Random Observations #2

1.  Using the term “y’all” in conversation automatically labels you an outsider.

Me:  Are y’all going to take down that tree or is another crew going to come do that?

Workman:  Y’all?  You’re not from here are you?

2.  Women in Alaska don’t refer to each other as “honey”.

Me:  Oh, honey, I made that entire cake from scratch.  Icing and everything.

Friend:  Did you just call me honey?

Me:  Um, yeah.  Do they not do that here?

3.  There seems to be an abundance of redheads in Anchorage.  I’m not sure why.  My theory is a lot of people have families that migrated from Minnesota and Wisconsin and thus brought Nordic genes with them.  Not sure if that is even slightly correct, but it’s the answer I’m going with.

4.  Keeping a chicken coop seems to be a bad idea.  In the past two days, two brown bears have broken in to chicken coops to try and get one last good meal before hibernating.  Unfortunately, both bears were shot.  One incident occured out on Kodiak Island and the other only two minutes from my house!

5.  October 22nd is way too early to have temperatures in the teens.

An Alaskan Hurricane

I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast.  Hurricanes and tropical storms are just a part of summer.  Many childhood summer memories revolve around tracking storms to see where they might hit.  My godfather and his wife had a magnetic map with longitude/latitude lines where you placed red magnets along the path of the storm.  Sounds very low tech doesn’t it?  As a kid I thought it was pretty cool.  Please remember this was the 1980s and before the internet, but I digress….Bringing lawn furniture into the garage, checking the batteries in your flashlights and lanterns, taping or boarding up your windows and making sure you had enough water and non-perishable food was part of the summer ritual.

I didn’t ever consider that those skills might come in handy up here in the Last Frontier.  They did.  Last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we had an Alaskan windstorm.  Overnight winds were tropical storm and hurricane strength.  My understanding is these storms can be common in the fall here, but this storm came early in the season and was particularly bad.  Downtown had winds in the 40 mph range, though looking at some of the pictures in the paper of storm damage I think it could have been higher.  As you moved up what’s called the Hillside (closer to and up into the Chugach mountains) the winds were stronger.  We live mid-Hillside and we had winds in the 60-70 mph range.  Even higher up winds were over 100 mph.  So in other words, we had a hurricane minus the flooding and storm surge.

I really didn’t sleep well that night; the wind was so loud and I was concerned with what I was going to find the next morning.  We were lucky.  We kept our power, though we did have many power surges.  We had no major damage and only one small tree at the back of the property was down.  Our neighbors weren’t so lucky.  One of them had three large trees down.  Others had at least one tree down.  School was cancelled all over town on Wednesday due to power outages and trees down over the roads.  Many homes didn’t get power back until this weekend.

Lessons learned:  put away all lawn furniture, make sure you have enough water and non-perishable food, check the batteries in your lanterns and flashlights, consider purchasing a generator. I think some of my hurricane preparedness training will come in handy.

Tree down in the neighborhood

The End of Summer

It’s been quite awhile since my last post.  It was never my intent to go so long without posting.  Life, specifically, summer seemed to get in the way.  We had our family vacation in June.  The girls had a couple of nature camps they attended in July.  Then family came in town at the end of July and the beginning of August.  We camped, we fished, we rafted and then what do you know?  It was time for the kids to go back to school.

This summer has been really long.  No, really.  The school year here is about two weeks shorter than our school year back in Texas.  By the middle of July, the kids had already been out of school for two months and I was on the edge of insanity thinking what am I going to do with them for another month?!  Luckily, grandparents came to town just in the nick of time!  It hasn’t helped that this summer has been rather rainy and cold.  There were several times when I really had to bite my tongue when people would ask how I was enjoying my summer.  “Summer, what summer?  It’s 62 degrees and raining all the time.  That’s not summer!!”  I will admit I couldn’t always keep my disappointment in check.  I mean, isn’t that supposed to be part of the beauty of Alaska?  Its summer.  I found myself disappointed and craving warmth.   In all fairness, the 8 -12 pretty days we had were absolutely fabulous.  I just wish there had been more of them.

Then from the other perspective, the summer flew by.  Don’t you hate how that happens?  There were so many things I planned to do and somehow they just never happened.  I wanted to hike more.  There were projects in the house I wanted to get to and never seemed to.  I finally made the girls sit and write their thank you notes for their birthday presents (Their birthdays were in May and June.  I know, I know.  All the good, Southern girls out there are shaking their heads at me.  I went way past the 2 week timeline to meet proper etiquette.)

