Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We’ve got spirit — Metaphysical fair spreads positive message

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The upper floor of the warehouse building at Kenai Landing was imbued with a sense of spirituality Saturday and Sunday, older than even the rafters graffitied with names of cannery workers who had inhabited the old Ward’s Cove fish packing plant nearly a century ago.

The smell of old wood and dampness mingled with incense and all-natural lotions. Uneven floorboards creaked underfoot, adding occasional percussion to the cadence of tarot card readings or the rattle of handmade beaded jewelry and healing gemstones clacking together. The cavernous, uninsulated expanse caused people attending the central peninsula’s second annual Spirit Fair to cinch colorful, hand-woven scarves a little tighter and snuggle deeper into cozy alpaca sweaters.

Overhead, bare light bulbs cast sparse yellow light on the fabric-draped booths below, offering arts and crafts, clothing, metaphysical supplies, guidance, healing and — most importantly — fellowship.

“It’s about being happy to be themselves, to follow their truth,” said Camille Moritz, an intuitive reader and spiritual healer who owns Something To Believe In metaphysical center in Homer. She and Rondell Gonzalez, owner of Pye’Wackets metaphysical gift shop in Soldotna, organized the Spirit Fair.

Moritz has been offering workshops and wares at metaphysical festivals around Alaska for eight years, and she and Gonzalez decided the Kenai needed to have its own fair.
“We felt we had to have one on the Kenai. We decided if it was going to happen, we should do it,” Moritz said.

The theme of this year’s fair was “healing the waters,” and included a water healing ceremony at 11:11 a.m. Saturday and a ceremony with the GrandMother Drum International Peace Project on Saturday night.

The 7-foot-diameter, crystal-inlaid drum took over a year to construct, starting in 2000, with more than 1,500 strips of wood, 200 crystals and a giant buffalo hide covering it. The project is the outreach arm of the Whirling Rainbow Foundation. The drum travels the world promoting peace and unity through the global language of music, dance, and cultural and healing arts, and serves as a symbol of the heartbeat of love that connects everyone, regardless of their race or nationality, according to the foundation.

Diana Thomas, of Soldotna, participated in the GrandMother Drum ceremony at last year’s Spirit Fair. Members of the audience are asked to circle the drum and play it as one.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That was pretty powerful.”

Thomas said she liked having a metaphysical festival in the Kenai area.

“It’s nice to have options, to be exposed to different things. And it brings people from different places in, too.”

Alice Sullivan came from Talkeetna for the Spirit Fair. It was her first time at Kenai Landing, and she said the space was a beautiful setting for the fair.

“I’ve been here (in Kenai) dipnetting. This was a reason to come to the Kenai without all the crazy dipnetters,” she said.

Elaine Elledge of Companion-Way, A Pathway to Healing, came to the fair from Wasilla to practice intuitive massage. She invited her friend, Joyce McNamara, an intuitive life coach, up from California to participate.

“The people like those that are selling their wares are genuinely sincere and have a sense of strong community and want to provide the community with alternative ways of viewing things,” Elledge said.

She saw the fair as promoting a heightened sense of awareness for anyone seeking it.
“It doesn’t matter what your religious persuasion is, the spiritual doesn’t have anything to do with religion,” she said. “Spirituality is a state of mind.”

A steady flow of fair patrons visited booths Saturday, and on Sunday a smaller, but thoughtful, crowd spent time working its way from booth to booth, Elledge said. Even in slow times, that gave vendors a chance to visit with each other and share what they had to offer. Elledge said she felt a welcoming, open-minded reception.

“It’s very refreshing in a small place that there is that lovely, lovely thing happening — a beautiful awakening for the people on the Kenai,” she said.

On Sunday afternoon, nearing the 6 p.m. close of this year’s Spirit Fair, Gonzalez said she was happy with the weekend.

“It’s been a great weekend. The turnout, the receptivity, everybody’s just been wonderful to be around,” she said.

Many of the vendors are friends, or at least associates in the metaphysical community of Alaska. For that matter, even the new faces of fair visitors were still tied together.

“We work to bring the light into the community, by connecting people. It’s both of our life’s passions,” Moritz said of she and Gonzalez.

The fair gave Moritz an opportunity to educate people about the intuitive abilities she says everyone has. Likewise, other vendors could present their specialties, many of which may be termed “New Age,” but more often have ancient roots.

“It’s a taste, a sampling of what different people do. It’s educational and informative,” Moritz said. “It’s a safe setting to have the opportunity to show we are all united as one human race.”

National conventions mean serious Party time — Local residents help in presidential nomination process

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Politically, Mel Krogseng, of Soldotna, and Blake Johnson, of North Kenai, have little in common. One’s a Democrat, one’s a Republican. One was excited to hear Gov. Sarah Palin was named as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, the other questions her readiness to fill the role. One was in St. Paul, Minn., recently, while the other was in Denver.

They do share one commonality, though — both take the adage of “if you don’t vote, don’t complain” a step further and participate in elections not only at the ballot box, but during the process to decide whose name makes it on the ballot in the first place.

