Julia O'Malley

I passed the house that would be ours a thousand times without noticing it, hidden in feral-looking trees on a Downtown avenue.

It came up for sale and we decided to have a look inside. It had been occupied by the same couple since 1967 and was being sold by their estate. It was a house-shaped time capsule. It had sculpted-shag carpets, rose-colored toilets, mirrored walls, and bulbous amber glass light fixtures that seemed, even in 1967, best suited for a bordello...

Julia O'Malley

On vacation in Hawaii in November, Sam Simeon presented his girlfriend, Julie Douthit, with a ring. They told family members who were on vacation with them that they were going to get married as soon as they got back home to Glennallen. After that, the plan was for Julie to travel to San Diego where Sam is stationed with the Navy.

Sam, 20, and Julie, 19, are Glennallen High School sweethearts, king and queen of their senior prom in 2012...

Julia O'Malley

It is my theory that the trailers and dog-eared bungalows of old Spenard tend to breed a higher concentration of intense people, passionate people, specialists with special skills. Tattoo portrait artists. Vintage motorcycle mechanics. Breeders of Chihuahuas. Kombucha brewers.

Dianna Smith is just like that...

Julia O'Malley

Last summer, workers demolishing an old Alaska Railroad warehouse near Ship Creek found something unusual inside a wall. It was an old-fashioned photo album: Black leather-bound cover with pages made of delicate black paper. "Marie and Irvan Christian" was embossed on the front cover.

Inside were pictures of a couple who had married in 1906. The album was made after a party was held for their 50th wedding anniversary. There were pictures of family members seated at well-dressed tables. Ladies in gloves and hats. Interiors with wood-paneled walls, linoleum floors and lace curtains. A napkin printed with their names was pressed between the pages. Newspapers from Florida and Ohio printed announcements about the party, with detailed lists of who attended...

Julia O'Malley

The afternoon I stood with Jeff Fowler in his yard on Government Hill this week, it was so cold, I felt like the moisture on my eyeballs was turning slushy between blinks. We stood under a crabapple tree hung with frosted plastic ornaments and lights that flashed along with to a tinny version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."...

Julia O'Malley

Cellphones have been buzzing with worrisome news the last few days among Anchorage's estimated 700 to 1000 Nuer-speaking South Sudanese refugees.

Conflict has taken hold again in their country, which has only recently been at peace after decades of brutal civil war that spread refugees across the world. At least 500 people have been killed in fighting in and around the capital city of Juba since a the weekend, according to news reports. Friends and family in Sudan have been calling relations in Anchorage from inside darkened houses and hotels. They say they cannot go out. Some have had no food for days. They fear for their lives...

Julia O'Malley

Oh the sugar cookie! Pillowy and soft. With frosting that tastes like eggnog? Oh, yes. If you need to have one right now, Maya Evoy of Alaska From Scratch has got you covered . Since we're going to holiday sugar world, you might also be interested in making these peppermint marshmallows ...

Julia O'Malley

A reader named Holli Hoskins wrote this week from Lyons, Colo. You might remember Lyons from the news. It was devastated by a flash flood in September. All the infrastructure -- sewer lines, gas lines, roads -- were decimated. Many residents were made homeless. They are still trying to rebuild, she wrote, but it is a slow, discouraging process. Recently, she had one of her lowest days.

Then she got an email from Alaska.

Hoskins taught in rural Alaska schools before moving back to Colorado. The email was from was her friend, Kerry Burkhardt, who is now the teacher and principal at the Cold Bay School. Last year, Hoskins' class and Burkhardt's class exchanged letters. Hoskins sent treats and holiday decorations she knew would be hard to get in the village...

Julia O'Malley

Greetings, Black Friday readers; I have great news: Those of you who have been listening to the holiday station in your cars for the past week can now do so without shame. The season is upon us. With the help of Facebook and Twitter, I've done some holiday food scouting on your behalf and pulled together a list of 18 (or so) treats to eat and drink this season in Anchorage. Enjoy!

1. An eggnog milk shake. Lucky Wishbone. $3.95 for a small. Go now. Don't skimp on the whipped cream...

Julia O'Malley

The square of Lynn Cragholm's front window fills with light long before sunrise on Turquoise Street in the Dimond Estates Mobile Home Park. When you are old, she told me recently, you don't need so much sleep. Mrs. Cragholm rises at 4 a.m.

The trip that led me to her double-wide began with a letter. It arrived two weeks ago at my office, written in careful penmanship on five numbered pages. It had a graceful, formal tone that can only exist in old-fashioned letters, the kind written with pen on paper...

Julia O'Malley

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