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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Have I mentioned it's snowed a little recently?



Yes, that's a street sign with snow piled up

Our neighborhood plowers pile the snow in the middle of all the cul-de-sacs.  They are gigantic - I do not think this picture does the size justice.  Matt wanted to climb the pile.  Mocha did not. :)

 It wouldn't be complete without a snow angel.
Mocha just can't get enough of it. It cracks me up.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cross country skiing

A popular winter activity in Anchorage is cross country skiing.  With all the trails running through the city, it is easy to get out and ski for an hour after work to get in some exercise and enjoy the snow.  Matt and I had never tried it before, so once again we opted to rent and test it out. There are just so many different types of activities, we are having to pick and chose what to invest our time and money on (which is quite challenging when everything is new and unfamiliar).
Photo op...while enjoying the view
Thankfully some friends were heading out and offered to help us learn.  It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon with fresh snow on the ground.  Perfect conditions.  We headed to Continental Trail (where we have gone biking on multiple occasions) and enjoyed the views, exercise and company for a good couple hours.

The technique is similar to a walking motion where you pick up your heel and glide. It takes some balance, energy and certainly some getting used to the movement of your feet.  There are groomed trails that have the ruts already provided which makes it easier to stay in proper form.  However, it can be done anywhere there is snow.
This is a groomed trail on the right, you can see the ruts for your skis.
Beautiful, huh?

All the girls!

Some good friends, Jared and Nicole
(notice the sign behind them:) )
No conclusion on if we will run out and buy some cross country skis, but it is certainly on the long list of toys we want...that seems to just keep growing...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bathroom Remodel: Finished!!

We are (almost) finished the infamous bathroom remodel that has been in the works since Labor Day weekend.  Yes, I mean September 6th. 

When we purchased the house up here in Anchorage, the master bathroom (along with basically every other house we looked at) was quite ridiculously small.  Especially coming from the suburbs in Houston where bathrooms are about the size of a normal living area. Anyways, we decided we would need to fix that, but since it was the only "issue" in the entire house that we disliked - we fell in love with rest of the home and moved right in.
The bathroom BEFORE
You could basically sit on the toilet while brushing your teeth and still reach the water.
Lovely.
And the shower...with no door or curtain. I'm not sure how that'd work.

And the closet BEFORE
We had to do some major spring cleaning to get our clothes to fit.

 At first (since we had just done a complete house flip in Oklahoma City this spring and I, for one, was not too excited about taking on another huge project) we had a couple contractors come out and give us bids on what we wanted to happen.  They were pretty pricey...so our conclusion?  Let's save thousands of dollars and do it ourselves!  Fabulous. 

Or that's what I thought on September 6th. Not so much 13 weeks later on December 4th.

All we wanted to do was move a wall about 3 feet into the bedroom to extend not only the bathroom but also the closet, move the closet door from the bedroom to the bathroom, add another vanity, hang a glass shower door, add addition electrical outlets and lights, build a sweet closet organizer, paint...and a few other minor things. No biggie, right?!?

Thankfully, the 2nd full bathroom is right outside our bedroom, so we just moved on in there and used that since move in day back in July. 

I would like to give major props to my wonderful, hard working, multi-talented husband for doing it basically all alone.  (I helped paint and hold sheet rock while he drilled it in, but I can't take much credit at all for this one).  He labored after work in the evenings, on weekends and on his days off. He built a new wall, took out the old wall, did all the electrical, tiled, carpeted, hung doors, trim, mirrors...I can't even name everything he did - but he did a fabulous job.  I'm very proud of him!!  

Working hard...again

You can see where we moved the wall from and to in this picture

Our guest bedroom turned into a closet for a bit...
can you tell why I may have been losing my mind? :)
I took a lot more pictures of the process, so we'd never forget:), but I decided to spare you and try to give you an overview. 

It all came to completion just a week ago.  It has been a long process, but the bathroom looks amazing!

Our new sinks - his and hers
That alone made it all worth it. :)
partial view of the new shower door


Where the new bedroom and closet door are
and you can see some of the amazing closet organizers installed

a bad picture...but i wanted to show how much bigger our closet is!
Before and after pictures are my favorite. Though the process is often forgotten.  I am so thankful that it is finished and we can just enjoy the fruit of Matt's labor. And now we can go into the new year with a brand new bathroom. 

