Whimsical Moment

It always amuses and amazes me that a moment in time can provide hours of entertainment or just living a better life.  That such change can come from such a small thing seems improbable and, yet, it happens.  Last week, a Facebook friend posted another version of Stand By Me, a song written in the early 1960’s by Ben King, Jerry Lieber, and Mike Stoller.  It was originally sung by King and released in 1961 hitting #4 on the record charts.   The song has been revived for film and advertisements over the years and it’s popularity continues as it’s introduced to new generations.

Playing for Change came about in 2002 when Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke decided to record street performers in America using a mobile recording device and cameras.  This small step led them to record, visually and musically, artists around the world which, then, led to creating a foundation to support building music and art schools around the world and, hopefully, to provide a new understanding of how much alike we all are despite our differences.

Those two worlds collided when Mark and Whitney heard Roger Ridley, now deceased, in Los Angeles singing Stand By Me and, ultimately, recording him.  Roger’s voice and music was added to other musicians from around the world singing or playing the same song.  If one and one make two, then, musically two and more make perfection.  So, I must thank my friend, Daniel, for the introduction to a whole new world musically.  Through that one small moment, I have discovered Grandpa Elliot, Clarence Bekker, and Playing for Change.  From that, I have gone on to listen to more Grandpa Elliot songs (I really like his voice) and from there to learning about Playing for Change.  Your moment of whimsy  made a change in the path of my life by renewing the joy found in music.

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Great British Baking

Coconut cakeThere are several shows on PBS that I watch on a fairly regular basis, but I got totally caught up in The Great British Baking Show.  It was great fun and I saw baking that I have never heard of much less seen.  I watched each episode avidly and, naturally, chose my favorite baker.  All contestants were people whose avocation was baking thrilling their families and friends with their confections to fit any sweet need.

My mother was a baking wonder.  Anything she put her hands to make became a delicious dessert that earned the oohs and aahs of our family.  Now that I think about it, her next sister, Zula Mae, was the family champion not only of baking but cooking as well.  Growing up was a life filled with great food and, sadly, none of those abilities were passed on to me. However, I still remember my Mom and Dad in the kitchen days before Christmas making her famous, to us, fresh coconut cake.  They would huddle over the coconut with tools in hand to drill holes in the coconut eyes to drain the “milk” before cracking it and digging out the fresh coconut.  Being spoiled by all that freshness, I’ve never liked any other type of coconut.

The three layers were baked and poked with toothpicks all over before the “milk” was poured into each layer.  It was iced with Seven Minute Icing and the freshly grated coconut applied generously over the entire iced cake.  It was heaven on your tongue, a true Christmas treat.  It took hours to make this confection, but it was worth every minute of effort.  Maybe that explains why I enjoyed the Great British Baking Show.  Those folk worked with the same intensity and purpose as my parents with the same spectacular results.  You’ll have to excuse me, my sweet tooth is calling my name.

 

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Driving Alaska

It’s very hard to explain the feel of Alaska when even their largest city, Anchorage, has a small town feel. It is built in a sprawl not upward like New York City. Street names are fun while driving around downtown.  There’s Albatross, Caribou, Glacier, Kinnikinnick, Mt McKinley (tell me you didn’t expect that one), along with the main drags of Dimond and Bragaw.  The other 3000+ street names are pretty much what you would see anywhere you travel.

Route 1 is not only the primary road in Alaska for travel but also just about the only major artery available.  It is two lane except for more populated areas which are four lane.  We traveled from Mt. Denali to Homer on Route 1 a length of less than 550 miles with a few stop overs on the way.  However, unlike the lower 48, you have to ensure that your tank is filled because gas stations are rare unless you’re near a village or town.  Although if you ran out of gas, you probably wouldn’t have a problem getting assistance.

That assistance would probably have to come from a passerby since phone and internet access is notoriously unavailable outside the more populated areas.  However, if you don’t want to drive, you can take a train, bus, or plane if one of those will get you there.  The more remote areas are only available by plane or boat.  When I say plane, I’m not talking about some big hulk that will provide transportation for the masses.  We don’t have masses here.  These are the small planes that carry just a few people.  My daughter actually sat in the copilot seat for one business trip.  She’s lucky that way.  When traveling she keeps a keen eye on the weather just as a pilot would.  If winds kick up or snow blows, then the small planes don’t fly and getting home is a priority for her.

