Sunday, July 31, 2011

already feels like fall

While everyone I know back home is sweltering in the historic heat index, I'm currently bundled up on a cold, rainy afternoon contemplating some hot tea and soup for tonight dinner.  It's hard to believe that tomorrow is August.  Our very short summer is almost to an end.  And though it may reach 70 a time or two again before the snow starts falling, I feel like I should start mentally preparing for what is bound to come.  Another Alaska winter.  (Which in a bright light means that we will be introducing a new life into the world, so I'm not exactly dreading it this time around!)

Thankfully we have a small buffer of fall.  Which is actually a pretty season up here.  I enjoy watching the trees change colors and decorating with pumpkins and oranges, yellows and reds. 

So while Matt has been busily working on refurbishing this beautiful piece of furniture for the future nursery, I needed something to do.  Unfortunately a lot of paint has been involved in this project...of which I can't be around.  So I mosied on over the craft store to see what I could come up with to occupy my time.
As I walked in I was bombarded with fall decor.  I quickly decided I wanted to make a wreath to hang on our new front door.  For some reason I've really been into wreaths lately.  Probably because they are a super easy, cheap project.  Thus my $10 worth of supplies, with coupons (seriously, nothing is that cheap up here).
 As I enjoyed about a 45 minute phone conversation with my sister, Caitlin who lives in Austin, I wrapped, stuffed, cut and hot glued this bad boy together.  
 Don't worry, I'll wait a little longer before putting it on display and bask in the few more days of summer left, though I am a little anxious to get it on the door.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dungeon Redo

Our eyes have been enlightened to a many a new things since moving to Alaska.  First is how houses work (since our first trip up here was a rigorous 4 day house hunting trip).  They are expensive!  Most are not that updated.  About 85% of the houses we looked at were 2-story with the kitchen/living upstairs.  We weren't a fan of that - having to go up stairs to take in groceries and all - but in hindsight, heat does rise.  Of which our traditional layout (living/kitchen down, bedrooms up - rare find in our search) creates for a very cold downstairs.  Live and learn.

We also incurred an Arctic Entry.  Basically two front doors with a hallway between.  It is a rule in Alaska that you take off your shoes before entering anyone's house.  I kinda like that rule and hope to continue it wherever we move next.  Anyways, this room not only supposedly traps the cold air but also the wet snow boots you live in for about 6 months of the year. 

However, ours was more of a dungeon than an actual usable room. I didn't like when people had to enter through the front door.  Case in point. 
It was funny because every single person that came over after passing through the dungeon was shocked at how "nice" the inside was.  The entry was not providing a very good first impression.

It was freezing since the outside door was not sealed and had about an inch gap at the bottom.  The floor was concrete - just an extension of the sidewalk.  The walls were cinder blocks on one side and panelling that matched the exterior on the other.  It was dark - the one dim light was on the side wall from the 70's.  This room needed help.
Thankfully Matt came to the rescue.  The great thing about this project was that we could shut both doors and pretend the mess wasn't there. Thus this project taking a bit longer than anticipated.
Matt worked hard again.  He did a fabulous job.  Though I will take credit on drilling for hours into cinder block, which if you've never done that I'll mention that I don't think they meant for you to put holes in it.  It was ridiculous...and a slow process.
This is from the outside looking in.  We found this slate for a super deal to add a little character to the entry.  And fit perfectly 3 across.
We got a new front door with a window (hello sunlight!), but had to paint it the association's grey color.  Boring.  But I like the window.  And you can see the outside cinder block such as the ones that I drilled into.
This is the new inside door.  We painted it red (it was the dark grey like the rest of the exterior trim), I felt like it was my way to rebel against the strict rules.   And we love red.  We can now leave it open too because the room is all sealed and cozy now.
Here is a view from the inside looking towards the exterior door.  Matt installed a couple can lights and removed that dreadful side one.  It is very bright and more welcoming now.  Love it.
Now we just need to get a skinny table or bench and wall art to make it complete. It's always something, right?
And in case you forgot what it was like before:
And after:
 Another project complete.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rabbit Lake Trail

A couple weeks ago we took a short 10ish mile Sunday afternoon stroll to Rabbit Lake with our dear friends.  Just was not short by any means.  And being preggo I found myself getting much more short of breath than normal.  Thankfully it wasn't a challenging hike...just long - and filled with great fellowship and outdoor beauty.

