Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Time to Vacate

No, nothing disastrous, just going away for a few weeks. But most (if not all) of you who read this know that : ) I may get a chance to post, I may not. I'll have blog fodder, as I'm traveling with my kids to their grandparents' house in eastern Washington and then to visit a friend for a few days. I KNOW that will generate at least one or two posts.

What are you up to this summer? Comment and share amongst yourselves.

Ciao for now!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Story from Around the Campfire

This past week, my kids attended a science day camp put on by the Prince William Sound Science Center. I was enlisted to be a canoeist on Wednesday, the first time I'd canoed It was an easy trip, and while fun, too uneventful to be blog-worthy : )

On Thursday night, I was also one of three adults who stayed in a cabin with the 16 kids. Yeah. LOTS of controlled chaos when there wasn't a planned activity. But the kids were well behaved, got along, and generally made the task of keeping an eye on them quite easy. Again, nothing really blog-worthy comes to mind.

Then we settled in for the night and began reading stories. The councilor kept them humorous rather than scary, as she didn't want anyone waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares. I appreciated it, since my youngest is in the "Everything that I hear about is real!!!" stage of her grand imagination. But one story made me chuckle. I'm going to retell it here with a slight modification provided by my oldest. I don't know who the author is, but I do appreciate their sense of humor. Here it goes:

A hiker became lost in the mountains and wandered for days and days. On the brink of exhaustion and weak from hunger, he came upon a small village. There, he found an inn. The proprietor took him in and fed him the specialty of the house.

"These are the best fish and chips I've ever tasted," said the hiker. "How do you make them?"

"They are from the monastery down near the river," said the innkeeper. "If you like them so much, you should tell them on your way back to the city."

"I'll do that," said the hiker.

After he was rested and fed, the hiker made his way to the monastery. He knocked on the door and an old monk in rough-spun robes answered.

"Yes, my son?" he asked.

"I just came from the village. The proprietor at the inn said the meal I ate was made here." The hiker grinned. "Are you the fish friar?"

"No," said the older man, "I'm the chip monk."

OK, so it made a bunch of 8-11 year-olds and 3 tired adults chuckle.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Adventures in Shopping

Here in the semi-far north, we take our shopping seriously. Not because we have an array of New York-style boutiques or shops that offer a world of food items or the latest in fashion or design. No, we take it seriously because it's such a pain in patootey. And usually a bigger pain in the wallet. I'm not talking specialty items here, folks. Just plain old groceries and other everyday products.

Limited, to put it mildly. There are two (count 'em! two!) grocery stores in my town, one locally owned and the other an Alaska fixture for the last century or so (the chain, not necessarily the actual building). Between the two, I can usually find the brand of coffee creamer or whatever I prefer, depending on who got their shipment in most recently. Generally, I settle for what they have on the shelves. I may have a choice of two or three brands. Maybe. And our town is lucky compared to small villages in the state. The produce has to travel so dang far, it's a wonder the tomatoes arrive as whole fruit and not sauce. Oh, non-food items? Well, I can buy a package of underwear at the one store, but I haven't found a place to purchase shoes other than at the local Salvation Army. Rubber boots, yes, but not regular everyday shoes. And forget anything that might be considered dressy.

Oy. When you're paying almost $7 for a gallon of milk, the thought of having a cow or goat in the yard sounds real good. Except for the potential draw of a local bear. We'd probably get fined for baiting wildlife. Gas? Closer to $5 a gallon than I like to see. (Which is ironic, considering the oil from which the gas is produced is pumped out in our proverbial backyard. Luckily, we have few roads and hubby tends to walk to work. But heating fuel and electricity prices get us.) An inexpensive loaf of "wheat" bread is $1.60. If you want something with a bit of fiber in it, expect to pay $4 or more. Shampoo that is $2 in most places is $4 or so here. A canister of ground coffee is also about twice the price. What's funny is that a cup of designer coffee (ie: a latte or whatnot brewed and served at by a local barrista) is about the same price in other locations I've visited. Can someone explain that?

How do we thwart the cost of living and increase our choices? Well, there's the Internet. This option gives you unbelievable choices, but you'll pay for shipping in the end. A friend once wanted to order a small piece of furniture but the shipping cost alone was twice the price of the item. Um, no thank you.

Though we will purchase things online, more often than not we go to the City. Anchorage, in this case. But to do so is not a spur of the moment activity. Not by a long shot. First off, you can't drive there from here. Nor can you fly to Anchorage and do a lot of shopping because of airline baggage restrictions and costs. It's doable, but not cost effective. No. To get to Anchorage for a BIG shopping trip, one must check out the Alaska Marine Highway ferry schedule and coordinate it with other aspects of life. If you're lucky, you can get on the fast ferry, which only takes 3 hours one way to get to the road system. That schedule not so convenient or the fast ferry is full? Well, you can expect to travel for 6-12 hours one way before reaching the roads. There is limited space for vehicles, so reserve your spot early.

Our most recent trip on the fast ferry (which doesn't run in the winter) had us leaving on a Saturday morning and returning on Tuesday afternoon. In between, we visited friends in our old town before trundling up to Anchorage to shop. An easy, relaxed trip for us. In January, we were limited to the 12 hour ferry. We left home after midnight on a Friday, arrived in Whittier (the town on the road system) Saturday afternoon, drove the hour to Anchorage, shopped our brains out, over-nighted at a hotel, then returned to Whittier to catch the Sunday 1pm ferry back. Whew! It got us home at 1am Monday morning. The kids didn't go to school that day.

We typically drop $900 or so on groceries at one of the Anchorage warehouse stores, as well as a couple hundred more at a regular grocery store if we can't find certain items. These trips keep us in canned goods and such for 4 months. We buy things that don't travel well or we use quickly (bread, milk--though we buy it in Anchorage and freeze it--butter and cheese, for example) from the local outfits when we need to.

On the plus side, there is no other place I know of that while making the journey to your shopping destination you can take in gorgeous scenery and watch humpback whales breaching as you kick back and let someone else drive. In the end, I'll take THAT over access to a pair of kicky shoes any day.