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It probably seems like a very long time since we updated on the house. (I guess it was before Halloween.) But not so very much has happened, on the contractor front. How could it, when he has been MIA for more than a month of that time?

Contractor Fail and Fallout

He hasn’t been gone for a continuous month, yet; he went missing for a week, after our housewarming party, and then he showed up and hung the door to the green bedroom and did a little painting. He didn’t add the trim around the door, so you can peek into the bedroom around the door frame—weird, but at least there’s a door there, right? And now he’s been gone since the week before Thanksgiving. His email is full. Voice mail… might not be full yet? But he doesn’t call back. And no reply to text messages.

If he doesn’t show up by next Friday, that’s the end of the work on our house. We are contractually obligated not to let work stop for more than 30 days, and next Friday is Day 30.

If he doesn’t show up, this is going to be a big mess, because he hasn’t finished the full amount of work covered by the first draw on the loan. The vapor barrier in the crawl space does not extend all the way to the wall, the insulation hasn’t been added to the attic (and WOW do we get icicles), the flashing above the arctic entry hasn’t been repaired, the door isn’t framed, the trim in the green bedroom is unattached and still that awful pink color, and when he had the floor guy lay the vinyl in our entryway, he forgot to tell the guy not to make cut-outs for the old laundry pipes. Those were supposed to be capped off and hidden below floor level, but no… So we’ll be left with some things we’re unhappy with, and there will be some money he has to give back to the bank, or to us, or something. (Probably the bank.) That’s going to be, you know, a major pain.

And then there’s the issue of the rest of the work. We won’t be able to access the money we have set aside for updating the water heater and furnace, because the loan stipulates that this particular contractor must do the work, by early February, without having ever stopped work for 30 days; we can’t (just for instance) still take out that half of the loan and have someone else do it. And, honestly, with as flaky as this guy has been—and as many gaps as we’ve found in his work products so far (some of them literal gaps)—we have been thinking hard about not doing this second draw on the loan, even if he comes back and starts work next week.

So, in the case that we don’t do the second draw, we’ll continue limping along with our current furnace and water heater, which—knock on wood—are still working great, but are both years older than their respective expected lifespans and are being used much harder, this winter, than they were last year or possibly the year before. If those blow, we will be very unhappy, because it will take every penny of our savings to replace them—and it won’t be with the high-efficiency ones that were spec’d out in the estimate. But we’ll hope for the best. Our plan, assuming we can’t do the second draw and we get through the winter OK, is to give up on our previously-planned trip to visit friends in England (which would be heartbreaking), to work very hard at saving money, and to hope there are still funds available for the AK Energy Rebate program, for which we are on the [rather long] waiting list. When we get cleared to participate in the Energy Rebate, an energy rater will come to our house and tell us what we can do to improve it; certainly, adding the insulation and updating the furnace and water heater will be on the list, and we will do so at that time (or, well, within a year of that time). Then the rater will come back, verify that we have improved the house by at least one star, and approve us to be reimbursed for that money, up to some maximum amount. (It’s a GREAT program!)

And, actually, if the timing on the Energy Rebate worked out really well—that is, if we could get the refund, or at least confirmation of the refund, in time—we might still be able to swing the trip to visit our friends; we do both get Permanent Fund Dividends, next year, after all. (The rush, on the friend-visit, is that they are coming back to the US soon.)

Cross your fingers that it works out, somehow, for us?

In Other News – Housewarming, Holidays

Our house has definitely been warmed. We had a fun combination Halloween and Housewarming party, which was well-attended by many delightful people! I hear we have photos, but I’m not sure if Dale’s posted them yet. The place was full, anyway, and we have found ourselves with more wine than fits in our wine holder—a good problem to have! It was strange, though, when I realized that there were five of us talking excitedly about the refrigerator. (It is a great refrigerator.)

