Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No Place I'd Rather Be

If you have been following my blog with any regularity, you know that last summer was pretty excrutiating for me. Considering that I'm a California girl, I was not prepared for overcast skies and temperatures below 70 all summer long. Of course, everyone around here was quick to say that our summer was abnormally cold. I wasn't buying any of it! All I know is that I needed sunshine desperately and I didn't get it.

At the risk of jinxing the rest of our spring and summer, let's fast forward to today, April 29. Already, we have had more amazing, sunny, warm (temps in the 50s) days than we had all last summer. I am LOVING it! Aside from the fact that our family and close friends are thousands of miles away, there is no place I would rather be on days like this. There is something breathtakingly spectacular about Alaska when the sun is shining. I can honestly say, that I would take a sunny day in the 60s, here in Alaska over a California day in the 90s or 100s anytime.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Rumblings

Although Mount Redoubt Volcano hasn't been in the news much in the last month, we are still seeing activity. Today, I was coming home from running errands and saw a ton of cars pulled off on the side of the highway. I thought maybe there was an accident and a car had gone over the guardrail. I saw a friend of mine on the side of the road and called her cell to see what the commotion was. There wasn't an accident, Mount Redoubt had a massive steam cloud above it, it was very clear across the inlet, and the view was magnificent. Everyone had pulled over to take pictures!

I ran home to grab my camera and instead of heading back to the highway, I walked down our street. Unfortunately, Eric is in Adak and has our better camera with him, but my picture will give you an idea of what I could see.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's All About Kaiden

Several days ago, Kaiden decided I should post a video of him doing some yoyo tricks. I tried to put the video on, but for some reason I kept getting an error message. Yesterday, I had Kaiden do another performance for me, so I could try my luck again. When he was finished, he decided that I should do a whole blog post about him and it should include pictures of some of his free-hand drawings. Kaiden is far more talented than I could ever hope to be, so how could I decline?

Without further ado, here is a short video of our yoyo maniac:

If you are at all familiar with Sponge Bob, you should have no problem recognizing these guys:

Here is an anime guy and a little Calvin and Hobbs:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It's Officially Shorts Weather

My theory with regard to the gym is to get in and get out as quickly as possible, with as little fuss as possible. Although we belong to a rather "she-she" gym and it would not be frightening to shower there, that is not my thing. I just don't see the beauty of having to pack up my hair, make-up supplies, and clothes all in the name of using the shower at the gym rather than the shower at my house. Furthermore, chances are I would forget something at home or the outfit I packed would not be the outfit of choice once it was on my body. Showering at the gym just isn't for me.

I believe in arriving at the gym in my workout clothes and leaving the gym in my workout clothes. Today, I decided to be wild and crazy and opted to wear shorts to exercise in. It really isn't a big deal for me to wear shorts when I workout, regardless of how cold it is outside, because I just hot-foot it from the car into the gym and I don't even have time to get cold. It was about 30 degrees this morning and as I walked past the front desk of the gym, in my shorts, I noticed a gentleman casually looking at me. He wasn't checking me out. His stare made me think that he was baffled by something. He then commented to me that I must be a "real Alaskan" because I am able to come in from outside, wearing shorts. I chuckled and explained that I an Alaskan I am not, and that I am actually from California. Go figure!

By the time I had arrived back home, it was about 40 degrees out. I showered and had to get ready to meet a few girlfriends for lunch. As I was picking out my outfit, I decided that if I wore shorts today, maybe I could convince myself and everyone around me that Spring is in fact here. I put on a blouse, a pair of shorts, a jacket, my sunglasses, some flip-flops and was out the door! Today, my friends, was the perfect day (or should I say "few hours") for shorts. Now, I guess the only thing left to do is get my toes painted. Maybe this weekend!

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Live For This

Today was probably the best day I have had since moving to Alaska almost a year and a half ago. There has been nothing overly spectacular about today, however, I have felt downright giddy at times. After a bit of contemplation and a little time spent on the treadmill, I now know why today is so great...the sun is shining brightly, it is 40 degrees outside for the first time in I don't know how many months, I went shopping at our brand spankin' new (one and only) Kohls today, and the baseball season is officially under way! I ask you, what's not to love about a day like today?

As you could have guesssed, the highlight of my day was exploring our brand new Kohls store. It opened April 1, but I wasn't crazy enough to venture over to it until yesterday. I had Eric and the kids in tow, so I knew that if I really wanted to look around and appreciate all that is Kohls, I would have to go back on my own, today. It is in the same shopping center as Target, so it's a little haul from here, but so worth it. We have so few shopping options that any new chain store is a welcome sight. Our Kohls is like any other Kohls you might find in the Lower 48, but I think it may be just a tad bigger. Although I would love to have the store a little closer to our house, the good news is that a little distance keeps the spending under control.

