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October 1st - Dancing Lights
At a black-diamond sky
Crested with stars...
A flash from the east,
I turned my head
A flash from the north, I turned again
And the heavens were splashed in shimmering light
~ Excerpts from a
poem by Laurence Overmire ~
Last night, I said goodbye to the month of September
beneath an awesome display of dancing lights. Just past 11pm,
I glanced out my window before heading up to bed and saw the most
spectacular waves of color and light undulating across the sky.
I was out the door in a flash, camera and tripod under my arm.
I took a few photos in the backyard, and then ran back into the
house to message my friend Rachael on Yahoo. I knew she wouldn't
want to miss this!
She met me in the yard, with her camera and tripod.
We took a few more photographs, and then the lights moved in from
every direction - filling almost every dark space. I wanted a
better vantage point, so Rachael and I jumped in my car and we
drove the short distance to the neighborhood playground. What
an incredible experience to see fingers of light moving in long
bands and circular swirls for as far as the eye could see! The
aurora forecast (posted on the internet by the UAF
Geophysical Institute), reports that the lights will be active
again tonight. I'm going to try to wait up for them.
Steve and I did drive-by's on several more homes
today. There is still one home that we saw yesterday, which we
drove by again today, that we really love from the outside. We
called the agent about getting an appointment to see the inside.
We also looked at several brand new homes today. One of them had
an amazing floor plan with Pergo floors and a huge master bedroom
(which we like), and also nice views of the Alaska Range. But
it was built on the side of one of the many rolling hills around
Fairbanks and the roads were gravel. While this isn't an issue
when there isn't snow on the ground, I don't care for 'white-knuckle'
driving up and down steep hills in my little car. Other homes
were lovely, but I didn't care for the neighboring area. I don't
only want my home to be a haven, but I want to enjoy the drive
to and from my home to be enjoyable. Thank goodness it's a buyers
market now - this gives us quite a few homes to choose from. I
just wish there were more out there that I could actually imagine
moving my things into.
October 7th - Happy Birthday, Brandon & A NEW HOME!!!
like to begin this journal entry with a very Happy Birthday to my
'baby'! On October 7th 1983, at 6:33pm, I gave birth to a precious
baby boy. I'll never forget the day (does any mother forget the
day?) I brought my second child into the world! The moment I lay
eyes on him, I felt intense joy and love fill my heart. We had our
share of trying times - especially during those teen years - but
what a wonderful young man Brandon grew up to be! I am so proud
of my youngest son. He has such an incredible sense of humor, and
a loving heart and soul. I can't believe it's been 23 years! I am
a lucky mom to have had the opportunity to raise two fabulous sons.
I hope you had a wonderful day, Brandon! I miss you dearly.
Many kisses and hugs!
And now the BIG NEWS: We bought a house!!!
Steve and I have been checking the real estate ads for quite some
time now. We'd spend hours going over the listings on Realtor.com,
and reading the real estate advertisements in the local newspaper.
Finally, two weeks ago, we decided to actively go looking at properties.
We did a lot of drive-bys, and were able to rule out several areas.
The homes in those areas were awesome, but our reason for ruling
them out was the terrain. Winter lasts such a long time here, and
winter driving is always stressful for me. So many of the beautiful
homes we saw had awe-inspiring views, but to get those views you
had to drive up and down steep roads into the hills. While I loved
the thought of having a view of the Alaska Range, I didn't relish
the thought of driving up those roads in winter. I just knew my
fear of navigating those roads would have a big impact on my willingness
to get out during the winter months.
Another drawback to those gorgeous homes in the hills, was the
fact that they are on the 'other side of town' from Fort Wainwright.
As a military retiree, Steve and I will be visiting Fort Wainwright
for our medical care and for grocery shopping. And, if all goes
well, Steve might even be working on Fort Wainwright as a civilian.
I'm sure he'd appreciate a shorter commute - especially in winter.
Last week the local Parade of Homes was held. For those who are
not familiar, this is a weekend when builders open their homes to
the public and showcase their work. Steve and I drove to six new
developments. A few of the homes just didn't have a floor plan we
liked. Some of them were in the hills (a scary winter drive). A
couple of them didn't have room for us to park our camper (a necessity).