We also had a quiet Thanksgiving, which was our first holiday in the new house (other than Halloween itself; we got one trick-or-treater, a baby duck!, and a reverse-trick-or-treat group (friends) brought us candy :)). I baked some chicken and macaroni-and-cheese, and we watched Netflix. I believe I took some time to knit in my comfy chair in front of the window, looking out at the pretty snowscape in our front yard. Nothing super out of the ordinary, but it was really pleasant and low-key.

Our Christmas plans include … um, we don’t really know. Most everyone we know in Anchorage has family stuff to do, so we’ll probably be on our own. Maybe we’ll take advantage of the 4-day weekend to visit the SeaLife Center in Seward (closed Christmas day, but open on the surrounding days), or perhaps we’ll reprise our Thanksgiving celebration. Maybe we’ll plan a fun project, like hanging up art and decorations (is that fun, Dale?), to have something to do. Or, you know, maybe we’ll do what a significant number of other Americans do for Christmas: Chinese food and a movie. :) It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, despite the contractor woes and a few maintenance issues, we’re enjoying the house. The birds and Ella Chinchilla seem happy with it, as well!

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Hi, folks! I got a question from a nice fellow living in the Lower 48, Matthew S., that I answered to the best of my ability, but thought I’d pass along, to see what others thought:

[We are] concerned not so much about the cold and the snow, but by the length of daylight experienced during Anchorage winters. While I
know that the winters tend to be longer than those in “the South” and that there is less daylight, how dark is it during the winter months?
What do the days look like in winter? Is it just shorter or is the type of daylight experienced not as pronounced?

I (this is Coral writing) sometimes look on Zillow for fun, now that Google Real Estate is defunct. It’s a hobby I share with my father-in-law, I believe. I fall in and out of love with houses all the time. But it was never all that serious, because I knew we didn’t have the savings for it, in a market like Anchorage’s. I mean, I very much want to be a homeowner–you know how girls supposedly dream of their wedding days? Not me (although I’m excited about our wedding, too); I have dreamed of owning a house, since at least as far back as my early twenties.

Still, this Zillow thing was just for fun.

Until a few weeks ago, when we saw one of those cute little Alaskan houses that we like so much–and that tend to be well over $300,000, for 2-3 bedrooms and a bath. (This one is not!) We’ve been “practicing” visiting houses–OK, this was the second one ever–and weren’t too serious about it, but figured it was a life skill, for when we do get serious. This house had a lot going for it, aside from a reasonable price: it was within biking distance of my work, a pretty quick drive to both Dale’s current work location and his future one (poor Dale, cursed never to have an office he can settle into), and walking distance (we’re talking about a mile, but still–doable!) to our two favorite bars and one of our favorite restaurants. It was also on the bus line (two, actually) to my work and a bus line that goes directly downtown. Dale didn’t think he’d be impressed–the first place we had visited had definitely let us down–but even I was surprised by how much we liked it when we got inside. Aside from decor dating somewhere between the 1950s and the 1970s (lime green shag carpeting, for one thing–I actually kind of want to keep that, because it’s cool :)), it’s pretty much exactly what we want: it has a nice setup for inviting friends over AND a basement (craft room! DDR space! homebrew space!). And aqua counter tops in the kitchen, which I LOVE! And a mud room big enough to store our bikes! And a cute garden shed!

The house has some down sides–hence, I guess, its being in our price range (OK, *mostly* in our price range–not going to lie, our wedding savings will have to serve as the “reserve” the bank requires us to have [in our own accounts] at closing, and we’ll have to go a few months without a washer/dryer; things will be very tight, this summer). For one, there’s no garage. For two, the seller is trying to sell it “as is,” which may cost us the deal, depending whether the bank’s assessor/inspector approves it; if there’s anything seriously wrong, that the seller is unwilling to fix, that’s going to be that. And heartbreaking. To make the two downstairs bedrooms suitable for use as guest rooms, we’d have to pay to get the windows replaced–and that is definitely in our plans, at some point. We’ll probably have to take out a cabinet to get a dishwasher put in; neither of us recalls seeing one, nor is one evident in the photos. The downstairs bathroom is yellow. There’s a main street fairly close to it (though it’s surprisingly non-noisy, even when there’s traffic). Nothing world-ending. We’ll put up one of those tent/pavilion things to park under next winter, we’ll save for appliances and the minor upgrades the house requires, and we’ll be very happy.

