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Did you know that there are only 24 more shopping days until Christmas?  20 if you are Hanukkah shopping.  Didja? Didja?  Didja?

Oh yes, it is that time of year again.  What am I saying?  Its been “that time of year” since October but the insanity and pressure of “Holiday Shopping” has and will only get worse.  I’ve been grateful for the past 3 years NOT to have cable service because I was spared the incessant jingles, scare tactics and pressure to buy, Buy, BUY!  However, I am noticing something as a childless adult…I’m not feeling the pressure, only the disgust at our completely commercialised western culture.

Want her love?  Remember what kiss begins with or what store to shop in to make the burly football player smile.

Want to make him cheer?  Buy tools or a red metal toolbox.

Want the kids to be happy?  Buy one of a zillion and a half toys.  Better yet, buy lots.

Despite the ABC World News push to have a “Made in America” holiday, ITS STILL ABOUT BUYING!  Now, I am in favor of creating jobs as much as the next person but really, I would rather save my money entirely, have a handmade holiday or give a family gift.

Here is my plan for a revolutionary holiday:

A)  If you feel like you MUST shop:

#1:  Before you shop for anything, purge your closets.  Go thru and clean out the clothes you don’t wear, the toys your kids don’t play with and the ‘things’ that you have around that are just gathering dust.  Give away to your local charity shop.

#2: Make a list of your NEEDS.  Do you/your partner/the kids in your life NEED a new winter coat?  How about boots?  How about underwear or socks?  How about diapers?  How about crayons or paper?  Parents, be honest, wouldn’t you rather your kid have new socks or snow boots that they can actually USE or a beeping, flashing, noisy toy that will drive you batty and run on hellishly expensive batteries?  I thought so.

#3: Make a list of your WANTS.  For me, I REALLY WANT a kitchen aid mixer, like really, really badly.  Mike really, really wants an Xbox with Kinect.  Keep it simple and keep it to the “Really, Really” wants.

#4: Make a list of your likes.  Do you like yarn, non-food or floral scents and the colour blue and red?  How about yellows and greens, fruity smells and hair products?  War games?  Chocolate?  Car toys?  Bicycles?  Horses?  BE SPECIFIC!!!  You can also make a very specific dislikes list but its easier to shop for someone when you know what they really like.

#5: Share those lists with your family.

#6: Buy accordingly.  Needs come first, then wants.  Consider buying only gifts that can be for the whole family instead of person specific.  The mixer will provide hours of kitchen fun and the Xbox hours of playing together.  We both win.

#7: Go volunteer for at least 1 hour for every ‘thing’ you buy.  Trust me, if you have time to battle the stores or search the ‘net for the best deals, you have time to help someone in need.

B)  If you feel crafty:

#1: Make nearly identical gifts for everyone.  I still think that the best year of my giving was when I made stained glass angels for everyone.  Using scraps and leftovers from my Mums projects, I changed the colour of the dresses, made some look left, others look right but made a bunch for family and friends.

#2 Knit/Make slippers.  Everyone needs slippers and wearing them in the house cuts down on the vacuuming.  Win-Win for everyone!

#3 Recycle containers and fill with other goodies.  I know I plan to make snowmen like Kristy did and fill them with mint hot chocolate or russian tea.

#4 Should time run out, give IOU’s!  Adults understand this more than kids so try your best to complete the kids gifts first.

C) Give

#1: Give of your time and skills.  Not only am I advocating volunteering but also giving of yourself to your family.  Offer to babysit the niece/nephew(s) while the parents go out.  Offer to do the laundry while your partner has some alone time.  Offer to make their favourite snack during Sunday football.  Give coupons and follow thru and all will be happy.

#2: Give to your favourite charity.  Heifer International is mine and, like always, I am giving a Knitters Gift Basket to a needy family in honour of my Nana.  What better way to share the holiday season than giving to people who are in true need?

D) Create traditions NOT around gifts.

Mike and I are really looking forward to having a feast like we did last year:

and watching Christmas specials.  I’ve got to work on Christmas day so nothing fancy for us but really, we don’t need it.

What are your non-commercial holiday ideas?

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I love sour things.  Usually, the more sour, the better.

