Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall is Over

Family and food aside, one of the things I was most excited about during our trip to Oklahoma was getting to go to Hobby Lobby.  The leaves in Anchorage turned several weeks ago and visions of pumpkins and "Happy Fall, Y'all" signs danced in my head.

My options for fall decor in Anchorage were the same as my options for any decor - Michael's, which is better for crafting than decorating; Walmart, ew, I hate that place;Target and Lowe's, which surprisingly doesn't have much in the way of cuteness this time of year. So needless to say I was downright giddy about shopping at the Hob Lob! I don't know how they did it but their merchandise selection has gotten even cuter over the last year in my absence. I wanted one of everything. Luckily for my husband, my purchases had to travel back by airplane.Unluckily for my husband, he got to carry the new doormat I had to have as a carry on.  That was fun while sprinting across the airport in the middle of the night...

My fall dreams were short lived. We had to scrape our windshield at the airport and have had to most mornings since then too.

In a few short days, we went from this:

(Oh hey cute rug from Oklahoma)

To this.

I woke up like this.  

The first snow of last year left me in tears because all of the streets were frozen and my 10 minute drive to church turned into 20 minutes of terror with my car slipping all over the place and refusing to stop.  I don't have four wheel drive, because Houston didn't need it, so driving in winter in Alaska isn't much fun. Putting on snow tires made a huge difference and outside of the first snow, I made it through the winter without any problems. I don't have the snow tires on my car yet because it usually doesn't snow until late October and the city bans certain types of snow tires until Sept. 30 (today).

So this morning when we woke up to three inches of snow, Nathanial and I both talked about working from home. Then we realized we were out of Diet Coke. And decided to go in.  #priorities

(Also, to avoid worried calls from my Grandma, it should be noted that it's much warmer today and there's no ice.)

My poor flowers :(

Pulling into the office. The campus I work at has pedestrian bridges which connect all the buildings so you don't have to go outside once you're inside. It's a nice feature on a snowy day like today.

Here's the view from my office window.

On the plus side, snow means warm boots and wool socks. And nights of curling up in front of the fireplace. I don't hate it.  At least not yet anyways ;)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend Recap: Up in the Air

This weekend flew by. And by that I mean, Nathanial and I flew to Oklahoma by six flights and five different airports.  

Here's what I learned over the course of our travel-heavy weekend.

  • The best laid plans...
Nathanial and I both laid out our clothes for the trip Wednesday evening with the intention of leaving work a few minutes early on Thursday to pack before the airport. We both left work over an hour later than planned which left us scrambling to run errands and get packed before heading out.  We managed to get everything done and still hit the road pretty much on time. I was pleased until I noticed this while we were on the airport shuttle. 

Yep. Apparently in my rush I managed to grab two different shoes.   Taking airport fashion to a whole new level.

  • Airport food can be exciting
At least when you live in Alaska and deplane to see a Chick-Fil-A in the Minneapolis airport. I got pretty excited about the Sonic in the Tulsa airport too and I don't even like Sonic food.  But absence and lack of availability makes the heart grow fonder.

  • Time zone hopping is not for the faint of heart
Both of the trips to and from Oklahoma had three legs.  Both trips spanned two days. And both trips made me wonder where we were and what time it was.  
  • Little things go a long ways
The best of the six legs is also coincidentally the one that played Shake It Off before departure. Clearly Taylor Swift makes everything better. And so do Andes Mints at baggage claim.
  • I still love Mexican food
Because Mexican food in the Lower 48 actually tastes good, I easily could have eaten it at every meal.  We settled for one meal - one super awesome meal. 

  • The best family
I didn't have to travel all weekend to realize it, but Nathanial and I are really blessed to have such great families.  From loaning us a car to get around in, to picking us up at an airport two hours away, and even crossing state lines to have a meal together - we hit the family jackpot.

  • My brother will always be cooler than me
I texted my brother with excitement about Chick-Fil-A and he responded with this- a Si selfie. Clearly one of us has better travel luck than the other.  I'm pretty sure they even sat next to each other in First Class sipping ice tea.

  • I never want to be on the Amazing Race
Our flight from Salt Lake City to Seattle was delayed by 45 minutes which meant we landed as our flight from Seattle to Anchorage was supposed to be taking off. I looked up flights on the on-air wifi and saw the next flight to Anchorage wasn't until 10 a.m. the next morning.  Luckily, we got off the plane and were told the other plane was waiting on us.  Nathanial and I, along with 8 other people, ran through the airport. Running is not fun in flip flops, on stairs and pedestrian sidewalks.

