Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'll ask ya about Alaska

Some common questions about Alaska:

1. Is it cold?
In a word, yes. Compared to Doha, oh yes. Compared to Chicago, yes kind of. Just as being on the water changed the weather in Doha to a hot, sticky mess, being on the water here in Anchorage changes our weather too. Throw in some mountains and you've got some interesting stuff going on. It's averaging somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees since we've been here, and I gather that this is the norm. The water and mountains combine for massive amounts of snow, though. We've had about 6-8 inches in the past two days. Which, actually, is good because just before we got here they had a warm spell (in the 40's) and most of the snow melted.

There you go; that answer is just as boring as the question. Please stop asking. (Just kidding...kind of.)

2. Is it dark all the time?
Here in Anchorage, in the southern part of the state, it isn't quite as dramatic as closer to the arctic circle, but it is different. It starts to get light around 9, the sun is fully up around 10, it sets around 5 and finally gets dark around 6. The light is beautiful too, not that harsh desert sun of Qatar. On the flip side, in the summer we'll have 18+ hours of daylight.

3. Have you seen any moose/bears?
Yes, we almost ran into a moose on the way to church last Sunday. It was amazing. I mean, it was amazing because Brad saw it in time and we got to watch it cross the road. You can't imagine how huge they are.

Except for the stuffed bears in the airport and the mall, we haven't seen any of those and I'm hoping to keep it that way. Our kitchen did come equipped with bear spray, though. Which isn't really all that comforting. Especially since our backyard backs up to a green belt.

4. What about the volcano that is about to erupt?
My friend Lanny wrote to me on Facebook about the volcano, and I wanted to reassure you, if you've seen any reports, that if/when it erupts we're not going to be covered in lava, just toxic ash. We're pretty far away, and there are lots of mountains in between here and there. Winds would have to be perfect to bring the ash our way. However, it is a possibility, so we're prepared with drinking water, extra furnace filters, etc.

So, that's all the questions I can think of right now, but if you have any others, ask 'em and I'll give you an answer, even if I have to make it up. :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On unpacking

It's amazing how the chore of unpacking can become infinitely more enjoyable when you find something that you love. It's even better when you can share that thing with your children and they find the joy in it too.

Catie and Nick playing with the Tupperware picnic set from my childhood.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Moving on

We signed the lease yesterday, and they're delivering our stuff today. :)

On a completely different note, one of my college roommates, Lisa, wrote this poignant blog post recently and it has me thinking.

First, some background, out of 4 roommates, 2 of us have had twins, and the third, Lisa, is pregnant with twins. The fourth roommate is pregnant with her second child who will be born on her first child's birthday. Okay, now that that crazy coincidence is explained, on to the important stuff: my musings.

Lisa wrote beautifully on the subject of waiting, in regards especially to her pregnancy, which prompted me to comment to her not to wish her pregnancy away.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I honestly enjoyed being pregnant. It was the first time in my life that I was big for a good reason, and I felt beautiful. But, there is the inevitable impatience. I wanted to see my babies, to hold them, and love on them. Then, when the twins were born at 37 weeks and spent their first 8 days in the hospital, I felt an overwhelming guilt for wanting them to come early. If only I had been able to carry them a little longer...

As those feelings faded, but not completely, I moved on to other smaller milestones. I can't wait until they eat solids, I can't wait until they're crawling, I can't wait until they're walking, I can't wait until they're talking, I can't wait. Then, one day, I looked around and saw that I had wished their first two years away, and I'm still saying things like I can't wait until we can have real conversations, I can't wait until their potty trained, and I can't wait until they go to preschool.

The truth is, I can wait, because it's going to happen whether or not I'm wishing it. I'm sure I'll have to make this resolution over and over, daily even, but today I am resolving again to enjoy the twins right now, where they are.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our new home (maybe, we hope)

So, the showing today was successful. We're hoping to sign the lease and move in on Friday. I'll be sending out an email soon with our new address. For now, here are some pictures of the place.

The first floor has a two car garage, the kitchen, great room, and a half bath.

The backyard is small, but it's fenced and it backs up to a green belt with lots of pine trees. It feels very private.

Upstairs there's a loft area at the top of the stairs. There are two smaller bedrooms at the front of the house, with a bathroom in the hall, as well as washer/dryer. The master bath has a large bathroom and walk-in closet.

This is one of the front bedrooms.

The hall bath.
The master bedroom.

The master bath and closet.

It's not everything we wanted, but it's new and clean, in a great location, and it will work for a year.

