Friday, September 19, 2014

Life Lately

Things are still moving full steam ahead around here.  I'm a full time home improver these days and have been for the last several weeks.  I am beginning to burn out as I work on home projects all day long, take a break to fix dinner and eat with N and then it's back to work. I know I'm incredibly blessed to have this time to make our house a home and are looking forward to everything being completed.

We're getting closer to wrapping things up which is perfect since my parents will be visiting us next week.  I'm looking forward to all the activities we have planned with them and trying to squeeze a little more sightseeing in before the harsh cold sets in. We've been getting a taste of winter (at least my Texas version) this week with temperatures not getting above fifty and a steady stream of rain. I'll be making a big shopping trip in the next few days as my collection of appropriate (or even closed-toe) shoes is minimal and my selection of long sleeved shirts is even more miniscule.

Such a sad sight. My heels are stowed away for the winter.

All in all life around here seems pretty normal. I almost forget we're in Alaska until I step outside and feel the cool and spot mountains in the distance.  The people here are friendly and we're really enjoying the slower pace and lack of traffic.  However, there are times I wish I had clothing that instantly let people know I was a proud Texan. I realized there are several give aways that let on that I'm not a local, like:

  • Wearing cowboy boots as my shoe staple. They're closed-toe and warm which makes them perfect in my book until entering someone's home requires taking them off at the door.  That part is a little bit of a struggle.
  • Saying y'all. 
  • Asking for queso at ALL Mexican restaurants.  Yes, they have cheese but not cheese dip and asking for said dip will encourage your waiter to make fun of you for the rest of your meal. He'll call you the queso people each time he stops by your table and give you a lesson on things real Mexicans don't eat.  Speaking in Spanish (or your husband doing so) will only egg on the teasing.   Meanwhile, I'm still wondering what appetizer the people of Alaska have at Super Bowl parties if they've never heard of queso. It's also worth noting that the grocery stores don't sell Rotel.
  • Being disappointed when the local doughnut shop doesn't sell kolaches.
    My attempt at homemade kolaches. The recipe still needs some refining.
  • Not having a clue what to order at one of the bazillion espresso stands around town and saying something like "What kind of flavored drinks can you make? I like vanilla and mocha lattes." 
  • Having a Texas license plate.  The white really sticks out in a sea of blue plates. I especially appreciate the plates when I don't particularly know where I'm going and drive like a tourist. 
Unfortunately there are no tell tell signs I'm a proud Baylor Bear. This is especially unfortunate when making a last minute decision to attend an Oklahoma State football watch party wearing neither of the school's colors.  Even if I had been wearing an OSU shirt, I'd still want people to know my Baylor affiliation.  I feel like I'm betraying my school when I'm cheering for another.  All in the name of love, right?  This scenario actually happened on Saturday. I have since remedied the problem by using a Baylor phone case.

Aside from football watching and home improving, we've just been getting into a routine of living here.  We visited the mega store Fred Meyer last week and let me say it didn't disappoint. It's the Buc-ee's of grocery stores and then some. Think Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Academy, Best Buy and Kroger all under one roof and that's what you have.  They have everything from milk to couches to Nike workout clothes.

We've been visiting First Baptist Church for a few weeks and are really enjoying it.  They have an active Young Married Sunday School class we've gotten plugged in to. I attended a great ladies Bible study last night.

Nathanial is doing well in his new position. He's working on some neat pet projects like traction device testing and finalizing an ice helmet prototype.  This week he had a team building event downtown riding Segways.  He seemed to have a really good time except for riding in the rain. I want to try it out too but I'll wait until the Spring.

The mountain views are still breathtaking even in the rain especially when complemented by double rainbows.

This picture does not do it justice. The left rainbow was the brightest I've ever seen.

This weekend we plan to see a movie at our favorite theater (complete with full sized recliners) and take it easy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Life is An Episode on HGTV

Since receiving the keys to our home close to three weeks ago, my time has been spent on a steady stream of home updates. I've replaced hardware, repainted, stained, and the list goes on and on.  We opted to get a cable package here and have been getting caught up on shows like Fixer Upper which features a pair of Baylor alumni flipping houses in Waco. After watching tons of episodes of home improvement shows, I can confidently say we are now living in our very own episode.

Here are some things HGTV didn't prepare me for.

The first purchase for our home was hardware and door knobs. Not the expensive area rug I had dreamed of.

I would master the art of small talk with contractors.

I knew some projects would take a few days but I didn't realize how inconvenient it would be to not have access to parts of our home.

There's a kitchen in that bubble.