And now September is here.  Leaves on the trees in our yard have started turning from green to yellow.  The last several days have been very windy and are blowing those yellow leaves off the trees.  I’m having the kids try on their heavy coats and snow pants and see who needs new things.  I need to get Jack new snow boots.  I’ve googled Halloween costumes.  The other night as I was walking the dogs, I looked up at the sky and wondered what the light was shining through the trees.  It was the moon.  The days have finally gotten shorter.  Night has returned.  And so it seems we’re heading into fall.

The Reluctant Outdoorsman

My father loved the outdoors.  He hunted, fished, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail.  He raised a small herd of cattle – for fun.  He gave my mother really practical gifts – like a horse.  He loved anything outside and I loved doing any of those things with him.  Unfortunately, my father died unexpectedly when I was almost eight years old.  My mother was then busy trying to keep our little family going.  Except for the occasional Girl Scout camping trip, outdoor hobbies fell by the wayside.

My husband loves the outdoors as well.  He hunts, fishes, hikes, backpacks.  I love tagging along with him.  When we lived in Texas, our hiking opportunities were limited to our vacations.  All of those trips were day hikes.  I’ve never backpacked.  That’s not to say I haven’t gone on long hikes.  I once blew out a knee going 12 miles on our first day of hiking in Banff.  Apparently my knee (which had suffered previous injuries when I danced on the high school drill team) thought 10 miles was plenty.  So all that to say, although I really like the idea of being outdoorsy, I’m very much a novice that really likes to sleep in her own comfy bed at night.

Then we move to Alaska.  We buy a pop-up camper.  My husband buys a raft.  A really, really big, blue, inflatable raft.  We don’t have a trailer for the raft, so we have to disassemble it to transport it.  The raft is deflated and rolled up and put in the back of Todd’s SUV.  The frame is put on top of his SUV.  The camper is pulled behind the SUV.  We look like the Beverly Hillbillies going down the road.

I find myself slightly irritated.  I have to get three kids plus myself packed for camping and rafting.  In Alaska, you don’t just throw on your swimsuit and life jacket to raft.  You have to have many layers of warm clothes and rain gear and boots.  Then I have to shop for the camping trip, figuring out what we’re going to feed our family on the trip.  In other words, it’s a lot of work for me.

But here’s the thing, our kids ADORE camping and rafting.  They squeal with delight when we tell them we’re going.  We’re building family memories that they can look back on long after Todd and I are gone.  And if I’m honest, once we’re out there, I love it too.

Thoughts While I’m Outside

The “Outside” is the term used in Alaska for anyplace other than Alaska, particularly the Lower 48. The kids and I have made our first trip “Outside”. I’ve made a few more observations about our life in Alaska.

1. When people ask me where I’m from, I answer Anchorage, Alaska, but I clarify that I’ve only lived there 6 months and I’m really from Texas. I can’t seem to help myself. I guess you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. I really need to get out of this habit though. People find me much more interesting when I’m from Alaska. They sort of lose interest once they hear Texas.

2. I have become so accustomed to really cold temperatures that now 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit feels amazing and 75 feels almost hot! I just might pass out if the temperature gauge reaches anything over 90.

3. My kids and I have had pants, long sleeves and a coat on for six months now. What does that mean when you’re on vacation and wearing shorts, skirts and short sleeves? It means you’re really white. Our skin almost glows in the dark. Add the sunscreen with the zinc oxide that I put on all our arms and their faces and you might mistake us for Casper the ghost. We’re enjoying the warm weather though – such a pleasant change.

Wanted: One Good Kolache

You know how every donut shop in Texas has kolaches? They may not be good, authentic kolaches, but someone has at least made an effort? Not so here. In the donut shops here you get, well, you get donuts. The first time Todd brought home a box of donuts for the kids I was shocked.

Me (after opening the box), “Where are the kolaches?”
Todd, “They didn’t have any.”
Me, “What?! Whatdya mean they didn’t have any kolaches?”
Todd, “They didn’t have any kolaches. They had a croissant sandwich filled with egg and cheese, but no kolaches.”
Me, ” oh. Well, that’s disappointing.”

