Eating and Singing

Those two words pretty much sum up the holiday season Petersburg-style. Julebukking continued, with the largest number of places hosting on Christmas eve. The Rexall drug store had their fabulous pastrami sandwiches, the electronics shop had chili, the gallery had a big spread, the Trading Union had a huge spread, and Hammer’s Hardware had the best… great food and “moose milk”.

Julebukking in the hardware store
Smoked salmon

“Moose milk” is a dreamy concoction of softened vanilla ice cream and White Christmas liqueur put in a 5 gallon paint bucket and mixed in the big paint shaker.

The 5 gallon paint shaker put to good use!

The result is poured into a silver punchbowl and served with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

One of the other businesses hosting Julebukking this year was Synthesis Metal Shop. Josef is not just a welder and fabricator, but he’s also a very talented artist. He served traditional krumkake and lefse, home-made venison jerky and cucumber sandwiches, and he had a gingerbread BOAT (with a welded aluminum frame underneath).

His shop was full of artistic creations and I’ve seen boats that he’s built, but the highlight was this octopus he made (welded, not cast) for his marine scientist girlfriend.

While all this Julebukking was going on, Jim was busy singing with the Oxford Carolers group, spreading holiday cheer up at Long-term Care in the hospital, then moving to some of the different julebukking venues… the bookstore, Cedar Box, hardware store (pausing for a sip of moose milk), pharmacy, Trading Union grocery store, and the art gallery.

Caroling in the Pharmacy
Caroling in the art gallery

And if that wasn’t enough, the Oxford group organized a Community Concert where over a dozen different musicians and groups sang and played to a packed house. Just in case you weren’t feeling the holiday spirit enough, the concert definitely did the trick.

As we’ve walked to and from all these events around town we’ve been seeing river otters playing on the dock more often. They’re cute, but they tend to be party animals and they leave a mess. They’re pretty wary and we’ve only seen them when it’s dark out. We try to walk by and not disturb them too much but they usually snort at us and dive into the water. It’s important to stay alert on the dock in the dark because you never know what’s in the shadows. Sometimes a blue heron suddenly takes off with a loud squawk when we pass by – I’ve been pretty startled walking down the dock half-asleep in the early mornings.

We gathered with dear friends for Christmas eve and Christmas day dinners, and Jim really out-did himself making a jule log dessert.

A few days after Christmas we were invited to the annual White Elephant party, where 26 people gathered to surprise one another with tacky gifts that are then traded around. The rule is that you MUST take whatever you end up with home… if you leave it behind you won’t be invited back next year. We chuckled, we giggled, we howled, and we cried laughing so much. People were really good about embracing awful gifts, wearing ugly hats and wigs with pride.

The pink flowery wig was pretty popular, as awful things go. Never take yourself too seriously.

As I write this I’m listening to our local radio station, KFSK, and Orrin announced that we’ve gained 5 minutes of daylight since the Solstice! Unfortunately it has been hard to tell that the days are getting longer since we’ve had a relatively warm and very rainy winter so far. The rain isn’t so bad, but the gloom from the heavy overcast skies is getting old. On Friday we had thick fog (the street lights never turned off all day), and Alaska Airlines couldn’t land one of the two jets that day. We knew people flying back from Seattle who got as far as Wrangell (the nearest town on another island), and the group of Petersburg-bound passengers had to hire a boat to take them the rest of the way home. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

Tomorrow we’ll check out the annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge, though we plan to dress warmly (and in rain gear) and just watch. In the meantime it’s peaceful here. We wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Winter Solstice

The holidays continue to keep everyone busy, though we’ve had a long string of gloomy rainy weather that had some spirits flagging. It’s bad enough that the daylight is so short, but when you add the heavy overcast it can be hard to take – day after day. Finally we got a little snow, and a tiny bit of brighter light to give us all hope for winter weather that we can go out and play in!

North Harbor and Petersburg Mountain

Even with all the rain and strong winds we had last week and now the colder temps, a crane barge and crew showed up to replace one of the old docks in the harbor. I can not imagine working in those conditions, holding onto big hunks of cold wet metal! But they worked hard until yesterday when they hung some lights from the crane and made a Christmas tree – so I guess they’re taking a break for the holiday.

Meanwhile, Santa took some time off from his preparations to visit the Recreation Center, arriving by helicopter! His reindeer are resting up for their big night, but the red flasher on the helicopter did a good imitation of Rudolph’s nose.

Santa has landed!

Jim has been very busy baking treats to bring to pot luck dinners as well as for gifts… spending hours in the galley and making the whole boat smell wonderful.

He’s also singing with the Oxford Carolers again this year. They performed at the Museum Open House last weekend, and they’re starting to get around town to entertain in more places.

Between all that baking and rehearsals, he’s been a busy guy! I’ve been knitting gifts and haven’t had much time to get outside for photography, though the weather hasn’t been good for it anyway. We had our usual horrid weather for the day of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (citizen science!!), but I enjoy getting outside and working with friends to identify and count as many species as we can find.

The stores are all decorated and the streets have a very festive feeling with all the lights. We’re big on lights around here – to counteract the “dark days”

Each store puts a lot of effort into its window displays, and some stores change them every few weeks throughout the year. Men’s and Women’s “Night Out” give local stores a chance to inspire some shopping, and people around here do try to shop local as much as possible… though the daily load of Amazon boxes is hard to compete with.

Julebukking is in full swing now, named for the “buk” or “bock” – the mighty goats that pulled the Norse god Thor’s chariot. Petersburg has it’s own take on the Norwegian tradition, and various stores and organizations around town host an open house type of thing with food and drink. The newspaper and radio station publish the schedule of which day and hours each business will be hosting – this morning is the airport, and one of the banks will be open just for Julebukking on Sunday!

Julebukking at Lee’s Clothing store
Julebukking at the Sons of Norway hall

Christmas eve is the busiest day for Julebukking – stay tuned for more tales from the land of groaning tables full of treats, and Moose Milk! These little doggies got all dressed up, hoping someone would let them in on the Julebukking…

But yesterday was about more than just Julebukking. It was the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. We never paid much attention to the Solstice when we lived farther south, but up here it’s a pretty big deal! The sun has been rising around 8:30 in the morning and setting around 3:15 in the afternoon. That’s when you can see it at all… when it’s not overcast and raining, and we don’t actually see the sun at those times because of the tall mountains all around. One never really gets over the urge to fix dinner at 4pm when it’s dark then. But the holidays help because of all the pretty lights and decorations. A lot of people put their holiday lights on in the mornings as well as the afternoons and evenings, and it’s appreciated by all.

Yesterday the sun peeked through the clouds just a little in the early afternoon – right at the moment of the Solstice. Everyone around town was happy – not just from the sugar rush of so many treats, but because now the days will begin to get longer again. The light is coming back! The weak sunlight kissed the boats in South Harbor, and the mountains were looking beautiful with their powdered-sugar dusting of snow… sublime.