Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A slight departure from our usual format

Hello, everybody!

As a little something different for today's blog entry, I'd like all my readers to please go take a look at James' montage over on his blog. He decided to go all out for his last trip to Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival, and go in costume. Go ahead, take a look. It's worth seeing.

Oh, and the montage is set to "Renaissance Faire" performed by Blackmore's Night. Appropriate on a number of levels.  :^)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Alaska Chainsaw Carvers

On our first trip to Alaska, we absolutely *had* to stop in at the Alaska Chainsaw Carvers  (actually called Town Of Living Trees) in Sterling. Not only could we watch the carver working on large sculptures of salmon and bears and eagles and people, but there were also lots of completed carvings there that you could pose with and take pictures of ourselves. We had a fine time, and several of those pictures are favorites of mine in our 2001 scrapbook.

In the years since, I've gone back on every trip I've made to Alaska. The Chainsaw Carver has changed a lot. Some of the old oversized carvings that we posed with are no longer there, presumably worn down by all the tourists and the weather. In their place are some new carvings for photo ops, as well as the Alaska Carousel, featuring animals native to the area. There are more buildings there to walk through, too.

Here's a favorite photo of mine from 2001:  Ten-year-old James riding the saddled salmon. Contrasted below it is a photo of 18-year-old James in 2009.

Jim (as Captain Morgan) tries out the salmon on this trip, also:

And for the first time, I think, I got up there, too.

With some old favorites gone from the touristy lineup of carvings to pose with, James posed with the bear in the den:

Ah, this place just never gets old for me.   :^)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Well, that'll teach me.

Never take a day off.

Our big excitement for the day was this morning, when I was sitting at the sewing machine working on James' dragon costume, wearing the clothes I slept in, with my hair going in 20 different directions, when the doorbell rang. We weren't expecting anybody, so I thought maybe it was FedEx, and I took my time getting to the door. Well, it was our real estate agent. He said he likes to show up early, just in case. I'm like, um, early for what? And he said he had a 10:00 appointment to show the house, which we mistakenly thought was cancelled, but turns out it wasn't. It was 9:45 and Jim was sleeping in. No way am I going to disturb his sleep if he's able to sleep in, but he'd heard the doorbell and had gotten up. We did a very impressive stash-and-dash in ~ drum roll, please ~ nine minutes!! Yay, us!  Anyway, the lady and her two sisters showed up, and they spent a loooong time looking at the view from the master bedroom. I was trying to hide on the back patio, but when the ladies opened every single one of the blinds in the master bedroom, there I was. The lady waved at me. She seemed to like the house and didn't seem too distressed at seeing my disheveled self sitting cross-legged on the garden hose like a lawn troll.

THEN James was weed wacking the lawn, and he saw a bobcat come from our east neighbor's yard, across ours, and into the west neighbor's yard. He ran in the house to call the neighbors to keep their kids inside, and Jim went out to try to see it. A woman on the golf course said the bobcat had gone into the yard on the west side of our west neighbors. She said it was knee-high, and James said it was as tall as our dog Tate but not as wide. Where was *I* while a bobcat was wandering through our yard? I was in the shower.

All these years living here, where they are sighted fairly regularly, and I've never seen a live bobcat. One moseys into our very yard and I missed it.  

It reminds me of our first trip to Alaska back in 2001. My fond desire for that trip was to see my first moose. No matter how hard we looked, we couldn't find one, and then on our last day there, a moose with twin calves walked right through our yard. I think the bobcat was trying to do me a similar favor as we get ready to leave Texas, but oh well. Maybe next time I'll see it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In case anybody's wondering...

Yes, the moose meander right around in the habited areas and along the roadsides. They have no problem whatsoever being near people and buildings, and they can have nasty tempers, so just give them enough room to do what they want to do and eat whatever of your flower garden they might fancy.

James took this picture in downtown Anchorage, through the window of our car. That's a young bull moose between the roadway and an apartment building.

Here's another one, heading for cover along the highway between Nikiski and Soldotna:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cook Inlet from Captain Cook State Park

We took a quick drive down to Captain Cook State Park on Sunday morning. The tide was in enough that we could walk right down to the water without going on the mud flats. There were pretty rocks to find and the mountains to see, and of course we all had to put our fingers in the very cold ocean water.

Jim and James with the Inlet and the mountains behind them:

James draws the Caked Alaska moose logo on the sand of the beach:

All this is 15 minutes - JUST fifteen minutes! - from my house. You seriously want to come visit me now, right?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My patience has been rewarded!!

Just because I have nothing better to do while sitting in the airport, I thought I'd give it one more try, and ta-DAAAAA!!! Uploads!

Here's the back of the house. Yeah, I know you've seen the back of the house before, but here it is again.

James felt the need to be the first to stake a claim to my loft. Nice try, boy-o.

I've let both of the guys come into My Loft. How sweet of me!