 

Today, things got sour here in Nelson Lagoon.  A week ago we were told that there was a water shortage and that we, as a community, needed to conserve water.  We won’t talk about why we ran short on water but, suffice it to say, there was a MASSIVE oversight and dropping of the ball that allowed this to happen.  I, being the thrifty person I am, reduced my laundry, started taking showers every other day and only did dishes every other day.  I also filled a large soup pot, pitcher and my 4c measuring cup, as well as my water bottles.  Today, my preparations came to good use.  As of 11am, Nelson Lagoon is out of water and the pump that we desperately need is still in Anchorage.

I hate living without running water in a 21st century house.  Its really harder than you think and takes a little maneuvering to get just right.  The clinic closed at 1130 because without running water, we have a limited number of procedures we can perform, not to mention the difficulty inherent in hand washing!  This means that my weekend started early…not such a good thing for me with the house in relative shambles, crap weather and very little left to do in the next 6 days.  So thats my Lemon for today.

 

As much as I’ve been wondering about my “Mary Sunshine”/optimistic attitude and its origins…I am so glad that I have it today.

I decided to do my final packing.

My yarn and fiber has been packed around my wheel and the box is nearly sealed for mailing.

I have my Intentions yarn and fiber in a separate box to mail priority rate because the very last thing that I want to have as a chance happening is the loss of nearly a year of work, thought and spinning.

I have my “Leftovers” tote nearly packed too though I am having issues thinking of my pillow being gone for the next week.

Last but not least…my computer.  I’m sitting here trying to think of how I can either drag this post out or make it extremely special since the packing of my iMac is really a big deal for me.  It makes things completely “real” for me…the move is ACTUALLY going to happen very, very soon.  Very.

So things are finally packed and ready for the mail.  I never thought that I would rely on the USPS as my moving company but thats one of the fun things about Alaska!

 

Now that things are packed, I am starting to clean.  Washing windows, dusting sills, running the vacuum…the only thing that I CAN’T do is scrub the tub.

And that can wait…I HATE cleaning the tub/shower.

Ok, so I am not a professional ballet dancer like Seth is and I am pretty sure that children are not on my personal horizon, but I totally can empathize with his idea of happiness.  I’m boring and I’m happy being so.

My idea of a fantastic Friday night includes going for my evening run, coming home, showering and changing into old running pants, cami and sweatshirt, cooking an indulgent dinner (Friday =FRY-day) and enjoying every bite, sitting down with my knitting and movie and having my Canada Dry while sharing a bowl of popcorn with my M.  If I was “In Town”…well, not much would change.  I’d have dinner out, sushi preferably, and then head to a movie (yes, of course I would have my knitting with me) and then home.

Yes, I know it sounds boring.  However…

It makes me happy so I don’t have to justify further.  Just lately, I’ve been slightly confused at some peoples need for justification.

No, I don’t own my house.  I rent it and if you were me, I am darn sure you would rent too.  Buying a home in the area I live in is so far from an intelligent decision that you even asking means that you didn’t bother to think about where I live before you asked.  You also don’t know me well enough to realise that I am not really the own a house type of person.  Sure, I dream big but I also like moving every few years and unless I get one of these tiny houses, I dont think that its possible.  (But I AM really, really looking at building a tiny house for M and I.  Seriously.)

No, I’m not married and Yes, I do live with my partner.  No, I have no idea how that makes my Mum feel but I am sure she would have told me if A) she really thought it would make a difference in how I acted or B) if she was incredibly disappointed with me.  I do know that she thinks I’m a big girl who can make her own decisions and she has never had issue with telling me what she thinks.   I also know that she has made sure to pack things that M likes into the “hugs” that she sends via USPS Priority Flat-Rate boxes…something she never did for J so she must approve of him and I at least a little.

No, I’m not pregnant and No, I have no plans on being so…in fact, I am researching permanent birth control measures.  If you were looking to invest roughly $70k+ on something, a Masters degree for example, and had very steadfast beliefs that to be the best parent possible that you personally would need to be a SAHM, wouldn’t you want insurance that it would take some major interventions to derail your plans?  I would, so I’m looking.  Yes, M knows and is OK with it.  I know this because we talk about it at length.  I also know that we are both very happy with our furry family member.  No, its not a decision easily made and No, I am not rushing anything.