  • I don't miss humidity or ice
The temperature was close to 90 the entire time we were in Oklahoma with really high humidity too. I have not missed temps like that in our time in Alaska. When we finally made it to Anchorage and back to our car around 2 in the morning to find ice on the windshield, I realized I hadn't missed freezing temperatures either.

Monday, September 14, 2015

So Alaskan : News Headlines Edition

This morning I had to laugh when browsing the news before work because the headlines pretty accurately summed up what it's like to live in Alaska.

  • Rockslide Closes Highway
Because giant rocks on the only major highway might be a problem.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Dispatch News

  • Man mauled by bear
I thought things like bear bells and bear spray were a joke when we first moved here.  But it's serious business.  I have yet to see a bear in the wild, but after reading this story I think I'm ok with that.

My favorite bears - the ones in enclosures at the Wildlife Conservation Center- were treated to the giant vegetables from the State Fair.

And a bonus picture.  This sign at the supermarket cracked me up.

  • Trick or Treat in the Heat
You know you're in Alaska when "Trick or Treat in the Heat" means 40 degrees and it's September. Also, because it's probably the only place where families pay to go trick or treating a month early.

  • Officials Warn of Spike in Beaver Fever Infections
Apparently residents should be weary of drinking stream water as the number of back country hunters leads to a spike in tainted water in the month of September.  Inquiring minds should know there was no mention of beavers in the article.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Alaska and the Giant Vegetables

If you're new around here, you might think I'm a bit bipolar in my feelings for Alaska.  And that's probably true. I was a proud Texan born and raised. Until the Summer of 2014, I never considered the possibility of living elsewhere. I subscribed (and still pretty much do) to the view that Texas is the greatest place in the world.  And then we wound up in Alaska.  In September. Where it rains day in and day out and then turns cold and I started to fall every two seconds from the ice in parking lots. I was definitely not digging Alaska in those months. Then the cold started to fade and we were blessed with spring and a beautiful summer. A summer where my hair didn't frizz the moment I stepped outdoors and where I actually wanted to be outside. I found a running community and beautiful trails and learned to appreciate (ok, actually love) the constant sunshine. I noticed the beautiful scenery at every turn and learned to appreciate Alaska for what it is and not what it's not. One of our guests this summer said it best when they said "Alaska is a state of mind."

When I meet people new to the area and can tell they are struggling to love Alaska, I caution them to give it some time.  And to embrace the adventure and laugh at the Alaskan.

Nathanial and I went to the Alaska State Fair a few weekends ago. I was excited to go back to see how our view of it changed after living in Alaska for a year. This time I was determined to have lower expectations (there's a statement you don't hear often) and to find the unique elements.

On the way to the fair, we experienced the "worst traffic."  Traffic in Alaska is anything longer than 4 cars - which I'm totally ok with.   Lots of people were on the one highway heading to the State Fair.

The feel of the fair reminds me of the county fair in the small town I grew up in. From parking on the grass to the ride section being the most happening part of the whole thing. Anyone remember the Gravitron?

We made the mistake of getting pulled pork sandwiches for lunch. One day I will remember that all barbecue (especially the kind not in the South) is not created equal.

For dessert, I chose a triple berry cream puff.

Then we headed over to the lumberjack show.  It was emceed by Timber Tina who made sure to teach the crowd the traditional lumberjack cheer of "YO-HO!"  Who know the YOLO movement was inspired by logging camps? Three lumberjacks competed in all kinds of events from log rolling, to axe throwing.

Next we checked out the Rat Races. We stumbled upon this booth last year and knew to bring change for it this year.  Gambling isn't legal in Alaska unless you're a local Elks lodge and put a rat on a roulette wheel then it's fine.  The bets are .25 with a 1.50 maximum. My favorite part of this was how everyone kept cheering for the rat to run to a certain color. "Yellow, Stewart. Run to yellow." This was especially funny seeing as how a kid from the crowd would pick the name of the rat at random and then moments later everyone would be cheering said name. Clearly that wasn't a great strategy.

After our quarters were spent, we decided to check out the exhibit hall.  The Alaska State Fair is unique in that it gives out the least number of prizes for livestock.  The big winners? Vegetables!

There were several other categories unique to Alaska. Like the Reddest Red Flower Contest.

And the hottest pepper. Complete with do not handle sign.

There were some very interesting animals on display.

And interesting art too.

We saw an entertaining jousting show.  The announcer was quick to point out that  unlike any dinner theater show, this was full contact. The knights couldn't decide if they wanted to be modern or medieval. So they picked rock songs as intros but then wore traditional knight suits.  It was $10 well spent.