James is staking a claim on pretty much every room of the house - he wants the loft, he wants the master bedroom (because it's attached to the master bathroom, which has a very cool triangular bathtub), he wants the downstairs bedroom because it would make a nice office... Finally he did make a choice about which room he will actually get - his bedroom. Here he is, proclaiming it his own in a very Captain Morgan kind of way:

Our first meal in the new house was a pan-seared tuna steak and steamed veggies, followed by watermelon.

Moving in!!

This dock actually belongs to our neighbors, but the guys borrowed it just briefly.

Me and James on the back deck.

One of Friday's nine moose. The little girls up the street said one walked down our street on Saturday, but we didn't see it ourselves. There sure is a lot of moose poop in the back yard, though, so I'm sure eventually we'll look out a window and see one right up close.

I'm trying, I'm trying....

... But I can't upload my photos. Rats. Well, until I get home tomorrow and can post them, you're just going to have to settle for reading about our weekend.

Okay, let's see, you already know we got safely to the house in Nikiski and that everyone loves it. We spent Friday and Saturday nights there, on inflatable mattresses in our own rooms. Thanks to the abundant supplies Judie and Joseph left for us, we didn't have to buy much, just a few groceries and the air mattresses. We saw nine moose by the end of Friday, five of them in a small herd together. None of the three of us have ever seen more than three together before, so that was pretty cool. We also went over to see our property on CharVic lake, and walked our new road. 

On Saturday, we stayed in town (well, the nearby towns) and shopped until Jim dropped, LOL. We went to the Trustworthy Hardware Store, the bookstore, the kayak store, the main grocery stores so I could comparison shop, the Horn and Antler store, Alaska Chainsaw Carvers, and whatever touristy shops caught our eyes. We ran into our neighbor Pete from CharVic Lake when we were at the hardware store, and a little while later, ran into his wife Linda and daughter Maggie at the bookstore. We decided to meet up for an early dinner, and afterward, they followed us back to the new house to let them look around. They approve, but they also seem to want to make sure we do build the house next to them on the other lake.

Sunday, we cleaned up the house and got it ready for six weeks' emptiness. We decided to go to the beach at Captain Cook State Park, which is only 15 minutes from our house. Since the tide was in, we could walk right up to the water, and of course we had to pick up some pretty beach rocks! We then went back to the house for lunch, packed up our suitcases, and headed out for a little more shopping and then a meandering drive back to Anchorage. We saw three more moose on the way up, bringing our weekend moose total to an even dozen. The sun was shining and the tourists were out in force - bicycling or hiking along Sterling and Seward Highways, watching dall sheep with binoculars, and birdwatching along the coast. The view of the mountains was just breathtaking. Once in Anchorage, we ate at Gwennies, shopped at Alaska Wild Berry, and headed to the airport to wait until our early-morning flight out. Our plane leaves here at 1:20 a.m., and it's now 8:30 p.m., so we have some time on our hands. Fortunately, we all have our laptops with us and have games and things to do on them to keep ourselves entertained.

Monday afternoon, we'll be home and will have to get right back in the groove of Texas real life as soon as we land. But this time, coming back from Alaska, Jim is not in a deep blue funk. Because our next trip to Alaska will be for good.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Well, the pictures will have to come later...

We left Anchorage in the rain, which made me wish I had brought my cool rain boots!  LOL  The rain kept us from getting the usual pretty views of the glacier and mountains, but it was still a nice drive. We saw nine moose during the day today, but no eagles like we normally see.  I guess the rain was keeping them hidden.

We got into Kenai and picked up the keys to the house and went straight there.


What an adorable dollhouse.  The pictures I'd seen don't really do it justice, and Jim is spending his spare moments breathing sighs of relief that James and I like the house as much as we do. We've got some nice photos but since the internet at the house is not hooked up like we thought it would be, and I'm sitting in an internet cafe, I'm having trouble uploading photos. So I'll see if we get someplace later on with internet and try again. Bye for now!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I can see my house from here!

Okay, so I really can't, but we *are* in Anchorage now, rested up in the Microtel and heading out for breakfast in a few minutes.  Without a set schedule for the day, I expect we'll take our time getting to the real estate office in Kenai to pick up the keys to our new house.  Yes, OUR NEW HOUSE.  As of later today, every 'i' will be dotted, and every 't' crossed, and we'll own the place. 

Check back later for photos, since I'm quite sure I'll have some taken, and we should have internet access at the house.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Halfway there...

Here we sit, in the Seattle airport, having our layover before our flight to Anchorage. The flight from Dallas to Seattle didn't seem very long (thank you, Amy, for the book!), but boy, am I sore after sitting in that cramped middle seat. We'll get to Anchorage in the wee hours local time, but as far as our bodies are concerned, it will be around 4:30. The plan is to get a hotel and catch some sleep before the three-hour drive to Kenai in the morning.  I'll see you later when we're in Alaska!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Coolest. Rainboots. Ever.

Well, I guess by now everyone pretty much knows that we're going to have to ship most of our worldly goods by freight when we move to Alaska in just six weeks or so. That means paying by the pound. As we've been packing boxes to put in the storage unit so that the house looks good when people come to see it, we've been weighing each one and recording the weight on a list. You would be surprised how much weight is in there already. And it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows any of us very well that the heaviest boxes in the warehouse are boxes of books.