Chad and the dogs leading the way on the trail.
 After 5ish miles we reached our destination.  Rabbit Lake.  Crystal clear water at the bottom of the North and South Suicide Peaks.  It was beautiful.
Mocha needed to cool off - though I was (as typical) freezing.  Since moving to Alaska she loves the water.  She even did some swimming around for a bit.  Not surprisingly she slept afterwards for about 3 days.
 The whole gang (except Sayward, Chris' other half).
Chris, Nicole, Jared, Chad, Anne, Me and Matt
 The ladies.  Love these girls.
Chris and Jared chilling on the side of the mountain. 
 And of course our typical "gotta prove we were here" photo. :) With our trusty pup, Mocha.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ATVing at Denali National Park

Denali (or Mt. McKinley known to most history books) is the tallest mountain in the United States.  It's about a 4-5 hour drive from our house and on a clear day you can see the mountain from Anchorage. Amazing.  Matt and I hadn't headed up there yet, so we were anxious to check that off our list.  Denali National Park is HUGE.  You can only take a school bus back in there (to preserve wildlife) except if you win the lottery to take your car in on the one designated day a year.  The bus will drop you off anywhere you want when you let them know to stop, but you can take it for 6 hours straight and never leave the park.  HUGE.
We made it to the official sign on this trip. And commemorated our experience by taking a picture.

Denali/Mt. McKinley (name is argued over, locals only refer to it as Denali) only "comes out" a handful of times a year.  It's usually pretty cloudy.  But with our good fortune (and visitors who brought awesome weather with them) we actually got to see the mountain in all it's glory. 
Because no motorized vehicles are allowed in the actual park, there is this section that was basically cut out of the park for mining back in the day. So we could ride around in there.

Due to it being such a tourist attraction, there was many many photo ops throughout the riding - basically a 1:1 ratio of riding: picture taking.   Not my ideal, but it was still fun.
The gang: Kyle, Paige, me and Matt
My riding buddy. 
Paige didn't want to drive and it worked out well that it was safer to be in a 2-person with seat belts for me. Perfect.

The boys rode single ATVs
Enjoying the creek beds...and actually staying dry!
Learning to skip rocks at a photo op

Matt making sure the baby is okay after a bumpy ride.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breaking the News

When Matt and I found out we were pregnant, we were obviously incredibly thrilled.  Though being all the way up in Alaska made it a bit bittersweet because we didn't have our family to share in the excitement.  And some things are just not that much fun to tell over the phone.

Thankfully (all God's perfect provision and timing) we had already planned a trip back to Oklahoma for a wedding.  It was going to be a rather quick trip (not my favorite with 1/3 of the time spent flying), but it worked out perfectly that I was going to be about 8 weeks pregnant at that point and we'd be able to tell our family in person.  Due to Mother's Day happening just prior to our arriving, I decided to make our gifts for the Grandma's. :)

Both were in utter shock.  I kinda wish it was recorded as there was about a 10 second lag between opening the gift and it clicking what it meant.  Matt had fooled many a people by proclaiming we were on a "five year track"...which was never the case (at least in my mind). 

The plan wasn't to see my family on this particular trip, just due to the lack of time.  However I convinced my mom to meet me part of the way for dinner on my last night in town.  She finally obliged and I think she understood afterwards why it was crucial to see me.  I was also blessed because Amy, Matt (her husband) and Wesley also came.  I kinda wish I lived next door to them and not 4,000 miles away.  Well, maybe one day.

Here are their gifts.  I found these little chalk board photo holders that I transformed with a little piece of wood and some letters/decor.  I thought they'd have fun counting down with me til the baby arrives. :)
My mom is already called Marmee (from Little Women - a family favorite since we have 4 girls too.  We sometimes believed the movie was written about us), but we didn't know what Matt's mom would want to be called.  Thus the generic wording for the time being.
This is my mom showcasing her surprise at a random restaurant in Ardmore, OK with tornadoes swirling outside. 
Gotta make it memorable, right?
Speaking of which, just about 24 weeks left!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011, 15 weeks

I know they say to take your preggo pics in the same place, wearing the same thing so you can accurately see how you are growing.  But it was sunny outside. And that might be a rarity during this pregnancy.  Plus, I wanted to showcase my pretty flowers that are blooming.  I got them on mothers day at church this year.  I was actually a mom (though it hadn't really sunk in yet).  And I was kinda dressed up because we were headed to dinner, so we took a picture.  I sadly live in sweats unless I'm at work these days. 
This is a little late, as I'll be 15 weeks tomorrow.  Wahoo!  Is it January yet?  I wish the next month could go a little faster so that we can know the gender.  Matt and I spent our Friday night at Barnes & Nobles sitting in the little chairs in the kids section looking at baby name books.  I think we laughed more at awkward possible names than actually deciding on anything.  What are some people thinking when they name their poor child?

I've officially purchased maternity clothes.  I did the belly band for a bit...but when I felt like I couldn't breath anymore with it on, I decided to invest in some maternity pants.  They are all still too big, but I sadly know that will be changing soon.  I also went through my closet and pulled all shirts that will work with a big belly.  I can thank the recent trend of flowy shirts that I have more than a few options to wear.  But I also got a couple true maternity shirts - you know, because I couldn't pass them up and they are supposed to be more "flattering" (though a big belly is a big belly). 

My nausea has eased, though sporadically through the day it'll still hit me.  I actually made dinner last night for the first time in ages!  My food cravings are very unpredictable and Matt has succumbed to the fact that our grocery bill will be a smidge higher with me being pregnant.  But I made my dinner menu for the week and went real grocery shopping yesterday, so it's looking up.  I think this working 20 hours a week thing is also helping the situation.  I'm WAY more rested now! 

