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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Arctic Valley

A couple of our new friends, Ian and Kara, who recently moved up to Anchorage about the same time we did, went downhill skiing with us this past weekend.  There are a handful of ski slopes relatively close to our home (within 30 minutes or so) and we wanted to try them all out.  The most recent one, Arctic Valley.

The unique aspect about this mountain is that it is completely non-profit and run strictly by volunteers.  It's on the military land and only open on the weekends.  The volunteers get free skiing, hence the incentive for giving up your time to run a lift or two.  And since it's a pretty low budget ski mountain, the slopes are not groomed. Ever.  All the fresh powder accumulated throughout the week is game to those few visitors it receives on the weekends. 

There was a lot of fresh powder this past weekend - well over a foot in some spots. 
This created an uncharacteristic amount of large moguls.  I'm pretty sure I got air born on every turn.  And a few times I would voluntarily just fall over because my thighs were burning so bad from trying to maneuver all the bumps!

It is no easy mountain.  The majority is rated black diamond. 
Fabulous for the new skier like myself.  Hah.

I will say that until this day, I had not fallen once while downhill skiing.  However, I can now say that my fear of completely wiping out and/or face planting it is forever gone.  More than once the front of my skis would hit a deep snow bank and make an abrupt stop...while my body did not.  It was thrilling.
Views from the top.  Stunning.
Another unique experience was the T-bar lift. Typically these take you to the "bunny hill".  Not this one. It takes you ALL the way to the top of the black ski slope.  This was way more challenging than I thought.  My first go around I made it about 100 feet before my skis got tangled up and I wiped out and I had to beg some poor kid to pick up my poles on his way down.  Again.  At that point, I wasn't surprised.
On my way up!

Me...on the ground. Like usual this day.

Riding tandem on the T-bar lift.  It was hilarious.  In order to get off the "bar" Matt literally had to shove me to the side...I hope the view brightened some body's day behind us.  And I think Matt may have slightly enjoyed that.

Laughing all the way up....
video

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Curious what an Alaska highway is like?

I think it would be fair to say it's a bit different than Houston's I-10. :)

video
I love roadtrips these days.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Iditarod

Matt and I couldn't pass up a once in a lifetime adventure of experiencing sledding with an Iditarod trained team of dogs.  Seriously, where else can you do this but Alaska?  It was beyond what I expected - well worth every minute.

Groupon was offering a BOGO free - so I jumped on it. We had our own private tour (the 2 other people didn't show) with Dario, a man from Italy who moved to Alaska on a tour around the world - and of all places, he chose Alaska!  He fell into training and preparing dogs for the Iditarod race - a legendary race 1,150 miles across Alaska with just you, your dogs and your sled.  (learn more here)  There is not a lot of funding for this tradition, so he's started his own business to earn money and keep his dogs in shape.  What an unique way of life!

We rode around on the sled, stopping every once in awhile to learn about the dogs, the intense training process to get these dogs ready, how the race works, and all that is involved in running the race.  We even visited the kennel where at any time he has 35-50 dogs who love to run (and got to play with the puppies, added bonus!). 

Watch and it'll feel like you were there...:)
video
To be honest at first it made me sad to see these dogs having to pull us around.  But after hearing Dario talk about how much these dogs are naturally born to run, like a lab who naturally plays fetch, and watching them get so excited to start going again, I realized there is nothing inhumane about it.  These trainers love their dogs, like they would love their children.  He knows every dogs name - all 50+ of them.  Even during the race, they keep a schedule of 6 hours on, 6 hours off.  During the 6 hours of rest, the trainer is preparing the dogs' food, massaging each dog, checking on their feet...getting about about 45 min of rest himself.  Amazing dedication.

These dogs are very intellegent.  Dario makes one noise, such as "hah" or "ge", and the dogs know whether to turn right or left. One faint command of "ready" and the dogs jump up from cooling off in the snow and prepare to take off.  Very impressive. 

...I'm still working on Mocha to drop the ball after she brings it back from playing fetch....I have a long ways to go.
Enjoying the ride in a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains.

Trying not to fall off for the photo op...it was kinda bumpy.

I love puppies!


The kennel that houses all his dogs.

Amazing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Words of Wisdom on Love Day

Let love be genuiune...

Roman 12:9

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:8

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Love is the greatest refreshment in life.
Pablo Picasso

A bell is no bell 'til you ring it,
A song is no song 'til you sing it,
And love in your heart
Wasn’t put there to stay -
Love isn’t love
'Til you give it away.
Oscar Hammerstein
The Sound of Music (only because I love this movie)

Impart unto me, O God, I pray Thee, the spirit of Thy Love, that I may be more anxious to give than to receive, more eager to understand than to be understood, more thoughtful for others, more forgetful of myself.
F. B. Meyer


The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are lovedloved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo

And because it made me laugh...
I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.