Johnson served as an Alaska delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver from Aug. 25 through Aug. 28, and Krogseng was a delegate at the Republican National Convention from Sept. 1 to 4.

Johnson, a Kenai Peninsula resident since 1978, has been active in the Democratic Party in Alaska for over 17 years.

“I think it’s just important. I’ve been seeing where the state’s been going for a long time. I was born and raised up here, it is home to me and I want to see the state do well, and the country,” Johnson said.

After retiring from being president of the Laborers’ Local 341 Union out of Anchorage a few years ago, he found himself with more time to devote to the election process. Turns out that was a good thing, when he got a surprise nod as a delegate to the national convention. Johnson had been the regional vice chair of the Democratic Party for the Kenai Peninsula and was picked as the second vice chair statewide this year. When the party chair, Ray Metcalfe, decided to run for office this election season, that moved the first vice chair position up to chair, and Johnson up to first vice chair.

The chair and vice chair are sent to the national convention, which maintains a 50-50 men-to-women ratio. In all, 18 delegates and four alternates attended from Alaska.

“As Democrats we accept everybody — male, female, gay, straight, black, green and blue, so as a white male it would be a lot more difficult to be selected as a delegate,” Johnson said.

“It was a great event, a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for myself. But there’s just too many people,” he said.

Along with the 5,500 delegates were 17,000 members of the media, Johnson said. He’s been to big events before, but the media plus the security involved, especially at moments like when he was standing 25 feet from Hillary Clinton when she finalized Barack Obama’s nomination for president, was somewhat overwhelming.

“It was interesting, and there were a lot of people. That was the biggest thing that drove me nuts,” he said.

Johnson mostly tried to avoid the media, especially when Alaskans became popular interview targets once Gov. Palin was announced as McCain’s running mate. But he does have an opinion on the nomination.

“It goes to the inexperience of national issues,” he said. “She’s got some experience managing people and she’s done an OK job for the state, but it scares me she could be the commander in chief, the head of the free world, the most powerful person in the world almost. Especially as you hear more about what’s been going on in her administration.”

Johnson was one of four superdelegates from Alaska, meaning they could cast their votes for whomever they wished. Johnson voted for Obama, in part because he wanted to be representative of the majority of Democrat voters in Alaska, and as a result of the research he did while at the convention.

“It was really interesting to get to talk to some people and have some true conversations with people,” Johnson said. “… Hillary called me a couple times, too, but I didn’t have my phone on. My wife always gives me a hard time for leaving the phone off.”
He’s comfortable with his party’s choice in Obama and hopes to see him elected president.
“We’re just ready for some different people there,” he said. “What scares me the most of what’s going on in the world is our national debt. It’s scary what we’re saddling out kids with, and grandkids. It’s just a difficult situation any president is going into at this point.

“In general he’s looking at the issues that need to be gotten after and there’s no easy answer. The other side of the coin is there’s no doubt McCain and Palin are Republicans. Just because you’re president doesn’t mean you can change things overnight. In my opinion, this country can’t stand another four years of the economics they’re going to do.”

Krogseng begs to differ. She was as surprised as anyone when she heard Palin had been chosen as McCain’s running mate, but she supports both fully.

“A fellow said to me during a recess, we walked out and he said, ‘Well, what do you think about the news from Alaska?’ I thought, ‘My goodness, what happened? Did we have an earthquake?’”

In a sense, yes. It was a jolt to hear Gov. Palin had been chosen as the vice presidential nominee, especially when the press deluged the Alaska delegation with requests for comments.

“We had no clue, absolutely not a clue,” about the nomination before it was announced, Krogseng said. “It was all very exciting and everybody was just delighted. It certainly did put Alaska on the map and gave us an opportunity to tell people about our state and its resources and what it has to offer to the nation and how we feel about drilling in the Arctic.”

Krogseng said she thinks Palin is qualified to be vice president. Even though she only has two years as governor under her belt, the governor of Alaska has much more executive power than governors in other states, she said.

“Here in Alaska the governor has tremendous executive power and authority, and therefore she does have a lot of essentially command experience. I do indeed think she’s a very bright fresh face on the national scene,” Krogseng said.

The 2008 convention in Minnesota was Krogseng’s second. She also attended the 2004 convention in New York. Her husband, Bob, also went as an alternate.

The Krogsengs have lived on the central peninsula permanently since 1990. Mel Krogseng has been involved in the Republican Party in the state for more than 30 years, including running for office, running campaigns, working for legislators and working for the state administration under Gov. Walter Hickel.

“It’s an honor,” to be a delegate, she said. “I just think that it’s my civic duty to become involved, to try to understand as best I can the positions that the various candidates hold on issues, then make a decision to who I’m going to support based on their positions on the issues and the positions that I feel most closely aligned with. That’s basically how I think we all make our decisions on who we’re going to support.”

Alaska delegates to the Republican National Convention are specifically selected for the task. Krogseng also was appointed to the Credentials Committee, which met before the main convention to settle any questioned delegate nominations. Delegates also took a break during the convention to pack 80,000 bags of personal hygiene items to be sent to victims of Hurricane Gustav, which was about to slam into the Gulf region of the United States.

