Thursday, November 26, 2009

Still Thankful

I know I fell behind, but if I do nothing better in life, it is procrastination. So, I will continue my thank-fest.

I am immensely thankful for the friends I have met while traveling the past couple years. Some amazing people crossed my path and I know they will stay a part of my lives forever.

It started with my two month excursion to Minocqua, Wisconsin. I was traveling to the Northwoods to intern at the Northwoods Wildlife Center. The internship was only two months, but in that time I made some lasting friendships. Beth, the executive director of the center is by far the most awesome woman on the planet. I was immediately drawn to her quirky nature. She is insightful, caring, and the the coolest witch I know. She is also the only person I know who can successfully house a herd of cats and not come off as some kind of creepy hoarder. Seriously, her cats are the coolest pets by far.

Once I had arrived at the wildlife center, I was concerned about living for two months with strangers. After my first week there and having to survive living with the summer interns, I was sure I had made a mistake. However, they were all leaving at the end of my first week and I was left living with only two other interns. Lucky for me, one of them was Hnue Yang. Hnue is a phenomenon, pure and simple, most often referred to by her first and last name because she is that special. I honestly think it is impossible for Hnue to have an enemy. She is so much fun, and will always put a smile on your face. I couldn't have asked for a better roommate.

The third person I forged lasting ties with in Minocqua, is Sarah. I met her at the cheese shop where we got to talking about Alaska. I instantly felt like we had a connection. She is super sweet and I felt so comfortable talking with her. We both have a love for all things tea and Harry Potter! I was taken back that she would offer to take me, a complete stranger, on a little trip to Lake Superior. It was great! I am pretty sure we made the local gossip in Joe's Famous Pasty shop in Ironwood, MI. Since then we have toured Chicago together and made the crazy long drive back to Minocqua. Well, she made the drive...Sarah is hardcore, a goddess! I want her to stay a part of my life forever.

This summer I made the trek from Fairbanks to Clarion, PA. I was excited about the field job I would be doing, but I had no idea that I would love the volunteer work and the people I met in the community even more. I had gotten in contact with Leo at the Creature Program before I even left for PA. I wanted to volunteer in his exotic pet rescue program. I had no idea that him and his wife would be the most fun, genuine people I have never met. They opened their home to me, fed me great food, and taught me all sorts of art techniques. I even got roped into making a few music videos, which were great fun. Leo and Hillary are the coolest thing about PA and the only reason that would bring me back to PA.

I also found a kindred spirit in Clarion, in Holly. She was also a staple at Leo and Hillary's place and I enjoyed spending time with her so much. It is so refreshing for me to find people who I feel like I can completely be myself around and not feel judged, and Holly fits that bill to a 'T'. We geeked out over x-files and hamsters. I really, really wished we lived closer. Holly is a wonderful woman, loyal and fun. I miss her!

Even if I never meet anyone else in my future travels, the people I have met so far more than fill up a lifetime worth of friendship. I feel so lucky and thankful for these people in my life. I hope we they all continue to be a part of my life for many years to follow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Thanks a Blog"

Generally, I am not the type to do the whole this-is-what-I'm-thankful-for sap that I see most people write in their blogs this time of year. However, prompted by this Mod Cloth contest, I realized that this exercise might actually be worth while.

Since moving to Dillingham, a rural Alaskan town cut off from the main road grid (thats right, you can only fly in), I have never felt more grateful for the simple things. This whole Alaskan adventure has taught me not to take things for granted. While living in Fairbanks, I had already learned that indoor plumbing is a great luxury that should not be squandered, but living in a rural community where the prices of food are 150% more expensive than the lower 48, I have been learning to make a lot of items on my own. Surprisingly this is not as difficult as many people might think. Thankfully this is a lesson I will continue to utilize even after I rejoin 'civilization'.