We even got semi-approved for the loan! (It’ll take a few more phone calls, but it looks good.)

So now we’re going to start that crazy dance that is trying to buy a house. Keep your fingers crossed for us?

This part is actually relevant to the title of the post

I know I titled this post “Settling in?” And then I wrote like it had some other title. But I guess my point with that was, yeah, it looks like we’re planning to stay for a while. There’s a master’s degree in CS that should be free for Dale (except for taxes) and will take him 3ish years to complete. By which point, I will probably have applied for tenure. I’m on track to succeeding, when tenure time comes, and, honestly, I’m having a lot of trouble imagining a better academic library job than the one I have; it’s not perfect, but no job is. Overall, it’s pretty great: I get to play with code, I can be productive and successful, I get along well with my boss and the rest of my department (and MOST of the other folks here :)), I’m getting integrated into the organizational culture, and [look, I’m a little bit shallow] I have a kickass office. Dale likes his job, though he could stand to be challenged a bit more by it–hence the degree. Summer pretty much makes up for winter–except for the length of it (March & April are hard) and the fact that nobody cleans ice off of parking lots or sidewalks, it’s actually less miserable than winter on the east coast, in a lot of ways. (It’s prettier. People don’t look at you like you’re crazy if you ski to work, or buy studded tires for your bike. It’s cold, but it’s a dry cold.) It never reaches 90 degrees. We have some excellent friends here. I’m healthier, living here, than I have been anywhere else–except for the two weeks the birch pollen is out, when I can barely function. This state has SO MUCH that’s awesome in it, and I feel like we have years’ worth of exploring to do. Dale has made a little bit of traction in selling people on approval voting and stands a chance of getting the law changed, if he’s persistent enough. He runs Drinking Liberally. I run the local library chapter. We’re pretty integrated into the community, though we could become a lot more so, when we’re really invested in it.

So there’s a lot going for it. As far as down sides, well, holidays are hard, because it’s not realistic to try to get to the east coast during peak flying times, and all of our friends seem to have family up here, or other plans–so Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are lonely. (Christmas is also expensive. I keep saying “I’m going to cut back on sending presents to family,” but I keep doing it anyway.) We miss our friends in DC and Pittsburgh, though we’re not willing or able to move back to either place. (DC sucked out our souls. Pittsburgh is too full of librarians, already.) Most people up here have cats and dogs, so we can’t go over to friends’ houses as much as we would like to be able to. But we had that problem elsewhere, too.

To be honest, though, I don’t even think we’re weighing pros and cons in any kind of organized way, when we talk about staying in Alaska long-term. I can list them, sure, but when you really come down to it, I just don’t think I have it in me to pull up roots again. I’m not sure Dale has it in him. For that matter, I don’t think we have it in us to continue keeping our roots as shallow as we have been, for all this time. I want to settle in, to build a life, to have a home that we don’t ever have to move out of if we don’t want to, or share a ceiling or floor with someone, or ask permission to raise chickens in the yard (when that ordinance passes). I don’t want to hold $5000 in reserve just in case we decide to move out of Alaska. (It costs easily that much.) (And I’d rather have that money for home improvements.) I don’t want to think of my friends in terms of how much I’ll miss them if I move away. I don’t want to think of every single purchase or gift as something we will have to get rid of prematurely, or pack up and fit into a U-Haul. I want to plant rhubarb and fruit trees, to put together a little rock garden, to build a small green house. I want to learn to make jelly; to can fruits and vegetables; and to catch, clean, and freeze (or can) salmon–all of which require a certain amount of stability, unless you’re willing to give it all away later.

