Saturday, September 22, 2012

Get Thee To the Church: Sacred Heart Cathedral, Fairbanks, Alaska

It's the northernmost cathedral in the United States.  We had passed it several time as we tootled around Fairbanks in our rented monster SUV.  On the day of our departure, a Saturday, we found ourselves at Pioneer Park, which happens to be right across the street from Sacred Heart Cathedral.  Our flight didn't leave until 9 pm, so we had plenty of time to go to the Saturday Vigil Mass, have dinner, and get to the airport.

I wasn't sure what to expect to see inside the cathedral  given how ordinary-looking it seems from the outside (Did you know the Diocese of Fairbanks is the largest in the U.S. in geographical area?  And it's the only mission diocese in the nation, and one of the poorest?). I even wondered if the building might have housed a church of some other denomination and the diocese had purchased it, but that is not the case; it has always served as the cathedral for the Fairbanks Diocese.

Inside it was simple, elegant, holy, and undeniably Catholic.

We arrived about a half hour early (the boys were eager to leave the touristy Pioneer Park; they were bored out of their minds.  I wanted to stay a little longer and check out the Indian Village section of the park but was met with resistance) and I snapped a few photos before Mass.  I didn't get very many; there were already a number of people there quietly praying, and I got several strange looks as I walked around with my camera. 

After a lovely Mass we headed to The Cookie Jar for our last meal in Alaska; then to the airport for the long flight home.  Next summer I expect we'll vacation someplace a little bit closer, like the beach.
Happy Sunday, and Happy Fall!  Now get thee to church!

(If you want to see the church where we attended Mass on our first morning in Alaska, click here.  And for some highlights from our amazing Alaska vacation, go here.  Thanks for visiting!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

7 Things I've Wanted To Tell You But Haven't Had Time


It's rare that we take a vacation to a place like Alaska, and I wanted to share some more memories, in addition to the pictures I posted.  I wanted to tell you how strange it is to be where there are so many hours of daylight, and that when it's 10 p.m. and still light out, I hardly know what to do with myself.  I feel like if I go to sleep, I might miss something.  I wanted to tell you that I never cared about dogsled races, but after this trip I might just have to follow some; at least the Iditarod, and maybe the Yukon Quest too.  I wanted to tell you more about the musher we met and the dogs he trains, and how he rescues them from shelters, works with them, and adopts them out to families with kids; they'll most likely never be in any races, but they'll be happy and loved.


We found this video of Emmitt the Dog Musher giving a demonstration on how he trains his dogs.  We were privileged to see him do this while we were there.


Did you know there are geocaches all over Fairbanks, Alaska?  We didn't have time to go searching for many of them, but we did manage to find one here

Maybe someday I'll go back to Alaska and look for some more.


I still haven't quite adjusted to my increase in work hours.  I'm still getting myself into a rhythm, and I've been trying out different time management strategies to help me balance my work, play, rest, and prayer.  Once I get into a regular manageable routine I'll tell you all about it.  Meanwhile, bear with me as blogging takes a back burner.  And pray that I don't lose my mind.  All you moms out there who work full time (and technically, my job is still part-time), any advice you can give me will be most welcome!


Last week I overheard a three-year-old say to her friend, "Sometimes I just get weally fustwated wif my mommy."  Ah, the deep discussions that take place over Play Dough.  I'm sure my boys have said this about me plenty of times.  I love my job.


Last weekend I pulled a ham bone from my freezer left over from last New Years', and I made split pea soup for the very first time.  I am happy to say that even though the color seemed a little off, it was delicious.  We've been eating it off and on all week for lunches and dinners, and I even had enough to freeze for later.  Here's the recipe I followed from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook:


1 (16-ounce) package dried green split peas
2 quarts water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped celery*
1 large meaty ham bone
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf (which I forgot to put in)
2 cups chopped carrot

-Sort and rinse peas; place in a Dutch oven.  Cover with water 2 inches above peas; let soak overnight.  Drain; add 2 quarts water and next 9 ingredients.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionallyt.  Remove ham bne; cut off meat and dice.  Discard bone and bay leaf.  Let soup cool slightly.
-Process mixture in batches in an electric blender until smooth.  Return mixture and meat to Dutch oven; cover and simmer 5 minut3es or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle each serving with Homemade Croutons.**
(The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, p. 428)

*Joe and Larry do not like celery, so I left that out and just used a little more carrot and onion.

**I did not follow the recipe for these provided in the book.  I just took some extra pieces of gluten free bread (mostly heels and such) and cut them into pieces; stirred them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and placed them on a baking sheet.  I baked them at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes.  You can stir them after 5 minutes of baking, but I don't think I did that and they turned out just fine.


And last but not least, my sister-in-law Jenn has joined the blogging world!  Pop on over to The Cookie Jar Adventures and say hello!  (And be sure to check out this post to see an ultrasound photo of our nephew, due to enter the world in late December.  I love his nickname, "Bopper;" after my most favorite contestant on The Amazing Race ever.)

This week, Grace at Camp Patton is hosting "7 Quick Takes;" head over to her place for more!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Get Thee To the Church: Immaculate Conception, Fairbanks Alaska

We started our vacation by going to Mass.

After checking into our hotel in the middle of the night and catching a few hours' sleep, we walked across the flag-adorned bridge that spans the Chena River to the little church on the other side (which, as you can see, seemed to be in the process of having having the siding replaced). 

(I said a prayer for this little guy...)

I was excited to learn that Immaculate Conception Church was the very first Catholic church in the interior of Alaska.  When it was built in the early 1900s, it was on the opposite side of the river.  In 1911 they rolled it across the frozen river on logs.  (Have you ever read The Shipping News?  I couldn't help but think about the house that was dragged across the ice in that story.)  

I was also surprised to learn that this is the only church in the entire state of Alaska with lovely stained-glass windows like these. 

(Surely not, I reasoned; that must be a mistake.  But it says so right on their website. I've browsed photos of many, if not most, of the Catholic churches in Alaska, and it just might be true.  Perhaps there are some Protestant ones...)

(I just loved the pressed-tin designs on the ceiling and walls!)

The little church--about the size of Our Lady of the Valley, I would say--was surprisingly full on this particular Sunday, and a fair number of the worshippers were tourists like us.  I know this because the priest asked everyone who was visiting from out of town to stand up and introduce themselves.  (I took these photos after Mass, by the way, when everyone had already gone outside.)

We were only in Fairbanks for a couple of days, but it was clear that the people here take great pride in their city, their state, and their heritage.  We encountered some homelessness and drunkenness (in one restaurant, a man had to be escorted from the establishment for wandering in and bothering customers), but everyone we crossed paths with was warm and friendly and welcoming.

We ended our vacation with Mass, too.  I'll show you that church in another post!
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