What a great Christmas present.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mocha's new love

video
I think Mocha is adjusting just fine to the new climate. :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Skiing 101

Matt has been waiting for the day that there was enough snow on the ground to truly enjoy one of his favorite things - downhill skiing.  Thankfully we got a ton of fresh snow on Thanksgiving Day and we each had a 4 day weekend - so there was a perfect outlet to get out in it all. 

There is the world-class ski resort about 30 min away that is a challenging mountain for the experienced skier.  Then there is this in town ski "hill" that consists of mostly greens and a few blues.  Being that I haven't been in over 10 years, you can guess which one I opted for.  They also have a deal that if you only go for part of the day, it's a discounted price.  Very nice if you wanted to hit the slopes after work one day.  The trails (as you can see in the first picture) have lights, so even though it's dark at 4pm - those hardcore people can go until 9. 

We had previously purchased Matt his very own pair of skis and boots (on sale, naturally) since he knew he enjoyed the activity and would use them for years to come (even post Alaska).  For me however, we opted to rent the first go around and maybe save us an unnecessary purchase if all had not gone well.  Matt is a great teacher and very patient, thankfully.  I wouldn't say I'm a natural...but I might go again, because I love my husband and live in Alaska. :)

I (or shall I say my legs) finished a little before Matt was done, so he was able to go back out again and enjoy the slopes a little faster without me.  Plus, it was a toasty 13 degrees outside, so the fire inside the lodge was very appealing to me.
 
I liked the look of this hill...very gradual decline :)
 
warming up by the fire in preparation of round 2


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tis the most wonderful time of the year...

I come to determine that God blessed us with Christmas and all that it encompasses to help us look forward to and endure the harsh cold weather and 6 hour days (we are just over 6 hours of sunlight at this point and still getting shorter).  I've also determined that all the darkness just means that the festive lights are on for at least 16 hours.

Yes, our tree is up (put up before Thanksgiving! gasp!) and Christmas music has been played since early November despite the harrassment.
We've already gotten to enjoy the Nutcracker ballet - compliments of Matt's work. 
Thanksgiving morning we awoke to huge snowflakes (going 3 weeks without any snow) and ended up with some deep snow by the end of the day. It lasted throughout the Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed with some friends, which made for some beautiful scenery at our first Thanksgiving away from "home".

Doesn't is just look like a giant Christmas tree?

And well, little Wesley, sums it up rather nicely...
I could never get enough of this time of the year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Surprise Visit

We (my family and myself) had been planning this trip for a few months.  My sister, Amy, found out she was pregnant early this year and then in the summer we moved to Alaska.  It was bittersweet, as I was excited to be moving but sad to be missing my first aunt experiences.  The initial plan was to wait until Christmas when Matt and I would make our trek back down south for a non-white Christmas with the family and meet the little guy...but after about a month into living in the last frontier...I decided I couldn't wait that long.  So, we searched for a good flight deal (which sadly involved a red eye and several layovers) and I planned my trip home for 3 weeks after the baby was due...just in case he was late.

Amy had no idea, but I figured having a newborn, she wouldn't have that many plans on the calendar.

Alas, after spending 33 hours on a plane and visiting Seattle, LA and Houston on my voyage from Anchorage to Dallas, I got to spend almost 3.5 days with my precious nephew, Welsey, the 70 degree weather, and the local shopping malls. 

 It also worked out that we could celebrate my grandparents 55th wedding anniversary with the whole family (almost...the husbands couldn't join us) while I was home. 
Celebrating 55 years of my Gramps & Mimi being married
4 generations...and finally another boy

Caitlin and me hogging the baby.  I was really good at that.
A long trip for a short weekend.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely. But I'm glad I don't have to get on another plane for at least a month.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our first real snow fall

It was like Christmas morning when I awoke to a pink sky peaking through the curtains and the ground being covered in snow.  It makes the short days seem brighter (literally - the snow reflects the little light we have) and the cold more bearable. 

Though I'm accustomed to getting a free "snow day" off work when there is just a hint of ice on the ground.  I think those days are long gone, sadly.  But I do not remember Houston looking like this outside my window either, so I'll compromise.

I think everything looks more beautiful dusted with white flakes and the mountains look more majestic covered in snow.
View from our back door


Driving down the neighboring street

I get only about five more months of this...:) 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hockey

Alaska Aces.

We attended our first hockey game, ever.  Neither of us had any idea what was really going on, but the seats were good and free (my work gets season tickets) so we thoughts we'd give it a try.  We went with a couple friends (Adam & Kelly) and had a good time. 