Fast friends

We're still plugging away at finding a place to live. Yesterday, I took our list of 8 places to look at and mapped out a loop around the city. Two hours later, I narrowed the list down to 4. After a phone call to Bradley, I called the top two for appointments. One has already been rented. I have high hopes for the other one, which I will be seeing today at 10 am. Keep your fingers crossed.

Finding a home will go a long way in getting settled here in our new town, but last night might have been even more important. We spent a couple hours at our friends David and Kristine's place. They're great friends that Brad met when he was here before we were married. Another friend, Dianna, was there as well, and we all had a fun time chatting and watching the kids play. (David and Kristine have two kids also.) It's wonderful to already have good friends to make you feel at home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Toronto Part 5: The end

Okay, after this post I promise I'll stop talking about Toronto. I mean, it's already been 3 weeks since we got back and lots more is happening in our lives right now. :)

On one of our days in Toronto we decided to take a tour down to Niagara Falls. On the way, we stopped at a winery, where we tasted Dan Akroyd's line of wines. Dan has poor taste in wine. We also sampled some ice wine, a very sweet wine that is made after the grapes have turned into raisins and frozen.

We also stopped in a cute town called Niagara on the Lake that had lots of fun shops. It reminded me a lot of Breckenridge, Colorado, a nice mix of tourist stores and upscale retail shops.

So, here we are, freezing, in front of the American Falls. We stayed on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls all day, which, contrary to my mother's opinion, has plenty to do, including Madame Tussuad's wax museum, the IMAX theatre, and don't forget the Hershey's chocolate store. We spent our free time looking at the endless row of tourist traps, I mean, gift shops.
Here is the Canadian Falls. The mist rising from the falls is amazing. You really can't even see the falls themselves.

This is the American Falls. It looks shorter, but that's because there have been some landslides and they decided it was best not to remove the debris at the bottom. They say that the American Falls won't exist in 100 years or something like that.
After viewing the Falls from the outside, we actually went in a tunnel underneath the Canadian Falls to view it from a different perspective. Speaking of perspective, that's Brad in the hallway to give you a little perspective.

The view just to the side of the Falls.

Underneath the Falls. The roar of the water was amazing, and you couldn't believe how fast it was going. I have to say that a couple days later I was musing to myself about how millions of people go see water falling down a cliff every year. I mean, it's water. And it's going over some tall rocks. Big deal, right? But when you're there, it totally makes sense. It's awesome.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A much needed update

So, over the past couple weeks I really have attempted to post to the blog. I tried to finish up my posts about Toronto, but the pictures wouldn't upload that night. (I'll get around to it sometime; I got some good pics at Niagra Falls that I want to show you.) Then, I tried to update about our moving status, but that post wouldn't publish. Then, I had the stomach flu. And then, we were on our way. Then, we were in the hotel and I couldn't get the wireless internet to connect. Now, after a half an hour call to the tech guy in India, I can finally sit down and write something. Do you ever have that problem where you see someone that you haven't seen in a while, and you have very little to say to them because you don't talk to them everyday, so everyday things seem too insignificant to talk about, or is that just me? Anyway, that's kind of how I feel right now. Except, I guess the fact that we're in Anchorage now is a pretty big piece of news. So, we're in Anchorage staying in an extended stay hotel, which is pretty much a small two bedroom apartment, renting a minivan that has convinced us, if there was any question, that we're not going to buy a stripped down Caravan, and looking for a place to rent for the next year. Brad started work today, and he's getting settled in there. So, that's it for now. We'll keep you all posted. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

We interrupt the program in progress for some cuteness

It's amazing how different Catie and Nick are. I was reminded of that today again. It's easy to see that Catie is smart. Today, she picked up one of the dog leashes and called out, "Puppies, wanna go outside? Boys! Fritz!" Then, when Fritz came near her, she would thrust the leash at him, and couldn't figure out why he ran away. After a beat, I got him to come back to us, and I put both of the dogs out. Catie was so pleased with herself. It's harder to see how smart Nick is since he isn't as verbal as his sister, but sometimes he'll knock my socks off. For instance, today he dumped the pieces from 3 wooden puzzles together; then, he would pick a piece up, glance at it, take it straight to the board that it belonged on, and popped it in place just like that. Ruth and I went down to the basement after that to search for some harder puzzles. He already has the first one almost mastered. I am so proud of both of them.

Toronto Part 4: Our New Home

Well, I told you that we decided that we could live in Toronto. Guess what? We also found the perfect place! It's just the right size. I think we'll call it Casa Loma.Don't we look right at home here?

Toronto Part 3: The Food

Let's get down to the important business: what we ate in Toronto.

