Who says we are behind the trend?

August 20, 2015

If there is a new trend out there in the “Lower ’48”, we who live here joke that it will take about 3 to 5 years to catch on here. It is an often stated excuse for Alaskans for being behind the times.

Finally we have been vindicated. We are AHEAD of the times in one area: coffee! Check out this article in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/18/biggest-coffee-snobs-america-alaska-not-seattle?CMP=share_btn_tw. I think my favorite line is “the most caffeinated place in the country.” Do you think we need/deserve it in Alaska?

ACRC's two ordering stations

Customers lined up inside (and out) waiting to order specialty coffee

Being a coffee lover myself (hopefully not a snob), I am thrilled. I have a collection in my wallet of a punch card for almost every coffee stand there is in Fairbanks. Don’t ask how many types of coffee beans are stored in my freezer (okay, I’ll ‘fess up: French Roast, Verano, Aria, Yrgacheffe..) Perhaps I should explain the word “coffee stand.” Along any well-trafficked road in Fairbanks there are small mobile coffee stands, with drive up windows on each side. And yes, if you are wondering, those windows do open and close whether the temperature is above 90 on a hot summer day, or below 40 below on a chilling ice foggy day. And even if you don’t believe it, there will be cars lined up, waiting for their cup of java. If your dog happens to accompany you in the car, they will offer them a doggie treat.

Then there are the local Starbucks housed inside both Fred Meyers shopping center, and both Safeways (probably so as not to discriminate shoppers loyal to either). And of course, at Barnes and Noble. So goes the corporate world. Ho hum.

Coffe stand with cars lined up at the window

Cars lined up for morning java

However,we also have great coffee, locally roasted at a couple of places–notably, my personal favorite, Alaska Coffee Roasting Company. They have evolved from a small storefront, then expanding to take over the next spot in the mall just down the hill from the University. And almost every time I stop there is a line for coffee–inside and outside at the drive through.

But, you don’t have to visit these outlets. Stop in at the Inn and we will offer you a cup of freshly brewed French Roast from Alaska Coffee Roasters. You don’t have to stop at any of the three coffee stands lined up along Geist Road and shell out $4. Ours is free.


Summer Sun and Solstice

June 27, 2015

Midnight SunLast weekend was packed with crazy events associated with the Solstice. I enjoyed the Midnight Sun run from the end of our driveway, greeting people I know, and enjoying some of the creative costumes. Last year a group dressed as the Flintstones; this year there was a group as the Wizard of Oz. The weather was a balmy 75, even at 10 at night, but the skies were clear and gorgeous. Others enjoyed the Midnight Sun baseball game (which started at 10:30 p.m. and is played without the aid of artificial light), and some folks strolled through the downtown area for the street fair, from noon last Sunday till midnight.

forest fire smoke

Hazy sky filled with smoke from fires


With the longest day of the year behind us, we are looking for clouds now; perhaps the best news is we got a little rain last night. It seems to have made the skies a little clearer, as well as visibility. The smoke has been hanging thick in the sky, bringing the air quality to the unhealthy levels we are accustomed to experiencing in the winter months due to temperature inversions blanketing the valley.
Days have slowly started to shorten by mere minutes—but it still seems like endless day—even with forest fires. I think my garden likes the ash—all the flowers and vegetable gardens are looking quite big and healthy. I’ve especially enjoyed those visits with folks who return in the summer to see old acquaintances.


Pussy Willows and Puddles

April 2, 2015

Doesn’t this sound a lot better than “break-up”?

Pussy willows

Pussy willows the last day of March

Alaskans all know that this is not the prettiest time of the year.  Here in Fairbanks,  the snow is covered with sand, dirt, and coal ash from our five coal fired plants in the area.  Large puddles splash up as cars slow to ease the mud that covers the windows and dirties the vehicle even more than the accumulation over the past few months.  Others roar through the puddles without consideration of the consequences and surprise unsuspecting pedestrians.

Mud puddle

Large mud puddles

Yet it is filled with hope, as the days rapidly grow longer, the greenhouses are putting out plugs and plants, and the snow  recedes–this year, at a very rapid rate of speed!  The box stores all carry seed packets for those industrious enough to get a head start on the short growing season.  Blogs, posts and emails are shared with the latest “how-to’s” of indoor gardening. Already we’ve been able to wash those south facing windows to let the sun shine in.  All the energy that light brings is evident, as even the most pessimistic comments on how nice it is outside.  I went for my first trip to the greenhouse to pick up some plant for my baskets.  Usually I don’t have any baskets out until May.  Yes, I am gambling; but it just feels safe. ( I can take the baskets in if we do get a sudden cold snap) Any excuse to be outdoors; let me walk the dog, patrol the parking lot, pick up the mail at the end of the driveway.  It’s just too pretty to be inside.  We, (again) broke high temperature records last week with a high of 52 degrees.  Believe it or not, that is amazing for the end of March in Fairbanks.