While it is easy to dwell on the little things, I think being removed from my comfort zone has made me realize how wonderfully awesome my friends are. I can't begin to cover everyone in one post, so I think I will break it into several smaller posts over the next few days. I know it is said that you don't fully understand how important someone is until they are gone, and that is for the most part true. Unfortunately, Alaska has a habit of pushing people away.

Several years spent in an Interior town and you forge some strong friendships. Fairbanks especially, drew the outcasts into her fold. We all had a common outlook, a yearning to be a part of something raw, something exciting, something we couldn't find 'Outside' in the lower 48. Because of this shared bond, we appreciated each other, the friendship, more than we might in any other state. Only our Alaskan 'family' knew us to the core and I held fast to that. Still, I constantly worried, knowing one day my new family would leave or I would be forced to leave them. This was true for two of my closest Alaskan family.

The first was Carolyn, truly a kindred soul. She is the sister I always wanted. She is the one person I felt I could share everything with. I have always admired her: driven, immensely talented, and fearless. I miss strolling the ski trails behind UAF or picking blueberries in her 'secret' Salcha spot, always with several dogs happily bounding around us. It has been over a year and half since we last saw each other.First she left for Venezuela to study South American women's poetry, on a Fulbright scholarship. Nine months she would be away. I made sure to visit her there, but two weeks hardly seemed enough. Then she moved to El Paso and had a baby, Esther. I have yet to see my Goddaughter, but I hope to visit for her first birthday in April.

Though it has been some time since we've seen each other in person, I know we can easily pick up where we left off. We will always be family, no matter the distance.

My second Alaskan sister is Nicole. She left a year ago for Montana. The only one I have cried over, like a blubbering idiot, for leaving. Nicole was the first person I truly became friends with after moving to Fairbanks. Somehow we were paired in a biology lab our first year at UAF. The rest, they say, is history. We have been close friends ever since. I have so much fun with Nicole, and it has been difficult being apart. We can be as pissy or as nerdy as we want around each other and not feel judged. I hope our paths cross again for longer than a 'visit'.

I always realized how special these people are and I hope they realize it too. The impact these two wonderful women make on peoples' lives is huge, as it has been for me. There is nothing like a small, remote town to make one feel lonely, but just knowing I have friends like Carolyn and Nicole, I am never truly alone. No matter where in the country or world we may be, they are my kindred sisters and that bond has no boundries.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


So I messed up a step in my cheese making process, so instead of having mozzarella like I intended, I simply have cottage cheese. That is ok though, my kefirs will continue to congeal milk and I will try this all over again. Until then, I need to find something tasty to make with my fresh cottage cheese.


About a week and half ago I was gifted with a kefir, or kefir grains as it is typically called. Kefir grains are little communities of bacteria and yeast that when place in milk, will ferment the liquid into a sort of yogurt drink. The grains resemble cauliflower, and with the proper love and caring, will continue to grow each week. I named mine, Kiefer Sutherland.

The Kiefer grains need to be placed in milk and left in a dark warm place to do their magic. This is a picture of my larger kefir, Donald Sutherland. You can see him floating at the top of the milk. It takes about 24 hours for him to congeal one full glass of milk.

Tonight I decided to try my hand at making some cheese. I won't know until tomorrow if I succeeded or not, but here is what I have accomplished so far.

I took about a cup of kefir drink and added it to four cups of regular milk and heated it up to separate the curds from the whey.

After several minutes the curds really start to form and the yellowish whey forms at the top. I wasn't sure exactly how long to keep the mixture heated, so I took it off the burner once I felt like I had enough curd to make something substantial.

Once the curd is strained from the whey, I formed it into a ball. I submerged the ball in water, but this was a mistake. The ball was not stable enough and needed to be drained first. Now the ball of cheese is currently draining in cheese cloth over a pot. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to heat the dried curd back up and make mozzarella.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Its nearing that time again...the time for Solstihanukwanzamas! And since I have no life right now, I think I can actually get holiday cards out to everyone. Sooooo...if you want a card, post-marked from Dillingham, AK then leave me your addys!