In short, I want a home.

I’m hoping this one works out! If not, though, we’re probably going to keep looking. We really like our apartment and aren’t in a huge rush to get out of it, but we’re interested in having our own space. Keep your fingers crossed for us?

It’s January. In Alaska.

Dale’s Alaskaversary passed by without incident–we’re both one-year-plus veterans of living in the state, now; I’m even in the process of applying for my first Permanent Fund Dividend check. Our “paper anniversary” (one year since we were legally married, negative ten months until we have our wedding :)) passed, again, without much fanfare. We got some well-wishes from family, which was super nice, but we didn’t really even do anything, ourselves, that day.

We did go see “Avenue Q” the following day. (Yes, Anchorage gets Broadway shows. :P We’re even getting the Blue Man Group in the spring!) That was enjoyable. Since we were Downtown already, we also walked around the ice rink (a little park beside the Performing Arts Center where they let the ice do its thing–and maybe help it along a little bit–so that people can skate on it) to look at the ice sculptures. It’s only been above freezing twice, so far, that I know of, so even though they’ve been up for a while they’re still in fine shape. We didn’t think to take pictures. :/

I did take a few pictures from my office window, to share how pretty and white the trees sometimes get. In two of the pictures they’re covered in hoarfrost, which seems to come (exclusively?) from ice fog. Or freezing fog. I can never keep straight which one we get, here. Anyway, a couple of the pictures are that. One is of today’s heavy, but short-lived snowfall. There’s also a picture of the ice fountain outside the public library–in the summer it’s a normal water fountain. And then there’s a picture of a neat snow formation against one of the windows of my library. Random stuff from my iPhone. Maybe Dale will post with pictures from Christmas. :)

There’s not a ton else going on. It’s been a little warmer in January than it had been in December–temperatures below about 15 F make me cranky. I can deal with temps in the 20s, though, and it’s even hopped up into the low 30s a couple of times, lately. That’s been good.

We signed up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge–or, well, I signed up. Dale hates signing up for stuff, so he’s doing it, but he’s not logging it on the website. It keeps us moving, which makes winter a lot more bearable. Granted, most of the movement is indoors: I go to the gym, and Dale does Dance Dance Revolution, most of the time. But it’s enough to help beat the winter funk.

Actually, something relevant to that: we have both signed up to ride 25k in the Tour de Cure, in June, to raise money toward finding a cure for diabetes. If you were willing to donate toward the cause on his page (his goal is $150) or my page (my goal is $500), we would both be very grateful!

Also coming up over the next few months, I get to go to Juneau in February for the Alaska Library Association conference–I booked a few extra days, so I can look around town, go see the University of Alaska Southeast (their library has a banana tree in it!), maybe visit one of the glaciers, and just generally get an idea of what our state capital is like. Then we’re thinking of going to Seattle over Memorial Day. I’ve never been before, and Dale’s only been once. It’s a cheaper flight than most places. It’s a fun city. So I’m excited. :) If my poster proposal is accepted, I will definitely go to the American Library Association conference in New Orleans, in June–if it isn’t, I’ll wait and see if I won my election (which doesn’t *require* me to go this year, but it would probably be appreciated) and decide then.

So, despite the cold and the dark, there’s more brewing than you might think! More than I thought, when I sat down to write this post–which is sort of nice. :)

I like it when my Monday off (OK, first off, I like doing the flex time thing so I can have every other Monday off) is punctuated by awesomeness! I rode in to work with Dale this morning, so I could have the car. We couldn’t go the normal way because a school bus was stalled/spun out/something in the middle of the steep hill on our road (no signs of anyone being injured, or kids even still being there—the relief bus must already have come), so we went the back way. And saw two moose, down the street from our house. Which was pretty neat and exciting. They were heading toward our house as we drove away, but I admit, I forgot to look for them when the car and I got home.

