and we signed up to take a snow cat to the top of a hill to see the aurora. The tour began at 9:30 and we were going to come home at 2:00 a.m. Long night. We arrived at the top of the hill - where it was completely dark - to see a green glow over the top of the hill. It looked like the glow of a city beyond the horizon.

The resort had a yurt at the top of the hill that was equipped with three propane heaters and some snacks. Unfortunately, not long after we arrived, the biggest propane heater went out. It had run out of propane . . . and at -20 degrees, that was not a good thing.

We went in and out, watching for the aurora. The other 20 or so people with us were Japanese and did not speak much English. Suddenly one of the Japanese men came into the yurt, said something urgently, and the entire group hustled outside. That was our cue . . . we scrambled outside also and were privy to a green and white cloud moving about in the sky. Within a few minutes it quit and went back to being rather boring.

About an hour later, I went outside to watch . . . and it was my turn to go in the yurt and send the "Hurry outside" alarm. Everyone scrambled out again to see more dancing in the sky.
Not long after it finished, we came down the hill, and by 3 a.m. we were in bed. We got to see the aurora one more time, but it wasn't as spectacular as the time in Chena Hot Springs. For those of us who live in areas where the aurora doesn't appear, it was a magnificent sight . . . and a very special evening, shared with friends.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Last year, on April 7, I took a picture of the trees in the front of our house.

On March 26, I took a similar picture.

What a difference a year makes! The redbud is going to have to be cut down because it is half dead . . . very sad! We are going to miss the pink flowers on the left side of the driveway. I have a picture of Sepia and Babs in the white petals on the driveway last year. This year, I only have Babs to take out into the "snow."

The tulips are already up and blooming, the magnolia tree is out . . . last year it hadn't started by this time, and two years ago, it was the end of April before the Magnolia bloomed.

We have to take each year as it comes, allergies, pests, heat, cold, and wind. Hoping this warm spring is not a harbinger of the summer ahead.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Guys

For the trip to Alaska, the girls decided to bring "the guys" along. I think Don is the only one who knew all of the other men, so they had to get to know each other. It didn't take long for them to bond, and soon they acted like they had known each other forever.

Several times we sent the guys out to do "guy stuff" while we went shopping, and one time, they stopped at Bar 1, which is the bar that we see every time we check the Fairbanks webcam. Here from left: John Nuttall, Tom O'Hanlon, Walt Davis.

We took this picture of the girls and the guys while at the ice carving festival. I love these two pictures . . . we just need Anne here to finish out the girls picture!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Ice Sculptures

This gorgeous sculpture was of a mythical woman; unfortunately, sometime during the festival, her head fell off.
This is the bar where a person can drink an appletini, served in a frozen ice martini glass. The seats are covered by caribou skin, to keep a person's bottom from freezing while drinking!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ice Carvings

We went to two different ice carving venues - the National Ice Carving Championships (or maybe they were the World Championships) and the Ice Castle at Chena Hot Springs.

The Chena Hot Springs carvings were inside, the Ice Castle being cooled by, as Don explained, "an absorption cooler powered geothermically." One year, the owner of Chena Hot Springs experimented with how to most successfully accomplish it, and by the next year, he and his engineers were able to keep the ice from melting. They then added lighting, and some very interesting carvings came to life.

In contrast, we saw the images at the championships outside during the day. They are lighted at night, but we were not able to go back to see them. They were gorgeous during the day, however, and they gave us a very different look. Over the next few days, I will show you a few more images from both places.

This is a wolf creeping up on a herd of musk ox. Hard to tell from this angle, but it was a very intricate sculpture.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


When we were in Alaska, I received a reminder of how much I appreciate my girlfriends.

Kathy and I were friends through elementary school, especially when we were in the same class together. Betsy and I were the same, though we weren't in the same class very often. In junior high, Betsy and I walked together to Jefferson Junior High nearly every day; in high school we carpooled with Cori Simms and Sally Bone.

In tenth grade, I found out Anne Turbett was in a biology class at the same time I was. She lived across the street from my cousin, and in my mind, she was a legend. I was so happy to meet her because we had my cousins in common. Somehow, over the next few months, we began to hang out together. Anne introduced me to Susan Howard (we played volleyball together), Kathleen Rogers joined in, and somehow the six of us formed a strong bond.

After graduation, due mostly, I think, to Kathy's and Anne's efforts and a chain letter that sometimes took a year to go around, we stayed in touch - through marriages, children, moves, school, and busy lives.

Through it all, we were there to support each other in many ways. We had each had our share of bad times, but when Betsy was found to have breast cancer, the meaning of girlfriends took on a different dimension. And that is what made me get teary-eyed in Alaska.

Hanging in Betsy's bedroom was the quilt that Kathy spearheaded us to make for Betsy. We each made a square with our hand print and a heart. Kathy quilted it and sent it to Betsy so that she could have her friends' hands and hearts wrapped around her while she healed. It is a beautiful quilt. It is an exquisite reminder of our friendship.

