Monday, August 31, 2015

Old Soul

If you follow me on Instagram, then you already saw this picture.

My sweet husband made french toast after I got back from my very cold long run.  My running group went out for an hour. It was 40 and windy.  My leg pain started flaring up within the first mile so it wasn't a great morning.  It was nice to come home to such a good breakfast.  I got cleaned up and then dressed in fleece from head to toe. I got an ice pack on my leg and settled in for a good morning of watching This Old House curled up under a blanket. I posted a caption to this effect on Instagram and my decade-older brother asked when I turned 80. 

I guess I do have old soul tendencies.

My favorite hobby of late has been watching old movies with Nathanial.  There's just something to be said for the romance and elegance of movies with people like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. How without a hint of innuendo or foul language, a great love story can be conveyed. It's refreshing to watch something both wholesome and entertaining. We're currently watching Roman Holiday and it is not disappointing.

We've also been making a lot of homemade ice cream.  I planned an Ice Cream Social at church with one of the older Sunday School classes. I thought it would be a good way to bridge the age gap and enjoy each other's company. It was great fun. Older people have the best stories to tell.  I didn't anticipate how much Nathanial and I would enjoy making ice cream though. We made 4 different kinds for the social and have made more since then.  

Growing up, my parents always used to give ice cream freezers as wedding gifts. It wasn't until Nathanial and I started making ice cream lately that I realized why.  It's such a fun activity to do together.

Aside from watching movies and making ice cream, we've really been enjoying nature. There's a mountain near our house that is perfect for sunset and Northern Lights viewing. We've been doing a lot of both.

We heard the Northern Lights were supposed to be out last Thursday.  We headed up to the Flat Top trail head around 12:30 Friday morning. It was cold and dark with no Aurora to be seen.  Those kind of memories are worth the exhaustion though.  When in Alaska!

We've been lucky to see lots of moose lately.  We even saw two in one day!

The best double we've seen lately though was a double rainbow. The colors were so vibrant!

Here it is over our house.

And at a nearby intersection.

This talk of being old reminds me that I never recapped my birthday. It was a wonderful day with birthday wishes from near and far (my friend Kendra even texted me from London.) 

Birthday selfie!

I rang in the morning with a birthday run - 2.7 miles in honor of my age. I was thankful I wasn't older since I slept in a little and going further would have made me late for work. 

Nathanial spoiled me with sushi for lunch, a cake pop and gorgeous red roses.

My parents sent gifts and even shipped a cake.

For dinner, Nathanial and I decided to check out the "nicest steak place in town." I just have to laugh because I can't remember who gave us the recommendation but they couldn't have been more wrong.

The restaurant was in an old funeral home. That should have been our first indication of the niceness. Ha! Tourists were walking around in shorts and so were a few of the waitresses.  A native Alaskan came in and started trying to sell some crafts before he was run out by one of the waiters.  It felt and smelled like a pool hall.  

The food wasn't spectacular and the experience was definitely laughable.  Oh Alaska.  I will never understand your restaurants.

It was a truly memorable birthday. I can't wait to see what this year has in store.  And to my very much older brother - you will always be closer to 80 than me.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fish Slinging Surprises

Growing up every occasion was a reason to celebrate.  My mom even made getting report cards a grand affair by throwing a Star Student Dinner complete with gold china. So it should come as no surprise that I think birthdays should be celebrated all out too.  Even if said birthday means that I'll be closer to 30 than college.

This year my birthday falls on a weekday. Since we also happen to live thousands of miles away from our families and friends, I've been a little nervous about how much celebrating could be done. My sweet husband pulled out all the stops to make my birthday feel special before it even happened.

I came out of work on Friday to find this on my windshield.

Here's what was on the pink paper.

So sweet.

I noticed two things right away - "Santa Fe Tours" meant we would be driving.  The Snickers bar was a clue too because it's not my favorite candy.  The Wildlife Conversation Center we love visiting has a porcupine named Snickers so I thought that might have something to do with it.