Fast forward two hours, I look out the back door, and there they are! They were not eating the pumpkin I left for them, but, you know, you can’t win ’em all.

Photos:

Also, you’ll notice there’s a ton of snow out there. Winter is well and truly here. This was the first day with LOTS of snow, and people are driving like they’ve never seen this crazy white stuff before. Seriously, I’m amazed that people in a place with 8-9 months of snow can’t function when it starts back up again. That’s not that much time to forget how to drive! How? How do they do it?

I think maybe not everybody who is going to get studs on their tires has done so yet, so it may get a little better. Less sliding around. … Right?

Snow (or something) is falling. Not sticking–it’s 40 degrees–but falling.

Seriously, you expect snow by Halloween, but not by Oct 1. It’s not even legal to have studded tires, yet.

(I know I sound freaked out. It’s only the inevitable march into winter that has me at all out of whack. Not the snow itself. That’s not going to stick.)

We only had 3 months with zero snowfall (well, flurry-fall, or sleet-fall, or something) this year. June, July, and August. Crazy.

Update: There’s snow on the mountains. It’s no longer summer, for reals.

This is a list of all of the things Alaska has that we didn’t have, in previous places I’ve lived. It’s a sister post to things I miss from places I’ve lived before. I’m leaving off obvious things like “my job,” for which I moved here, or “my friends,” who are awesome. And Dale’s list might differ from mine.

  • Beautiful mountains in 3 directions (though the mountains I grew up with were beautiful, and I love them, they didn’t demand attention in the same way)
  • Affordable housing within walking distance of work
  • Nearly 24 hours of light during the summer
  • Arguably the world’s best mead
  • A whole city of beer and coffee lovers–and enough microbreweries and coffee shops to suit them. The little coffee stands continue to make me happy.
  • No state taxes, no sales tax, and, starting in 2011, getting a PFD (flip side of that: things do cost more … for example, the value menu at fast food places is $1.50 instead of $1, and it’s a $6 footlong, not $5, at Subway–but state taxes were always more painful than federal, for some reason, especially with all the moving we did)
  • Moose (which are ridiculous!), magpies, ravens, and bald eagles
  • The Bird Treatment and Learning Center
  • Anchorage Market & Festival, Alaska Mill & Feed, Summit Spice & Tea
  • Tap Root Cafe (it’s a MySpace page with auto-playing music :/), Middle Way Cafe, Lucky Wishbone (not a website kinda place)
  • (it’s hardly fair, since VA had the same thing, with a similarly awful website, but we never once went there) Bear Tooth Theater Pub
  • (it’s not universal, but is a bit more common here) Space for gardening in my yard
  • Exciting enough fish that I actually want to learn to catch them!
  • A whole network of trails through the city (sort of a down side: you have to watch for wildlife, because they’re kind of dangerous)

I haven’t been to the Seward, Fairbanks, Homer, or any of the other drivable parts of the state (unless you count Tok … but what’s in Tok?), so more things will end up on this list. The Sealife Center seems like an obvious one. Possibly the AK Railroad. As soon as I see it, I’m sure the Aurora Borealis will be on the list. Along with puffins and otters! The zoo, reindeer farm, musk ox farm, and other touristy places I haven’t yet visited are also real possibilities. Maybe I’ll revisit this list after summer. :)

I guess my point, in making these dual lists, is to point out that I definitely do miss some things, but there are a lot of things I’d miss if I left here, too. And I want to give readers from the Lower 48 some idea of some of the stuff here (and vice versa, if I have any readers from AK). Different places are, you know, different.

This is a list of things I miss about places I’ve lived in the past, now that I’m in Alaska. (Seems appropriate to post it on this snowy day in April.) It’s a sister post to things AK has that those places didn’t. I’m leaving out obvious things like friends and family that I knew I’d miss. Also, Dale’s list might differ from mine.