Krogseng was committed to casting her ballot for McCain, as were most of the other 29 Alaska delegates. In the primary, Mitt Romney got the most votes in the Republican race in Alaska, but he and Mike Huckabee officially conceded to McCain after he won the nationwide nomination. Ron Paul was the only Republican candidate who got votes in Alaska to not concede, so five of the votes from Alaska delegates went to Paul, in proportion to the amount of votes he got here.

“You don’t agree with every issue, you try to look at the big picture and see who is best suited for the job overall and understand you’re not going to agree with everything,” Krogseng said. “For the most part I’m comfortable that John McCain and Sarah Palin are working together. They will lead our country in the direction it needs to go.”

Whichever director is chosen at the polls Nov. 7, both Johnson and Krogseng can cast their votes knowing they’ve done their part to make the process work.

“Personally, we believe it’s every citizen’s I guess obligation and responsibility to participate, and we feel that if you don’t participate to some degree in the process, then you don’t have any right to complain about it,” Krogseng said.

Awash in PFD cash — Bars see increase in weekend sales as dividends hit bank accounts

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The influx of cash from the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend hitting bank accounts each fall brings on a round of celebration for those who get the money.

Some people choose to mark the occasion by filling a shopping cart with a major purchase, be it just for fun, like a flat-screen TV, or necessity, like snow tires.

Others prefer to celebrate a more old-fashioned way, by filling a glass and toasting the occasion.

“We definitely had a higher sales volume than normal,” said Molly Poland, the bar manager at Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna.

This year’s record-high $2,069 dividends were transferred to bank accounts Friday, along with $1,200 energy rebates, for a total deposit of $3,269. People who elect to get their dividend by check will see theirs in October. Those who were signed up for direct deposit got their money — and spent some of it — over the weekend.

“People just are excited to be able to chill out, have a beer and not worry about not being able to pay for it or groceries or whatever,” Poland said.

Hooligan’s had a promotional activity Friday that may have accounted for some of the excess crowd it saw this weekend, but the dividend was cause for extra celebration.

“They were just a mellow, happy crowd of people. It’s like winning the lottery,” Poland said.

Across the Sterling Highway at the Maverick in Soldotna, owner and manager Cindy Helleck said Monday that she hadn’t tallied her till yet, but she guessed business was up because of the amount of time she had to pitch in bartending.

“Generally people like to go out and treat themselves to some fun before they pay the bills,” Helleck said.

Dividend weekend was a nice boost for Moosequito’s bar in Sterling, where sales had slowed down after the summer rush. Money in people’s pockets and a live band on Friday brought out a slightly smaller crowd than the bar might see on New Year’s Eve, said manager Chelsea Rates.

“It was good for the bartenders, definitely,” Rates said. “Both Friday and Saturday nights were good.”

In Nikiski, The Place bar’s usual weekend count of 25 to 30 patrons coming in on and off throughout the night swelled to about 40 happy revelers on Friday, said manager and bartender Amber Demars.

“They were all pretty mellow. We don’t really have any problems out here normally,” she said.

Even daytime activity increased over the weekend. Bill Sanzi, the daytime bar manager at the Rainbow in Kenai said his clientele jumped by about half.

“Even during the day we’re getting more and more people,” he said.

Also in Kenai, the Back Door Sports Bar saw some customers who were celebrating their large egress and what they bought with it.

“I know I was pretty steady all day,” said Leslie Wahl, the day manager of the Back Door. “I got hit with all the people having lunch and shopping. People up from Homer going to SBS or Home Depot, they’d go buy a TV from Dan’s and come in for lunch.”

Extra activity in the bars didn’t pour out onto the streets, though. Kenai Police Department Sgt. Randy Kornfield said Kenai patrolmen didn’t notice an increase in driving under the influence or other drinking-related activity over the weekend.

“We did not increase patrols this year. We did not see an increase in the calls for service or DUIs, or related calls,” Kornfield said. “We had a DUI but it was no different than any other night.”

Revelers apparently didn’t let their money, or the liquid celebration it may have bought, cloud their judgment.

“I would tend to believe most people are pretty responsible with their money,” Kornfield said.

Fishing for solitude — Lakes sweep anglers away from the crowds

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Even when he has other things to do, just talking about fishing the lakes of the Kenai Peninsula in autumn can tempt Dave Atcheson into changing his plans.

“Fall is the best time, I think, to be out on the lakes. In the fall, the fish turn on again because the winter’s coming and they’ve gotta get full, and so fishing gets hot again in the fall,” said Atcheson, author of “Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.”

“It’s also real easy to find a lake to yourself this time of year,” he said, noting that most outdoor enthusiasts in the fall split their time between hunting for game and fishing for silvers on the Kenai River or for steelhead on southern peninsula streams.

“It’s hard to drag yourself away from all (those other activities), but when I go out to a lake, I’m like, ‘Oh, boy, I miss this.’ You realize this is pretty special,” he said.

Atcheson doesn’t need much urging to get excited about fishing. He can even begin to wax philosophic once he starts picturing himself out angling, favorite fly rod in hand.