Yes, I AM very happy with my knitting and spinning and No, I don’t think it makes me “Old”.  In fact, I think it makes me pretty darn cool.  When was the last time you used something that you made from scratch?  I can take sheep fuzz and turn it into a garment that someone else can and DOES wear and that fact alone makes to tres cool.  And M thinks so too.  At least he will continue to say so if he wants more socks.  And he is even encouraging me to keep thinking about a new spinning wheel for a future purchase.  That alone is pretty awesome.

Yes, I AM happy being “just” a health aide and No, if you are not someone who has lived in rural Alaska and we haven’t talked about my job in depth, you have no true concept of what that means.  I don’t change bed pans and give baths, though I could do both.  Yes, I do take vitals, write prescriptions, give controlled substances, suture, insert catheters, perform blood draws, start and maintain IV’s  and treat the common cold and all types of chronic care patients.  Really.  “Just” a health aide?  Dude, if I were in a hospital there would be at least 3 people doing my job and I do it without their resources.

Yes, I do miss my family and Yes, they do know it.  However, they are all grateful that I live far away, as am I, because then I can tell them about my adventures, can send them gifts and they can send me “hugs” in return.  I have so much more to tell them and when we are able to get together, we really enjoy the time much more than if we were physically close.  The only real downside is that there really isn’t a chance for them to meet Sisu with me up here and they down there because that would be one heck of a drive or plane tickets for her would be a PITA.  However…you never know what the future might hold and my Mum might be able to meet her Grand-Dog yet!

I would like to think that I am an aware person. I keep my head up, my eyes open and, generally, my ears listening and my mouth shut (at least at first…stop laughing Mum and M.).

Imagine my surprise then when I read “Happy Paczki Day!” from a MI friend. Paczki Day? Already? No flippin’ way. Shrove Tuesday? That means that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. And the beginning of Lent. And that Easter is only 40 days away. And we are already a week into March. (Interesting side note…Easter is ‘late’ this year and it wont be until 2038 that we will have a later one that this. Its because its based on the lunar calendar and is a moveable feast).  How the heck have I missed the fact that Paczki day was upon us?

 

Well, it could be because I don’t live in Lower MI anymore, the only place I have ever heard of a Paczki (say PUNCH-key…though there are some that say POOnch-key), and don’t have anyone of Polish descent living around, not to mention that doughnuts are pretty far off my food preference list AND the closest place to get a doughnut is roughly 4 hours and 500 miles away.  In all reality, I’ve never actually eaten paczki before.  Jelly/Custard-filled doughnuts, yes, but never a REAL paczki (Lemon filled or custard filled are my preferences) and this would make me even more odd than usual, had I still been living in MI, being relatively close to Detroit as I was.  But, fried fattening delacasies aside, sometimes I feel like I am out of touch with the world as a whole.

But…

I know whats going on in the world because of BBC World News, downloaded daily, and have driveway moments with All Things Considered.  I catch up with UK news with “The News Quiz” from Radio 4 and I figure out who Carl is this time with other listeners of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”.  But I don’t watch the local news because I don’t have TV hooked up, even with bunny ears (Yes, in AK, you can still use bunny-ears AND get our rural station collection (where we get a few hours of FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS mixed up daily)).   I dont listen to radio except in the car because I don’t have a radio and we only get AM stations…2 of them.  I don’t go to church because we don’t have any faith-based group and aside from knowing what government and state holiday I have off next, don’t really have a handle on that either.  I live in a remote place with people who are more interested in what they are doing than any uprising in Libya, any financial problems in the EU or any celebrations in Hamtramck.  It makes me sound really cut off.

But I’m not…not really.  I know that its getting lighter much, much earlier and staying light later and I am so very grateful.  I know when the tide will be high and low again.  I know when there have been wolves spotted near town.  I know that there is a plane or two coming in today.    I know that there are discussion ongoing about fish processing and how that will effect life here in Nelson Lagoon.  I know that there is real fear over losing our teacher and eventually our school.  I know that I am looking forward to getting out into Anchorage but laughing at myself when I think of it as THE CITY because I know how small it is in comparison.  I know that I became an aunt again just recently.  I know what my Mum is reading.  I know what my nephew likes playing with at the library.  I know my sister is looking into taking classes again.  I know my BIL is looking towards taking a class in law enforcement.  I know that M and I are really looking forward to our trip, starting today, to “The City” for 5 days of just being away and low-key and out of Nelson Lagoon.