And others were situated on lots that had been clear-cut by the
builder. If there's one thing I don't like, it's when a builder
finds it necessary to remove all the trees.
We finally decided to go through a couple of existing homes. After
spending the weekend looking at brand new homes, it was difficult
to get enthusiastic about a home that's been lived in for 20 years.
That wasn't our only concern. New homes have state of the art heating
systems and are built for energy efficiency. When you live in a
place where winter temps get as low as -40F for months, that's a
HUGE advantage. So we decided it would have to be a new home, since
we expect to stay here forever. The problem would be finding one
in our price range and in an area we liked.
Last week, I went out driving with my friend Rachael while Steve
was at work. She and I found a new neighborhood that was featured
in the Parade of Homes, but which Steve and I couldn't find on the
map. We peeked through the windows on the lower level and liked
what we saw. But what I liked most was that it was on a large lot
with lots of trees. As soon as I got home, I called Steve and told
him about the house and the neighborhood. We drove over when he
got home from work, and he liked the house too. When the agent came
by and opened it up for us, we fell in love with it. I'm sure anyone
who owns a home and has shopped for it with their significant other,
knows how wonderful it is when you find a house you BOTH like.
There are a few things we want to do to the house - to make it
'ours' - like landscaping once spring comes. Until then, we have
to be content with a gravel drive and lots of mud around the house
(which is bound to be fun when the movers bring our stuff to the
house - NOT!). Other than that, all we have to do is move in.
It's a two story home. The lower level has a huge great room and
kitchen (all visible to each other - which is perfect for entertaining),
and a formal dining area that's off on it's own, but still visible
to the kitchen. There's a very large two-car garage which makes
Steve happy. The builders up here must know that there will be lots
of "toys", so there's plenty of room in the garage for
two vehicles and a snowmachine or two, four wheelers, and
ski equipment. I think it's nearly 650sf, which makes Steve do cartwheels.
Sliding glass doors off of the Great Room lead to a deck in the
backyard. We hope to expand the deck, landscape, and install some
built-in benches for summer BBQs. Our yard is huge. The house sits
on 1.5 acres, but there are additional acres adjacent to our property
which are currently being leased by the FAA for a radio tower. When
the lease ends, we have first right of refusal for the purchase
of additional land. We'd like to add several more acres eventually.
It's all wooded, so it's private - which is a great thing.
The entire lower level living space has laminate wood flooring
with radiant heat throughout. It looks beautiful with the maple
cabinetry in the kitchen. I'm thrilled with the smooth-top stove
in the kitchen too. I've done my share of scrubbing underneath burner
covers! The house comes with an awesome side-by-side fridge with
built in water/ice maker in the door. That's a good thing, as we
don't have a refrigerator. There are huge windows throughout the
first floor to let in valuable light - especially in winter. And
there is lots of wall space! This is GREAT, as it will allow me
to showcase my photography. Steve has already set down the first
"rule". There will be NO store-bought photos on the walls.
The entire house will be decorated with only my work. I can live
with that. *grin*
The Master Bedroom dominates the upper level. A generous 17x13
bedroom, with an awesome 11x6.5 walk-in closet will give us plenty
of room to move around and store our stuff. The Master Bath has
a very deep (and xtra-long) soaking tub. I haven't taken a bath
since I left NC, because the tubs were so small in the places we've
lived. I look forward to relaxing soaks in this terrific tub during
the cold winter months. The huge window in the master bedroom faces
the yard, so I'll be able to keep an eye on the visiting wildlife
and northern lights. There are two other bedrooms; one will be used
as our office and the other will be a guest room.
Another major perk with this home is the 5-star energy rating.
The house is so airtight, that there is an air-exchange system which
will bring in fresh air and remove humidity. It's all run electronically,
which means we have a lot to learn! I'll let you know what this
means to our heating bills once winter is underway. If all goes
well, we'll be settled in our new home at the end of the month.
We're very excited, but don't look forward to having a mortgage
again. Oh well... you gotta take the good with the bad, right?
I took a bunch of photos of the house, but will be posting more
photos (I expect) once we're settled in.:
Floor plan view from yard facing
From back to front
night, we had a full moon. Rachael buzzed me when she got home and
told me she was running out to get photos because it looked so awesome.