Unknown

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Kitchen

I am a little addicted to HGTV...in which they teach that kitchens are one of the most important selling features to a home.  Most Alaska homeowners have not gotten that memo yet.  But thankfully the house we purchased had a fully upgraded kitchen...and brand new!  What a blessing. 

It certainly isn't the size of our previous home...but that'd be hard to beat.


Our Houston kitchen
I had every cooking utensil/appliance nicely spread out in all my abundance of cabinets and drawers. 

Sadly those days are of the past.  Now they are shoved into every nook and cranny imaginable.

But I do love my kitchen. I love the bright lights.  I love the stainless steel appliances. I love the open feel into the living and dining room.  I love the tile.  It was just missing one thing (of course after I painted)...
Before...
And after...
                              
                      
Can you tell the difference? It's the little things that make an impact.  And now it's much easier to open drawers and doors.  Matt liked knobs.  I liked bars.  So we compromised and got both.

Another project completed...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Superbowl

The Superbowl is the best NFL game of the year.  And it's not because of the hoopla of the world championship thing...but because:

 1. Football ends. (NFL wise...college football is another story - I'm kinda sad to see it go)

2. Excuse for friends to get together.

3.  Justifies the abundant potluck feast and poor nutritional choices.


A great thing about being up here is that the game started at about 2pm.  Our friends came over, we ate, watched a little football, socialized and ate some more.  Early enough for it all to be over at a decent hour for work the next day.  Perfect.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I know not the way God leads....

"I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide."  - Martin Luther

I did not know what moving to Alaska would bring.  I was open and excited about it though.  In the beginning it's always exciting to me...the unknown.  Living in the midst of the unknown, however, is not always as much fun.  I'll admit there have been many times of joy and new adventure that I will never want to take back.  But there may have also been a few times that brought me to tears, a few times that I just didn't feel like I could take the dark or the cold or the distance another day. 

I don't know what tomorrow will bring or how I am going to handle the next hour ahead.  And sometimes that overwhelms me.  Though I know that if I really believed and lived like I know my God - the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the omniscient Almighty, the God who numbers the hairs on my head and the stars in the sky - I wouldn't feel overwhelmed.  I would rest in the peace of the knowledge that God knows.  He most certainly has a perfect plan, a way to refine me into His character and use me in this lost world.   

And as much as that challenges me - it probably involves another day at my job and another winter (or two or three) in Alaska.  Which is good. Because God will use it - if I let Him.  And He will only give me what I can handle in His strength. 

The last thing I want to do it wake up and realize that I wasted this precious gift of today wishing it was different.  Maybe it's not exactly what I had in mind - but how often is it? And isn't this life not about me anyway? 

And thus the cry of my heart...

"You have said, 'Seek my face.'
My heart says to you,
'Your face, Lord, do I seek.'"
Psalm 27:8

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him."
Psalm 28:7

Monday, February 7, 2011

Project #147...

Matt and I inherited this nightstand from my great Uncle.  Again, kinda old school, but certainly good quality.  I decided it was a good piece of (free) furniture, it just needed a little make-over. 

We removed the knobs and those lovely metal plates and moved it to the garage.  It was way too cold to be painting outside. (However, I would highly recommend this option if possible for better ventilation.  The fumes did not do good things for me and everything in the garage may now possibly have a coat of red on it.  Live and learn.)
 A little sanding, a couple cans of spray paint and new knobs...and ta-da!
It's really bright, but I think it looks awesome.  We placed it in this awkward empty spot in the 2nd bath for extra storage/counter space.  With boring white walls at this moment in time, it really adds a little color to the bare bathroom.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Alyeska Downhill Skiing

Matt and I get days off work.  They are just rarely on the same day.  So we did some pre-planning and decided to take Friday off and have a day together - no chores, no house remodel, nothing.  We slept in and headed out to Girdwood to enjoy some breakfast and downhill skiing at this resort.
Alyeska Resort
Girdwood, Alaska
The beauty of this particular day was that the top of the mountain had gotten 51 inches of fresh snow in the last week, the sun was out (how I miss the sun!), it was in the 20's (that's warm, people), and it was a Friday morning so there was nobody there.  The conditions were perfect.
You can see how all the lifts were not so full...
We opted to stay on the lower part of the mountain, because a) I'm still trying to get my downhill skiing groove on and b) it is like $25 a lift ticket. Much cheaper. No point in shelling out the big bucks to be miserable coming down the whole mountain.
Did I mention it was awesome not having to fight a crowd?
Matt was excited! 
Notice how there is no line at the lift behind him.

The views were pretty good if I do say so myself

Taking it all in half way down the mountain

Doing our best to get the background. 
It didn't really work very well.
I actually had a ton of fun once I got the swing of it.  Maybe next time we'll venture to the very top...maybe.