“There’s a connection to something bigger than yourself in the outdoors,” he said. “I feel it when I’m outdoors in the natural environment. And nothing puts you in the natural environment quite like fishing, and fly-fishing in particular because you’re thinking of that whole cycle of life — the insects — you’re thinking of the way the river’s flowing or the way the lake is set up.

“And you’re trying to match that insect hatch. Or if there’s salmon, the fish are feeding on eggs; they’re feeding on the flesh of the salmon. And the bear you see on the other side is connected to that; it’s all connected, and you’re part of that because you have to think how that water’s running, how that fly’s drifting, what that fly’s looking like.

“And you’re casting well, and when you’re thinking about that stuff, everything else disappears … and you’re transported somewhere, someplace where your head’s clear and you feel a connection to all this amazing stuff.”

Listening to Atcheson, it’s not difficult to imagine why he takes such pleasure in fishing in general, and in fishing the lakes during this time of the year, in particular.

Lake fishing allows him, more than in most situations, to avoid the crowds. Avoiding the crowds allows him easier access to that “connection” he likes to talk about.

“It is hard to feel that when you’re with a thousand of your closest friends,” he said, referring to “combat fishing” for sockeyes on the Russian River.

To achieve the solace and contentment that lakes have to offer, however, one must be prepared. Atcheson offers some practical suggestions for success:
  • Get away from roadside lakes if you can. Roadsides are the easiest to reach, but for that very reason they receive the heaviest fishing pressure. Consider hiking or even flying into a more remote location, or use a roadside lake as an entryway to lakes farther off the road. A couple of portages between interconnected lakes can take you to the best fishing opportunities.
  • If you must fish next to a road, consider angling at one of the area’s stocked lakes, such as Johnson Lake in Kasilof. Although these lakes, too, receive heavy pressure, stocking tends to keep their numbers high.
  • Try to get off the shoreline. Get out on the lakes, via canoe, recreational kayak or float-tube. Fishing from shore limits your chances. You must fight the brush and the bugs. Your “reach” is hampered by the distance you can cast. Out on the lake, on the other hand, you can maneuver around the entire lake, if you wish. You can cast in under a sunken log or out to the periphery of a large weed bed.
  • Be what Atcheson calls a “fish detective.” Explore as much of the lake as you can. In his angler’s guide, he provides a diagram showing the many places fish can be found — rocks, overhanging foliage, stream inlets and outlets, steep banks, lily pads — and he suggests investigating as many such locations as possible. He recommends keeping notes, too, in case you plan to return someday. “Each lake has its secrets,” Atcheson said, and it is your job to find out what they are.
  • Use light or ultralight tackle to keep things lively. Atcheson recommends a spinning outfit with 6-pound-test line, or a 3- or 4-weight fly rod with a tapered leader.
  • If you’re fly-fishing, note the types of insects on or in the lake. Try to match your flies to what you see. Consider both dry flies and wet flies. Experiment. One of the most reliable flies is the Egg-Sucking Leech. With the proper retrieve, Atcheson said, the hairs on the leech “undulate, and that just drives the fish crazy.”
  • If you’re using a spinning outfit, try a variety of colors and sizes of lures. Atcheson recommends Krocodiles, Super Dupers, Rooster Tails, Triple Teasers and — perhaps his favorite — the Mepps Syclops.
  • Vary your retrieve — a little faster, a little slower. If the fish are there, you may find just the motion they are waiting for.
  • Dress warmly and dryly. If you do go out on the lakes, be safe. Wear a flotation device.
  • Finally, make sure to check fishing regulations. Bag limits on the same species can vary widely, depending on location, time of year and size of fish.

Lost and found life in Soldotna

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

As she ambled through the immense and grassy grid of graves in Sitka this fall, 66-year-old Mary Lou Leavitt finally found one of the things she had come halfway around the world to see: the small rectangle of marble marking the final resting place of her father, Lou Leavitt.

He died in Sitka in 1979, three years after moving from Soldotna into the assisted-living quarters at the Sitka Pioneer Home. At the time, Mary Lou was living in London, having surrendered a career in teaching in the United States to engage in a career in activism abroad. The last time she had been in Alaska was 1967, when she spent her summer vacation with her dad.

Lou, who, according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame Web site, was America’s first licensed rotary-wing pilot, had been living in Soldotna for three years when his daughter arrived.

They spent the summer mostly talking and traveling, using Lou’s small wood-frame home on Lingonberry Lane as a base.

“I remember the river (out behind the house),” Mary Lou said, “and that it was way out from a very small town. But mostly I remember sitting in that (place) and talking with him and kind of catching up on his life and his friends.”

She said she felt at the time that the house “epitomized” her father. “It was simple and surrounded by wildlife, woods and river,” she said. “He was a pioneer type. (His life) was about adventure. It was about doing what he enjoyed doing.”

It was Lou’s adventurous spirit that had led him to Alaska in the first place.

A test pilot for autogiros and the fledgling helicopter industry, Lou had traveled in 1948 to Anchorage to try to interest Alaskans in the benefits of rotary-wing aircraft. A former barnstormer and crop-duster, he was well equipped for flying and enjoyed the risks involved in demonstrating the prototype machines.