Sometimes I feel like I am missing the world as it passes me by…that I am isolated being so rural.

 

But then I remember that I am as connected as I want to be.

That people who never heard “Happy Paczki Day!” will never miss it.

That if I wanted to hold onto specific holidays I would do so.

That if something is passing me maybe its because I realise that I don’t need to hold on to it because I have something much more precious that I am aware of instead.

 

The post idea for today was: Are you stressed out?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Nope, there is NO stress here at Chez Sisu.  In fact, there is a great joy, anticipation and relaxation around here and here’s why:

Joy?

Oh yes.  The Cold Bay store got a shipment of frozen okra and that means that I can make Okra and Tomatoes, a dish that I just LOVE but havent been able to make properly, due to lack of frozen okra, in 2 years.  It will be hard not to eat the whole batch in one sitting but considering the hours I would have to spend in the loo tomorrow if I do so, I think I’ll restrain myself.

Anticipation?

There is brown rice in the rice pot and lemon chicken (and shrimp) in the crock pot right now.  I’m waiting for the rice to finish and the shrimp to pink up.  The shrimp were a late addition to the pot…I had made a really good version of lemon chicken {3 Bl/Sl Chicken thighs, 3T lemon juice, 2 cloves of garlic crushed, 1/2c water, 1 T chicken bouillon on high 3 hours} and then fished the chicken out, added 3T of soy sauce and 6 frozen shrimp and popped the lid back on.  They are nearly done and its been about 20 minutes.  Yes, I should be worried that any possible bacteria haven’t been killed because the broth hasn’t come to a boil, but as I’ve never gotten sick (knock on wood), I’ll enjoy it as broth over the top of all foods on my plate tonight.

Relaxation?

My Ribby Cardi #2 knit from City Tweed in Orca and Cottontail (Cottontail doesn’t seem to be available anymore, I’m glad I got lots.)  For some reason, I am loving this right now.  I’m knitting it in one piece and, so far, No Worries.  However, I bet money that there will be some issues as my work goes on just because the pattern has to be re-written.  I’m going to take my time though and just work steadily through using all Ravelry tips I can get!

I am spinning Connection, my third Intentions roving and really, all of the above things blend into feeling connected.  I have grand memories of eating okra and tomatoes AND using the crock pot with my family.  I was given my rice pot by the family I was a nanny for and I have quite treasured memories of all of them.  Knitting always makes me feel like I am connected with my Mum, who taught me to knit, and my Nana, who was ALWAYS knitting.  My cardigan was a good knit the first time that I made it (sadly felted it too much to wear again) and I can’t wait to have another, especially one knit in these colours because they match a Favorite Sweater that I had bought at Primark when I was in Belfast…and then lost in Seattle, most likely at Pike Place Market.

To further the connection, I am feeling very connected to M as he is away.  I feel his absence quite keenly this time and I think its because there is a HUGE reason why he is gone:  Training for a new job.  A job that is going to take us away from Nelson Lagoon and on to a new village.  We will be moving together.  Making a fresh start together.  Being connected together.  Being a part of a Couple.

And I am so excited about it, the spinning, M and the move, and the feeling of connectivity is the part that makes me know that everything is as it should be.

 

Sometimes its the search tags that bring people to my blog that bring me the most joy and the above title is a fantastic example of that!  I dont know how but I had 4 people find my blog by searching with those words together.  Kinda makes me wonder…

Alternate title for this post?  Connection #1

I think there’s some connection between absolute discipline and absolute freedom. ~Alan Rickman

Most interestingly, there has been no spinning of Intentions: Connection roving in this past week.

Really, I meant to and had all, pardon the pun, intentions to do so, but it just didnt happen because somethings else got in the way.  Somethings that really belie the connection that I want to establish and culture for the future.