Once our cabinets were painted, I thought I would have a functioning kitchen again.  My kitchen was usable for a day or two before half of our counter tops were installed.  The missing half which includes the sink and dishwasher is still awaiting installation five days later.  We are sick of eating out and I had already meal planned and grocery shopped for the week so I've been cooking dinner on one counter. 

Doesn't everyone wash dishes in the half bath sink?

I didn't realize that my most visited places in town would be Sherwin Williams and Home Depot.  I'm well in the double digit visit count these days. They even recognize me at Sherwin Williams. Meanwhile, I've only been to Target three times.

I didn't know about the awfulness of painting.

Painting isn't so bad in small rooms or until you fall off the ladder. I wouldn't recommend the ladder bit, it's painful and will require heating pad usage that would make Grandma Ada jealous.

Staining cabinet doors in the garage is good for a few things. It helps conditions you to the cooler climate, helps you get over your fear of spiders and other crawling creatures and helps prove your remodeling prowess.
I wasn't expecting men's socks to be the best staining tool.

I've been most looking forward to decorating our home.  That too has provided some gleanings I wasn't expecting.

I had no idea there was such a huge selection of regular curtains and small selection of blackout curtains. 

I didn't know what a challenge it would be to have items shipped.  All those sites that promise free shipping (i.e. Wayfair, Overstock, RugsUSA) don't extend those deals to Alaska.  Even if you find the same product (like the perfect canister set) on Amazon don't expect your Prime membership to cover it if they'll ship at all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting Here Part 2: Frozen

The weeks in between our apartment being packed up and arriving in Alaska were wonderful and exactly what I needed.  I missed Nathanial as he did another business trip in Anchorage, but enjoyed being able to wrap up my work at Texas Children's and spend some quality time with family and friends without the stress of the move.

I was so glad I got to attend Kevin & Jessica's gender reveal party!
 There were lots of things to celebrate during those weeks.

I turned 26 and N sent a gorgeous bouquet to my office.

We ordered a cake from our wedding baker to celebrate my parent's 40th wedding anniversary.

Jason and his family returned from the last trip of their summer vacation and we did some fun activities with our niece and nephew.

We had a blast at Top Golf.

Saying goodbye to so many people we love was really difficult but we were blessed by several sweet going away celebrations.  

My colleagues at Texas Children's Hospital ordered Tiff's Treats for my send off.  Tiff's delivers the best cookies.  Not only are they delicious but they are also hot & gooey upon delivery.  An absolute must if you're in the Houston or Austin areas.

The Sunday before we left, we bid farewell to friends from our Sunday school class. They became an important part of our lives and walked through life with us from Angola to Alaska.  Seldom did a week go by that we weren't on the prayer list, but everyone was kind and gracious and supportive every step of the way.  Our awesome teacher David rarely teaches from our curriculum and surprised us on our last Sunday with a special lesson on choosing Godly friends.  He and his wife Carol moved shortly after they married 37 years ago and had some words of wisdom for us.  After class, everyone pitched in for a wonderful pot luck lunch.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love a theme.  That trait is something I inherited from my mom. She threw us an over the top Frozen themed extravaganza complete with party games the night before we left for the airport.

My mom set the stage from the moment we walked in with a winter wreath and snowman decor galore.  

My brother and sister-in-law had Pappasito's cater so we could make sure and get our last fill of Tex Mex.

We played several games after dinner including snowman bowling, marshmallow toss, snowman build and even put the nose on Olaf.

Kate's face pretty much sums up the night.  So many fun, hilarious moments.

For dessert, there was an ice cream bar and candy galore.

This table was all decked out with everything from blue & white rock candy to dipped oreos that looked like snowmen.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Getting Here: Moving Part 1

In honor of our shipment arriving tomorrow, I thought I'd start recapping the moving process. This was by far the easiest move I've ever done, but it's also the only time I was without my stuff for a month.  The movers began packing us up early on the morning of August 1 and finished late in the day on August 2.  Once it was loaded on a truck, our shipment was driven to Washington and then sailed to the port of Anchorage.  Tomorrow they'll bring it to our house and unwrap everything.  That part is critical because they used at least 300 pounds of paper to pack us and that would be a lot of trash to get rid of in the 64 gallon trash can I ordered from Alaska Waste (which sounded big when I ordered it but only holds two bags).

The movers were originally scheduled to start a day earlier but the assigned crew leader slipped a disc in his back and the company couldn't find a replacement in time. The newly assigned crew showed up Friday morning and consisted of Miss Tex, packer extraordinaire, and a helper whose name escapes me and was a man of few words.

The move crew had a well planned process. They thought of everything, even how to move our glass top table.  A separate company actually came out and built a custom crate for it complete with a shock measuring device.  They diligently worked their way from room to room wrapping everything in brown paper (enter the 300 pound estimate).

