Sunday, July 25, 2010

I love weekends

I love the weekends. Saturdays in particular, because that's play day.  Unfortunately this weekend has been very rainy and cold...but that didn't stop us from hiking Turnagain Arm - a trail that follows along the coast line with mountains in the distance.  As you can see, the rain gear we invested in has come to good use!

We took Mocha along this time and she loved running the trail with freedom...though in all her bravery she did not go far enough ahead where she couldn't see us.  She constantly stopped and waited...or came running back when she realized what she had done.  I like to think she is just a good, obedient dog...but deep down I know it's because she gets scared.

As you can see I have about 20 lbs of extra warmth on me. In my defense, it was cold and rather windy on this lookout point.

Mocha enjoyed the raindrops on the grass.  She was incredibly muddy when we were finished. Gotta love the wet dog smell in the ole' car.

Matt and I only made it in about 3 miles in before we turned around to head back.  We ran into some fellow hikers that had seen some fresh bear scat up the trail and that was enough for me to say adios to the trail.  I was a bit on edge the majority of the time anyways - hiking by ourselves and all.  I'm still learning the balance between a healthy fear and a-keep-you-from-enjoying-Alaska fear.  Hopefully it comes with time.  And maybe I should stop reading the Anchorage Daily News "Bears in Alaska" section.  That might help...  

That evening we had the privilege of cooking up our first fresh fish.  A sweet family had gone fishing just a few days prior and caught 96lbs of fish...yes, that is 96 pounds!! So they graciously gave us a few, since neither of us had tried it so fresh before.  I actually had to skin the fish...but I was quite proud of my citrus-flavored fresh halibut. Though I'm really looking forward to the fresh salmon.
I feel like such an official Alaskan now.
Matt got ahold of the camera and documented such a momentous occasion. 
Bon appetit. :)

Friday, July 23, 2010


If you read this blog, you've probably noticed that Matt and I have gotten to do some pretty cool stuff since we arrived in Anchorage just over a month ago. It has been an awefully busy few weeks - both starting new jobs, moving into a new house, finding a new church, making new friends, discovering new hobbies, adjusting to the Alaska way of life - basically everything encompassed with a big move. My sister, Caitlin, asked me the other day if I had any regrets about moving up here. Sure the time difference is challenging to keep up with people, the weather is a tad bit colder, and anything familiar is a 10-14 hour/$600 flight away...but I can honestly say that I haven't looked back. I've truly enjoyed this experience so far. I had high hopes going into it - though I'm not one that shys away from facing new, exciting places. I was really excited to embark on this adventure with Matt - to deepen our relationship and really work together in creating a home away from home together. Plus, the scenery doesn't hurt.

Something about this place gives me peace. I feel more relaxed than I have in a while. I love that I rarely drive and when I do, it's usually with Matt. I love that after work I can walk over to work out - even in the misty rain - and not have to sit in traffic. I love that 99% of the people we've met just want to talk and open up. I love that there is more to do than we can imagine at our fingertips, but that I can curl up with a cup of hot tea on our couch at the end of the night. I love that I feel safe in bed at night. I love that my new job tries to create a warm, enjoyable office environment. I love that everybody lives no more than 10 minutes away. I love that I can wear scarves year round. I love that after dinner Matt and I can bike along the coast for hours. I love that there is a coffee shop on every corner. I could go on as lots of things add up to the goodness of this new place. But above it all I love that whatever it is - it gives me a quiet spirit. Sure, I have my moments...but I believe God has blessed this move and coupled with that comes a peaceful heart.

I'm glad that God know what He is doing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the most traffic in Alaska...

...has been found entering state parks.

Monday, July 19, 2010

all work & play leaves no time to update

I was slightly afraid this would happen.  I became a full-time working girl again last Monday and my time at the blog has become limited.  It doesn't help that our internet connection as been down the last several days.  I was warned that Alaska internet is a bit slower...and patience has become a virtue.

Work has been going great.  It helps that when I get up at 5:30am the sun is still up. The pace of life up here is completely different than I'm used to - like having a 3 hour break during the day on the clock is normal. No arguement coming out of me!  And having an hour lunch break again seems like eternity compared to my previous 20 min teacher "lunch". 

Plus, since Matt and I both work downtown, he drops me off in the morning and then I walk the 8 blocks or so back over to his office to utilize the free gym inside til he gets off work.  It's great in theory, but we will see how it goes once winter hits full force.  I've never considered myself a cold-weather type gal.  Should be interesting.

