Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It’s December in Alaska.  We have been here for 7 months!  We are settled in our new house.  The kids are happy.  It is cold.  It is dark.  And it is beautiful!   I know someone out there is thinking I am crazy.  After 3 years in Paradise (Queensland) I have been waiting for winter.  I need winter.  Christmas is good here.  All those carols about winter wonderlands and sledding. . . They made absolutely no sense in Australian summer/Christmas.  I do miss Australia.  And some times I see a photos of friends at the beach, or standing in a lush green garden, and my heart aches.  Sigh. 

But, we love Alaska.

Top ten things we love about Alaska:

10.  It’s cold and dark.  You thought this was a bad thing.  Ha!  Because it is cold, I can buy my groceries (including meat and ice cream!), and THEN stop at the mall and try on warm clothing.  Ice cream in my car is safely frozen!  And when my fridge runs out of room, my food will keep in the shed just as well.  With the chilly weather, everyone dresses very modestly too.  It’s a good thing.  With it so cold and dark outside, I get a seriously good night’s sleep.  (Not so easy to get up in the morning!)  I will note that we take vitamin D supplements, and I turn on the happy light  – preventatively. 
Sun dogs.  The physical science teacher in me wants to point out the pillars of rainbow to the sides of the sun (called sun dogs).  I've seen plenty of rainbows, but this is my first snow-bow.  Notice how low on the horizon the sun is - it is 1:00 in the afternoon. 

9.  Alaska is the worst dressed city in America!  Trust me.  This is a good thing.  Suddenly, jeans, Uggs,  and a flannel shirt are a fashion statement!  (And with all this flannel, I don’t have to shave my legs as often!)
Bryce kayaking a very cold river.

8.  The Northern Lights.  We have only seen them twice, but it was amazing! - waves of green and pink rolling across the sky.  It reminded me of the ocean.  (Sigh.)
Abby picking blueberries on one of our hikes up Flattop. 

7.  Alaska is full of surprises.  It makes life very interesting.  Just when I think I’m settled in, everything changes.  It keeps me on my toes.  The days get longer and shorter.  The sun comes up in a different place!  The weather changes – one day sunny and cold, then next rainy or warm, and don’t forget that surprising wind (gusts of 130 mph)!  Spring comes and one minute the trees are bare,  the next they explode into leaves, only to have winter creep down the side of the mountains, and turn everything white.     

And we have had plenty of surprises from :

6.  Wildlife!  Nothing keeps you on your toes like wild animals!!  Moose are everywhere.  Drivers beware – moose don’t follow traffic signs!  Shon and I went on a bike ride one afternoon down the coastal trail and ended up sandwiched between a big bull (check out this article about him) and a mother with a calf.  Those lanky legs are really weapons.  We stay away from the moose.  I think we are even more afraid of moose than we are of bears.   
Brown bear in our neighborhood (seriously, just across the street from houses.)

We have seen plenty of bear too.  This one showed up on our drive home from church.  Another surprised me as I was waiting for a friend to come run with me.   I stopped to wait for her at the end of her drive way.  I was reading her newspaper when she calmly said  “Good morning, Juli.  There’s a bear behind you!”   Sure enough – 10 feet away, it stood up on its hind legs, then backed down and ran off into the trees!  No one was more startled than my friend/neighbor, Stacey, who woke early one morning to the sound of a bear eating dog food in her entry way!  It had pushed in her front door and come in for a little pre-hibernation snack.  Her dogs weren’t too thrilled and chased it off. 

Alaska keeps me on my toes.  Just when I think life is getting boring, I see a wolverine just down the street from my house, or a bald eagle as I pick up the kids from school.   Rabbits, porcupine, and even lynx have crossed my path. 
Caleb and Sarah on a whale watching trip in the Prince William Sound.

5.  Outdoor activities!  There is so much to do here, no matter the season.  Summer was awesome!  We hiked Flattop a dozen times, went  kayaking, river rafting, boating, fishing, mountain biking, and ice skating (for free!)  To see what we do in the winter, check out #3!  But with all of this fishing, one of our favorite things is:
The girls ice skating at Potter Marsh before the snow.  The ice was so clear, we saw fish swimming in the water below.

4.  All-you-can-eat wild salmon!  This is definitely a perk to living in Alaska.  We don’t have our “dip net” permits yet since we haven’t been here a year, but when we get them next summer, our freezer will be full of salmon.  Even with the minimal rod fishing we did this year, our freezer is still full.  Shon went on several deep sea fishing trips and we have halibut too.  My two favorite fish – halibut and salmon!  I laugh when I think of what I used to pay for salmon. 
Love salmon.

3.  Skiing.  We are in heaven.  There is a ski area just a few miles from our house - the perfect place for beginners, and a popular middle school gathering place.  Even better – Alyeska is just down the highway.  We can’t wait to go to the big resort to try out our new ski gear which we “are getting” for Christmas (we already took it for a test run).  I love skiing/snowboarding with my family.  My children (and husband) are fearless.  And downhill is not all.  We like cross-country skiing too.  We joined the Anchorage Junior Nordic League.  Three times a week, the younger kids get together with their friends and play in the snow.  (I tag along, wearing my yard sale skis, and learn a thing or too.)  They love cross-country skiing, even at -5 degrees F.  Bryce joined the South Anchorage High School cross-country ski team too.  He is a fast learner and is doing very well. 
In front of the Anchorage Alaska temple.

2.  The Temple.  I love to see the temple!  The Anchorage Alaska temple is just down the road.  (Learn more about temples here.)  We are so blessed.  This is the closest we have ever lived to a temple.  Our ward building is across the parking lot.  Bryce attends early morning seminary  (6 AM) there.  One of the greatest perks about having the temple near by is that our family near Fairbanks comes to visit us every month or so when they go on a temple trip!  The Pattersons, Greg and Sonya, live in North Pole, actually.  Greg (a doctor in the military) is my uncle but he is really only a couple of years older than I am, and we have lots of children the same age.  Did I mention he married my favorite baby sitter – Sonya Lundgren from Twin Falls, ID.  We set them up!  (Yes!  Success!)  It is so nice to have them visit.  Sadly, there are rumors they are moving to Timbuktu in the summer, (sniffle) just like my cousin Bethany and her family, who moved from Anchorage to Japan last summer.  We miss them. 
While we were in North Pole, Alaska, we decided to drop in and see the big man himself.  Caleb, Sarah, and Abby with their cousins from North Pole. 

1.   White Christmas, guaranteed!  Last year, Anchorage received a record 11 feet of snow!   This year, there won’t be that much, but the trees are still flocked, and there is fluffy stuff in my yard.  I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. . . ( cue Bing Crosby.)

Riding the tram up Alyeska last summer.

And, dear friends and family, we wish you a Merry Christmas too!