We headed home after the jousting.

I was amused by this sign on the way out.

And didn't hate this view on the drive.

Until next time, Alaska State Fair.

(Photo courtesy of Alaska State Fair.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Going Full Throttle

We have been going at full speed over the last few weeks so the long weekend was a much appreciated chance to slow down.  We managed to stay pretty busy but it was nice to have some uninterrupted time to be with Nathanial!

Most of last week seemed to be a holiday for our Texas friends.  Congrats for surviving the Bluebell famine, y'all.  Since we live in the land of no Bluebell, or Mexican food or Chick-Fil-A or Whataburger (wait, now I'm just whining) it didn't feel like a holiday for us until Thursday when college football made it's grand arrival.  My plan was to get home before Nathanial and have tailgate food ready so we could watch the DVR'd first half of the OSU game (because time change and the workday) in style. My plan was foiled by our local grocery store. I spent an extra half hour at the store wandering around looking for the ingredients to make cheese dip.  The state of Alaska has to be anti-cheese dip because most of the time the stores don't carry Rotel - I was relying on my stockpile for such an occasion- and the Velvetta was impossible to find.  I finally found the Velveeta (after asking) on Aisle 1 on a hidden shelf in the refrigerated cheese section.  Don't they know it's processed and doesn't need to be cold?  The rest of the evening went off without a hitch and the Cowboys won!

Victory cupcakes that may also have doubled as "chocolate muffins" for breakfast :)

Friday was pretty uneventful from a work standpoint. The weather around here is really taking the fall thing seriously. I appreciate the orange leaves but some sunshine instead of gray skies would be nice too. I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte on the way into the office, which felt pretty justified since I actually live in a place with Fall now.

On my way home from work, I laughed when there were geese in the road where I was needing to turn. It was a little game of duck duck goose.  

Nathanial brought home ingredients for gourmet make it yourself pizzas so we dined on those while watching my beloved Baylor Bears grab a victory.

I've had leg and heel pain on my left side for a while now and my running coaches finally convinced me I should see a doctor. I met with a physical therapist on Friday who banned me from running for the next few weeks. I was pretty bummed about it but did enjoy getting to sleep in on Saturday.

We spent the day watching home improvement shows and old movies. It was perfect.

We stayed at church all day on Sunday.  It made for a long day but the work we did sure made a big difference.  We worked alongside 2 other couples to spruce up the church nursery and it looks great. We redecorated with a Noah's ark theme - complete with moose!

We slept in again on Monday morning and then Nathanial decided to make some kolaches. He's the family breakfast chef - a fantastic one at that.  After that 4 hour long process was complete (SO MUCH RISING) I dragged Nathanial along to celebrate Labor Day by doing something Alaskan.

We ended up at a pick-it-yourself farm about an hour away from home.  The views on the way were great.  I don't think we have a future in farming though.

We got to the farm and were given the instructions which amounted to read the signs.  Don't go off the path. Read the signs.  Certain produce had a size minimum for picking and that could be found on, you guessed it, the signs. The signs failed to include what you should do with the produce or how to pronounce it - I'm looking at you kohlrabi!

We started off in the Rhubarb patch mostly because it was the first thing we came to. But also because it could be made into a pie which received Nathanial's nod of approval.  As we were picking we heard a father tells his kids "Come on , you don't want rhubarb, NOBODY wants rhubarb."  He should have said "Nobody from Alaska, that has it growing in their yard wants rhubarb." Since we neither have it near our house or hale from the Last Frontier, we were more than happy to fill a bag with it.

We attempted to pick broccoli but after walking what seemed like miles through the rows of picked over broccoli, decided there wasn't any left.  We did end up with some cauliflower. And potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes. 

I have no idea what's in these next pictures because the all important sign isn't in view. I was going for scenic.  A farmer I am not. Ha!

Here's our wagon and two bags of potatoes.

And here's a Farm selfie.

We managed to leave the farm for only $11 for 5 bags of produce. That's a bargain around here! My Dad will cringe when he hears that since the last time our family went strawberry picking, it was over $200.

On the way home from the farm, we came across a racetrack with free parking and free admission. It was worth every penny.  My favorite race was probably the suburban that left a mustang in the dust. There were some real race cars too.  Nathanial knows the actual stats. I heard something about 5000 horsepower and saw one of the cars go more than 250 mph. That's about as detailed as you'll get from me.

And here's a video in case you haven't gotten your fill of loud noises lately.