  • Cherry blossoms; crocuses; general spring flowers, or even grass, in April (it flurries, sometimes, during graduation here, for real)
  • Being able to use free night-time calling on my mobile (everyone lives east of me, now)
  • Being able to drive to the next state over (in less than a day!)
  • Being able to order online without worrying that 1) they won’t ship to me (I’m looking at you, Amazon’s Home & Garden section) or 2) it’ll cost $50 for them to ship it to me.
  • Lizards, possibly robins (I’m still hoping we get robins, but somehow I don’t think we do)
  • (Pittsburgh) The National Aviary
  • Gas under $3
  • Red Lobster (specifically, their cheddar biscuits and crab alfredo – my dad once sent me a recipe book that had the cheese biscuit recipe in it, and it’s not a bad approximation; no luck on the crab alfredo, though I might look for clones online)
  • (Pittsburgh) Alexander’s gorgonzola basil sauce (again, I have a recipe to work with, though it’s basil-free), The Square Cafe, Quiet Storm Coffee, Rita’s water ice, Mad Mex … Even Kiva Han, despite their poor climate control.
  • Chipotle (we have Qdoba, and I’ve more or less forgotten that I like Chipotle better, but still)
  • (Pittsburgh) Phantom of the Attic (comic and game shop–felt friendlier than Bosco’s)
  • (VA) Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s (Pittsburgh had 2/3, but we never really went to them–always too busy or too broke) … oh, and (DC) Eastern Market!
  • (VA) The Skyline Drive – weird thing to miss, given how little time I spent on it in my adulthood, but it was nice that it was there, you know? … not that we lack for beautiful drives, here, but the speed limits are higher, on crappier road surface (not necessarily AK’s fault–frost heaves are hard to fix)
  • (DC) The National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and the Baltimore Aquarium

This list is going to seem longer than the other, and, to be fair, it is. There’s a lot to miss. I spent [well] over 20 years on the east coast, and despite its climate [miserable winters AND summers] and air quality, I especially loved Pittsburgh. And, yeah, I missed some of the VA things while I lived in PA and vice versa. It’s different, being a full day’s flight away from it rather than a 4.5-hour drive, though, hence my listing it all together.

And that day of flying really is more frustrating than I had anticipated. Just the flights to and from the east coast eat up two full vacation days, each trip. Even a flight to or from California is a large portion of a day. And I just didn’t have any concept of that, really, before I got up here. I mean, my interview flights took for freaking ever, but it didn’t occur to me that we’re still pretty far from much of the west coast, too. It’s hard to get across just how remote it is, despite being a city and shipping hub. (It seems like every Mac purchased in America comes through here.) One rock slide could make ground transportation from the Lower 48 impossible, at least temporarily, and that’s sort of freaky.

On the bright side, nearly every dollar Dale and I spend counts toward air miles, so, although it’s still expensive to get anywhere out of state, we do get some breaks.

It seems like Mr. Dale is pulling together pictures to write up his own blog post, so I guess we have a case of “feast or famine,” as far as blogging goes. Hopefully, besides showing you beautiful mountains and cute puppies, he’ll talk about what he thinks about Alaska so far. People keep asking me, and I just kind of shrug and say “Better, now that it’s lighter out.” But I bet he puts it more clearly, himself.

It really is nicer, now that the sun’s coming back. It was weird the first time I realized it was bright out after 5pm. Now it’s light past 7, which is excellent. Soon, we’ll overtake you folks in VA, PA, and CT. As far as the weather goes, February was strange and melty, with temperatures in the 40s–Dale and I really liked it–but we’re back to hardcore winter, at this point. I think it’s 19 degrees out (I’m writing this around 6pm on Friday the 12th, but it’ll get posted later, when it’s a different temperature, I’m sure). And there were many inches of snow over the course of this week, starting just after the AkLA Conference/Iditarod start and going… well, there were 24 hours of steady snow on Monday and Tuesday, and a little more has fallen since. It was enough that UAA closed campus on Tuesday. I won’t lie, the snow day was appreciated! I was “Technical Coordinator” for the Alaska Library Association (AkLA) conference, last weekend, and it was a bit bigger job than I’d anticipated. But I got to see librarians from all over Alaska and, as I mentioned above, the sled dogs at the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, on Saturday.