The second best thing about today was the weather. Although we do have a slight chance of snow/rain showers in the forecast over the next few days, dare I say, Spring is finally here! We may even see 45 degrees by Wednesday. I am so excited by the notion of sunshine and a little warmth that I can hardly contain myself! I have come to believe that you can't really appreciate 70, 80, and 90 degree temperatures until you have experienced months of temperatures in the 30s and below. I do have to admit though, that I don't think I'll ever appreciate temperatures in the 100s. Once is gets above 90, it's just too hot for me! I suppose I won't have to worry about that, as long as we are living in Alaska. For now, I'll continue to pray for temperatures in the 70s.

The final highlight of my day was the opening of the 2009 baseball season. I was especially happy because the Yankees were losing to the Orioles while I was watching the game at the gym. I love baseball, especially the Angels. For the record, I am not a "bandwagoner" either. I grew up down the street from Anaheim stadium and have been a fan since I was young. As a matter of fact, one of the first places I remember being able to go without a parent chaperone was to the ballpark. My friend's parents had season tickets and many summer afternoons our parents would drop up us before and pick us up after the games. That was back in the days of Reggie Jackson, Brian Downing, and Bobby Grich. WOW! Later, after I had children, I spent 7 baseball seasons working almost every home game that was played at the stadium, waitressing in the seats for the season ticket holders. What a crazy, but fun and lucrative experience. Thanks to that job, I scored some the of the best seats in the house (while working, of course) to every play-off and World Series game the Angels played during those years. I will never forget the sounds of the ballpark when the Angels won the World Series. GO HALOS!!!!!!!

What a day...I live for this!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cooking up Controversy

Now that we are quite settled in Alaska, I find myself with a little more time on my hands than I have before. In an attempt to stay out of the work force, but to actually stay sane while staying at home, I have decided recently that maybe it's time I actually learn how to cook. Don't get me wrong, I cook enough to get by and I haven't killed anyone or made anyone sick with my cooking (at least nobody has had the heart to tell me I have). I would, however, like to step out of my cooking comfort zone. I would like to make my own spaghetti sauce, rather than always use the jar stuff. I would like to make my own meatballs, not just purchase Costco's frozen ones. You get the picture.

The first step for me, was to find a cookbook that "spoke" to me. Over the past year and a half, I have not tried to hide my obsession with The Biggest Loser from all of you. I love that darn show and have blogged about it more than once. So, it seemed natural that I would gravitate to their series of cookbooks. I wasn't necessarily looking for a weight loss cookbook, but rather, a cookbook that had variety (I'm tired of making the same 5 meals), lower calorie, filling, easy to prepare meals. The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook fit that bill, so I bought it.

Excited by the recipes, and anxious to get moving on them before I lost my desire, I decided I would make spaghetti and meatballs. I went to Costco with my list of necessities and wouldn't you know, I ran into a friend of mine. I was so excited about my new venture that I shared with her that I was making homemade meatballs and sauce from a recipe that I had gotten out of The Biggest Loser Cookbook. In my mind, I was saying, "I got a great new cookbook and I'm excited to try this super easy recipe that sounds yummy". From my friend's reaction, I could tell that she heard, "I think I need to lose weight, so I bought The Biggest Loser Cookbook and now I'm going to try a few of the recipes". She proceeded to give me a hard time and to gently admonish me as to why I don't need to lose weight.

After Costco, I headed to our local grocery store to purchase the items I would need in smaller quantaties. I still had to pick up a few ingredients to complete my recipe, but didn't have them written down. I grabbed my cookbook for reference and took it into the store with me. As luck would have it, I ran into another friend (also a friend of the gal I ran into in Costco). I didn't say a word about my cookbook, nor did I hide it. Sure enough, my friend honed in on the fact that I had The Biggest Loser Cookbook in my cart and she too, started giving me grief!

I do admit that like many women, I wouldn't be disappointed if I lost about 8 pounds, but that really wasn't the point of my cookbook selection. I had no idea my cookbook would create so much controversy. I suppose I should be flattered that my gilfriends think I look great as I am, but this was really just about me learning how to do something new and being somewhat health conscious in the process. It wasn't about me feeling like I NEED to lose weight.