I tagged along with her. It's been a long time since I had the opportunity
to shoot the moon, and I managed to get two photos (which I liked)
before the clouds rolled in and totally obscured the light. I just
love the way the clouds trailed wisps across the moon. It truly
looked like a Halloween moon - eerie, and yet beautiful.
We haven't gotten our first sticking snow yet - and I'm not rushing
things, believe me! But we're all preparing for it just the same.
Steve and I finally found compatible 16" rims for my Caliber,
and bought studded tires to go on them. The prices up here are so
much higher than the Lower 48! But at least I'm prepared for winter
driving now. That takes a load off of my mind. Bring it on, Mother
October 12th - Sunsets are back
Most people don't realize that
in the summer months in Alaska, sunrises and sunsets don't really
occur. Well, they do, but they're not the same as those
in other places with normal hours of daylight. However, in the fall
and winter, they come back - and they come back beautifully. We
might have shorter days, but our sunrises and sunsets seem to go
on endlessly. On a clear night, after the sun dips below the horizon,
the skies remain a glowing orange, red, or pink for nearly an hour.
Some nights, the colors are breathtaking.
few nights ago, Steve and I joined our friends Gip and Carmen for
dinner in celebration of Carmen's birthday. We had a delicious meal
at Gambardella's, and terrific conversation. As we were driving
away from the restaurant, I noticed that the sky was a brilliant
shade of orange off on the horizon. I had my camera with me (I always
try to remember my camera whenever I leave the house), and asked
Steve if he would take me up to UAF campus to get some photos.
clouds looked like they were on fire. It looked as if flames were
licking at the sky, just above the treeline. What an amazing sight!
I turned and looked toward the campus buildings. The sky above had
deep pink clouds drifting across the blue skies. They really set
off the architecture of the Museum of the North (R) and the Geophysical
Things are moving along with the house. Our closing was delayed
another week or two. Now we're looking at a closing date around
November 10th. That's fine with me as I have a lot of things I need
to take care of in this house before we move. I've already started
the 'purge and toss' routine in my closets, but there are other
closets that I need to tackle.
I use a computer program called 3D Home Architect that allows me
to lay out the floorplan of the new house and then place my furniture
- all before we actually have to lift it and move it. It's a bit
of a challenge to figure out a way to arrange my furniture in the
great room, but that's what makes moving so much fun. (I'm kidding!
It's not that much fun.) Fortunately, this program allows me to
view layouts on my computer before anyone has to break a sweat.
I am so excited about having a home I can decorate to my taste
again! This includes color. I've spent the last 6 years living in
a rental or military housing, where we were stuck with white walls.
I'm just itching to add a nice deep red (merlot) accent color to
one wall. I think my black framed and matted photographs would look
awesome against a backdrop of deep crimson. We'll see...
Before I end this entry, I just want to send a message out to a
very special friend and *sister* (she knows who she is, and she
reads this journal faithfully): I am SO PROUD of you!!! And I love
you very much. I am so happy to hear that things are going well.
October 17th - Frost, Hockey, and a dusting of Snow
still don't have a laying snow. Winter is taking it's time coming
to Alaska. Who would have believed that Buffalo NY would have been
hit with a blizzard, and here in Fairbanks we still have mostly
sunny skies and not a bit of snow.
This doesn't mean it's not getting colder. Overnight temperatures
are now dipping below freezing and when I get up in the morning,
there is frost on everything. The frost clings to the edges of leaves
and grass, like sugar coating. It's a beautiful sight.
October 23rd - Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!
has finally arrived in Fairbanks! On Saturday night, the snow came.
And it kept coming throughout the night. It wasn't heavy - merely
flurries at times - but it covered the ground and the streets, and
coated the tree limbs with up to three inches of snow. The photo
at left is the view out of our guest room window. I took it yesterday
morning. So gorgeous!
The first true snow of the season is always very exciting for me,
despite the fact that I'll be looking at the white stuff for the
next 6 months. The first snow transforms my world from dull and
brown, to white and pure. As I type this entry, the snow is falling
in tiny flakes. Just beautiful!