I'm beginning to feel like myself again and starting to enjoy this pregnancy thing.  It's kinda fun to see my belly grow knowing that there is a little baby in there! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seward, AK - Round 2

I am always anxious for a vacation.  Especially in a new, exciting place.  And have I mentioned it's super expensive to fly anywhere from Alaska?  The low end will cost at least $500 a ticket.  Why didn't we take more advantage when we lived in Houston?  Anyways, as often as I look for deals to get somewhere tropical, I deemed it important to explore the current state we live in before we spend thousands of dollars to go elsewhere.  Which I feel like we are accomplishing a bit this summer.

For example, a few weekends ago (in between company from back south), we headed back to Seward with our good friends, Anne and Chad.  We had been once before about a year ago.  You can read about our memorable kayaking trip here. But we didn't exactly have time to explore the quaint little town.  So I was excited to get back.

We met Anne, Chad and their two dogs out at the last campsite available.  We got to stay in their nifty Aliner camper.
 Apparently they say Seward does get sunshine...but we have yet to see it.

While the boys attempted unsuccessfully to catch some fish (here comes my womp womp sound effect), Anne and I headed up to Exit Glacier.  Appropriate name as the glacier is quickly "exiting".  Clever, right?  There are signs for miles as you drive up to the trail head of where the glacier used to reside 200 years ago, 100, 50, etc.  It was a quick hike up to see the close-up views.  I'm seeing a theme in many of our hikes lately.
Me and Anne :) 
 Afterwards, we also did a stroll down in town to the original Iditarod start.
 A picture of the whole (growing) family...
 Matt was instructed to tame all 3 dogs while we did a photo shoot.  He did a good job - it helped it only have a last a few minutes.
Then we enjoyed some lovely fish and chips from a local diner.  It was a quick little trip, but we had a great time!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Valdez, Alaska

This past week our friends, Paige and Kyle, from back south came to visit us and this great state.  We had amazing weather.  I tried to inform them that it usually isn't as glorious and not rainy as they experienced, but I'm thankful that we had good weather to tote them around Alaska with.

We spent a good three days in Valdez, Alaska.  It's about 6 hours from Anchorage.  Home of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill and the epicenter of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake that destroyed so much of this state.  It's now this quaint little fishing town in the middle of no-where Alaska.  

I would like to try to give you a small glimpse of rural Alaska. 
Since my bladder inside my preggo body was about to explode, I had to stop.  I'm not beneath going in the woods (did that too on this trip), but toilets are always better in my book.
Sadly, this is one of the ONLY restrooms on our 6 hour journey. It's not like every hour or two you pass through a small down with a Dairy Queen (though I kinda miss those days).  There is nothing.
When the lady told me to pick up the bucket...I was a little concerned.  Thankfully it just held the toilet paper and there was this lovely "moving" outhouse we could utilize.  Wonderful.
This is where we ate dinner.  About half way there is this booming town called GlennAllen.  We were instructed we needed to stop there and fill up with gas and eat dinner as it was our last opportunity. It had 3 restaurants. Three.  I know this as a fact, because we stopped and asked a local when we didn't see anything.  Options: a local inn's restaurant, a Thai place in a van (literally), and The Freeze.  Guess where we ate.
The drive was absolutely stunning.  Steep mountains for hours and hours in every direction.  Huge waterfalls.  That highway is where they film some of the Chevy commercials.  There is a reason for that.
When we finally arrived, we set up camp here.
Pretty swank (especially compared to the rest of the town).  It worked out well that Matt's work has an office there with a 2 bedroom apartment above it that was available for us to stay in.  Couldn't get better.
Out on the porch there was a view of the harbor and all the fishing boats.  We were able to watch the charters come in and see them clean and gut their gigantic fish.
This is a cleaning station.  We made sure to crowd around and watch after we'd already eaten.
We even got a glimpse of a full rainbow. I don't know if I've ever actually seen one.  The even cooler part was that the end of the rainbow landed where there used to be a whole bunch of gold mines. Coincidence? I think not.
We adventured out on a hike one day through this amazing, lush valley.  I'm pretty sure they need to come film Jurassic Park 4 there.
And of course enjoyed some more waterfalls.
And the best part...we saw our first grizzly bear!!  First we saw the mama (behind us) and then a baby a little bit later.  We were driving, so I did not feel threatened since the car was just a stride away for safety if needed.  It was amazing.  As afraid of bears as I am...I do hope that's the only way I see them. Not stranded on a trail by our lonesomes.
And just in case you want a close up.  Yep, it's eating a fish.  I took like a million pictures.
On the drive back we stopped and hiked up to one of the many icebergs we saw along the way.  They are gigantic and sadly quickly melting away. 
That was our trip to Valdez.  The following days we spent biking, grilling out and venturing up to Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) to ride some ATVs.  But alas, I forgot my camera for that.  It was great mini vacation!