Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Own Circus

My sweet husband has been teasing me about running a circus around here. So I guess by teaching my mini, Mukluk, more tricks I am only giving him more reasons to do so! Even so, its been really fun, and a great thing to do with my girls. We have all learned a lot, and hope to learn more along the way.

Here is Mukluk's latest trick. I want to get them all on video so I can record his (and our) progress for Penelope's 4-H project journal. (It was 40 degrees out, very unusual for us, so my Alaskan girl was perfectly happy to be in shorts..silly girl)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Its Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

I love the days and weeks leading up to Christmas! I think it came way too fast this year, as I was still enjoying the process of getting ready. Some favorite moments from this year:

* listening to Josh Groban's Silent Night, while sipping cocoa and writing cards
* Watching the puppy try to figure out what a Christmas tree is all about
* Seeing the girls make their gingerbread houses
* Homemade eggnog milkshakes!
* our annual tradition, watching Charlie Brown's Christmas
* Making homemade fudge for friends and neighbors
* Sneaking around while planning gifts
* seeing the girls giggle and tell secrets
* hot buttered rum made by my sweetie, then sitting together by the fire
* driving around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights
* getting cards in the mail, and putting them all up in our dining room! Love it!
* putting up my Willow Tree nativity set
* decorating the house with some of my favorite snowman things
* looking at all of our own cards from Christmas pasts, and scrapbooks too

Penguin enjoying the Christmas tree

some of our cards..we like to put them up by the hidden light panels in our dining room

our advent calendar
a fun snowman throw I found at the thrift store!!

I like non-traditional colors, and look for alternatives to red and green. I love my door wreath.

this Victorian santa is over four feet tall, he is a favorite around here, and the first piece of decor that we put up.

I strung our previous years' photo cards, in order, to this year's card (on right)

our "door" which is actually a tall wooden photo album, full of past Christmas photos

We love Alaskan ornaments, such as these moose and our funny whales..

My grandma Margaret, and my mother in law, Sue, both loved Raggedy Ann dolls. Grandma Sue has a sweet collection of the dolls, vintage cuties. Grandma Margaret made dolls each year, making a total of 50-70 to give to each granddaughter in the family. Raggedy Ann dolls have a lot of meaning to all of us, so this ornament holds great memories.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Clicker Training our Mini

We have had SO much fun clicker training our miniature horse, Mukluk. He loves to learn tricks and is very smart, and easy to teach. We use Nilla Wafers for a treat, and he will do anything for him. Watch the video: This trick took about ten minutes to teach, from start to finished voice command.

We used this trick for a 4-H presentation, for our horse club, and everyone liked it. So, we are doing a mini clinic with our horse club and their horses, on Clicker Training, right after Christmas. We are excited about teaching it and seeing everyone's ideas!

A few Clicker Training tips:

1. Start with a treat they love. If they will sniff it and walk away, its the wrong treat. :)

2. Use a high rate of reward-click and treat, click and treat, click and treat, until they know a click will always be followed by a treat.

3. Once they know what the clicker is, choose a trick or behavior to do. Its best to start with something they already do naturally, such as pawing the ground or tossing the head.

4. Reward for the slightest indication of what you want. Then ask for more and more until you have exactly what you wanted.

5. Have fun!! You can use Clicker Training for dogs, horses, etc. Its easy and fun!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Don't Moose Around

There is a joke in Alaska, about never seeing enough pictures of moose in the newspaper. If the news is slow, and they don't have any other ideas, you will always see a moose on the front page! Moose in yards, moose by cars, moose with other moose, baby moose, mama moose, papa moose, moose heads, moose hineys, moose running, scooting, waving, and sailboating! Well, you get the ideas.

Anyway, all my Alaskan friends will say "so what? another moose pic?" when I post this. But I have always been fond of moose (you know this if you have followed this blog awhile..remember the ka-YUTE baby moose?) and I just never get tired of them. We see them just about every day, but I rarely stop to take a picture.

This guy made me laugh though, with his funny whitewashed face. And when I pulled over the car, instead of running into the wintery wood, he turned to face me and posed.

Goodbye funny fella. Maybe you will be on the front page of the news when I get it tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I don't have much time to post, Christmas is almost upon us..and I am trying to keep the kids focused on school for one more week (while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads..hee hee) so we can be at a great stopping place in our unit studies.