We figure this is the only professional sport that Alaska offers, so we better get acquainted with it.  I still have a lot to learn...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wesley Scott

Yesterday at 6:12pm after a LONG delivery, my sister became a mom. 
My mom became a grandmother (Marmie).
I became an aunt.
All for the first time.

Weighing in at 9lbs - a healthy baby boy - welcome to the world Wesley Scott Zimmermann!!

I can't wait to meet him!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Backpacking...it is so much different in the Alaskan winter. I cannot deny that by the time that we arrived back at the car I felt overwhelming relief.

It started by Adam, a co-worker/friend/neighbor/Bible study partner of Matt's, our new "wilderness" friend (I officially dubbed him that title) invited us to go camping on top of O'Malley Peak just outside of Anchorage. Matt cautiously asked me...assuming I'd quickly reject the idea (now why would he think that??)...but I decided it'd be fun and add to our Alaskan experience. Plus, we'd be hiking up to where the snow was residing. It would be great views of the city at night and I was assured that now is the perfect time to out in the back country because the bears are quickly stowing themselves away for hibernation. Wonderful. Let's go.

Friday after work and a quick bite for dinner, we packed the car. Adam, Kelly, Matt, myself and Mocha. My pack consisted of every winter apparel item I owned, some hot chocolate, bear spray, sleeping bag, a thermarest and about 3 nalgens full of water. Nothing like the essentials.


Gearing up to go!
About 6:30pm (a little later than planned) we start up the trail. It's dusk and darkness was quickly falling upon us. Since our eyes adjusted as we headed up, the headlamps were not essential until we got to the top. It was cold, but once we got moving we had to make frequent stops to shed the excess layers.

And then to my wonderful surprise a park ranger came strolling up past us on the the trail...

"Just wanted to warn you folks that there are a couple brown bears a little further up the trail. You guys be careful. Make some noise."

Yes, brown bears. As in grizzly bears.

And again a frequent thought in my head as of lately, "are you freaking kidding me!?!"

I thought they were going into hibernation. Not chilling on the trail we are hiking along.

My trip quickly went down from there. Or shall I say my mind games began spinning out of control. Every bush, rock and noise I heard of course I assumed it was the bears stalking us trying to figure out the best way to attack us by surprise. Funny enough, nobody else seemed even bothered by the announcement from our park ranger friend.

Fortunately, after a grueling hike up (only about 2 hours) we arrived at a fabulous place to set up camp. I have to say it was beautiful. The snow covered mountain tops were reflecting the moonlight on one side and the city lights were illuminating into the night sky on the other.

The wind was blowing really hard, so setting up the tents wasn't the easiest thing to do. We had to hunt and find boulders to anchor the tent down so it wouldn't fly away. After we got both tents set up, we had a party. We invited Adam and Kelly over to our domain.  Adam brought milk and his nifty little stove and we enjoyed some delicious hot chocolate and music (via iphones) as we were bundled up in our cozy tent. After a couple hours of just relaxing and enjoying each others company we headed to bed (aka - our respective tents and sleeping bags).

The view at night

Then when the morning finally came
I didn't think that the next 8 hours ahead of me were ever going to end. The cold was only a slight problem in the big scheme of things. I realized when the sun came out the next day that my thermarest had completely deflated during the night which may have contributed to my chilled-ness. I actually had dreams about waking up with the sun shining, hikers walking by and I was overjoyed. It saddened me when I got startled and realize that nope, it was still pitch black outside, everyone was sound asleep except me and then wind was still howling. I could swear that a bear was about to jump on top of our tent and attack.  At least my racing heart kept the blood flowing and my body warmer. :) There is a bright side to everything.

After about 2 total hours of sleep and 13 hours of darkness, the sun finally started rising about 8:30am and I woke Matt up and told him I couldn't take it anymore. Being the wonderful husband he is, he woke up with me and we decided to hike to the top of the next peak (with bear spray in hand) to enjoy the sunrise together. Our compadres were still fast asleep, so we journeyed up alone (with Mocha, of course). We hiked through the snow and found a big rock to enjoy the view.

Did I mention is was cold? Below freezing. Brr.
It was beautiful and made me forget the night I just endured.

Once our friends woke up, we heated up some hot water for coffee and oatmeal, packed things up for the day and said goodbye to our campsite. 