I knit Hanukkah presents for M’s kids and to me, this was establishing a connection that was far above anything else that I could have meditated on whilst treadling at the wheel.  There eventually will be a time when these children are going to be a part of my family and I will be a part of theirs and it is in the making of these simple gifts that I wanted to start building that connection.   I made the hats in only a few days apiece and I love them and will make more of this pattern, Sakura by David Castillo, for others in the future.

But it was the knitting of them that really impacted me.  Hats are simple, easy even and Davids pattern, though beautiful at the crown, is mind-numbing like all 2×2 ribbing always is.  What was it that made these hats special and have an impact on me?  It was that I was knitting them for 2 very special people who I have never had the pleasure of meeting but who I very much want to know and want them to know me because I love their father.  I thought about how, though we will be across the country from each other, I still want to be a part of their lives despite the distance.  I thought about how old they may be before I finally meet them or how long it will be before we can make that trip.  There are so many unknowns but there is one certainty; I WANT to have a connection with these amazing children, M’s children, and to me, knitting is my highest expression of love and connection.

Another aspect of my knitting connection is that I got a care package from home, full of Hallowe’en goodies AND knitting goodies. 

I needed, really needed, snaps and grosgrain ribbon so I could finish my Duplicity and Mum came through!

Now, let me tell you what kind of special hell that was.  I HATE with every fibre of my being, and that is a lot of fibre, let me tell you, sewing on snaps.  Not only do you have to measure and mark each and every one but there are 2 to each snap.  I sewed on 24 snap pairs which means 48 times I had to measure, pin, tack, sew, knot, cut and start again.  It took me 3 nights. Yes, 3 whole evenings to do all that because there is only so much time one can spend head bent over kitchen table with navy thread sewing black snaps onto navy grosgrain ribbon.  But its done and I will never again finish a sweater with snaps, no matter how interesting.  A reversible zipper would have suited just fine, thankingyouverymuch.

Forgive the dirty mirror and the self pics, I need my photographer to return! 

 

And on the topic of needing my photographer to return, I have started the countdown for M coming home.  While I’ve missed him, I’ve also really enjoyed having time being me.  And then it hit me…the only difference between the Me I am when M is here and the Me I am when he is gone is the level of yarn strewn about the house.  Well, that and the amount of time that I spend on Facebook trying to keep in touch with someone 4 timezones away!  The latter is another form of my connection with M when travelling and my family which is spread helter-skelter across the states.  We keep in touch thru phone calls, care packages, cards, emails and most recently, Facebook.  Of all things, I think its the Facebook that I can give up the easiest and I really cant wait until I won’t need to log in so often.

Anyway, seeing that me is me, no matter if M is here or not was quite eye opening.  It made me feel so much better.  See, one of my biggest fears about being in a relationship is that I would lose the part of me that made me me in favor of being ‘a couple’.  I’ve had 2 other relationships and it was the first that started teaching me that I could always be myself if my partner loved me for me.  In fact, I learned a lot about being me and the things that I like FROM him 🙂  He is still a good friend and someone I trust.  The second relationship taught me that I was perfectly fine being “alone” in a relationship while my partner was gone doing his own thing.  Yeah, there is the importance of being together, but I was more than wonderful without him…so much so that I think it may have been one of the reasons the relationship ended.  Now, with M, we have spent more time apart than we have together but really, its only made things better.  We savor every moment that we are together, have little things that we do together but also make us work apart.  The connection we have…now that is something to really meditate on.  And until the 12th, thats what I’ll be spinning my wheel to.

 

Taking part in The Simple Woman’s Daybook:

Outside my window, I’ve watched the sun come up with my cup of coffee.

I am thinking about someone 5 time zones away.

I am thankful for my warm house.

I am wearing my uniform of jeans, cami and cardigan.

In the learning room, the podcast, “Stuff you missed in History Class

I am remembering that I need to send a swatch to my Mum for colour matching for my Duplicity.

I am going to spend the day spinning for my Intentions project.

I am currently reading “The Language of Bees” by Laurie R King.

I am hoping that the phones will work well and my someone can get thru when he phones later on.

On my mind is my future

Noticing that the grass is nearly all yellow and dead

Pondering these words…

From the kitchen, pork and sauerkraut are bubbling in the crock-pot

Around the house, I’m realizing that I need to rearrange furniture for a ‘change of pace’.