We went out tree hunting yesterday, and I could not resist some winter pictures. Our weather has been unusual lately, in that we have had heavy fog trapping cold air in the woods, and causing frost build-up on the trees. We also have not had any new snow, to cover up the frost or cause the trees to droop. Then, the temps have been low, around ten degrees, so that made the sky very VERY blue! So beautiful. All of that delicate frost elegantly adorning our trees. I'm an Alaskan-born girl, and after living here my whole life, I still never tire of our scenery.

Its truly like walking in a winter wonderland.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

That was Then, This is Now

That was then. Fun!
This is now. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Turkey, Some Cousins, & a Trivial Pursuit Victory

I have been thinking about it, and I think the best thing about Thanksgiving this year was when we were preparing for it. My girls were SO darn sweet about not wanting me to "do too much". They put on their favorite aprons and dove in! We were going to my folk's house for the big family dinner, so we only had to bring a few dishes to contribute.

We made 24 Hour Salad, 10 lbs of mashed potatoes, and Penelope made a big beautiful layered banana pudding. Chena peeled a mountain of potatoes, then whipped them up in our Kitchen Aid. Gotta love that thing. I sure do. We listened to Christmas CDs and danced around the kitchen together. I'm so lucky to have my kooky twosome.

We had lots of fun this year, even with a few changes from our normal family members who attend. My Dad was in Michigan deer hunting, a gift for his birthday, and my brother Rich was at work on the North Slope. His wife and two kids didn't come, as they went to her parents' there were some people missing. My son Lex is in S Korea in the Air Force. But we had some special guests too. My sister's two young foster children were there with us, so we had some extras. We all love them and consider ourselves blessed with extra kiddos!

After dinner, the gals challenged the guys to a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit. Only it wasn't too rousing, because we started trouncing them immediately, and they all acted bored to hide their pouting. My poor husband would have rather had his fingernails pulled out one by one, than play a family board game, but he was a good sport and managed not to fall asleep. Of course we won, and we girls tried not to look too smug.

The girls hung out with their cousins, while they all tried to figure out "who got who" for our annual Christmas drawing (they each draw one name, and only buy a gift for that one cousin..but its a secret..or supposed to be). Then they watched the movie "Up" in the playroom, and a few went downstairs to play fuseball.

My Mom was leaving early the next day to go join Dad in Michigan, so we were lucky enough to divide up all the leftovers, and even got a whole pie to take home!

On Black Friday I hopped out of bed early ( hopped=dragged in a loopy fashion) to pick up my sister and head to town to catch the sales. I'm real thankful for free coffee at the stores, it was the only thing that got me through the first five or six hours. Its all fun though. Can't tell you what I bought here, (shhhhh) but I was able to find some great deals!

Friday night was fireworks at our annual Christmas Comes to the Kenai parade and festivities. Everyone goes to it, so we always see tons of family and friends.

Lots of nieces, nephews, cousins and second cousins watching the display in the sky!

I call this one "The Dying Jellyfish".

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOH" you could hear the kids say....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dandelion Litzen | A Dog Named Christmas

Hallmark is having a canine photo contest, and if you want to vote for our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Dandelion, here is the link: Dandelion Litzen A Dog Named Christmas. Oh yeah, ignore the other cute doggies and just vote for her. Ha ha.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Birthday Girl!

Last year for Penelope's birthday party, we went to River City Cheer with all the cousins and a few friends too. She loved it so much, she wanted to go again this year! All the cousins were hoping for that too, so we booked it early and could hardly wait for her big day.

It was SOOOO much fun. They have a huge room with wall-to-wall mats, a big foam pit, a huge swing to swing over the pit and jump in, an extra long trampoline, rings, poles, balls, and more! It's definitely a place where a kid can be a kid (and a few adults can too!)

After all the crazy play, we went to the party room. Penelope wanted a tropical party, so we had fruity Starburst candies, water bottles with colorful fish stickers, a HUGE monkey balloon, and coconut icecream! It made me want to go to the islands...

Penelope got some new riding boots from us, and she was pretty excited about that..and has big plans for them! We also got her the traditional stuffed animal she loves, this year it was a BIG Beagle which she named Emmerson. Her sister even bought him a collar, and he had birthday charms on it too, for a sweet extra touch.

It was just a really fun party. I still cannot believe that she turned 11 though!