The more remote villages don’t have hotels or restaurants. They don’t get a lot of visitors so it just doesn’t make good business sense to build either.  While there on  business, you would hunker down in a local school or such with your bedroll and the food you brought with you.  Isolation brings about its own problems and the natives aren’t immune to the temptations that abound throughout the world.  Where available, the internet will assuredly build a bridge for those who choose to use it.  Maybe, we can make the world a little better by listening to them.

 

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In Rememberance

It was an email that reminded me of someone whom I had long forgotten.  While I was growing up, Kate Smith was an endearing and enduring personality whose voice rang strong and true.  Her contralto was unmistakable and always cheered listeners by force of her heart and the energy portrayed as she sang.

Prior to 1920, Irving Berlin, a renowned songwriter, had written a song which he had filed away until approached by Kate Smith’s manager in 1938 for a song to sing at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the end of World War I.  It was at a time in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s when the United States was still recovering from the Great Depression and World War I, the war to end all wars, and hearing disturbing news of the increasing turmoil in Eastern Europe.  As you can imagine, morale was low, worries were great, and the future disheartening.  Berlin offered them the song entitled, “God Bless America”.

The song’s effect was immediate as Kate broadcast it over the radio bringing a new energy to American citizens which continues to this day.  This is the original recording of that song.

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Blowing In The Wind

For the most part, it has been a warmer winter than normal in the Anchorage area; however, the cold has finally arrived.  Watching the weather report is an adventure in wide-eyed amazement.  Right now, it is 13 in our fair town, but the wind chill drops it -3.  But I get wide-eyed at Fairbanks forecast which right now is -32 with no wind chill  No worry, it’s going up to -29 later tonight.  Uh, whoopee?

For the most part, the Anchorage area has very calm, low wind speeds which means the temperature given is the temperature felt, making it fairly comfortable.  Recently, the wind started blowing lowering the real feel quickly.  The snow that fell in January laid on the roofs in peaceful beauty for weeks on end until the wind came.  It’s strong arrival blew the dry snow that had accumulated everywhere, looking at times as if it were snowing, but it was just the wind doing it’s thing. Now, the snow-covered roofs are partially bare while the remaining snow is rippled much like sand on the beach.

But we are the lucky ones since some higher elevations outside of this area had winds up to 90 miles per hour.  This unforgiving, harsh cold driven by the blast of wind becomes deadly quickly.  It’s amazing to realize that people not only choose to live here, but also thrive making a life that brings them comfort.  However, there are those who choose to live in a warmer climate like Florida or Arizona during the early months of the year, escaping the worst of the cold.  Schools and businesses run regularly and life continues in its daily grind.  Icy conditions are about the only thing that brings normal to a slower pace.  It seems incredible, but if you know no other way to live or prefer the assets of Alaska to a warmer life, then, it begins to make some sense, maybe.

 

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Ecosystem’s Small Miracles

A Facebook acquaintance posts tons of pictures of animals most of which are cute, warm, and cuddly and I say “aw” and just slide on by.  However, there was one post which I decided to watch and am so glad I did. This whole video was so greatly intriguing that I had to know if what it showed was true and Googled Yellowstone Park which has some good information available.  The information discussed what has been learned and what the ongoing studies will watch.

How Wolves Change Rivers

You can also watch wolf expert Doug Smith and review other information on the Yellowstone Park  site.  We pat ourselves on our backs saying how ecologically smart we are, yet it’s obvious how little we really know. Maybe we see the forest and miss the trees by hearing the myths and ignoring the facts.

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Alaskan Creativity

It’s unclear whether it’s the long, dark winters or the free-spirited-ness of the Alaskan culture, but everyone here seems to be so creative.  My dentist’s wife wore a beautiful knitted cap one day when she arrived late to the office.  I went into instant want and lust for that cap, but, thankfully, didn’t rip it right off her head.  That would be rude!  But I digress, back to the arts of Alaska.

Any who, my collection, while very small, includes a whalebone seal and several sets of original earrings and necklaces all of which are made by tradespeople in Alaska.  The necklaces, made by Sheila Wray of Juneau, are beautiful and all natural, which I prefer.  Plus I got to pick what I wanted and they were made just for me.  My favorite of all Alaskan made products is the Ulu which I just discovered is sold on Amazon no less.  These are wonderful kitchen tools for cutting herbs or veggies allowing for a rocking motion and easy manipulation of the blade to access all areas at once.