Anyways, Saturday we called up a couple friends to go with us and give our new mountain bikes a real trial on the mountain side. About a 40 minute drive up to Eklutna Lake. A tourquiose lake surrounded by mountains and a 26 mile roundtrip bike trail. 

I learned a few things on this trip:
1) How to change a flat tire...and to make sure to have all the necessary supplies when you are 8 miles away from civilization. Thankfully with several of us combined we were able to come up with everything we needed to patch a flat.
2) A bike with no shocks does not work well on a rocky path.  It actually creates blurry vision if you were curious.  Let's just say craigslist got another visit from us afterwards.
3) Thank you Jesus for protecting our ill-prepared heads with no helmets this trip. That won't happen again.
4) Bring buy spray.  My legs are paying for that today.
5) First gear means everything. That might have helped when Matt and I climbed the massive hill in town a couple weeks ago and we almost passed out upon reaching the top.

And last but not for your enjoyment.

I may or may not have almost fallen off my bike while taking this awesome picture.
Of course to document the adventure. As always.
 A forest fire took out hundreds of acres just a few months ago right along the trail.
No words to describe the beauty.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rule Breakers

Alaska has been awesome.  It's beautiful.  There is so much to do. The people are so friendly - everyone wants to stop and give you their life story, because nobody is in a hurry. (Seriously, the Craigslist stranger we bought a bike off of, the Home Depot man, the neighbor, the other neighbor, the man in the parking lot, the lady at the know, everyone.)  Anyways, it's all been very welcoming.

Even our home has been great, which I talked about here.  The only downside is we went from this yard...

to this yard...

Yep, as you can see it's a tad bit smaller - and keep in mind that we have a large 70lb dog.  But since this house was the best we found, we thought we could work with this 8ft deep yard because there is a huge green common space directly behind us (that is well maintained without our help. yay!). 

We spent the first 5 days playing catch with her in the vast space, taking her to the old tennis courts (that we have yet to see anyone play on), and even playing with a cute 10 week old puppy a few doors down.  It's been a great way to meet the neighbors...until...

Not even a week after moving in we get this wonderful letter from the association.  Now, our neighborhood is considered a prestigious community (we learned this after moving in) that was built in the 70's - and most of the original owners still live here.  So, it tends to be an older community. Most are very friendly, which is awesome.  But apparently one, in particular, needs more to do. 

The letter informed us that our dog was barking until 1am (which, quite frankly, if you know us - we go to sleep around 10 with Mocha at the end of our I'm pretty sure we'd know if she was barking), a dog off the leash (ok - that was true, but we had seen lots of that, so we thought no big deal), and a dog on the people-only tennis court. 

Kinda disheartening. Kinda frustrating. Matt called that day and apparently this one neighbor (who we are still trying to figure out who it is, so we can introduce ourselves:) ) had been sitting around just looking for rule breakers - including the president of the association. haha.

Welcome to the neighborhood, right?

I understand the barking. Not much we can do about it (I've done the bark collar thing before, but would rather not again). We will just leaver her inside while we are gone, I guess.  I mean we'll have to do that for 9 months of the year anyways, so that was anticipated.

The tennis court can be avoided (though I thought it provided a great fenced in area for Mocha).

And well, the off the leash problem...well that kinda stinks because where is she going to run around and play fetch? It freaked me out thinking we'd have to take her for daily walks in the dead of winter after work.  Makes me cold thinking about it!

But due to my brilliant husband, the problem is solved...

A 50 foot rope.

Take that HOA.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Winner Creek and the HandTram

Have I mentioned that it's kinda rainy here? Well, yesterday the skies cleared, the mountains showed their faces and Matt got kicked out of work to take in some sunshine.  (Seriously, his boss came by his office 3 times to tell him to get out and enjoy the day! Pretty good gig, huh?).  So, what can you do that's fun and outside and free...hiking! We ventured back out to Alyeska Resort, where we celebrated our one year anniversary, and hit the trail, Winner Creek Trail to be exact, this time. I think it was about another good 5-6 mile hike round trip.

We headed out with our newly purchased bear spray and one of Matt's co-workers, Kim. It was beautiful.

The area we hiked is a rain forest, so it was all very green and lovely. 
We didn't bring Mocha this time, but now that I know it's dog friendly, we'll have to do that next time around.

We crossed some logs (there is actually a bridge for those not as daring as us:) )...

We enjoyed the gushing rivers running through the area...

And then we came to this...
The infamous Hand Tram.  I had heard a lot of people get to this point and turn around and go back. But not us...even with my fear of heights...and holding on for dear life...we crossed.
But Kim went first over the rapids below us. :)

I braved looking down just long enough to snap a picture (and that was only on the way back. Yes, we had to cross it twice!).