But in 1967, at the age of 67, Lou was semiretired and simply delighting in life itself.

“He enjoyed his little cabin in the woods,” Mary Lou said, “but he also enjoyed Soldotna and the people he knew there.

“He was a hale fellow, well met, lots of friends, lots of acquaintances, lots of people that he could have a drink with.”

When their summer of ’67 was yellowing into autumn, Mary Lou promised to return.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ll come back. I’ll come back and see you.’ And I never did.”

It was part of a pattern of separations that characterized their relationship over the years.

Lou had gained a measure of fame for giving an autogiro flight in 1936 to young Frank Piasecki — soon to become a world-renown innovator in the business of vertical takeoffs and landings. Lou himself stayed attached to the rotary-wing industry, and by the time he arrived in Anchorage in 1948, he was well-known and respected in his field.

His family, however, was back in Philadelphia and had trepidations about coming to Alaska. Lou’s wife, Marianne, was weary of her husband’s many exploits and constantly changing plans, said Mary Lou. Reluctantly, she brought her 6-year-old daughter to Anchorage and spent her summer with Lou. Then she returned home without him in the fall.

Mary Lou said she remembers flying to Anchorage in 1948 in the belly of a cargo plane containing a helicopter for her father. She reveled in a summer of being Daddy’s little girl, but when Lou went back to work as a test pilot, she went home with her mom.
Before 1967, the father-daughter relationship had consisted of correspondence and occasional trips by Lou out to the East Coast. After 1967, the relationship reverted to more of the same.

Sometime between Mary Lou’s first two visits to Alaska, Lou left aeronautics behind and became a bartender in Anchorage. Described by his daughter as a “hard-living, hard-drinking guy,” Lou became so ill with cirrhosis in the mid-1950s that his sister had him flown out to New York for treatment.

Upon his recovery, he once again headed north. Just before the Good Friday earthquake struck in 1964, Lou sold his bar and moved to Soldotna, purchasing the small house from the Gibbs family, who had built the place on land purchased from Marge and Frank Mullen in 1954.

Meanwhile, Mary Lou was becoming a young woman with elements of adventurism and wanderlust of her own. She was studying at Oxford University, in England, when her father surprised her with a visit and inspired her trip to Soldotna in 1967.

Mary Lou taught Latin and history on the East Coast for nine years before returning to London permanently in 1976, about the same time Lou, whose health was deteriorating, made the move to Sitka.

“He kept trying to get out and come back (to Soldotna),” she said. “He didn’t like being in an old folks home. I think he minded not being able to do what he wanted to do.”

After being informed of her father’s death, Mary Lou decided that at some point she would return to Soldotna, return to the little house along the river that he had loved so much. Upon her retirement as co-director of British-based Responding To Conflict organization in 2006, she got her best opportunity to come back.

In Soldotna, she met with Marge Mullen and several others who had called Lou Leavitt a friend. She was also able to tour the old house, now occupied by another family, and to note its close proximity to other, much larger homes now inhabiting Lingonberry Lane.

She said she was pleased that the house, despite many changes, was now “lived in and loved.” And she said she felt blessed to have made the trip and discovered so many connections to her father and the place she had not seen for 41 years.

“I’m here to honor him in my life, the part of his life that was about adventure, about pioneering — about what Alaska feels like to me — as well as breaking new ground, living the way you want,” she said.

She called her Soldotna sojourn “a kind of feeling of completion or satisfaction,” but she added a caveat:

“It’s a journey, and it’s not over yet. I really believe that relationships don’t end when one party dies. So I’m still working on the relationship with my dad, and I suspect he’s still somewhere working on it with me.”

Soldotna cafe thinks it’s Thyme for change

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Charlotte’s Cafe in River City Books in Soldotna had a much-loved menu with devotees to certain salads or sandwiches. Now under new ownership, diners are finding different favorites to fall in love with.

The café changed ownership and names June 1, and changed menus Sept. 1. Monica Ellis, a former Charlotte’s employee who also has cooked at Mykel’s, bought the restaurant and renamed it Fine Thyme Café. She and five-year employee Bobbi Stelljes worked together to create the new menu.

“Monica’s very creative,” Stelljes said. “She’s not afraid to try new things. And she’s very health conscious, too, which makes a big difference.”

Some of the new favorite items include the Reubenski sandwich — corned beef, sauerkraut with nutty Swiss cheese and Stelljes’ “1001 island dressing” on rye — and a Kona Ciabatte sandwich — a coconut-lime marinated chicken breast with pineapple, avocado, lettuce and mango mustard sauce on a toasted Italian ciabatta roll.

One of the new menu items, the Apple Cinnamon Roll Salad, gets some raised eyebrows at first, followed by rave reviews.

“That apple salad is so good,” Stelljes said. “I was so surprised with it. I told Monica it sounds too sweet for a salad, but I took one home … and it was so good.”

The male half of a visiting wedding party stopped by the café for an early lunch and a man from New York tried the salad. Later that day the man’s wife was in with the female half of the wedding party, specifically to try the same salad.

“She said, ‘My husband was in here awhile ago and said it was the best salad he’d ever had in his whole life,’” Stelljes said. “I said, ‘You’re from New York and this is the best salad he’s ever had?’”