Attending a local farmer’s market in downtown Anchorage is an adventure in shopping with a wide variety of items all of which are made by the local artisans.  Native Alaskans provide a slew of crafts made from all the resources available.  When it reopens this coming spring, I plan on being there a lot to shop, shop, shop.

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ALASKAN ULU KNIFE GIFT SET

\Product Details

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And That’s The Way It Is

Only rarely do I think of my age nor can I understand why it should have any affect on my doings and thinking.  But sometimes it just gets slapped in one’s face.  Kanye West is a rapper, songwriter, record producer, director, entrepreneur and fashion designer.  In his spare time, he spends his leisure with his wife, Kim Kardashian.  Recently, he recorded a song with Paul McCartney which caused quite a splash in the music world.

West’s fans responded enthusiastically with praise for the recently released song and added that this Paul McCartney guy had a bright future in the music world.  Since 72-year-old Sir Paul is a well-renowned former Beatles member, composer, and known worldwide for his achievements in the field of music, this proves once again that ignorance is not bliss.

Musical collaborations aren’t anything new.  Music brings together those who speak that language for the pleasure of “talking” together and creating a sound that is like no other, totally unique to those who are creating it.  One of my favorite Christmas songs, Peace On Earth, was sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.  Another was Wyclef Jean and Freddie Mercury in “Another One Bites The Dust” especially since it was remixed years after Freddie died.

Freddie would have loved it since he did his own collaboration with Monsarrat Caballe in a tribute to the town she loved, “Barcelona”.  These few examples are barely a scratch in the surface of musical collaborations over the ages.  Really, isn’t music always a collaboration between those who write it and those who play it.  Maybe that’s just the way it is.  It would be nice if we could bring such harmony into our every day life and collaborations with others.

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Alaskan Snow Story

Beautiful winter picture  AliciaMoving to Alaska in September meant that I expected to see a typical Alaskan winter; however, weather phenomena seem to follow me around.  It was a typhoon in Okinawa, earthquake in California, and tornadoes in Virginia and Mississippi.  So, it was with fear and trepidation that I faced a certainty that Alaska would offer me its worst winter in years.  And that’s sort of what happened.  They had the warmest winter ever through the end of 2014 setting all types of new records.

We had a few brief snow showers that melted quickly until the ground became cold enough to retain the last few inches.  The trend continued with temperatures in the thirties and forties until last week when the forecast suggested snow was coming, probably.  A front was coming backed by yet another one both of which could bring a snow event.IMG_0144

Sure enough, on Thursday evening, there was a snow shower lasting a few hours before ending.  Then, Friday, a second round began in late afternoon which should have ended this Saturday morning.  It’s late afternoon now and it’s still snowing and the flakes  which started out as almost minuscule have become fatter and are just as plentiful.

The neighbors were out earlier shoveling or snow blowing driveways ridding themselves of the accumulation up to that point.  I’m sure that the big plows are out clearing the roads while smaller ones will clear the sidewalks.  It’s a quiet, white vista everywhere you look with curbs creating bumps defining yard from street.  This is the first real snow of this Alaskan winter in the Anchorage area.  Tomorrow, the high is -1 with the low at -8.  It’s a real Alaska winter now.

 

 

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Acronyms Anonymous

I am hereby declaring it an absolute necessity for the good of the nation that we begin a new therapy group called Acronyms Anonymous where people could go to meetings for assistance in curbing their compulsion to abbreviate everything they write.  If you’re tweeting, texting or on Instagram, I could understand, but it’s cropping up in more and more places.

If you’re in the military or a government employee,  acronyms are common.  They can ABCDEF with the best of them. Just like everything else, it’s always where you draw the line.  If I’m in a hurry and need info, I have no problem texting “Where r u?” and when they reply, return with “k”.  So, I get it, but to shorten things just because you can could easily become a habit, a lazy habit.

I’m seeing Facebook posts with “bc” rather than “because” and other abbreviations that take a little longer to figure out.  I love puzzles and word games so depending on the mood it can be fun or just mildly annoying.  Eventually, I remember that words mean something and should be treasured.  Good communication isn’t an inherent human trait, it’s learned and it behooves us to teach it to those younger or those who’ve never learned.

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