March Moose and Other Wild Things

March 12, 2015

Now that the trails are filled with Iditarod mushers on the way to Nome, and the Great North American is just around the corner, Alaskans reach with gusto to enjoy the final stretch of winter.

sled dogs

Sled dogs anxious to run

With all the great races in March, there are additional attractions on the more leisurely side. In this case, the occasional meandering moose that wander through the neighborhood, or even stop on the street to munch on branches.

Backyard moose

Backyard moose

How about great sunrises and sunsets?

Crisp and clear sunrise

Crystal clear sunrise

Better yet, many visitors set their sights on the northern lights.

Aurora Glow

Northern lights above the arches

Whichever kind of activity you choose this month, they are all here in our backyard, waiting for your visit.

And while it may be cold right now, we offer a warm welcome to you as you come to enjoy our wild, and not so wild attractions.


Bragging Rights

February 3, 2015
fog on the road

Haze of ice fog on the Johansen on the way to town

Alaskans in general seem to enjoy their bragging rights. Consider the fact that when Alaska is superimposed over the “lower ’48” one end of the Aleutian Islands to the southern eastern coast it spans the entire United States. We’ll bypass those slogans that circulated in pipeline days regarding Texans and Oklahoma and suffice it to say that Alaska is BIG.

We do things in a big way up here. This last year was a prime example. If we are going have rain, we are going to do it big, have rain the entire summer,  and beat out all previous records. It seems God smiled on us after that and gave us a record warm winter–at least until last week.

If we must brag, it could be about anything. Vegetables? We grow them big, and in just three short months of summer. If it’s a dog sled race, we don’t mess around–it’s a thousand miles, through vast stretches of wilderness and bone-chilling temperatures. Then there are the unique benefits of living here; I mean, how many other states send a yearly check in the mail to every man, woman and child in the state, just for being a resident?

Today we have completed more than a week with an average temperature of 30 below zero. Somehow, the challenge of keeping the home fires burning, the cars running, and just surviving make us appreciate our home a little bit more when we have a slight warming, and suddenly people are not bundled up with barely a face exposed to the cold, but running into the grocery store with just a fleece jacket and sweats because “it’s warm outside.” My, what a difference 20 degrees makes at this time of year!


Springtime!

April 23, 2014

Spring is here; melted snow has revealed green grass over half of the front yard. You see people on the sidewalks at 10 pm taking a leisurely stroll because it’s not only warm (+45 F) but light out still at that hour now. Bicycles are on the roads again.
The greenhouses are open; people are out raking their yards of the winter debris and prepping for the long-awaited gardening season. Just yesterday a guest stated what I was thinking; give me that dirt to dig in; it doesn’t drain me, but rejuvenates. Apparently it is therapeutic for more than just me.

Newborn reindeer

UAF Agricultural Farm Baby Reindeer


A drive by the UAF agricultural farm reveals brand new baby reindeer. Just down the hill from the farm you can see some of the returning geese, swans and other migrational birds feeding on the grain that’s spread out over the fields in anticipation of their return. Spring and new life is in the air.
Bird migration

birds feeding on grain


March Madness

February 26, 2014
Bear Sculpture with ice carver

Bear sculpture with carver trying to decide where the fish he’s caught should go

The headlines in the local newspaper had it right:  February Fun, March Madness.http://www.newsminer.com/opinion/editorials/february-fun-march-madness-you-can-tell-the-season-is/article_f9f90cae-9ab8-11e3-8bae-0017a43b2370.html.  We are definitely feeling that momentum. 

As February closes out, the dogs have run their races (Iditarod and Yukon Quest). The Festival of Native Arts begins Thursday. The days are getting longer with the sunlight lingering from 7:30 am dawn until 6:30 pm dusk, and the whirlwind of activities begin.

Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights

March:  the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights; the ice sculpture competition at the World Ice Art Championship, and all the activities associated with it for the entire month of March; more dog mushing; spring break; and this year, the Arctic Winter Games.  You almost have to pick and choose because there is so much to do.

For those of you who ask what it’s like to live here in the winter, March may exemplify what Alaskans love about living here: the challenge–the cold and the ice; the culture and people; the long winter night skies filled with stars and lights. Here’s hoping you get a chance to visit.