It’s Gotten Away From Me Again

It’s gone.

Irretrievably.

I’ll never get it back.

Time. Time has escaped me in its typical fashion. By the time I look up, expecting to find an extra five minutes at the end of the day, it’s gone, and I’m trying to keep my eyes open until nine p.m. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. I’m not exaggerating. My son still thinks that five a.m. is a good time to start the day.

But it’s more than parenting an early riser. It’s summer.

Summers in Alaska are busy. They are blink-and-you’ll-miss-it busy. People spend all day outdoors, trying to soak up as much of the never-ending sunlight as possible, intent on making the most of what is about a three-month season here in the Interior. You really don’t know what a “long day” is until you come to Fairbanks in the summer. Here, we pack in grocery shopping, a doctor/dentist appointment, three sporting events around a trip to the playground, and a BBQ/bonfire all in one weekend day.

How do we do it? You see, there’s this event Alaskans have been blessed with. By June 21st, the sun won’t really set. There’s something like 21 hours of official sunlight on that day, but it never gets dark. The sun merely dips below the horizon and we have a twilight-ish glow until the sun officially rises again.

The downside I find to Alaskan summers is–drumroll please–the lack of stars. What? Not what you were expecting? I miss them. I love looking at the stars, admiring their celestial glow and picking out the constellations. But it’s difficult, nearly impossible, to appreciate them in the winter here because of how cold it gets. Instead, stars are one of those things you appreciate from inside your warm home or car, that way you can look at them longer. There’s no sitting outside in Fairbanks and stargazing. By the time the weather warms up enough to do so comfortably, the stars don’t make an appearance until fall.

Image by Jeff Milner, Flickr.com

Image by Jeff Milner, Flickr.com

Don’t get me wrong, there are other downsides to Alaskan summers, too. Most everyone leaves the state to visit some friends or family Outside for a week or two, you’re trying to make the most of your summer as well, visiting your own friends or family Outside, or you’re outside playing sports, or driving your kids around for playdates and sporting events, there are BBQs and parties, graduations, summer jobs, etc., and before you know it, the blip that is summer in Alaska is gone. Irretrievably. Then the leaves have fallen, the nights are frosting over, and you’re seeing stars. Real stars. Turns out they never really left after all.

In some ways, that’s kind of how returning to Alaska feels to me. I’ve been back “home” in Alaska for almost ten months. In some ways, it’s felt like I’ve never left. I still run into my high school teachers at Fred Meyer, and high school acquaintances at Barnes & Noble. But there are days I miss our Outside home more than I care to dwell on or admit. At times I feel torn between Washington and Alaska, and although I’ve made new friends here, they do not replace the close kinships I had with my Washington friends.

Still, as my husband and I were discussing a return trip to Seattle the other day, I know that my Outside friends will be there–waiting, just like the stars, for me to look up and be able to see them again.

Summer in the Interior

It’s finally here. After months of waiting, staring longingly out the windows, summer has arrived. 

Long summer nights, bonfires, swimming, hiking, running, playing…these are a few of the summertime activities I look forward to.

  

My chokecherry is budding…

 Ferns unwinding… 

And rhubarb bursting out of the ground with force and life. 

Summertime in Alaska is truly a short blip in the calendar year, one which everyone looks forward to at some point and enjoys as long as possible. 

Spring is Here

It’s officially spring in Fairbanks. The snow is (pretty much) gone, and the trees are finally budding. Soon they will not be barren at all, but bright yellow green and full of life.

      

There is a sense of renewal this time of year, almost like New Year’s. Everything starts over, and beginnings even smell fresh. 

 

This year is no different. Well, perhaps different from the past five springs, as I spent the last five springs in Washington State, and now return to my home state springs. In Washington, the world is almost always green. Although the trees lose their leaves in the fall, the ferns remain green, there is moss all over the trees, and the grass remains green. Winter never truly seems to arrive there.

Here, it’s vastly different. Since September, we’ve had lifeless trees and all winter they have been in alternate states of barrenness, snow-covered, or iced over. It is a relief to have warm days (60F or higher) and be able to go to the playground and peel off the jackets.

Spring Canning

Oh, that’s right. You read that right–I don’t follow the book. I can in the spring.

Well, not in this at least. Let’s just say “canning season” didn’t fall at a good time for me last year. I managed to do a little bit, but on most days with my infant son, it felt completely overwhelming and beyond my ability to deal with.

So when Hubby gave me an afternoon off parenting duties the past week, I took an hour or so to can some of the lingonberries that I picked with my son last fall.

Lingonberries

Lingonberries

I’ve never canned lingonberries before–well, let me rephrase that, as I haven’t done much canning ever. I’ve never had an interest in canning lingonberries before. Usually I use lingonberries in my mother’s cranberry cream cheese bread recipe, but I haven’t made that this year, and it’s relatively unhealthy, and usually we use lingonberry sauce for lefsa over the holidays. (So, really, I should have canned these in the fall when I bought them and then we would have had homemade lingonberry sauce for the lefsa. Oh well.)

Regardless, I finally got my act together and did some canning the past week. The lingonberries were surprisingly simple to can, as I just made a simple jam type sauce with them. Basically a lot of sugar plus a bit of water and a lot of lingonberries cooked for awhile on the stovetop, then water bath canned.

Lotta sugar hiding those berries...

Lotta sugar hiding those beautiful berries…

For 8 cups of berries I got about 4.25 pints of sauce. The extra I canned anyway and put in the fridge to taste-test. I like it. It’s a lot denser than any of the store bought lingonberry jam/sauce that I’ve had, but it actually tastes all right on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (That’s probably an unusual taste testing method, but…we were out of other jelly.)