October 28th - Winter is Here to Stay and There's a Big Move Ahead!
day, the Chena River narrows as bits of snow and ice cling to the
shoreline and continues to freeze with the dropping temperatures.
The other day, I saw ice floating downstream from places north of
us. It jammed up in the narrow sections of the river and grew deeper
as more ice joined the blockage. As the day warmed up slightly,
the ice let go and continued down river. It won't be long until
the river is solid sheet of ice once again.
Rachael and I have been taking the pups to the campground here
on post, so that they can let off some steam and get some exercise.
It's not possible for us to walk the 6 miles we were accustomed
to all summer long, now that snow and ice has hit the walking trail.
It's also been quite cold in the morning (below freezing) and it's
staying dark later. The other day, I made a video, using some footage
and some still shots that I took of the dogs while they were romping
around the park. I uploaded it to YouTube,
if you have a hard time viewing it here on my blog. Just click on
the video and you'll go to my YouTube site.
We've been below zero since Sunday. And we've had snow on
and off since then too. It hasn't been heavy, but we are getting
some accumulation. Halloween just wouldn't be the same if we didn't
have snow on the ground.
The big news for the Stevenson's is that we are scheduled to make
settlement on the new house on Monday! Today we had our walk-through
and everything looks great. There were a few minor things that have
to be addressed, but they should be taken care of by closing.
I called and made arrangements for phone service and internet (DSL)
and also for Dish Network, since there's no 'cable' service available
in the new neighborhood. I got a good deal getting everything through
ACS, but we'll see if there are any hidden costs when it's all said
I spent the entire day tossing and shredding stuff in our home
office. We're hoping to be moved into the new house by the end of
next week. That will give us time to get this place straightened
up, carpets shampooed, etc. and have our move-out inspection. I'll
be glad when that's over and done with. I've heard so many horror
stories about the landlords of this neighborhood being very punitive
with military families. The neighborhood is reverting back to the
city, instead of remaining military housing, so military families
have to either move out or start paying rent. The rent is about
the same as our mortgage is going to be, so for us it was a 'no-brainer'
to buy a house since we're staying here.
Here are some more photos of our snowy surroundings and my beautiful
Blue skies and snow
evening, Steve called me as he was driving home from work. There
was a beautiful red sunset and a sun
pillar was visible in the sky. I grabbed my camera and jumped
into his truck as he drove by. We drove over to Birch Hill, but
the sunset was already fading. I'm sure there will be many more
opportunities to shoot gorgeous sunsets (and sunrises) now that
winter is upon us and our days are growing so much shorter.
The snow making machines were going full force on the hill. Birch
Hill will open for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in a few weeks.
I can't wait until the tubing hill opens. I told Rachael that this
year she has no choice but to go with us. She's never done it before
and she's a little afraid. I felt that way before I did it the first
time, and then once I went down that hill, I was hooked! I keep
trying to entice her with an invitation to dinner afterward. The
perfect end to an afternoon of tubing is beef stew, crusty bread,
and wine. I can't wait!
I don't know when I will be able to update this journal again.
It will all depend on how soon I have internet service at the new
place - or if I can find a way to get online before then. Bear with
me, as we make this huge transition in our life. I'm very excited,
but not really looking forward to the 'moving' part. That's always
hectic and a bit stressful. I'm especially going to miss living
only two doors away from Rachael. She's my closest friend here,
and we spend a lot of time together. Oh well; I guess I'll just
have to drive a few miles, rather than just walking down to see
October 30th - Officially HOME OWNERS!
at 2pm, Steve and I signed the paperwork on the new house! We are
very excited to be homeowners again, even though we'll be paying
a mortgage for the next 30 years.
Tomorrow, Steve will set up the movers. Hopefully we'll have our
stuff moved, and clear this house, within the next week to ten days.
Until then, we'll be running back and forth between both places.
I look forward to making our new house a home. I can't wait to
arrange the furniture, and hang my photographs, and choose curtains,
etc. That's the fun part!
Tonight, however, Steve and I are going to relax, sip a little
champagne, and toast our future.
Many thanks to all of you who have sent messages of congratulations.
If we exchange holiday cards, please email me and I'll send you
the new address. We'll be living in North Pole now - so we'll have
an 'in' with Santa. *grin*