We appreciated the thorough labeling and wrapping, but the wrapping made items quadruple in size; hello giant beach bag and massive stack of blankets.
Nathanial and I weren't quite sure what we were supposed to do while the crew was packing so we stayed out of the way playing on our iPads. We checked in with them frequently to make sure they were doing ok. An older gentleman named Nick was in charge of quality control and stopped by several times throughout the process to ensure things were going smoothly.  He kept telling us we were the most laid back couple he had ever moved which only reinforced that we didn't know what we were doing.

The first awkward moment happened when Miss Tex asked to use the restroom and we didn't have any toilet paper.  Oops. We used the last of it that morning and you don't buy groceries when you're about to move.  Don't worry, we got some before the day was over (thanks Mom & Dad). The only other awkwardness was when I realized the male packer was working on our closet and dresser which meant he was the one packing my underwear.

The move crew was with us for two full days so we got to know them pretty well.  Tex told us some funny stories about other moves she had done including moving a quilt collector to Alaska.  She said it took two entire days to wrap the quilts alone. Luckily the only collections we have are small and the packing went relatively fast.

Probably the most difficult part of the move so far was deciding what to keep with us.  We had to pack for two very different climates (100's in Texas and 50's in Alaska) and needed to be prepared to camp out for several weeks.  My wonderful brother and sister-in-law graciously let us crash at their house for 3 weeks so I only needed to pack a few towels and one set of sheets for when we arrived in Anchorage. Nathanial did a good job packing an appropriate balance of work and casual clothes for both climates.  Of course it helped that button ups are his go to for any occasion. I did a little worse on the packing end. I didn't keep enough work clothes and had to repeat some outfits.

We kept 4 large suitcases and 5 carry ons with us. Only 2 suitcases had clothes. The others were important documents and keepsakes that couldn't be replaced.  I managed to fit almost everything under the bed in the guest room at Jason & Sarah's.  That plan worked out well until the flat sheet got caught on a suitcase and I ripped it in a cold moment in the middle of the night.

Here are the bags we kept after we landed in Anchorage.  Yes it does look like a scene from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Miss Tex told us our move was about about 6700 pounds and most houses they do are about ten to twelve thousand.  That information made me feel good about our purging efforts before hand. 

Poorly disguised living room furniture.

In Part 2, I'll recap what we did in our weeks of homelessness.  Here are some more pictures of the move out.

Our stuff all lined up. Our neighbor's trike stayed put.

On the final day of the move, we had three moving trucks. It makes me wonder what kind of fleet bigger shipments need.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Rat Race

The weekend's scenic views consisted mostly of blue painters tape and varying shades of white.  The array of colors to choose from at Sherwin Williams is only overwhelming until you've been painting for two days straight and realize you have an unseemingly never ending parade of corners and wall faces still to go; that's truly overwhelming.

Luckily we were able to take a break from all the hard stuff to enjoy the opening weekend of college football.  We visited a local dive called the Peanut Farm to attend the Oklahoma State watch party.  The attendance was smaller than the Houston viewing groups but the screen was bigger so that was a plus.  There weren't any door prizes but they did have a Cowboy cookie cake and fun was had by all (until the final minutes of the game.)


On Sunday, we did some additional painting and drove about an hour north of town to visit the Alaska State Fair.  It had a refreshing small town fair feel even with a large crowd. There were lots of unique sights to take in.

The giant vegetables are more impressive than the livestock at this fair. That's more than 117 pounds of cabbage.

I asked the person scanning tickets what the can't miss part of the fair was and she recommended the  dinosaur exhibit.

There were probably 8 species of dinosaurs replicas which were all animated.

The dinosaur replicas were interesting but the lumberjack show we watched would get my can't miss vote.  

Three lumberjacks competed in all sorts of events from log rolling to axe throwing.  They boasted some impressive skills and the emcee Timber Tina had some great one liners.

After the lumberjack show we stumbled upon something I hadn't ever seen before.  A literal rat race.  This version was significantly more entertaining than the horrendous movie of the same name and was more action packed than the turtle races that occur in Houston. 

Quarters were bet on what color hole the rat would enter.

We picked yellow and came away winners.  We spent the winnings on a dipped ice cream bar. So delicious!

This might be the first time I needed a jacket in August.
It was really nice to be able to walk around all afternoon without being drenched.  Alaska certainly has beautiful scenery and good temperatures going for it.  At least for now :)

The drive to Palmer and back had some wonderful views.  Part of the highway is considered a Moose crash area as 24 accidents have happened since the beginning of July.  I was ironically disappointed not to see a moose but I am thankful our car didn't meet one.