Wouldn't be complete without a photo shoot to document:)

the whole gang
Matt, Me, Kelly, Adam
(and Mocha)

Hiking the ridge line back

The steep climb down
We were back at the car by lunch, just in time to get home and showered before our Saturday of activities began.  Though I was terrified at moments, I'm glad we went!  Truly was an experience, one I'm sure will be repeated before our time is up in Alaska.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Four months

Four months since we stepped off the plane into the bright 11pm sunlight to which we would call home.  Four months since we checked into our dirty, mirror-filled wall, too gross to walk barefoot motel room "home".  Four months since we traded in our hot, humid climate and fast-paced city life for cold, rainy weather in a small, mountainous community.  Four months since we could jump in the car and drive to any loved one's home as our hearts desired to now needing to financially plan a 10 hour flight to get anywhere familiar.

Nothing like losing all comforts. 

Some days I realize that I live in one of the most amazing, beautiful places on Earth. 

Other days I don't know how I'm going to survive the next several years ahead of me. 

People ask us all the time how we are adjusting since moving from Houston to Anchorage.  It would be hard to beat more a diverse change within the US.  Our typical response to these people is "we love it!" - then we talk about some recent adventure we just experienced.  I believe that the more positively you speak the more positively you'll think and visa versa.  I'm not lying when I say we enjoy living up here, but I won't neglect that there are challenges either.  The problem with social media is that it allows life to be portrayed in any way you want it to appear no matter how accurate it actually is...
Life isn't perfect like it can be made out to be.
(Though complaining all the time doesn't help anything either.)

I'm one who treasures real people.  So here's my realness.

I wouldn't say moving to Alaska has been bad.  It's just been different.

Different is good.  I love change.  New places and experiences.  It's exciting.  It's adventurous. It's also humbling and challenging.  It strips routine, familiarity, comforts.  It forces me to cling to the God who in six days created all this unfathomable beauty outside my window. 
So as the days get shorter, the weather gets colder and the realities of living in Alaska set in, I have to decide how I am going to handle it.

I want to embrace it.  Live like a tourist, but invest in a community.  Keep focus on who is in control of it all and that He is good and has a plan.  It's only going to last a short while, as everything here on Earth does. I want to look back and see how God used this time in our lives to shape us individually and as a family.  Because I know He will.  And that alone will make all this worth it...and having fun while doing it never hurt anyone. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's coming...

...winter, that is.  Slowly (or shall I say rather quickly) it is heading our direction.  Thankfully, fall has been absolutely beautiful. 
It snowed a couple weeks ago in town (in September!), just flurries, but it still counts in my book.  The mountains are now covered with "termination dust" - Alaskan lingo for the terminating warmth. 

Alaska has some strange lingo. 

Like if you are going "outside" they don't literally mean outdoors, they mean traveling outside of Alaska, such as to lower 48.  And who knew that they had a beef with Texas?  I guess people up here think Texas is trying to prove itself as a big and better state forcing Alaska to fight back - but born and raised in the Lone Star State I never heard of such rivalry. Alaska might be big, but I can contest that there is not much up here except these beautiful mountains! However, I could get you a t-shirt or two about the rivalry, if you so desired.

The longer I'm here the more I realize how different it is in so many aspects - sometimes I feel like I'm living in a foreign country. 

Anyways, here is a picture from Matt's office building downtown.  Would make spending 8-9 hours a day there a little easier, right?  There is more snow on the mountains now.  Each day the white is moving down and closer.  Rather pretty, but I'm not sure if my perpetually cold body is ready for this Alaskan winter. On the bright side, here in about a month we'll be able to use our new skis!
A fire burning in the living room fireplace brings my heart joy.  Not much else can make a place feel as cozy.  So it's a good thing we stocked up on firewood - or as much as our little backyard could hold. We've gotten pretty good at this building a fire the second we walk through the door from work routine.  Not sure how long this stash will last, but I'm sure enjoying it until then.

I'm not sure what time that picture was taken, but the days are getting shorter and shorter and shorter.  I try to not pay attention to what time the sun comes and goes (denial is easier at times), but I can tell you that it doesn't stick around as much anymore.  Happy Light? Yes, please.

Then I realized on a walk the other day we were the only chimney with smoke coming out of it.  I'm not ashamed.  Though I think our neighbors might think we are a bit ridiculous, being it technically hasn't been below freezing yet.  That's ok with me - as long as I'm warm. :)