One of my favorite things is sitting at my spinning wheel listening to podcasts.

From my camera, the series of photos I took last weekend of having my sewer replaced, old for new, free of charge:

Sadly, I don’t mean Ha’waii, (or any of the many other “Big Island” ) though I really wish it were so.

Nope, I’m in Sand Point on Popof Island, one of the many of the Aleutian Chain.  Whilst here I get to see, as patients, many of the things that Nelson Lagoon doesn’t afford me…namely children and pregnant women 🙂   See, in Nelson Lagoon, our two youngest children are 10 and no one is expecting.  That makes my getting hands-on experience with kids and prenatal patients a great difficulty unless I come to Sand Point, which, while it makes me sad to leave Sisu and M behind, makes me very happy indeed.

Aside from seeing a whole lot of patients (I’ve seen more in the past 3 days than I have in 2 months in Nelson Lagoon)…

I get to run on hills and (somewhat) paved roads AND not have to worry about wild animals as there are no scary quadrupeds on the island.

I get to stay with and visit my friend TR, who, aside from sharing a first initial, also shares the same birthday…which is interesting when I think about it because another friend, also named T(nee Y), shares the same birthday too…raise your hand if you have a birthday on 8/29 and are also a T.

I get to shop at a grocery store before going home. Granted, its not like a Fred Meyer (massive) and the manager did laugh at me when I said that I had “Options to choose from” and commented that I ” MUST not be from around here” to say such things. It was pretty sad to be feeling overwhelmed at such a small supply but there you have it…bush life is making me appreciate the little things which I always think is a good thing.

I get to ask T RTQ’s (Random Therapist Questions) and she asks me RMQ (Random Medical Questions), both of which makes us better providers because we can ask all the stupid/silly/odd/weird/controversial questions and have a very open and frank dialogue. I love her for that.

I get isolated from my stash and WIP’s.  This means that I have to focus on only what I have brought with me.  This time, its socks.  I am working on toe-up Jaywalkers (Original pattern HERE) for M (his first socks) and am using Felici Sport Self Striping Yarn in Sticks and Stones colourway from Knitpicks.  I’m just going to take a moment here to tell you how much I LOVE this yarn.  Holy Cats, it is so soft and squishy…amazingly soft, really.  For a Merino/Nylon 75/25 blend, I am in mad, mad love with the soft/squishy factor here and I want to make a whole lot more with this yarn.  Granted, I haven’t washed nor worn anything made from it yet so I could be bitterly disappointed with how it wears…but something tells me that this will not be the case.  While it IS splitty and rather loosely plied, I knit sport weight socks predominantly on 1’s (fingering weight on 0’s) so these are a pretty tightly knit pair of socks.   My distance enforced project monotony monogamy means that I have finished the first (nearly) and have started on the second last night.  I’ll be excited to see how far I get before Sunday, especially considering that I have an overnight in Cold Bay and there is little for me to do while there.  The one downside that I have discovered is that M’s feet are bigger than mine and while 2 balls of heavy fingering/sport yarn will make a pair of socks for me (1 ball each), it wont work for him.  The cuff is only 3″ and while I don’t mind shorter cuffs, short ones when not intended are annoying.  So I have to order more yarn from KnitPicks.  This means reviewing my always-evolving shopping cart and wish list.  Dash it all.

Well, 2 more days here and then out to Cold Bay on Saturday so I can get the early flight home on Sunday.  Fingers crossed that I can make it all the way home for my birthday!

I really love Method products.  Right after I found them in college, I have been a devotee, especially to their laundry detergent.  I love the concentrated formulae, the scent, the smooth packaging…and I thought I would really like their new formulation and packaging with the pump bottle.

I would love to give a review of this product, however, it isn’t possible as each time it has been sent to me from Drugstore.com, the bottles were not packaged right and the *entire* contents leaked out.  Seriously.

The first time was forgivable and I phoned CS, spoke to a very apologetic and awesome representative and they sent me another, with the annotation to shipping that the bottles needed to be in a plastic bag. The bottles came again, empty, as no tape or plastic bag had been used.

I phoned CS again and this time made sure that a note had been written on the order for extra care to be taken with the shipping. Again, nothing was done and once again, I received a soaking, dripping box from an irate postal worker.