After the party, we had to hustle up and head right out. It was the 4-H Awards Day too, and Chena was one of the announcers. It was an extra special day for Penelope too, because she received her Northwind Riders Horse Club riding jacket! It takes a year to earn it, and she did a great job and was so excited and eager to get the coat with her name on it.

Looking at her name!

Happy Birthday sweet girl of mine. You really are a "Penny From Heaven" as your birth announcements proclaimed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Squishy Face Meets the Black Beauty

Duvall: "Come a little closer, I want to kiss you.."

Charlotte: "Bring that thing over here, I want to bite it. I'm not afraid of anything fifteen times bigger that I am. I could chew its mane off, and that bridle looks like a nice chew toy too.."

Us: "Uh, okay, that's probably enough of a meeting for now, you think?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Surprise! Its a New Puppy!

Incredibly, we added two new family members to our household on the same weekend. I was up in Fairbanks, visiting friends and buying a new horse, and Michael and the girls were plotting to sneak a puppy into our lives.

Meet Charlotte!!!!!!!
She is an eight week old yellow Labrador Retriever, and just about the most precious girl you can imagine.
Mike was thinking about getting a Lab puppy, but was not sure it would be this year, he thought he might like to wait for next year. He asked me to just check around, see what litters were available, etc.
I made one call, to Dandelion's puppy instructor, who is a Lab breeder. She got back to me recently, and said she had a litter, up in Willow. I thanked her, but didn't give it much thought.
While I was up in Fairbanks, she called me on my blackberry and told me she was driving to Willow, to evaluate the pups for show, and would I like her to bring a pup back with her? I told her no, we were not ready, and didn't want a female (all that she had left), and etc. I gave her our home phone, and didn't think about it much again.
Turns out, she was quite the salesman! She called him, told him about the pups, and directed him to her website. He said he didn't want a female, and she told him to check out her program, look at her gallery of photos of her females, and call her back. He did, and was intrigued. You might even say hooked. He wanted to go and see the pups. They were located over four hours away. That is, by car. So he and the girls jumped in the airplane and flew into Willow. The breeder who had collaborated with her, who owned the mother Lab, turned out to be Dee Dee Jonroe, a well-known musher and Iditarod contender. They were picked up at her private airstrip and wisked away to see the "babies". The girls played with the puppies. Michael talked about bloodlines, genetics, size, weight, temperament, etc. The girls didn't worry about any of that, they were already in LOVE. Together, they all decided on a little girl puppy. The deal was made, and they climbed back in the airplane, with a new precious addition, and flew home.
All this was unbeknownst to me, and it was decided to keep her a secret and surprise me when I got back home.
And so it was that when I pulled into the yard, after a long two-day horse hauling adventure, there sat my big tough husband on a hay bale...holding his newest love in his arms...little "Sharlie" girl.
I was SHOCKED. He just doesn't do things on a wim, and it was a pretty major decision to become a three-dog family, just like that. I jumped out of the car and ran to him, not sure if I wanted to kiss him first or the sweet golden baby with the huge dark eyes and floppy ears! She was the cutest thing.
Well, they wanted to wait and let me help them name her, because I'm good with naming animals (lots of practice!) but they all got tired of calling her "Baby" and waiting for me to finally get home. So they brainstormed a bit, and came up with Charlotte. The girl we bought our new horse from is named Charlotte, and the girls really liked her name. Plus, Michael's favorite movie of all time is Charlotte's Web, he used to watch it almost every day when Lex was a toddler, and he has the whole thing memorized.
So Charlotte it was, and it really fits her perfectly.

Charlotte with her feather:

A face just about anyone could love!

Who? Me?

More Charlotte stories to come! (and yes, I know we are spoiled rotten..that's not lost on me right now.......

Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Horse...Meet Duvall!

Its a long crazy story, but for now I just want to say we have a new family member! He is a beautiful registered Polish Arabian gelding, named Duvall. We are all in love with him already, and he just got here!

He's settling in great, he really loves Mukluk the mini. They had fun getting to know each other.

Chena and Penelope rode him for the first time today, I got to ride him before we bought him, and Michael can't wait to go out on him.

Friends already!

He had no trouble getting to know Summer, in about ten minutes they were scratching each other's necks in perfect contentment. Silly geldings.

He's quite the guy...he has a fun goofy friendly personality, and he is very curious. Super sweet, and well trained with a willing energetic spirit. We are going to have so much fun with him!