Toronto is a very multicultural city. Because of that, it's full of little, unique restaurants. One night, we ate at a beautiful Italian restaurant across from our hotel. It was very small and I can't even remember the name, but the food was absolutely delicious. You know you're in for a treat when they take such care with the free bread that is served before you get your order.

On our first night, Brad picked up a brochure in the lobby for a Spanish tapas restaurant with flamenco dancers called Embrujo Flamenco. I was concerned that it would be overpriced and cheesy, like a bad Mexican restaurant, but my fears were completely unfounded. It was another storefront style place with wonderful ambiance. We had three tapas (Spanish appetizers, basically) a spinach salad with pine nuts, raisins, apples and a warm dressing, chorizo (Spanish sausage) and cheese in a puff pastry, and bacon wrapped dates. Oh my goodness, the dates were delicious, like candy. We had plenty of dates in Qatar, but never wrapped in bacon, of course. I don't think I would be exaggerating too much to say my life will never be the same. The main course was paella, minus the shrimps, mussels, and other yucky stuff. (I'm sure Brad was wishing he had married a less picky eater when we ordered that.) Towards the end of our dinner, the dancer came out. She was accompanied by a man playing guitar, and it was gorgeous, not even a hint of that cheesy, fake stuff I was afraid we would see.

Speaking of authentic food, one of our favorite meals was at a hole in the wall restaurant in China town. I wish I had pictures. I wish I had a video of Brad ordering his chicken noodle soup. I wish I had a video of Brad trying to eat his serving bowl sized chicken noodle soup. I'm sure what you're picturing in your minds now is almost as funny. Unfortunately, authentic Chinese food, while very tasty, didn't really satisfy my cravings. Panda Express, make sure you've got plenty of Crab Rangoon on hand, I'm on my way!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Toronto Part 2: Pictures from a bus

When Brad and I went to England on our honeymoon, we had no idea that we'd be world travellers less than 6 years. Well, I had no idea. Brad insists that he had an inkling. But really, who could predict the twists and turns our life has taken? Anyway, we didn't know that we were setting a precedent that would be carried through in all our travels when we took our first bus tour in London. We enjoyed it so much, we took tours in Bath and Oxford as well. Since then, we've taken bus tours in Dubai, Cairo, and now Toronto. This is what we love: no matter what we choose to do the rest of our time in the city, we feel like we've seen the highlights. We can pick and choose what we look at closely, without "missing" anything major. Thus, this post is full of terrible photos taken from the bus. But, we had a great time, and have concluded, with the right pay package (Toronto is expensive), that we could definitely live there.

So, here's my first photo. I have no idea what this building is, but this is a wonderful example of my bus photography "skills."
Random modern "art" also known as eggplants. Don't ask me. I have no idea.
One of many, many beautiful churches we saw. You can see it reflected in the glass. Well, that's what the picture was supposed be, but being the dork that I am, I thought, "Hey, I'll take this picture and post it on my blog so that everyone can see our bus."

A shoe museum. You know this town has its priorities straight.

See that big, black fuzzy thing in the middle of this out of focus shot? That's one of Toronto's huge squirrels. I'm telling you, they're way bigger than their American cousins and all over the place. Aren't they supposed to be hibernating?

This restaurant was cute, and representative of a lot of buildings in Toronto. I have to say that they've done a really good job preserving their town. The city is full of beautiful homes and neat buildings.

The CN tower dominates the skyline. I have lots of fuzzy pictures to choose from. I settled on the one with the large power line and part of the bus window. Rogers Center (a sports stadium) is in the foreground.

Toronto: Part 1, or why I hate Chicago's O'Hare Airport

We needed to get out of the country for tax reasons, and any sane person would say, "Hey, this is a great chance to go somewhere warm and sunny." But, are we sane? Apparently not. We chose Toronto. We were joking about it before we left, but the talk took a serious turn when our 8:30 pm flight out of O'Hare was cancelled due to fog. We coughed up the $57 cab fare to my parents' house (who, incidently, were out of town for the weekend) and spent the night in the relative comfort of my dad's pajamas. The next morning, we took another cab (goodbye $50) back to the airport at 6 am, with plenty of time before our 8:30 am flight, which was cancelled. We spent the rest of the day on standby lists, only to finally leave 24 hours late on the 5 pm flight, which actually left at 8:30 pm.

Our luck finally changed when we reached Toronto. No problems in customs. Easy time finding a cab. And our hotel was great. Check out these rack rates:
And, because I think a good deal is only good if you brag about it to everyone you know, I don't mind telling you that I Pricelined our room for $50 a night. :)

More to follow... I can hear Nicky jumping up and down in his crib.