So I phoned CS once again and learned that the ordering system at drugstore.com is so fast that orders are packed and sent BEFORE people are able to read the special packaging requests or “walk through” requests.

Wow.

If only I had known this earlier, I would have saved myself time and just ordered from somewhere else. Somewhere where their shipping department realizes that sending liquid items can be messy and that plastic bags or tape can prevent a lot of phone calls to CS. I can hear some of you thinking, “But, you’re in Alaska and thats a long way to send something.’ and you’re right…but I have also had liquid things shipped from nearby when in the lower 48 and also come empty but all that is avoided with 3” of plastic tape.  A simple, cheap fix.  My mistake?  To think that A) a shipping department would take care with containers with liquid and tape them closed and B) that notes written on orders would be read (gasp) before shipment!

If you’ll excuse me, I’m now off to put in an emergency order with Fred Meyer.  I’ve got laundry to do.

I came home to a ringing phone on Monday and soon followed an invitation from my neighbor to “Go and catch some Hooligans”.  My response?  “I have no idea what you are talking about but sure, I’d love to go!”

Hooligans turn out to be little fish that come in to the beach to spawn but unlike salmon who always return to their own hatchling stream to spawn, Hooligans just follow the current.  The last time that Hooligans were in Nelson Lagoon it was 18 years ago so this was a big event.  Currently, both as how water moves and as in right now, our beach has had interesting things happening and for the first time in years we have gotten molted king crab shells on the beach too. 

My neighbor had brought 3, 1 gallon ice cream buckets to be filled and a net to catch the fish.  The net, however, turned out to be completely useless because the webbing was too big…not that it was needed!  If you have seem Smelt, you have a pretty good idea on size.  For those of you not in the know, these fish are the size of 2 fingers together max and those are the males; females are maybe the width of a middle finger and both are just under 6″ long.  Interestingly, the males have a broad back and this odd ridge where their back flares and then goes down to their belly, like a triangle.  Females are small and smooth, quite delicate and dainty looking.  Either way, these fish SWARM the beach in their frenzy to spawn and the beach was completely invaded.  When you look at the pictures of the water and waves, look for the dark shapes…all fish!  Seeing the millions of fish was completely astounding and mind boggling.

…except for the larger dark shape further out…thats a seal, who, with all his friends, were very interested in the hooligans! 

The ones of me standing in the water don’t show my shivers over the very weird feelings of squirmy, slippery bodies wiggling all around my legs and feet.  Incredibly weird feeling but very cool and alive and just what I needed to make me smile and laugh. 

It was easy to scoop up the fish with your hands and waves would bring the fish right up to your feet so you could dash in and pick them up, dodging the waves. Buckets filled quickly…much faster than it took to clean them for dinner!  Such fiddly work for little bites but 3 meals in a bucket means that I have 2 baggies in my freezer for the future.

Sisu was a little unsure of the fish at first…so many she didn’t know what to do with them all 🙂 

Before you get into the photos of me handing her fish, please know that she was incredibly gentle when taking them, holding each fish so gently…barely touching them and holding them like they were eggs.  Each and every fish was wiggling when she put it back down again.  She wanted to play and each and every fish she took she brought it a little way away on the beach and put it down to play with it, nosing it and batting it and looking incredibly disappointed when they stopped flipping.  Grand total of live fish dog toys: 6.  Number of dead fish on the beach: Millions.   Amount of joy for dog, owner and friends: Priceless.

It was an amazing day and thats all it was, one day and then the waves and current shifted and the Hooligans were washed off to another beach.  The millions of dead fish left behind are still littering the beach, waiting for a high enough tide to come wash them back into the sea.  When I told M (the man I am seeing) about the fish and my day, he said, “Oh, you mean cucumber fish?”  I was confused.  “Cucumber fish?  They don’t look like cucumbers and don’t taste like them either…what do you mean?”

“When they die, the entire beach smells like cucumbers, not dead fish.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.  Go tomorrow and see”

And he was/is right.  The beach, honest to goodness, smells like salt water and cucumbers!  Its crazy and funny and has to be one of the weirdest things ever.  Cucumbers.  Who would have thought.