th9 Free money for staying put.I am officially an Alaskan once more: The state has determined me eligible to receive the 2014 Permanent Fund Dividend.

During my previous residence here (1984-2001) we used to joke that the PFD checks paid for our obligatory visits to visit family back on the East Coast. Now that I’m on a tighter budget, I’m going to follow the sage advice of Liz Weston: Keep 10 percent for whatever you want, and send the rest where it can do some good.

In my case that means 90 percent will wind up in my Roth IRA. The rest? We’ll see.

How much money are we talking? The ballpark estimate for 2014 is $1,800. That’s a lot of money just for staying put.


read more

I want to vanish.

th4 150x150 I want to vanish.I sort of already have: DF dropped me at the Anchorage airport at 10 p.m. Tuesday and I hit Tarpon Springs, Fla., at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. For the next five days I’ll be visiting my dad and my sister.

Timing-wise, not great: When I made the reservation a couple of months ago I’d planned it as a barely-any-work vacation. But recently an unexpected magazine assignment came in and an established deadline got moved up a week.

So the time I thought I’d spend hanging with family, doing a bit of sightseeing, and taking long walks and longer baths has turned into a “how to balance interviews with vacation.”


read more

th10 Celebrate the Iditarod start: Win a hat!The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has its ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday in March. People line the streets, which have been prepared by having snow put on them and which are aflame with barking, leaping, howling dogs.

If you happen to speak Canine, you’ll be able to hear what they’re saying: Let’s GO! Let’s GO! Let’s GO!

Come to think of it, you don’t need to know what a dog’s saying — just check his body language (See “barking, leaping, howling,” above.)

I hope to be there myself, although it will be a late night on Friday — I’m reviewing the touring company of “The Addams Family” for The Anchorage Daily News (my former long-time employer), and I’m expected to put the review up on the Arts Snob blog that same evening. The show probably won’t let out until about 10:30 p.m., which means I won’t even start to write until 11 p.m. Who knows what time I’ll get to bed?

I’ll be there in spirit if nothing else, having attended Iditarod starts in the past and enjoyed them hugely. I’ll also check out photos on the Daily News website of both the ceremonial start and then the next day’s re-start in Willow, Alaska. You should, too: The ADN shooters are masters of the art.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about. I came to talk about a hat.*


read more

th 2 The low maintenance preppers.I just went shopping in our basement, bringing up several items that were missing in our upstairs cupboards: catsup and ibuprofen (both from Costco), a jar of homemade jam, a can of chicken soup.

It always tickles me to see how much we’ve got stored down there, from the kale we grew and dried to bedpillow-sized sacks of dried beans.

Since I live in a really seismic state, the stockpile also makes me feel safe and prepared. Well, as prepared as one can ever be for another Good Friday Earthquake. (And yes, I’ve thought about what might happen if the house collapsed into the basement: Anger, panic and finally rueful laughter.)

That’s probably why an Everyday Cheapskate post called “Don’t be scared, be prepared” resonated so much and got me thinking, once again, about food preparedness.


read more

th8 A midwinter’s tale. (Okay, a digest.)The snow is clean and new, the temperature is 18 degrees, daylight is increasing (we get 9 hours, 43 minutes today) and the annual winter carnival known as “Rondy” (short for the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous) is underway. When I lived here before, February was always the month when winter turned around. Still is, even though it’ll be months before we can garden.

The carnival includes a three-day dogsled race that starts and ends downtown. As I’ve noted before, Anchorage is the only city I know of that puts snow on the streets. And they’ll do it again on March 1, when the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has its ceremonial start downtown.

Yep, it’s a weird place.

I haven’t posted anything particularly deep lately due to having first a virus and then a head cold (still got it, yay), and also having accepted a magazine assignment and been in negotiations with another magazine editor. The latter involved a long phone conversation and then sending a fairly lengthy outline on a very personal subject, only to be told this wasn’t specific enough: What did it feel like?


read more