I am proud to say that I have already made meatballs, spaghetti sauce, peppered chop steak, chicken parmesan, Tex-Mex mini frittatas, and a variety of quick, easy, and healthy lunches and snacks. Everything has been delicious, it has all been new stuff for me, and I have made it ALL BY MYSELF! I am pleased to say that we have all had plenty to eat everyday (3 meals and 2 snacks + dessert some nights and even a little libation here and there) and the kids have even liked most of it. Big deal if we end up losing a few pounds in the process!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Burn Baby Burn

As many of you know first hand, or can imagine, part of growing up in California can mean lots and lots of sun exposure. Not only sunny days, but also sun burns. I have to admit, I have had more than my fair share of sunburns. Not only am I fair skinned, but quite honestly, I was plain dumb as a kid. In my defense, when I was growing up, skin cancer was just starting to become the buzz. Also, there were times when I would use sunscreen, but who knew you were supposed to reapply?

The worst sunburn I have ever had, I got on a beautiful, sunny, April Day, while on the ski slopes of So. Cal. I was in my early 20s and had no idea that I could get a burn from the sun's reflection off of the snow. My face ended up swelling to the point that I looked almost like I had Down's Syndrome! After the swelling had persisted for several days, I finally went the doctor and he told me I had second degree burns on my face!

Needless to say, I have not had a sunburn in about 15 years and to date, my children have NEVER had a sunburn. For me, that burn was a huge wake up call. My burn was so bad that when I walked out of that doctor's office I knew that I would have to pay attention to my skin for the rest of my life. For many years now, I have been hyper-vigilant in paying attention to my skin and my husband's with regard to moles and any random small changes in appearance. Well, some time in November or December, I noticed a new little spot, the size of a mole, had developed on my right temple. I waited to see if it would go away and it did not, so I made an appointment to see our local "it" dermatologist. In Alaska, when it comes to health care, there are only a handful of specialist type caregivers. The few we have are either top notch or ones you wouldn't send your worst enemy to. There are not many who fall in the middle, so you want the "it" doctors when it comes to the serious stuff and often, there is quite a wait.

The earliest the dermo. could see me was late January. I made the appointment, but unfortunately, had to cancel at the last minute. I rescheduled, but I couldn't be seen until mid-March, so I waited.....When I was seen in March, the doctor took two biopsies, one from the spot on my temple and one from a spot on my lower calf. The office called with the result of the biopsies this past Monday and I was informed that the one on my leg was benign, but that the one on my temple was in fact "cancerous". The good news was, this type of skin cancer is only superficial and it will not infiltrate my body. Obviously though, it did need to be removed.
Generally, the doctor is booked out 4-6 weeks, but they happened to have a cancellation for this morning at 7:15, YIKES! I took the appointment, of course. I didn't think it was appropriate to wait 4-6 weeks because I needed my beauty sleep, although I'm sure I could have justified it.

A few of my girlfriends questioned if I was nervous, considering the doctor was going to be cutting my face. I told them I wasn't, mainly because I didn't see that I had a choice. I have some form of skin cancer (they told me what it is, but I didn't write it down) that needs to be removed and I am seeing "the" dermatologist in Alaska. What other option did I have than to lay on his operating table and take it like a real woman? Then, as I'm laying there, waiting for the procedure to begin, the doctor casually mentions to me that the "spot" is near a nerve and that there is a very small possibility that the nerve would be damaged during the surgery and that I would lose the ability to raise my right eyebrow. GREAT, just a minor detail! What the hell was I going to do now? I thought about jumping off the table and running out the door, but then the rational part of my brain took over. I reminded myself that I was being treated by the only dermatologist in Alaska that I would want to go to, therfore, I really didn't have any other choice. I sat there and took it like the woman I am.

Of course, Eric joked with me on the way out of the house that I was going to return looking like Frankenstein! I laughed at his comment, until I was given a mirror to check out the "incision". An incision was the doctor's polite way of say "gaping hole". Although the hole was only about the diameter of a pencil eraser, it was about as deep as one too. I was shocked! In my mind, he was just going to scrape the spot. I didn't know he was actually going to need a shovel to dig out the spot. He did stitch me up nicely though, and I'm sure the scar will heal just fine. Plus, it's sort of in my hairline, so it isn't that big of a deal.

You should see how big the dressing is that they put on me! It really seems dramatic and RIDICULOUS! I cracked up when I looked into the mirror post-surgery, just as I was getting ready to walk into Bed Bath and Beyond. I thought I might scare everyone away, but I opted to go in regardless. For the record, the cashiers were very polite and did their best not to stare.

The moral of all of this is...although my situation was best case scenario and things could have been far more serious (and I'm honestly not freaked out by it), but this kind of stuff doesn't just happen to "other people". It is important for us all to pay attention to our body. I was told today that there is a less than 1% chance that "cancer" will develop in the same spot again, but now that I've had it, there is a 30% chance that I will have more spots down the road. They said to keep an eye out for any new spots or sores (ie: a pimple) that don't heal within a few weeks and for now, I have to go back for check-ups every 6 months. The upside is, I noticed this spot early and on my own, so I'm doing my job!