Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Rudstrom Family Christmas Tree

"We're kicking off our fun old fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols."

"They invented [Christmas tree lots] because people forgot how to have a fun old fashioned family Christmas. You see kids, this is what our fore fathers did. They walked out into the woods, they picked out that special tree and they cut it down with their bare hands."

“The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thspirit of the Griswold Rudstrom family Chrithmath,” 

(A chorus of angels fades in.) There it is! 

Thankfully C.O. did not forget the saw.

 I give you the Rudstrom Family Christmas Tree.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 The Rudstroms

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Best Thanksgiving Yet

After most every holiday C.O. and I say, "That was the best one yet." Well, it happened again. This Thanksgiving was the best Thanksgiving yet. The holiday week kicked off with C.O.'s parents arriving from Minnesota.

Our entire family was thankful to spend these few days with Mac and Mary after not seeing them for well over a year. I noticed the kids were more content with all of the attention they received throughout the week. Grandparents are a good thing.

Mary Crockett came down from Anchorage to stay a couple days. Mary was my student up in Brevig Mission but now is all grown up, a college student and is considered a close friend of the family. She has grown into such a wonderful young lady (that is a very old person thing to say I just realized). 

Stu came from Bird Creek, south of Anchorage. Stu is now making Alaska his home after moving from  C.O.'s hometown of Side Lake, Minnesota. It's been fun to get to know him better.

There's something special about gathering with the same relatives year after year but I love celebrating holidays with a group of people who don't necessarily know each other. A group made up of friends new and old and family too. Our Thanksgiving Day table was filled with just that kind of group: families and singles, kids and grandparents, those who traveled from across town and those who had to fly a couple thousand miles to get here. Perfect.

We had a total of 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner and were able to seat everyone at one table thanks to a couple sheets of plywood, saw horses and a 20 foot piece of cloth. Throughout the night we enjoyed sledding and a bonfire, games and chatting, pie and egg nog and a whole lot of laughter. See. It was the best Thanksgiving yet.

I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Maybe next year we'll find you seated at our plywood banquet table. We'd love to have you!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Camping Through the Summer

I was not looking forward to spending this past summer in Alaska. Summer in Minnesota is what our family has always done and I wasn't very happy about giving that up. C.O. and I looked at the average yearly temperature in Soldotna versus the average temperature in Minnesota and the statistics were depressing. Cool and wet and gray is the norm but we had no choice but to stay. Work and finances determined that. 

But thankfully it turns out we had a pretty great summer. Long time locals kept saying summers like this only come around once every ten years. While I don't like the sounds of that, I was happy we were here to enjoy one of those perfect Kenai Peninsula summers. Warm temperatures, clear skies and just enough rain when we needed it suited me just fine. And I was thankful for each day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, C.O. worked 80 plus hour weeks for most of the summer. I wish it wasn't the case but the kids and I made the best of it. I decided to take advantage of the weather and take the kids on as many camping adventures as I could manage.

I was first inspired to take the kids camping when we joined in on a Memorial Day camping trip with a bunch of families from our church. Camping with a group of people is a blast. I didn't have to worry about the kids, the older ones looked out for the younger ones and they were constantly entertained so I was free to relax. Other people did most of the cooking as well. I just talked and stared at the fire for a couple days. Perfect. (This was the complete opposite of our future camping trips when I had to watch the kids, cook and pitch the tent on my own.)

The first solo camping trip was at Johnson Lake State Park. We were introduced to this spot by our friends Mollie and Trevor from Anchorage. Staying right on the lake had some advantages. For Harold the advantage was being able to fish practically from your front (tent) door.

Harold is an absolute fishing fanatic. I tried to explain to him that I would first have to set up the tent and get dinner going before we could do any fishing. I thought he understood the situation but as soon as we pulled in, Harold grabbed his pole and ran to the water's edge. Thankfully there were other adults around that were willing to help Harold out when I was busy or just plain unsure of what to do with hooks, sinkers, spinner, fire balls and all that other stuff I don't know much about.

Our usual routine was to pack up the car (which took all day), drive to the campground and spend the first night on our own. C.O. would work a crazy long day so that the following day he could get off around dinner time and at least spend the evening with us. I was thankful for even those few hours together.

A quick Johnson Lake story that must be told here. I was taking a morning walk around the lake with the kids. Tizita's thing at the time was to ask me, "Who's that?"for everyone we saw. So I told her to just ask people their name. A couple pulled up in their motorhome near the lake to do a little fishing. Tizita asked the lady, "What's your name?" She said, "Arlene, what's your's?." Arlene then introduced us ot her husband Aimo. I told her that Aimo sure sounded like a Finnish name and that my maiden name was Lindula. While I was busy lamenting the loss of my beautiful Finnish name after I got married she said to me, "As in Cindy Lindula?" My brain was totally confused for a moment or two or ten. Turns out Arlene lives in Northern Minnesota, knows a bunch of my family and works with my mom at the Cherry Greenhouse! It's a small world after all. Now Arlene and I are friends on Facebook. The End Moral of the Story: Don't be afraid to talk to strangers.