I got home and Nathanial had more red roses for me. He had even arranged them beautifully.

The next morning over breakfast he talked me into telling him my guess for what we were doing that afternoon.  He spent the rest of the morning convincing me that we were going to the Wildlife Center but not for a tour like I thought.  I was really excited about the tour because we hadn't done it before and it would involve the baby moose at the Center.  I was a little bummed after he made me believe we were just visiting; the same as every other time we'd been there.  He finally told me the truth as we were driving into the center.

The tour was incredible. It was such a great day.

I was SO giddy.

You can't see but our lanyards said Behind the Scenes Tour VIP.

Our tour meant we could pet or feed all of the animals. We were allowed to enter most of the enclosures.  SO. AWESOME.

Our first stop was to see two large bull moose.  We got to pet them and I was in heaven.  See that look - that's pure love and joy.

Our second stop was to feed Snickers the porcupine.

He was being a little picky and didn't want any of the fruit or vegetables we had to offer.  Nathanial convinced him to take a snap pea so then the rest of us were able to get him to eat too.

Next we visited baby Sitka Black-Tailed Deer. They were tiny and so sweet.

After the deer, we headed to the bears.  It was time for the Brown Bear feeding! I didn't realize we would be feeding them. It was a cool, albeit very smelly experience.

I think my face pretty much sums up how I felt about the fish. That's a giant King Salmon we're throwing. We accidentally hit the bear with it.  He responded by throwing it back at us. It was a moment I'll always remember and one I would love to have caught on camera.

Next we headed to see the baby Musk Ox.  They were cute but really weird little animals.

They were convinced they could get milk from the men of the group or by sucking on our fingers. So odd.

Our last stop was to see Tok and Kenai, the moose calves, who were in quarantine.  Tok managed to break his leg last week so they weren't even viewable by the general public. I was glad we were on the tour and could see them since they are kind of my favorite.

I had a DSLR camera with me but was too excited by all the happenings to get good pictures. Most of these were taken on Nathanial's iPhone (which is why he isn't in many.)

I had a goofy smile plastered on my face all day. It was the best day planned by the best husband.

If Saturday is any indication, 27 is looking pretty good.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Our New Kitchen... Finally

I am so excited to write today's post. This week has marked the end of a very long and frustrating process - our kitchen renovation.

First, let's start with the before photos:

(Excuse the arrows and logo off these first two pictures - I had to grab them off a realtor website)

This is how the house looked when it was listed.

And here's the empty kitchen as we moved in.

The first thing we wanted to replace were the counter tops. The formica just wasn't doing it for me. We worked with a local granite shop and picked out the new counters before we even closed on the house.  Our goal was to get as much of the remodeling done as possible before all of our stuff (i.e. everything we owned except for a few suitcases) arrived from the Lower 48.  What a funny joke - as we've been in the house almost a year and just finished the kitchen.

The granite installation went smoothly until we realized they didn't configure the counter tops for our new under mounted sink (even though they had it while fabricating.)  We came to an agreement to have a pseudo undermount as it would save everybody time and headaches. We got a great deal on having our bathroom vanities redone so I was happy.

Next we focused on the cabinets, because the honey oak color wasn't doing it for us either.  We got bids to put in all new cabinets but decided in the end we would rather work with what we had.  I got painter recommendations from Sherwin Williams and on the third attempt, finally found someone who would paint the cabinets. There were no problems with that process other than it taking a while rendering the kitchen unusable and being scared of how it would turn out.

 Everything taped off.

I was terrified when I saw the cabinets as they were being painted. They looked streaky and I was scared we made a huge mistake.  They turned out great.  We added hardware to them after the painting was finished.

Next we wanted to replace the large fluorescent light.  It should have been an easy fix but when Nathanial took it down, he realized there was no junction box, i.e. nothing to support the tract lighting we wanted to put in.  Several trips to Home Depot and Lowe's, several hours of guess and check later, and we finally had the right support in place.

We also had the kitchen painted. That was a challenge because of our open floor plan and how the kitchen flows into multiple rooms.  I knew I didn't want everything to be the same color so we had to pick a wall to be the transition point.

