Wrapping up Christmas in Petersburg

Julebukking and the Community Holiday Concert wrapped up the holiday season here.  The concert showcased a variety of musical talent, including Jim singing with the Oxford Carolers.Jim has really gotten into baking – not the healthiest hobby – but this year he was very generous and (thankfully) gave most of his homemade cookies away as gifts.  He also won the boat category for best holiday lights from the Chamber of Commerce, though there was virtually no competition.  He keeps upping his game every year hoping to inspire others to decorate their boats, but since most of the boats in the harbor are commercial fishing boats…

The inside of the boat has been decorated, and we even have a “boat tree” made by my old Sea Scout buddy – it’s perfect.Many of you keep asking about Julebukking… so besides reading the link to Wikipedia, I’ll just say that it’s a chance for all the local businesses and organizations around town to say thank you to all their customers.  They offer cookies, treats, things like smoked salmon, cold cuts, cheese, veggies, fruit and usually some kind of punch.  Each business tends to have something special that they do, and the hosting events are spread across the calendar, leading up to Christmas.  It means days of gastronomic debauchery for all of us…The airport had a nice spread, though it gets a bit crowded if you come too close to flight time.  The hardware store had a fabulous selection this year, with meatballs, wings, pickled herring, smoked salmon, lefse… and everyone’s favorite: “moose milk”, made with softened ice cream and White Christmas liquor in a 5 gallon paint can, shaken in the paint shaker.Coastal Seafood had huge piles of shrimp – cajun and regular, and the pharmacy had their usual – fantastic pastrami sandwiches… served by Santa’s elves.We went to Christmas dinner with friends, many who also live aboard boats in the harbor.  Our hosts almost had a disaster with the Christmas ham.  A few days before Christmas their refrigerator was pretty full and the weather was quite cold, so they set the ham in the garage.  A moment’s inattention leaving the garage door open was all it took for the ravens to find the ham and just start to attack the wrapping.  The ham was saved before they got it open, but you have to move fast because the ravens are faster.

It was a nice holiday, but now we’re tired – trying to shake the sugar addiction and eating lots of salad!  The days are slowly getting longer – we gained another 2 minutes since yesterday.  We’ll take every minute we can get.

A Little More Christmas in Petersburg

Oh, we’re not finished with the big ramp-up to Christmas just yet… but here’s another installment of holiday goings-on in town since the last posting.

Pretty twinkling lights have popped up all over, and the store fronts on the main street are particularly creative and festive.Santa’s Mailbox is out, and it’s fun to watch the young folks sharing their wishes.  Their letters are copied and published in our weekly paper before they’re forwarded to The North Pole – to Santa’s Workshop.  We were struck this year by how many little children asked for things for their brothers or sisters, and even for their parents as well as for themselves.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made a surprise visit to one of our knitting groups…Oh… he really gets around.  Last Saturday he came to the Community Center by helicopter!  (He’s a busy guy, so sometimes it’s better to take advantage of a quick ride while the reindeer are resting up for the big night.)

The Sons of Norway sponsored the annual Pickled Herring Contest – well attended, and with several repeat winners who have come up with new variations of pickled and smoked herring and other seafood dishes.

The Sons of Norway also held their Christmas dinner – the Julbord – serving turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, and a huge variety of side dishes and fantastic desserts (baked with butter and love!) brought by the 200 members who attended.The Middle School and High School bands held their holiday concerts, complete with sing-alongs and a rockin’ jazz band.  Music director Matt wore his best elf hat (complete with pointy ears), and everyone was impressed at the progress the Beginner Band (6th grade) made.The Clausen Museum had an open house last Sunday, and the Oxford Carolers performed – a group that Jim sings tenor in (he’s hiding in the back row).“Toots and Squeaks” also played – recorders and a violin to get everyone in the spirit of the season, to go with lots of treats and new artwork by people from around town.I spent last Saturday in the pouring rain and cold wind at the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  Despite the usual awful weather we’ve had every year, it’s a lot of fun to team up with other birders and do our part for Citizen Science.  I’ve learned about lots of great little spots to find birds on the island, as well as techniques and tips.  If you wear good warm layers and waterproof gear, bring several towels to dry binoculars with, and you bring your thermos of hot tea or coffee – it’s a great way to spend a day.  Our groups spotted 46 different species of birds on count day.

The Winter Solstice was two days ago – the shortest day of the year (though yesterday was just as short).  Technically the sun rose at 8:27am and set at 3:13pm, but it takes a while for the light to come over the mountains in the morning, and it ducks below them a little earlier in the afternoon.  All this low angle light paints the mountains a golden-rose in the mornings and a warmer pink in the afternoons – the alpenglow has been fantastic.  We celebrate the Solstice particularly because it means that from now on, every day will be a little longer.  We’ll start gaining 5 minutes a day in another 6 weeks or so.

There’s still more Christmas to come since Julebukking is now in full swing.  We just came back from Julebukking at the airport, and we’re off to see the new Police station and to sample their treats.  Tomorrow is the hardware store and my favorite… “moose milk”.. so stay tuned.

In the meantime, we wish you all Peace and Joy this holiday season. 

Merry and Bright

We returned home in time for Thanksgiving and the start of the hectic holiday season.  There was a good layer of snow on the ground and we were sorry we didn’t put the studded snow tires on the car before we left!The mountains are so beautiful with their dusting of snow, and it’s an important insulator for the yellow cedar roots in the winter. 