In my opinion, the most beautiful place we stayed was at Captain Cook State Park north of Kenai about 30 miles. It is situated right on Cook Inlet. You can kind of make out the water from the above photo. Our campsite was basically on the bluff at the edge of the Inlet. Amazing views, for sure but it was also a little stressful trying to keep the kids within sight while I set up camp. I trust Harold but still worry about Tizita getting herself in a scary situation.

Exploring the beach was the best part of Captain Cook State Park. We had fun climbing on rocks, finding pretty rocks and acting silly. Tizita does her best to keep up with her older brother. She fell a few times and got hurt but there's just no stopping her. She is determined to do everything just like Harold!

We changed things up a bit when I signed the three of us up for family camp at Solid Rock Bible Camp just down the road from us. This was fun because we were camping but our food and entertainment was provided by the camp staff.

It was a little weird camping so close to home. I realized it was only 7 minutes from our campsite to our house's front door. So I went home each day to give Tizita a nap and to shower. Then went back for more activities and slept in the tent on the ground. Crazy but it worked.

There were a ton of fun activities at Solid Rock. Mostly the usual camp things, archery, riflery, swimming, kayaking, a game room, crafts etc. But the second day was the main event with a mini "fair". There were carnival games, cotton candy, fry bread, a dunk tank, carriage rides and pony rides.

We met a bunch of neat families and made many new friends. I would love to do it again someday, maybe C.O. could even join us.

A lot of people asked if I was scared taking the kids camping by myself. I don't know if they meant that I might be scared of bears or bad guys or what but I wasn't scared of any of that. The campgrounds were full of people so I really wasn't worried. Mutiny from my children was probably the scariest possibility of all. But they're still with me and enjoyed their summer experiences so I'd call this adventure a success.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Lilacs

 I was a little disappointed this spring when our lilac bush out back barely bloomed. It got a few blossoms here and there but it was all in all pretty sad compared to the Minnesota lilac bushes I'm used to seeing. Since it was our first spring here I wasn't sure what to expect but I thought maybe this was just another plant not really cut out for cool Alaskan weather.

About a week ago, I noticed that the lilac tree had a few blossoms on it. What a sweet, unexpected surprise! Now it's blooming like crazy and oddly enough fall colors are in full swing as well. I like this photo because it shows a lilac bloom with the brown and yellow leaves on the very same tree. It's unusual but I'll take it as one last sweet reminder of warm weather before winter sets in.

I ran across a recipe for lilac scones over at Kitchen Vignettes recently. Though all the blooms hadn't opened fully, C.O. and I decided to harvest a cup full of lilacs to try out this recipe. Since it had frosted the night before we were nervous the flowers wouldn't last another day. Turns out we were wrong. It's three days later and the lilac bush looks prettier than ever. 

I'm curious what will happen next year with my seasonally confused lilac bush.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Whittier is a Little Weird

This spring C.O. found a job working for a fish processing plant in Kenai. Summer is a time of abundant fish around here so the plant operates around the clock. Which meant C.O. had to work a crazy amount of hours. Honestly, we hardly saw him this summer. He worked 7 days a week, 12-16 hour days.

A few times, C.O. even had to travel for work. His skills were needed on a boat anchored near Whittier, about a two and a half hour drive from Soldotna. Before his second trip to Whittier, I figured we would drive him down so we could spend at least a couple hours together as a family. It also gave the kids and I a chance to explore a new part of Alaska.

I hate to be so blunt and possibly offensive to the residents of Whittier, but it's true, this town is just plain weird. There's a book about Whittier that calls it "the strangest town in Alaska." So, it's not just me folks.

The first odd thing about Whittier is the tunnel. The only road to Whittier passes through a two mile long tunnel which is wide enough for a single lane of traffic. People plan their comings and goings based on the time traffic is scheduled to go their direction. Before the year 2000, travelers had to drive their car on a train that would then bring vehicles through the tunnel. So, it's a little more convenient today than it was 13 years ago.

The Rudstrom station wagon waiting to drive through the second longest tunnel in North America.

Glaciers peek out along the highway as you drive toward Whittier. 
This one can be seen as you wait to enter the tunnel.

We made a big deal to the kids about how an entire mountain was over our head as we were driving along.