I’m a little sorry I don’t have more to say about winter festivities, actually. Next year, we’re going to attend the Fur Rondy (I was too busy with conference preparations) and more of the Iditarod start (conference was going on, and neither of us had a second layer of pants or thick enough shoes or, for that matter, hats on)–maybe even drive up to Willow for the real start. That’ll be pretty fun! But even the little bit we saw was pretty exciting.

I guess our big news is that we found an apartment. It’s cute, walkable to work (at least when the weather’s OK), has a washer/dryer, and will have room for a garden out back when the weather improves! A good find! We’ll post pictures of that, as it pulls together, too. The birds seem to more or less like it, and the chinchilla loves it. So, a happy (if residually stressed out) family!

In other news, Dale’s name change worked fine. He still has to go to DMV, but since his Social Security card and lease both say Sheldon-Hess, there’s really no concern that DMV will give him trouble. (There is some concern that he’s now past the 60 day limit for getting a license after getting to the state, though. Hmm.)

Anyway, here’s hoping this post means we’re back to blogging! Feel free to comment and let me know how you’re doing! If you didn’t get our mass email with info about our new address, phone numbers, and email, that means I had the wrong (or no) email address for you, and you should let me know, so I send that along. :) If you did get it and wrote back, I am still way behind on replying to those replies, but don’t feel like I don’t love you…

And by “this blog should be pretty quiet for a couple of weeks,” I clearly meant “neither Dale nor Coral will be posting for a whole freaking month. And when Coral does manage to pull together a post, it will be through the haze of cold medicine and late-stage-plague dizziness.” Luckily, it seems from my Facebook and Twitter streams as though you’ve all managed to carry on with your lives, even without constant updates on our Alaskan adventures. :) It also seems like moving to Alaska was a good way to avoid multiple feet of snow. Wow.

Anyway, as you can see, the trip to Boston and Connecticut and back was successful! Ella the chinchilla was a little fuzzy trooper about the plane trip. She seemed annoyed, more than anything, and since we were, too, we can hardly blame her. Alaska Airlines has little pieces of paper that they give you, to let you know your animal is on board, which is nice; that said, everyone we came into contact with, from gate agents to flight attendants to security people, thought the policy allowing rabbits, cats, dogs, and birds into the cabin (and explicitly excluding similar, quieter, less allergenic animals like chinchillas) was idiotic. We were encouraged, multiple times, to complain. And I think we will. At any rate, Ella’s cage came in checked luggage, which ended up being cheaper than any of the other options we’d considered–more obvious, perhaps, too–so we set it up before collapsing into bed, the night we got into town. She was totally calm until she realized that was her cage we were setting up, and then she started struggling to get out of the travel cage and into her home. Within a day or two she was 100% back to normal. Now, she plays every night in the hallway and bathroom, and she’s happy.