These ladies mean so much to me . . . and to each other. We have been there through thick and thin, and we always will be there for each other. Thanks, ladies, for enriching my life. It's been fun.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Did you know that there are many different kinds of snow with many different names? I didn't, but I do now, thanks to Matthew Sturm. Matthew is married to my friend, Betsy, who lives in Fairbanks and is one of my high school friends. Matthew is a glaciologist whose expertise is ancient snow.

Matthew has written a children's book called Apun, the Arctic Snow. He details the many kinds of snow, providing the Inupiaq names along the way, and he explains why Apun is so important not only to the Arctic people but to the world in general. It is a fascinating look at a world many of us take for granted.

We were taken for a tour into the permafrost cave in Fairbanks, where Matthew explained more to us about snow and permafrost. At the entrance to the cave, we were introduced to snow crystals that had grown beyond the size of most. It was easy to see them, and then when reading the book, it made a lot of sense.

Matthew has included a teaching guide with his book. Youngsters will get a kick out of studying snow, and who knows? Maybe they, too, would become glaciologists like Matthew did.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bad Hair Days!

One thing I have learned about Alaska is that it is a perpetual bad hair day for me. When we were there in the summer, it rained the entire time, so my hair was flattened to my head, straight as straight could be. In the winter, I always had to put a hat on.

When I would take off my hat, either static electricity caused me to look like I had put my finger in a socket, or it was totally out of shape. Either way, it was bad, bad, bad.

If we weren't wearing a warm hat, we might have worn a hard hat, such as when we were touring a permafrost tunnel. Same problem. Bad, bad, bad.

This is the best it got . . . on the last day, when the hat was packed, and I used a lot of hair spray. Once in eight days, and even then, it wasn't great. Pitiful.

Either way, I was the only one of the 5 of us whose hair was always a wreck. Good thing we took many pictures outside!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Chena Hot Springs

Betsy had suggested that we visit Chena Hot Springs for a day, so on Saturday, we drove the 50 miles to get there. It was a lovely ride, and we saw some moose, both coming and going. The complex is at the end of the road, literally, and it is quite large, with several substantial log-cabin hotels.

It was about 2 degrees when we arrived . . . it was SO cold. (Later in the day, Don took this picture . . . -5 and going down!)

After we checked in, we went to the hot springs. We had to put on our swim suits, take a shower, and then go out in the 2 degree air to get to the pool. I, of course, left my flip flops in the room, so I had to walk the 100 feet or so in my bare feet. BRRR. But once we got in the water, all was ok. It was about 106 degrees . . . and hotter in places.

The steam was very thick, so sometimes we would lose each other in the fog. Soon our hair was totally white, caused by the steam turning to ice. Within about 30 minutes, I was so hot, I couldn't wait to get out. I sat on some rocks for awhile to cool down, then got dressed. It was really nice walking back to the room in 0 degree weather. Imagine that!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby!

It appears as if Fairbanks is the ice carving capital of the world, if ice statuary is any indication. While we were there, they were hosting the World Ice Carving championships. Throughout the city, we saw ice statues, and at Chena Hot Springs, we visited the ice carving museum. At night, statues throughout the city had special lighting that made them glisten in the snow.

The statues take an extraordinary amount of time and effort to carve, all to melt in the sun at a later date. The winning sculpture at the Fairbanks festival included an amazing porcupine. Inconceivable how the man managed to carve the spines.

I will be posting random ice sculptures throughout my next few blogs, as we found them amazing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


One of the first activities in Fairbanks was to go to the North American Dog Sled races. The day was actually more than just dog sledding. We learned about caring for the dogs, training them, and what it takes to make a good race dog. Then the competition began with ski joering, which in Alaska involves a person skiing, being pulled by dogs. Some skiers have one dog pull them; some have up to three. And the dogs are fast . . . very fast . . . so the skier must like speed. The skiers went about 4 miles in thirteen minutes or so . . .

Then we watched the dog sledding. First was the four-dog race and then the six-dog race. Again, they went about 4 miles. The Iditarod dogs trot about four miles an hour; these guys go about 12 miles an hour. And they can't wait to run!

When we were at Chena Hot Springs, Don and I decided we needed to go dog sledding. Although the course was very short, we got to see what it was like, how they train the dogs, and what it was like riding in a dog sled. Here we are below in a 12-dog sled. Fun experience.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Girls

It was time for another girl trip . . . though this time we invited the guys, too!

Last August at our high school reunion, we decided to go see Betsy in Alaska . . . in March. Although Anne couldn't join us, the rest of us and our men headed North to Alaska. When we arrived, Fairbanks was in the throes of a rather cold spell . . . nights at - 20, day highs of 2. There were also some sun storms that were erupting that we thought would develop into beautiful auroras. They did . . . but more on that later.

First, the girls. We arrived from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and California. Everyone's flights were on time; we all had adequate cold-weather gear; the hotel was awesome! For $75 a night, we were all together on the same floor, each of us with a kitchen, eating area, bathroom, large living area (we got all 9 of us in it multiple times), and a large bedroom with walk-in closet. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. It was a great place from which to stage all of our activities. Here is a picture the first night we were all together.