Now I’m always slightly disappointed when I open the box of donuts.

Two things to make clear here:
1. We do not eat donuts on a regular basis. This is like a once a month treat. We don’t eat that unhealthy every day or weekend.
2. In this case, when I say kolache, I mean the sausage filled kind. Yes, I know that technically the sausage or meat filled ones are called klobasneks, but in my house growing up kolache could mean either the fruit filled or meat filled pastry. I know I’m using the incorrect term. I also know I’m not the only Texan doing so.

So, no kolaches here. I never would have guessed that was a regional thing. I’ve heard there’s a European deli here. Maybe I’ll check that out soon. Even if they don’t have them, maybe they’ll know if there’s a Polish or Czech bakery hidden somewhere. If that doesn’t work out, perhaps I’ll have to figure out how to make them myself.

In the meantime my fellow Texans, I’d forever be in your debt if one of you could figure out how to get me some kolaches from the Czech Stop Bakery in West, Texas. Cherry with cream cheese and a spicy with cheese, please. Thank you!

No, We’re Not In Texas Anymore

Here are three ways to know you no longer live in Texas, but Alaska:

It’s May 10th at 6:20 am. You take your dogs outside to do their business and get the newspaper and

1. It is fully light outside.
2. There are snow flurries falling from the sky.
3. Your labrador retriever frightens off a moose.

One of these days these details will no longer shock me, but right now, five months in to our adventure, they still do.

Easter in Alaska

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks now.  I finally have a few minutes to sit, type and maybe put a coherent thought together.  Our family experienced our first Easter in Alaska a few weeks ago.  Very different than an Easter in Texas.  As a kid, I remember a few chilly Easters where I had to wear a sweater to Easter egg hunt.  This year, my kids had to put on full fledged snow gear to hunt for eggs.

The kids ready to look for eggs in the snow.

The eggs were hidden in snow. I’ve definitely never had that experience before! As my best friend back in Texas told me, “Well, at least you didn’t have to worry about the ants finding the eggs and the candy!” So true.

We hung out at home that morning, hunted eggs, had brunch and then went to an afternoon church service. And really, no matter where you are, Alaska or Texas, cold or hot, He is the reason we celebrate. I thank Him for all of my blessings: my husband, my children, the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place and yes, even to be lonely and learn to rely on Him alone.

Easter 2012, ready for church

A Little Astounded and Amazed

I use WordPress to write my blog.  One of its features is you can look at a section called Your Stats.  This allows you to see how many people have looked at your blog (though not who they are) and how they found it – Facebook, email, Google search, etc.  You can also see in which countries people have looked at your blog.

I started writing a few months ago to keep our friends and family updated on how our family is doing here in Alaska.  I don’t have very many overseas friends, so I didn’t expect to see any other countries.  I was a little shocked to see I’ve had two views in both Canada and England and 16 (!!) in Norway.  I don’t know anyone in Norway.  Amazing!

If you’re family or Texas friends, I hope you’ll keep following our family.  And if you’re someone who has somehow found my little blog on a Texas family’s adventure in Alaska, I’d like to say, “Hello, Hi, Howdy and Welcome!”  Please keep checking in on us.  And if I knew how to say that in Norwegian, I would. 🙂

Iditarod 2012 Update

I didn’t plan on it taking this long for me to post again.  Life with 3 young children has kept me busy the past couple of weeks.  I have a couple of ideas for my next posts.  They should be up more quickly.  I know all of you are waiting with baited breath….

My last post was about the ceremonial start to the Iditarod race.  Todd and I were able to help lead Anjanette Steer’s team to the start line and it was a blast!  The race is now over and I wanted to share the results with you.

Dallas Seavey (the musher Todd and I were able to take the super fun and cheesy picture with) won the 2012 Iditarod in nine days, four hours, 29 minutes and 26 seconds.  At 25, he became the youngest musher to win the race.  Aliy Zirkle came in one hour behind Seavey for a second place finish.  Anjanette Steer, the rookie Todd and I were following, came in 26th place.  Only one other rookie, Brent Sass, finished before her.  Finally, capturing the Red Lantern award for the last musher in to Nome, was rookie Jan Steves.

It was fun to watch how the entire city of Anchorage was engrossed with following the Iditarod.  Very different from Texas and football, but tons of fun anyway.