As soon as we arrived in town we drove straight to the docks to drop C.O. off. C.O. boarded the tender that took him two hours beyond Whittier to the Portage Bay, the barge in need of some repairs.

Now the kids and I were on our own . . . again . . . like it was nearly every single day this summer. (Can you tell yet that I was weary of C.O.'s work schedule?)

We walked around the tiny town to see what Whittier had to offer. It's a small place, a half a day is all you need to see it all, unless you sign up for a cruise or kayak tour of the harbor. Other than the scenery being spectacular, Whittier also has an interesting history with it's roll in WWII. If you care to read more about go here and here.

The strangest thing about this fishing town is that 90% of the population lives in one apartment building. That's right, this building houses the police officer, the drug dealer, the mayor, the school teachers, the preacher, and most everyone else. I thought the dynamics of a small village could be tough. Imagine living here.

Whittier is only a couple hour drive from Anchorage so quite  a few people come down to do some fishing and tour buses stop in daily during the summer months.

After one night in town, it was back through the tunnel to start the drive home. A day later C.O. was able to catch a ride with in a semi-truck full of fish totes back to the plant in Kenai.

Now that summer is done, he's working a regular schedule and we're very happy to have him back.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lordy, Lordy My Man is Forty (and One Month)

In June we celebrated a couple of big milestones. C.O. turned forty on June 2nd and we "celebrated" our tenth wedding anniversary on June 21st. C.O.'s new job at Snug Harbor Seafoods got in the way of doing anything special for our anniversary but at least he was able to take his birthday off. I suggested we postpone our anniversary celebration for 10.5 years of marriage. Anyway let's not talk about that for too long or I get kind of sad.

C.O.'s first gift of the day was a truck from Harold that he found at a garage sale. The truck was appropriately named "Time Flys." I wonder if the makers realized they spelled flies wrong?

Our first stop was at Louie's in Kenai for breakfast. They have a lot of dead animals hanging on the walls making it feel very Alaskan I guess. The waitress found out it was his birthday so she added a candle to his toast. Sadly it went out before I took the photo making this moment seem a lot less birthday-ish.

Then came the best part of the day, we dropped the kids off with our friends the Millers. As much as we love our kids, it's good to escape from them once in a while and today was a perfect excuse to do just that.

Then the two of us drove south to spend the day in beautiful Homer.

We started with one of C.O.'s favorite past times, looking at boats down on the harbor followed by a walk along the Homer Spit exploring shops and taking in the views.

We had a late lunch at the Mermaid Cafe, an adorable little place that is a cafe, bookstore and bed and breakfast. I want you to notice two things about this photo: the amazing looking food AND all that sunshine. Sunshine is not such a common thing in Homer so it's deserves to be appreciated.


The used book store had an extensive collection of nautical books, another of C.O.'s favorite things. The Mermaid won us over with all her charms. Maybe this is where we'll stay for our 10.5 wedding anniversary.

The day went quickly but it was relaxed and memorable. I'm thankful for that time we spent together especially now. Since June 2nd C.O. as worked every single day and we are starting to miss him in a big way. It'll be a relief in August when he can work a regular forty hour week and spend weekends at home. 

Happy 40th to my hard working, super talented, wonderful husband. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Clam Digging: A Real Alaskan Field Trip

Harold's kindergarten class took part in a unique field trip this spring. His very brave teacher took the kids to a nearby beach to dig for clams. Wow, were they into it! And why wouldn't they be? "O.K. kids, here's some shovels, go dig in the mud and look for buried treasure." What kid wouldn't be excited? C.O. was one of the parent volunteers for this class trip and had the chance to learn a little more about this local past time.

So what's involved in clamming? 

First find a muddy beach, grab a shovel and start walking.

When you see a small dimple in the mud start shoveling. That's your clue as to where a clam dug himself a hole.

Then reach down in that hole, don't be shy now, and pull yourself out a clam.


The kids went home with a couple clams each. I don't know what the other families did with their's but this mama wasn't quite prepared to make clams for dinner. So ours eventually made their way into the trash can. Harold really wanted one for a pet but we finally convinced him they wouldn't make the best companions.

Oh and there was a little tag-along on this adventure. 

At the end of the day, the entire crew warmed up with a fire and marshmallows on the beach.

Mrs. Vasilie's 2013 kindergarten class.
(Harold is hiding in the middle of the three kids standing in the back.)

We were shopping the other day and Harold saw a clam gun for sale. He walked up to it excitedly and asked if we could buy one. Then earlier this week as we drove along the Homer spit Harold noticed the tide was out leaving the mud flats exposed. Harold wistfully said it looked like a great place to find clams. I think he's caught the bug. With every new experience we have in this great state, Harold proves that he is an Alaskan boy through and through.