Once we crossed, we continued on up to some old mines.  It was like coming across a small little town on a mountainside. Unfortunately, there was a man playing a banjo out front (only in Alaska) who was charging $5 to walk through I snapped a picture and we turned around to come back.

We got done after 7pm, past my dinnertime and it was a 40 min drive back to the house, so we decided to try out 1 of the other 5 restaurants in Girdwood, AK.  Fully stuffing out starving selfs with burgers, we passed out when we got home. 

We awoke to another cloudy and dreary day, but at least that will force us to finish up some house chores we keep delaying. Back to reality...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The big OKC renovation...and reveal!

In theme with the home decorating, Matt and I embarked upon a completely new endeavor whose update is long overdue.  So, I will try to make it brief as not to bore you...though it was a long a grueling process of several months.  I can't complain too much as Matt did most of the behind the scenes stuff...I just partook of the brainstorming and intense, hard labor part...

So, while in the midst of packing up and moving to Anchorage, our other adventure was in the works. A rental house. Prior to discovering that we were moving half way around the world, Matt and his childhood friend, Aaron, decided (while on a trip to the Houston zoo), to purchase, renovate and rent out a home in Oklahoma City (yes, I am fully aware that this is an 8-hour drive from our previous home in Houston).  Matt has always dreamed of branching out and being his own boss - and while only having a dog to worry about, now was the ample time to try it out. So we did.

Here are Matt and Aaron signing the official papers of the LLC.

Anyways, it happened to fall within the same month of our big move. To say the least, that made it a quite exciting and busy month.

Between driving up there several times, flying up to and purchasing a house in Alaska (we practically owned 3 houses in 3 different cities at one time...never thought I'd say that! Thankfully that didn't last long though!), multiple 15 hour days of hard labor due to the time crunch, Matt having to drive back and forth for work in H-town, a limited budget and lots and lots of help from family and friends...we fully renovated this very cute 1950's 3 bedroom/1 bath ranch-style house in the heart of a trendy area.
Unfortunately, Matt and I had to leave a couple days before the project was complete (to pack up our Houston house and fly to Anchorage), so I don't have the finished photos, just the almost finished. Hopefully I'll get those pics soon (as I would like to see the finished product as well and it has become a little more challenging to just 'drop in' to see it).

There wasn't an inch in the house that we didn't touch. Every wall. Baseboard. Door. Counter. Trim. Floor. Window Treatment. Light. And so forth. I learned a ton during the process.  And it was fun to have a huge hand in color/decor aspect.  The pictures fail to document the new roof, fresh paint outside and all the electrical work it was no 'just throw some paint up and go' type of remodel.  It was a complete renovation.  And now looking back - I think well worth it! (However, I can't say that came out of my mouth during the process...)

Here are some pictures of the transformation. As you will notice in the before pictures the previous renters (who rented from an elderly lady who rarely checked back on the house) were a bit messy. Thankfully we were able to look past that and see the potential when we put in an offer. Our renters moved in the last few days of the renovation, so some of the after pictures involve their boxes as well.

The Living Room


We put new paint on walls/baseboards/trim/front door, refurbished the original wood floors throughout the house, replaced ceiling fan, new door handle, vent covers...basically everything. 

The Dining Room

This is the best picture I have, sadly.  We added a chair rail, fresh paint everywhere, light fixture you can't see:(, mudding and re-texturing over wood paneling on the back wall - a ridiculous, multiple day process, new vent covers, and replacing some baseboards.  I think the two-toned makes such a huge difference!

The Kitchen
Before 1 (yikes! I know!)
Before 2

After - obviously not completed when we left
Look past the mess and notice that the cabinets were stripped down and repainted white (also a very time-comsuming process!), granite countertops replaced the old yellow tile, that fancy wavy trim was removed, new tile replaced the old laminate, all brand-new stainless steel appliances (including adding a dishwasher), cabinets extended along the side wall and more built to include a microwave, the old ceiling fan was removed and can lights put in, and a new light above the new sink and faucet.  Boy that was basically a gut job.  But it looks amazing (and probably better even all done!).