The menu came about in part from trial and partially through requests. The Grilled Cheese Our Way sandwich, for example, was something asked for by customers. It includes sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese on honey oat bread with bacon, red onions and tangy honey mustard sauce.

Other items were developed by Ellis with Stelljes’ input.

“It’s strictly inspiration. You have to go with what you have, then the inspiration comes from there and it’s just a blessing, just a gift,” Stelljes said.

All of the items were tested out on customers as specials before making it to the menu permanently, and the café held an open house where they offered samples of the new food.

“Everybody seemed to like everything really well, so we decided to go with all of it,” Stelljes said.

As the name implies, Fine Thyme Café includes fresh herbs in many of its dishes, often from plants growing in the window of the café. Thyme plants also sit in teapots on the tables.

Along with the six new sandwiches and four new salads on the menu, Fine Thyme Café still has a rotating selection of newly created specials, including a quiche of the day. The dessert menu often has new items to tempt people, as well. The café does take-out orders, small party catering and is happy to accommodate requests, from vegetarian to substituting ingredients or offering meals for lactose- or gluten-intolerant diners.

“We’ve always been good about that,” Stelljes said.

She said she has gotten a few customers nostalgic about the old menu, but said that disappears once they try what the café now has to offer.

“We had some people in who almost didn’t stay because they had a specific sandwich they wanted. But when they left they decided they had a new favorite, so it works out good having really good quality food,” Stelljes said.

Taking the scenic route — Tsalteshi Trails running series offers new views on exercise

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

It’ll be another month or two before the Tsalteshi Ski Trails in Soldotna live up to their name, but that doesn’t mean people have to wait for snow to use them.

The trail system that meanders through the hillside between Skyview High School and Kalifornsky Beach Road was designed for skiing, but it presents recreational opportunities for runners, walkers and mountain bikers, as well.

To promote those uses, the Tsalteshi Trails Association is holding a series of fun runs/walks Tuesdays through September at the Wolverine trail head across Kalifornsky Beach Road from United Rentals.

“It’s to introduce people to the trails,” said TTA Chair Alan Boraas. “A lot of people haven’t been to this entrance, which was new last fall. And it’s just to have a fun, fall, fitness running series.”

Walkers and runners can meet at the trail head around 6 p.m. Tuesdays to sign up to participate. The race begins at 6:15 p.m. each week. It’s free to Tsalteshi Trails Association members. Membership forms can be downloaded at www.tsalteshi.org.

“It’s after work, so people can just pop in for a run,” Boraas said.

The course distance varies every week, offering participants a different challenge and a chance to see different parts of the trails.

“This is a beautiful time of year here,” Boraas said. “The leaves will be turning and you get a little different scenery each week. There’s a little more chill in the air as we’re transitioning to winter.”

Timing is available for runners wanting to keep track of how they did. At the end of the series a men’s and women’s winner will be determined based on where they placed in each race.

On Sept. 9, Bill Coghill, of Soldotna, took first place in the three-kilometer race, with a time of 11 minutes, 34 seconds, with Ben Histand coming in second at 11:53 and Paul Knight was third at 17:42.

Coghill said he used the race as an opportunity to test his speed.

“When you’re out running every day anyway, I try to fit it into my training program,” he said.
Coghill is a regular on the trail system all summer, preferring running in the woods to running on pavement. He said he was glad to see the trails association promoting trail use year-round.

“It’s nice when they put on events like this. And it’s free, for heaven’s sake,” he said.

For the top three women’s finishers Sept. 9, it was a dead heat to the finish line. It didn’t come down to a dead sprint, though, since Penny McClain, Gail Moore and Leslie Boyd had eschewed the pretense of racing for a group stroll-through-the-woods approach to the event. Victory came down to the very last second, but was decided through a round of “you go first,” “no, you go first” negotiations.

Many of the 17 or so participants were newcomers to the trails, which is exactly what the trails association board was hoping for.

“Just come out and have a good time. It’s all about the land and landscape and the seasons,” Boraas said.

Editorial: Dividends make thinking ahead a no-brainer

This year’s Alaska Permanent Fund dividend plus energy rebate equals $3,269 good intentions. It’s an exercise in financial willpower.

Do you spend it all, or save part of it for the rainy day that’s sure to come, no matter what the forecast currently calls for? If you do spend it, does it go to provide financial stability by paying bills, or does it create emotional stability by providing a new toy that will brighten up the cold, dark winter?

Planning ahead is a valuable use of the money, whether it’s a college fund, retirement or winter energy bills.

While you’re at it, plan to do some good in the world. It won’t be long before the envelopes start showing up in the mail, asking for donations to whatever charities have interested you in the past. The holiday season is prime time for charitable donation solicitation, mainly because there are so many needs that time of year and the themes of the season get people thinking more about their fellow man.

But by December, September’s windfall may have long since blown away. So do your donations now, or at least create a safe place for that money to remain untouched until you are ready to donate it.

It doesn’t have to be much. If only half the residents of the central Kenai Peninsula donated $20 each, that would be more than $200,000.