Between three of us we have over 100 years of marriage (39 years, 36 years, and 35 years). Two of us are officially retired; three of us are in the medical field; two (+ one husband) are in some form of the education field. Three of us are quilters; several are also into jewelry, sewing, and crafts. (I like that stuff, but I am not very good at it.) I am the lone failure in the shopping department, but it is fun being with everyone.

We have nearly 60 years of friendship for three of us; 40+ years for the rest. Great times!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daylight Savings Time

I love daylight savings time. I love the longer days of the spring and summer, and the cooler mornings in the summer are more easily enjoyed.

That being said, I don't like having daylight savings time begin in early March. I hate walking in the dark, and it has just been getting light at 6:00 a.m. Now, I have to go back to walking in the dark. Depressing.

It won't be long of course before it is light again, and the weather will be better; but for the next few weeks, I will be hating daylight savings time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Follow the Directions!

Several days ago, I was going to make salted fudge brownies for a friend's birthday. I began to melt the butter and chocolate, and as it was melting, it began to boil. I questioned continuing on, but surely it wouldn't matter, would it? I added the dry ingredients, and when I put it in the pan, it seemed a little more greasy than usual. Hmmm. Should I cook it? Sure.

By the time 35 minutes had passed, I could tell something wasn't right. Although the brownies were done, there was a layer of butter on top. Yuck. I put it in the refrigerator, hoping that it would change the brownies. The next morning, I asked Don to taste them, since I have given up sweets for Lent. When I came home from walking, Don advised me not to take the brownies to my friend . . . unless I didn't want that person as a friend anymore.

So . . . I threw them out. I wondered if the boiled butter made a difference, but I didn't know . . . until Thursday night. I was sitting next to Beth Tully, the founder of Cocoa Dolce. I asked her about boiling butter . . . and she said that was definitely the problem. Butter separates when boiling and it doesn't cook right. So now I know. When the recipe says melt over low heat . . . follow the directions!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

PattySue's Effect

On Monday we had the privilege of reading PattySue Finds a Home to several groups of preschool children at Discovery Place. It was a delightful morning, made even better by a letter received today from Dene Nelson, the director of Discovery. In it she told me that one of the students was so excited about the story, he went home and adamantly insisted that his mom take him to the Humane Society to get a dog.

Kudos to his mother that she didn't brush him off. And now their family owns a brand new rat terrier puppy that is a cute as can be . . . and as lucky as can be.

Nothing is better than seeing the effect our book can have on the rescue dog programs.

Hurrah for Discovery Place and PattySue.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Well, That Was Easy!

I was all prepared this morning for the dentist to work on my crown. I had talked myself into novocaine (I hate that stuff and will get small cavities filled without it . . . that's how much I hate it). I just knew he was going to have to take a mold, I would have a temporary crown for a few weeks, he was going to have to grind and grind . . . yuk. But I was ready.

Instead, they looked at the crown, cleaned it out a bit, cleaned a little around my tooth, put on the adhesive, and stuck it back on. Wow. That was a breeze.

It was a great way to start the day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

There are Crowns and there are Crowns

I think every little girl at some time or other dreams of wearing a crown, either in tiara form or real queenly form. And then as she grows up, she realizes her chances are not too great that she will ever wear a real one . . . unless it is on her tooth.

Which explains why I am thinking about crowns today. While at lunch with Pam, Lynn, Pam and Lindsay, I felt something weird in my mouth. My crown had fallen off one of my back teeth. Boo Hiss!

Luckily, I didn't swallow the crown, I didn't choke on it, I didn't bite it, nor did I drop it. Also, enough adhesive stayed on my tooth that it isn't very sensitive. So I put the crown safely in my pocket, called the dentist, and tomorrow, if I am lucky, it will be glued right back where it belongs.

Unfortunately, that is the only kind of crown that I will ever have. It's sad, but in many ways, that kind of crown is far more useful than a pretty one covered with jewels. I guess it just fits my pragmatic style.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Did You Know This About Panther Basketball?

For the second time in school history, the Independent School Panthers are vying for a spot in the State Basketball Tournament. In honor of their accomplishment, I thought I would mention a few things that some probably did not know about the basketball program at TIS:

  • The first team in 1994 was composed of eighth- and ninth-graders, some of whom had never played basketball before;
  • In 1997-98 the School was able to field a varsity and junior varsity team;
  • The 1998 game in the 1A semi-final regionals in Dexter, KS, was a triple-overtime loss to Flint Hills that landed both teams in the Kansas State High School Basketball record book for setting at least two state records, which as of 2010, still stood;
  • Until this year, the only time the school made it to the regional championships was in 2003/04, when Danny Hawkins was the coach and the boys lost by one basket . . . crushing. The girls also made it to the championship, but they, too, lost the game;
  • One year when we did not have a pep band, a rock band, Slinger, composed of Mike Wood, Andrew McCracken, and Lee Thompson played during the games.
I hope this year's team can be the first to make it to the State tournament. It would be an awesome time for The Independent School!

To learn more about The Independent School and its history, including the growth of basketball and other sports, my book A School Like No Other can be ordered at

Thursday, March 1, 2012