The new upper cabinet is installed.  Just needs a little paint, the new doors and hardware to be installed, and the appliances to put in..and voila - a brand new kitchen that I'd be proud to call home. :)

The Bathroom

This somehow became my project. But after much debate, we decided to rip out all the old brown, ugly tile (put up with 2" concrete back in the 50's, so that was fun to try to do with my 5'3" frame) and drywall and texture the new walls. We also riped up the old tile floor (which caused a few holes to the ground) and laid new tile. With a new toilet, vanity, light fixture, paint, blinds...everything...I love the outcome! The tile in the shower I "painted" white.  All I got to say is don't believe the hardware store men or HGTV when they say that's an easy, cheap process.  It almost destroyed my sanity in matter of hours!

The Hallway
All new paint (again) - notice the dark grey that is in the dining room now shadows the back wall in the shelving.  Pretty, huh?
A Bedroom
After (all the bedrooms basically look the same)
New floors, blinds, lots of paint, door handles, etc...these were by far the easiest rooms!

I'll try to post some "during" pictures soon so you can fully appreciate the work.  I don't want to deceive you to believing its was like a 30 minute episode on TV that we all love to watch. :)   Thus, I am so thankful our house in Alaska was move-in ready! I think I need a few years in between projects to restore my appreciation for hard labor.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Our Alaskan Home...Part One

God has thoroughly blessed us during this whole moving process. I am so thankful.

One thing that I am most excited about, and absolutely love, is our new home. Our stuff arrived on Thursday and I quickly became a slave driver to get it set up. Going almost 2 months living out of a suitcase can take a toll on a person! Matt however could not wait to go on a hike. And as much as I love the outdoors...a unpacked home was higher on my list. So, as in any good marriage, we compromised as you see in my last post. :)

Due to the much higher cost of living compared to the South, I had prepared myself to not be thrilled with our future home purchase pre-visiting Alaska.  But once again, God provided. We found this amazing, newly renovated town home in a great little neighborhood just south of downtown (where we both work).  I do believe it's a perfect fit for all our furniture snuggly fits within each room which is a huge plus!  Having an almost unpacked house is finally making me feel at home, and not on vacation, here in Anchorage.  

Here are some before and after pictures of a couple of the rooms downstairs. A little paint in a room filled with our furniture just hits the spot for me. :)
Coming through the front door...Before
Living Room Before

Dining Room Before
We are still working on hanging pictures in the other rooms those will come hopefully sooner rather than later.  And just a further tidbit...these pictures were taken after 9 at night. Nice and bright and sunny.  Black out curtains are expensive, but well worth every penny.  It could really mess up your sleeping cycle if you are not careful!

July Fourth...and our first hike

It only took us a mere three weeks to finally enjoy our first hike (and we went on two in one weekend!), but we finally made it. We decided - and was told - to not wait on the weather to clear, or you'd never get out on the trails. And I'm not going to lie, the fact that there are more bears than people in Alaska makes me a little nervous to just pick up and hit the trails. But, Sunday in honor of the fourth, we headed out.

After church (which I think we may have decided on a church to get plugged into!) we headed to the big annual Fourth of July Parade in downtown Anchorage. I wish I had pictures to document this 2 hour parade we enjoyed with thousands of other Alaskans, but I do not. It was exciting...maybe an hour too long...because it was cold! Only in Alaska will you wear thermals under your jeans and jacket to a July parade...but maybe one day I will too be able to pull off that tank top and enjoy the "hot" summer weather up here.

Matt then pulled me away from unpacked boxes and we headed to Flattop Mountain - maybe the most popular hiking trail in Anchorage, only about a 10 minute drive from the house. It's pretty awesome that the mountains are at our fingertips. I've never been more thankful to have an abundance of people to scare away the bears than I was on that trail. And other than the few freakouts I had when I thought Mocha was going to jump off the cliff, it was glorious!

Our family photo (almost) at the top overlooking the city of Anchorage. The last peak was really steep and I didn't think Mocha could make it up. We'll have to go back (which I'm sure we will!) and finish it without the dog.

Mocha pulled Matt all the way down the mountain, but every 100 yards or so, she'd turn around to make sure I was coming and wait til I caught up...then she'd take off again full force.

The next day we headed to Eagle River to hike a 6 mile loop in the valley with a sweet couple we met at church. The skies cleared and the sun came out - and we were blessed with a beautiful day! I sadly forgot my here are some lovely pics from the phone...
Eagle River Valley
(30 min north of Anchorage)
Jared and Nicole...this may have been Bear Meadow...yeah, Nicole led the way with the bear spray. Thankfully, we survived (in case you were worried!).

Eagle River
The water is gray because it's all glacier water running off the mountain. It was beautiful!

Then we headed back to our new place to break in the new dining room and grilled out some burgers. It turned out to be a great weekend!