It’s a great activity to get kids involved in, too. Have them pick a charity that benefits something they care about — taking care of animals, providing food for a family or helping other kids have a new toy at Christmas.

Need some ideas? There are plenty of options:

The American Red Cross in Alaska is there when disaster strikes, whether it’s a house fire or a natural disaster.

The Salvation Army provides a variety of needed services, especially around the holidays.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s motto is no one deserves to go hungry; they work to make sure no one does.

Love INC brings together churches to help the poor. And individual churches have special giving opportunities throughout the year.

Several arts organizations could use a boost in enriching the culture of the central Kenai Peninsula, like the Kenai Performing Arts Society, the Peninsula Art Guild, the Kenai Performers or Triumvirate Theatre, just to name a few.

Can’t decide? Then the United Way may be the best choice. The organization is a clearinghouse that splits money among its member agencies. A single donation to the United Way can mean help for all kinds of organizations, including Hospice, the Boys and Girls Club, senior centers, the LeeShore Center and Frontier Community Services.

With $3,000-plus in the bank account, choosing a recipient, not making the decision to do so, should be the hardest part in donating.

Looking forward to looking back — Visitors center announces historic next show

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

As community members gathered for one last look at the statewide summer art show at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, “Alaskan Light: Mystery Revealed,” they got a preview of the statewide art show to come, which in itself will be a look back.

The closing reception for the 2007 show on Sept. 9 included an announcement of the theme for Kenai’s 2008 invitational statewide art exhibition — “Reflections on Alaska Statehood: The 49th at 50.”

Guest curator, photog-rapher Barry McWayne, of Fairbanks, said the show is about artists taking inspiration from history and representing it in a contemporary way.

“This year’s theme gives us a special opportunity to reflect on the diversity and range of interests, communities, lifestyles, landscapes, weather, politics and much more that make up our northern homeland. I encourage the invited artists to embrace this opportunity with vigor,” McWayne said.

Artists in a range of mediums from across the state, including the Kenai Peninsula, will be invited to submit work for the show. McWayne said he will do whatever he has to do to ensure diversity is achieved.

“I’m not adverse to bullying people I’ve never met,” he said.

That will give viewers on the central Kenai Peninsula a look at representations of history on a statewide and regional level.

“Some artists will want to deal with overarching issues that have affected all of Alaska during these 50 years of statehood, but it is my hope that most will look locally to say something about the special nature of their part of the 49th state,” McWayne said.

He’s confident the artists will rise to the challenge.

“Even with our widely varied climate and topography, we Alaskans have more in common than not,” he said. “I always find it fascinating to experience well-made, thoughtful art that plays to regional topics with local flavor and at the same time manages broad appeal — hard to do, but so worth the effort.”

The show will include an extra dose of local flair, as students from Kenai Peninsula College will contribute to the documentary and expressionistic nature of the show. Communications and arts students will be paired with residents who have been in Alaska since statehood. Students will document the residents’ experiences and create art that is inspired by those experiences. The results of the pairings will be displayed with the art show.

“Reflections on Alaska Statehood: The 49th at 50” will go on display in May and will stay up through the winter, giving school groups and other viewers ample time to take in what the show will have to offer.

McWayne said he encourages artists and art viewers to take advantage of this unique experience.

“I don’t think people really realize how important this show is on a statewide level,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to be part of this moment in history. I think it’s really worthwhile to be part of the statehood celebration.”

Art Seen: Harvesting artists’ potential

Our artistic community appears to be on the verge of truly recognizing its greatness. We probably have as many artists per capita as the well-known artist haven, Homer, and it seems our central Kenai Peninsula area is coming into its own in that regard.

In testament to that trend, the quality of the ninth annual Harvest Art Auction Exhibit has once again exceeded prior years. Works of particular note span the mediums of watercolor, stone lithography, ceramics, digital photography, fiber art, fused glass and egg tempera.

Donna Schwanke has rendered the oldest building on the peninsula in warm, robust, watercolor hues in “Watchman’s House/Kasilof.” She has been painting with watercolor for six years and is a “perpetual student” at Kenai Peninsula College, mostly because she especially enjoys learning from Celia Anderson, she said.

Clayton Hillhouse has utilized the same tactile and historically rich subject in a digital photograph titled “Log House,” which effectively zooms in on the texture of the logs. His more successful piece is another digital photo titled “Volution.” In this also very rich and warm piece he has layered shots of trees and shells to form a thoroughly inviting and intriguing image. He and his wife, Juanita, are quite prolific, and have been accepted into numerous juried exhibitions through the years. Juanita’s work of note is a sweet little ditty called “Abstract Tree.” It is a fiber piece and is reminiscent of the often innocent-feeling, yet archetypically charged, Paul Klee or early Kandinsky.

Another quite prolific artist is longtime resident Jim Evenson, an absolute hero of mine who never stops exploring his relationship to his art. He and his family homesteaded on the peninsula when Alaska was still a territory, and throughout his other careers (teacher, commercial fisherman) he has created art of lasting value and historical note. He is proficient in painting and drawing and has a stone lithograph studio at his North Kenai homestead. His contribution to the Harvest auction is a vibrant stone lithograph (which are technically considered originals, as each print pulled from the stone is not the same as the one prior or the one after). It is titled “Shore” and is executed with the confident strokes and playful rendering of an artist comfortable with a medium and subject he knows well.