The last thing (or so we thought) thing we had to do was pick out a backsplash.  I scoured Pinterest and Houzz to find inspiration kitchens and found a few I loved that had our granite and also light colored cabinets. I took the pictures in to a few consultations with stone and kitchen contractors in town.  Turns out we were looking at tumbled travertine which was traditionally sourced from Turkey. The stone would take a while to arrive in Anchorage and the contractors we met with wanted a pretty penny to install it.  We were frustrated with the estimates and the whole remodeling process so we decided to take a break for the winter.

Here's  how the kitchen has looked for the last 9 months.  The painter knew we wanted to put in a backsplash so he didn't finish painting the wall.

At least the white stripe around the wall went with our New Year's decor.

At the beginning of May, before the start of our busy tourist season, we decided to look at the backsplash again. We found stone we loved at Lowe's and Nathanial was able to negotiate a great price.  Everything was set until we got a call saying the stone had been recalled and couldn't leave the store despite already being purchased. We were assured the recalls only lasted a few weeks and that it would be back on the market soon.  We waited patiently until the last week in July when we gave up hope and picked out a new tile.  The manager was awesome and didn't ask us to pay the price difference for the much more expensive new stone we picked out.  We finally got on the installation calendar and everything was looking good. 

Until... our refrigerator went out.  We didn't love the white appliances that came with the home but didn't want to replace them since they worked perfectly fine. We were blessed to have the refrigerator covered under our Homeowner Warranty. Unfortunately that meant we were at the mercy of the process. After a week of waiting, they offered us a similar model as a replacement. We decided we would take the opportunity to upgrade to a version we liked better and be reimbursed. After arguing with Sears (because our options in Alaska are Lowe's, Home Depot or Sears...) over getting the online price (which involved paying online from a store computer), our new refrigerator was installed an hour before work started on the backsplash.  Whew. What a week.

Once the work on the backsplash started, it was a smooth and quick process.  We were so impressed with the contractor (other than setting up on our beautiful lawn.)

And now for the final reveal.

It wasn't easy, but it was definitely worth it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I woke up willingly at 4 a.m. Friday morning - that's not a typo and it didn't even involve an international flight.   Although, I wouldn't hate it if we were on a beach somewhere right about now. 

I woke up early to go fishing! I was so excited.  I hadn't gone fishing since we moved and that's a long time to not cast any lines. Nathanial and I met our friend Jae (who just so happens to also be our Associate Pastor and a fishing guide) at Ship Creek. I was surprised at the number of people already out there. We found a spot on the bank and started casting.  A spot opened up across the creek so we switched spots.  The tide hadn't come in when we started fishing so we were standing in thick mud. I was thankful for the cheap waterproof boots I found at Fred Meyer the night before. 

The tide didn't stay low for long. It was wild to watch it come in.  We kept having to move further up the bank. We finally called it a day when we were in the tree line with no further to go (and we were 2.5 hours in and hadn't caught any fish.)

             This is the tree line I referenced.   The water started out below where the tree shadows are.

I had the largest catch of the day. I caught a bridge.  The bridge has signs all over it that say "No fishing from bridge," but they didn't say anything about fishing FOR the bridge.  I also caught a tree and almost caught Nathanial. Side casting in the tree line is harder than it sounds. :) The company and views were fantastic.  We're looking forward to going again soon. 

Salmon fishing for a few hours before work - only in Alaska!

Last night involved some catching too.  We decided to check out the local dine in movie theater for a classic showing of "To Catch a Thief" starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.  The movie was wonderful.  It was charming and classy.  There were so many funny moments and it was refreshingly lacking vulgar words and raunchy love scenes. The overall experience wasn't so great.  We waited in line for nearly an hour to get in and then had to order our food from a counter prior to going into the movie.  The theater was jam packed which was an issue on a warm summer night with no AC.  The whole process could use some revamping but we were glad we could say we had been.  It was nice to try something new and fun to have a weeknight date.