The finished product.

The finished product.

So now this Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll have lingonberry sauce for our lefsa! I’m actually rather excited about that… might be worth making some lefsa before then…

Spring in the Arctic

Well, it’s officially breakup season here. The snow has been melting like mad, the roads constantly freeze at night and then thaw during the day (really the best way for all the snow to melt and keep clean and drivable roads). 

For the first time since the snow hit, we can begin to see the brush in our backyard. Late this summer and fall, that backyard will turn into berries that I can go out and pick and share with my berry-loving son. We have blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, and two types of cranberries out there. Last year we moved in too late to reap anything but the cranberries. 

I’m looking forward to this summer, being able to go outside with my son, who has now started walking, and share the Alaskan summers.

The sunlight has already become obnoxious–with daylight savings shifting the days later and later. By June 21st, the sun won’t be truly setting around here at all. (There’s an official sunset still in the Fairbanks area, but it stays bright all night.) 

Spring makes it easier to get out and do things, despite the large puddles where I could easily lose my one-year-old and never know it. Piles of the dirtiest snow you’ve ever seen lay heaped on sides of road under months of road gravel. These piles will remain long past all other snow patches, even if they lie in full sun. The top coating of gravel protects the snow from the heat of the sun, and slow piles of trash emerge as the snow melts. Every once in awhile you see people out there with metal detectors, looking for lost winter treasures. I hear stories of people finding great things too, like lost iPhones or wedding rings. Heck, maybe I should start metal detecting as a hobby! 

And since I’ve been MIA for so many days weeks, here are a few photos that I’ve taken as an apology. 😉

 

March 30, 2015

  

Denali, March 30, 2015

  

Deanli, March 28, 2015

  

Denali, March 17, 2015

 

Been Awhile

Excuse me while I blow the dust off this little blog here.

Where have I been spending my time, you ask? Well, mostly on Instagram, if I’m on my technology at all. I’ve grown tired of most social media, tweeting only occasionally and largely ignoring Facebook except to see what my friends are up to. Yes, I’m a lurker there. So I’ve instead posted pictures of life on Instagram. Find me there, if you’re interested: @kelsieengen.

It’s funny. After the holiday season, i.e. Christmas, I always expect the new year to slow down and thing to settle down. Perhaps this year is just different because it’s my first year as a mother. But 2015 has been crazy busy and exhausting in all senses of the word.

The weather up here in Fairbanks has finally turned for the better. Nighttime temperatures still dip below freezing, but the past week has been mostly above freezing during the day.

It’s lovely weather to go walking outside in with the kiddo (who is now one year old–but not quite walking alone yet), and it’s inspiring to go running outside with summer races coming up and more sunlight every day.

Soon the roads will be clear of snow and it will only exist in parking lots of gravely heaps of melting ice. The longer days will give more time for the snow to melt, more time to be outside. And soon, all too soon, the first mosquito will appear. Most likely in my bedroom at about ten o’clock at night, keeping us awake.

Despite the warmer weather, it’s a mess outside. And it keeps me, to some extent, inside for awhile longer. I don’t like getting dirty–especially when I don’t have a chance to shower right away, and with a one-year-old, getting a shower unless he’s napping just isn’t happening. Right now, his nap schedule has not led to outdoor runs. So I’ve been using the Nike Training Center App on my iPhone to complete the “Get Lean” program.

I’ve used this app for a few years, off and on. The workouts are often updated, with new ones all the time, and they are intense. Right now, I’m using them to bridge the gap between the end of my half-marathon training and the 10K training I’ll start in a week or so. The end of February marked the end of my half-marathon training, and I managed to run 11 miles for my half-marathon, not quite meeting my goal. It was a treadmill run, and I completed that distance in a pretty decent time for me, but at about mile 10, my calves started cramping, and then the kid needed some attention, and it was just time to quit. I regret quitting, really, as I always do when I give up, or when I lack discipline in some area of my life (lately: overeating/snacking). It’s unfortunate to have run so far, only to give up with only two miles to go, however, recent weeks have revealed to me just how badly my knees are hurting me.

After the birth of my son, I was told I had developed Runner’s Knee. Ironic, since I hadn’t run in about eight months. But over the past year, since I started running seriously again, I expected it to get better. Instead, it’s gotten worse. Much worse, I’d have to say. Both knees now seem affected, and so I’m trying to get serious about the exercises that the doctor gave me to do. But the grating behind both knee caps every time I squat or lunge is really quite bad. And the exercises exacerbate them. It’s a Catch-22, and I feel silly complaining about it, but…there it is. My excuse for not helping myself out: laziness.

I’ve gotten into some bad habits lately too. (My, isn’t this turning into a confessional blog.) Such as binge-watching the entire serious of House. Good series. Finale a little bit of a letdown, really. But a fun series, nonetheless. Now, I’m watching Sherlock, and enjoying it quite a bit too.

Have you ever done that? Been really good for awhile, then realized that you started slipping somewhere along the lines? I’d been able to slip a lot since I had lost about ten more pounds than I ever planned on losing after my pregnancy due to a restrictive diet. Now I’ve gained all that back, and my pants are getting tight.

So now it’s really time to get serious. Knock off the bad habits and clean up my act. I’ve been committed to these NTC workouts, and soon my running will start up again, and I can focus on that. Perhaps the warmer weather will help me get motivated to watch my diet as well!