Another prolific artist (See what I mean? It could be a mantra in this area!) is an entirely self-taught newcomer to our scene, Andy Hehnlin (pronounced hen-line). He raised his family in Girdwood, lived in the Southeast for a spell and then near Big Lake, but has recently settled in North Kenai. His medium is egg tempera, a classical medium which he also adds mined gold and pearl to, for an iridescent effect. Technically, egg tempera is adding dry pigment to egg yolks, and he paints on Masonite board, a substrate well known for its perfectly smooth face.

He’s invented his own airbrush in order to accommodate his unique process, and he rarely uses a brush, but creates quite naturalistic renderings of familiar landscapes. His work sells well at Art Works in Soldotna, as well as in galleries in Homer and Anchorage, and his generous donation to the art guild called “Chilkat River/Splash of Gold” is likely to garner much interest at the auction this month. His work won first place in the recent juried exhibit at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

Joy Falls teaches ceramics at KPC and has donated a number of pieces, including a fascinating little ceramic vessel she calls “Nanban,” which has an extreme texture that makes it feel almost like an artifact. Kathryn Zerbe has once again donated a wonderful fused glass plate, which is hand-cut and kiln-fused and formed. It goes through a tempering process called “annealing.” The piece she entered is called “Gray and Green Urchin” and is sure to delight the future highest bidder.

The auction occurs at 6 p.m. Sept. 27, with auctioneer Peter Micciche starting off at around 7 p.m. Drinks, food and entertainment are included. Tickets are $20. More information can be obtained by calling 283-7040.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

Arts and Entertainment week of Sept. 17

  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Bill Heath on display through September.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has art by Kathy Matta on display through September.
  • Kaladi Brothers Kobuk Street in Soldotna has paintings by Melinda Hershberger on display through September.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has Peninsula Art Guild’s annual Harvest Art Exhibition on display through September. The art will be auctioned to the public Sept. 27.
  • Already Read Books In Kenai has a display of artwork by local artists, curated by Natasha Ala, on display through September.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has artwork by Metal Magic on display through September.

  • Take-A-Break will hold its second annual bargain fashion show and brunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Solid Rock Conference Center of the Sterling highway in Sterling. Ladies are invited to show off their latest fashions from garage sales and thrift shops. Music will be provided by Brenda Clyde, and the guest speaker will be Deborah Horne from Bellingham, Wash., known as the "blue collar Martha Stewart." Call 260-6262 or 335-6789 or e-mail tab-reservations@hotmail.com for reservations.

  • The Kenai Writers Group meets at 6 p.m. in the conference room at Kenai Municipal Library. It is open to anyone. Bring copies of your work to share.
  • A bluegrass jam session will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center. Call 283-4156.

  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has an 1980s costume night and foam party Friday with dancing in bubbles.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a frozen T-shirt contest night on Friday.

  • The Kenai Elks will hold its ninth annual Oktoberfest at 7 p.m. with live music by Die Alaska Blaskapelle, food, and brews from Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop. Call Konrad Jackson, 283-7776 or 398-9121.

  • The Kenai River Folk Dancers will hold a contra dance from 7 to 10 p.m. at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School with live music by the Contra BanD. Newcomers should come early for lessons. Bring clean, non-marking shoes, and potluck snacks are encouraged. Admission is $5, and children under 16 get in for free with an adult. Call Treesa Holland, 260-4171.

Sept. 27
  • The Kenai Art Guild’s annual Harvest Art Auction starts at 6 p.m. for viewing with the auction at 7 p.m. Photography, paintings and works in stone, ceramic and fiber will be auctioned. Music and refreshments will be served. Admission is $20. Proceeds support the Kenai Fine Arts Center. Call 283-7040.
  • Author James Barnett will discuss and sign copies of his recently published book, "Captain Cook in Alaska and the North Pacific," from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Kenai Municipal Library. Books will be available for purchase. Call Julie Niederhauser, 283-4378.

  • The Riverside in Soldotna has live DJ music every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.

Live music
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers on Tuesday night and folk music on Wednesday night.
  • Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna has rock covers and originals by The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has acoustic music by Tyler Schlung on Friday night and Emily Grossman on Saturday night.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has acoustic classic rock by the Free Beer Band at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Mykel’s in Soldotna has acoustic music by Dave Unruh from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers around 7 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has rock covers by Tuff-e-Nuff at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • The Vagabond on Kalifornsky Beach Road has a jam session on Friday night
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and acoustic music by Mike Morgan at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
  • 8 p.m. Saturday at the Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch.
  • 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 8:30 p.m. Friday at the J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.
  • BJ’s in Soldotna has free pool on Wednesdays.
  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has a nine-ball pool tournament at 9 p.m. Thursdays.
  • The J-Bar-B has free pool on Sundays, a horseshoe pit in the beer garden, and a cash drawing at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a dart tournament at 8 p.m. Thursdays.