As for humans, Dale and I are legally married, though we haven’t filed any name-change paperwork. (I think maybe we’ll go by the DMV and Social Security Administration tomorrow. I’m hoping they don’t give him trouble about hyphenating. Alaska Health and Social Services makes no gender distinction in their name-change-after-marriage information, and I plan to hold DMV and Social Security to that.) We’ve posted pictures of the mini-ceremony, with our fantastic Justice of the Peace, here. There’s a video posted on Facebook. (I can’t email it, because it’s too big a file. 85MB, compressed. And iMovie won’t edit .MPG files. And I feel weird having the whole video out on the unsecured Internet, for some reason. So, um, if you don’t have Facebook and want to see the video… we’ll figure something out, OK? Probably snail mail.) Anyway, as you can see from the photos, we had a few witnesses from his family–though not everyone who would have wanted to be there, in part because the living room was already full, in part because we disallowed anyone traveling, and mostly because this wasn’t ever supposed to be a big thing (the ceremony was less than 5 minutes!). Although Dale’s mom got him a corsage and me a bouquet of daisies (which was incredibly sweet and kind of makes me tear up to think about), it really was a short, informal thing. We only have as many lovely photos as we do because we have a talented sister[-in-law] and brother-in-law who were willing to take them. We’re going to do a more formal/ceremonial/celebratory thing in October or November of 2011. (Not much more formal. Much bigger and more celebratory, though.) We’re working on choosing a date and location (east coast), so we can send out very early Save the Date messages. (We may do a second, smaller party for our Alaskan friends, unless they’d like to come to the east coast and meet our east coast friends and family, which would be awesome. But expensive.)

Back to the nominal point of the blog–the move to Alaska–we spent our first few days [back] in Anchorage exploring. I drove Dale down to Girdwood and to the Alyeska resort–the drive down the inlet was my first view of the area just outside Anchorage and seemed like a good place to start him off, too. Sadly, the clouds started coming in, so we decided to drive back into town, rather than heading down to Portage. I will see that glacier, though! Anyway, he’s going to post soon with all of the pictures he took during that trip. And I think a couple of pictures of the birds misbehaving. (Aww, so much screen time for Ella, and I didn’t mention the birds! They did fine. We had a fabulous bird-sitter, who took good care of them. They seemed to have a little bit of cabin fever–she wisely did not let them out of their cage–but they got over that soon enough and quickly adjusted to having a full flock in the apartment. They’ve been ever so poorly behaved since Dale’s been around. :))

We also got Dale a heavier coat, which seems to be doing its job admirably. And he met–and seems to get along well with–most of the friends I’ve made up here. (That sentence made it sound like he doesn’t get along with them all, but I think he does; he just hasn’t yet met them all. :)) So, that’s nice. We’ve been to Taproot twice, Middle Way not at all, Glacier not yet, Moose’s Tooth once, Bear Tooth not yet, and friends’ houses now and then. He doesn’t love Summit Spice & Tea or the Quilt Tree like I do, but I can’t fault him for that. His impression of Bosco’s seems to be similar to my own.

Actually, I assume Dale will talk about what he thinks about Anchorage in his post. “Holy crap, mountains!” gets said a lot. :) I don’t know if he’ll talk about the job search or not, other than to acknowledge there is one.

Oh, hey, there’s an apartment search, too. It’s been disappointing, so far–our current place won’t do, between the stompy upstairs neighbor and the smallness of a 1-bedroom, but 2-bedrooms are slow to open up in our building, especially third floor ones. Outside of our building, we saw one awesome and one mediocre apartment–actually, the mediocre one was awesome inside, but it was in a really inconvenient part of town. And the awesome one got snapped up by someone else. There’s one really perfect one opening up soon–they are apparently having an open house on Saturday–and we’re hopeful about that, despite the apparently huge amount of interest people are showing in it. But we may just have to keep toughing it out until something better opens up in our building or the semester ends (ah, college towns). Part of me hopes we can finish out our current lease in a better apartment within our building–uncovered parking, creaky building, loud heaters, and awful coin-op washers and dryers aside–because it’s hella expensive to buy your way out of a Weidner lease. Keep that in mind if you’re ever moving into Anchorage, for sure. Also, our landlady is pretty nice, and the maintenance guy, despite being overworked, is also really nice and very effective. So, you know, that whole thing is up in the air.

Aside from the living situation and this plague, though, I have to say things are pretty excellent. Keep your fingers crossed–and ears open, if you live in Anchorage–about job stuff for Dale, but I’m pretty hopeful, there.

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