The day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the holidays here in Petersburg as Santa led the whole town in a parade down Nordic Drive to the town Christmas tree.  Everyone carried a candle, and members of the school band were playing holiday music.  The Sons of Norway handed out cups of hot cider on the chilly, drizzly evening, and our friend Jean got the honor of lighting up the big beauty of a tree.  Huzzah!Our radio station has started playing holiday music in the afternoons – the show is called “High Tide-ings”…. get it?  With that inspiration, Jim put up all the outside lights on the boat, in the snow.  Holiday lights are particularly important living at a high latitude, where the daylight is pretty short at this time of the year.  Today the sun rose around 8:18 this morning and it will set at 3:12 this afternoon.  Combine the short daylight with overcast, gloomy weather and believe me – pretty sparkly lights are worth their weight in gold! The social pace seems to pick up in the winter months, and we have a packed schedule – dinner parties with friends, helping decorate the Sons of Norway hall, the Christmas Bazaar and soup sale, local shopping days, chorus practice for Jim, band concerts, the community holiday concert, the annual Pickled Herring Contest, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count… all leading up to several days of Julebukking all around town.

The weather hasn’t been the best lately, with a long stretch of snow and slush, and now a stretch of relentless rain but temps in the 40s.  We had a few clear days, and sometimes the dawn light makes the most magical golden-rosy glow in the morning sky.We took advantage of a pair of nice days to take a drive out the road with some friends, enjoying a picnic lunch and looking for trumpeter swans on the slough.  We didn’t see the swans, but I did spot a hooded merganser, some other small ducks, and a lot of eagles swooping around.  We wanted to get back to town (and into cell range) before dark, and we were lucky to catch some alpenglow on the Coastal Mountains across from our island.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we get to live in such a beautiful place.

Saturday was the annual “Cookie Walk” at the Lutheran Church, where the men and ladies of the church make their best holiday treats (“made with butter and love” as they say here) and lay them out on several long tables.  Other ladies are in the kitchen making krumkake for sale too… hot and fresh.  Everyone gets a to-go box and a plastic glove, and then you happily wander around the tables filling your box with your favorite treats.  Cost is calculated per pound, and it goes to support the needy in our community.This weekend was one of our favorite holiday events – the dance recital.  The Mitkof Dance Troupe has a dance school that’s open to children from 3 to 18, teaching ballet as well as more modern dance styles.  Over 140 children participated in this year’s winter recital, showing a wide range of costumes and themes.  The older gals doing ballet en pointe are just lovely, but the little ones melt my heart.  We’re always so impressed by how hard these young people work – on their studies, participating in sports and/or the band and chorus, volunteering in town, and on their dancing.  All three of the recital performances were sold out, as usual, and the rest of the town is just as excited to see the show as the parents and grandparents of the little dancers.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves…  but there will be more holiday blogs to come!

Olympic Peninsula’s Wild Beaches

This post wraps up our adventures on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and in the Olympic National Park.  The variety of land and seascapes really surprised us – there is so much more to see and do here than we expected, and we feel like we only just scratched the surface – we’ll be back. 

Cape Flattery is the north and western-most point in the Continental U.S., and its beauty is rugged and windswept. The area around Neah Bay and Cape Flattery is owned by the Makah Native People, and they have a cultural museum that’s worth checking out.  I don’t envy the fishermen and Coast Guard personnel who have to operate out of Neah Bay!

A little farther south we headed into the woods for the muddy hike to Shi Shi Beach, also owned by the Makah People.  We read different estimates of the trail’s length, and we had to keep moving since the day was getting late and we didn’t want to end up hiking the few miles back in the dark.  The forest was so pretty though, with the late day light filtering through the trees.We eventually came to the overlook above Shi Shi Beach, and we didn’t realize that we’d have to climb a couple of hundred feet down (and back up)… so we decided to savor the beach from the viewpoint, and tackle the hike down another time.The spires out in the water are called “sea stacks”, and they’re found in many places along this rugged coastline.

The next day we headed out to explore more of the famous beaches, starting with the rock-strewn Rialto Beach near La Push, WA.If you love to pick up beautiful rocks, you’ll make yourself crazy here!The ocean-tumbled rocks came in a wide variety of colors and patterns, big and small.  Besides the urge to stop and pick up rocks with every step, it was difficult to walk on the thick layer of rocks.  We couldn’t waste too much time since we wanted to make it out to see the Hole In The Wall before the tide came back in.There were plenty of anemones and tiny sea creatures in the tide pools, and we were smart to wear our tall rubber boots since we lingered just a bit too long and would have gotten wet without them.

Besides the rocks, the beach was littered with massive logs flung ashore by the sea, some with roots that were quite large.  Can you spot Jim in the picture?And then we found this “dragon” on the beach…  pretty cool.Our pockets were rattling, full of rocky treasures as we made our way across the beach and back to the truck.  The constantly crashing surf left a lingering salty haze in the air, and the cobble glistened in the afternoon sunlight.We explored farther down the coast, stopping for a hike to Second Beach.  (Yes, there’s a First and a Third Beach too and some others with more interesting names…  but we didn’t have time to do them all.)  Second Beach was very different than Rialto in that it was just smooth sand with just a handful of rocks.We hiked through some pretty forest, then down a steep trail, and then climbed carefully over this massive tangle of logs to finally reach the beach.Second beach also had a “hole” in the protruding rocks, but the tide was too high for us to get close to it.By the time we got there, the waves were crashing through it – pretty neat!That finishes the highlights of our exploration on the Olympic Peninsula.  Now we’re back home in Petersburg where holiday preparations are well underway.  Stay tuned for scenes of some of the many festivities here in Alaska’s Little Norway – about the best place in the world to celebrate Christmas.