And, um, most of those books are mine.

Okay, okay, in my defense, those books are largely out-of-print vintage books. Or cake decorating books that I 'need' for work. There, did I justify most of them? I think so.  :^)

But still, I know that a jillion pounds of books is way too much, and I set myself a goal - if I could rid myself of 300 pounds of books, I would turn to my other infatuation: shoes.  Lose 300 pounds of books, gain one pair of really nice shoes. Okey dokey. I can do this.

Jim and I were out shopping for something totally unrelated, when there, lo and behold, were the perfect pair of rain boots. Pink and green plaid, with green soles, and cushy pink lining... Be still, my heart. The salesguy took pity on us and gave us a most generous discount, and Jim treated me to the boots. 

But I was only at 224.6 pounds of books gone. This is where Craigslist came in really handy, where I found a person who wanted to buy back-issues of craft magazines. Yes, exchange cash money for old craft magazines! Jackpot!!!!

Now with 301.4 pounds of books and magazines out of the house, I hereby claim the world's coolest rain boots as mine. Thanks, Jim.  Mwah!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Aaaaah, such clean floors....

A carpet cleaning service came yesterday and cleaned our carpets and tile floors and grout. We'd forgotten the grout was such a pale color, and the carpet we thought we'd have to replace looks literally like new. It's just lovely, and such a relief not to have to think about making a carpet allowance when the time comes to sell the house. We're all committed to keeping the floors looking brand new until it's time to leave here.

There's just one mess-maker we have to worry about now:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Random gratuitous Alaska photos...

Lately, the posts haven't had much in them to look at, so I thought I'd go through the ol' album and find you some eye candy.

This was taken as we were leaving on a float plane sightseeing trip.  We're leaving from Anchorage, and headed out towards Denali.


Jim and James in a canoe on Daniel's Lake:

Tundra swans on Daniel's Lake:

A cute red squirrel who came every day, sometimes twice a day, to beg potato chips and Cheerios from me on one of our trips.  He probably thinks tourists are such easy marks!

Stay tuned for more photos to come, because over the weekend of May 14 - 18, we're all going back to Alaska to sign on the house and spend some time there.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A shout-out to Judie and Joseph

When Jim went to Alaska to look at the Plan B house, he met and exchanged email addresses with the house's current owners.  Jim likes Judie and Joseph, and I think I would, too, if I ever get the chance to meet them.

Judie and Joseph have been keeping in touch with Jim - talking him through the procedures for caring for the logs of the house, which is completely new to us; telling who they have their utilities and internet provided by; all those little things that will help us transition to a new area. 

Jim got an email from Judie yesterday, and she and Joseph have been hard at work on the house.  Mind you, they didn't have to do this, but they sanded and painted the back balcony and the front porch, let us know which neighbors would help us take care of the lawn, have started a list of helpful things for us, are leaving us some supplies to get us started, and giving us pointers for the move up.  They've made the cross-country move before, and we're glad they're sharing their experience with us.

They'd make really great neighbors, but unfortunately, they're not staying in the area once the house is sold.  We hope the people who sell them their next house are as good to them as they have been to us.

Thanks for your help, Judie and Joseph!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mount Redoubt doing its thang

I keep forgetting to upload these...  Our neighbor in Alaska took these photos of Mt. Redoubt's recent eruptions from across Cook Inlet.

A friend of mine who lives locally here in Texas has relatives in Alaska, outside of Homer. He said that his relative got a quarter inch of ash accumulated at his cabin.

Friday, May 1, 2009

So NOW they show up.

For once, all three of us were out of the house today for most of the day. One of us is usually here, because Jim works at home.  It's rare for the house to be empty but today it was. Jim went to visit his dad, and I was out with James helping pick out accessories for his dragon costume for the Ren Faire. James and I got home first, and lo and behold, there was a message on the answering machine that a realtor would be showing our house between 1:00 and 3:00.

It was now 3:45. They'd already come and gone.

Okay, so, it had been just hours short of the house being on the market for a full week with no interest, and by this time we'd all started getting a little complacent about keeping our messes cleaned up. We had gone back to dragging out boxes and emptying closet contents, and, well, let's just say the place didn't look much like the MLS photos any more. Looking around the house and pretending I'd never seen it before, I was embarrassed! LOL I was using our nice jacuzzi garden tub in the master bathroom to soak fondant off of several styro cake dummies, which is a slippery, messy thing. I was soaking a three-tier blue one and a four-tier brown one, so it was truly yucky looking. I wonder what those people thought when they looked in the tub!

Our dog, Tate, was in her crate as usual when we all leave the house, so she seemed unphased. The budgies, though, were in a state. I hope it was because they were having a fight between themselves, and not because somebody came in and pestered the poor things. I'm going to put a sign on their cage asking people to leave them alone, just in case.

So, lesson learned. No more taking breaks from keeping the house clean! Hopefully more people will come to see the house this weekend and a buyer will come along soon.