Alces alces

Today, like every other day, reminded me why we love this place so much.  Friendships, jobs, the beautiful surroundings, if it's not one thing, it's another.  Today it was the wildlife.

On my way to and from Wasilla (Yes, that's home to Sarah Palin.  No, I did not see her.  And no, you can't see Russia from Wasilla) for a great horned owl outreach program, with my bestie Peabody, I counted a total of 19 different moose! 19! I still get excited when I see just one, so you can imagine how floored I was to see 19!  

Before the move to AK, I had never seen a moose [in the wild].  Until you see one up close, in its natural surroundings, you don't fully understand how big and beautiful, albeit kind of gangly and awkward, they are! I remember our very first moose sighting like it was yesterday.  It was about 2 weeks after we moved up here. We were driving to our friends' house and I was so excited that all I could scream was "STOP!!". After nearly giving Steve a heart attack and telling him to pull a quick u turn, we laid eyes on our first moose (and a bull at that). He was just standing on someone's front lawn, right around the corner from our apartment, munching on their poor trees. He didn't have a care in the world except for eating those leaves.  Of course we were still tourists at that time so we stopped to take pictures. He couldn't have cared less about us pulled right up next to him, oooing and awing and snapping away.



Obviously I'm not going to list every single sighting we've had, especially since seeing moose walk down the street like they own it is a regular occurrence here.  But, I do need to share my second sighting...  I was sitting at home on the couch one day, being a bum because I didn't have a job yet, and one of my girlfriends called me to tell me there was a moose eating the trees in her office parking lot.  She obviously knew how excited, and anxious, I was to see my next moose. Her office was right down the street and I think I made it there in record time.  I was sitting in the car, a good distance away, taking pictures (still being a tourist) when she called me to tell me I could move my car closer to it, it wasn't going to kill me.  Little did I know she, and a bunch of her coworkers, could see me from their office and were standing in the window watching and laughing at me.  Ok, every body laugh at the rookie who's never seen a moose before...

Moose #2.  Okay, so maybe I was a little far away.
Although magnificent animals, they can obviously also be quite dangerous. They're powerful and large, weighing between 800 and 1600 pounds! It's not uncommon to hear of the odd tourist approaching a moose in the town sqaure downtown to pet it.  However, most people know to give them their distance and the steps to take if they come across, and too close to, a moose.  Their body language is pretty easy to read - If they feel threatened and/or are about to charge, the ears go back, hackles (hair on the back of it's neck) go up.  Never ever get in between a mama and her baby, they're extremely protective.  If one charges, find a tree to hind behind, they can't turn very sharp.  And oh ya, those gangly front legs of theirs are used for kicking! I'll never forget when Steve and I were taking a walk through Kincaid Park and someone's dog was barking at something in the bushes at the side of the trail.  Before we knew it this moose came shooting out of the bushes right in front of us and almost kicked the dumb dog in the head.  Of course the dog continued to bark, and chase the moose.  You'd think he would have learned. 

There's a sign on the side of the highway when you head north to Wasilla that counts the number of moose killed in vehicle collisions so far this year in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, just north of Anchorage.  This morning the number was at 420.  Pretty sure 2 weeks ago when I drove past it it was at 380. Because of all of the snow we've had this winter, moose can't move around and are having a hard time finding food.  This is forcing them onto the roads and highways where it's easier for them to move. According to an Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist, the average number of moose killed in vehicle collisions per winter in that area is only 270. Safe to say, it's not a good year for Mr. Moose. (Read the article written in the National Post here.)

On a lighter note, here are some more fun moose photos... Enjoy :)

(Photo by Greg Martin, 2010) 
(Photo by Greg Martin, 2010)
Orphan moose calves at the zoo this past spring. (Photo by moi)
This moose wandered into Providence Hospital in Anchorage last week. (source)
Getting a little help from all of the snow we've had this winter. (source)

If you are interested in learning more about this magnificent animal, check out the Alaska Department of Fish & Games species profile here.



The House That Built Me

Well it's official... My parents' house is on the market!  Next time I come for a visit, I will not be returning to the house I have spent [most of] the past 20+ years of my life.  Tear.  

Tear.
While it does bring a tear to my eye to see the house I grew up in, and created so many memories in, be sold, I am extremely happy for my parents and this new chapter of their life.  I see how happy, albeit sometimes stressed, building the house of their dreams makes them and I can't help but be thrilled for them as well!  

What I'll miss the most about this place?  It will definitely be how close my best friends lived.  One was right behind and the other a street over.  It was just a quick hop skip and a jump through the gate that connected our backyards.  Although these girls will forever be my friends, and I'm sure many more memories will be made together, I can't help but look back on old memories.  Meeting up to walk to school every morning, going to the beach at the end of the street, our secret clubs in the backyard, a tin can telephone stretched between our bedroom windows and the fun fairs we used to have in our basements.  We had a lot of fun here.

While family, friends and Titus time was long overdue, I also had a job to do this visit home... organizing, sorting and decluttering my boatload of crap that I had stored at my parents'.  I have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, enough stuff to [one day] fully furnish and decorate a small house. While most of my stuff had been previously organized and stored (waiting for that house) before we made the move to AK, there was still a lot of junk that I had just shoved in my bedroom closet in hopes that the closet fairies would somehow make it disappear by the next time I was home.  If you remember my previous post about organization, you know that organization has just recently been reintroduced back into my vocabulary.  I struggled decluttering an apartment we've lived in for 6 months and organizing 2 years worth of stuff we've accumulated since moving to AK, so you can imagine how tough it was to go through 20+ years worth of stuff at my parents'.  Shortly after I began to tackle the crap, my room looked like a war zone, it was messier than when I began. You can really cram a lot into a closet! Throughout the course of the day, I had managed to make several piles of stuff and move them around my room, multiple times, but not actually deal with the clutter issue.  I really do have a hard time parting with my things! But like I was told before, "If you're not going to wear it, give it to someone who will."  So, after a couple of naps and several trips down memory lane, I eventually listened to those words of wisdom coming from the little Steve sitting on my shoulder.  I successfully rid my closet of 3, yes that's T-H-R-E-E, full garbage bags of clothes to donate and 2 full garbage bags destined for the dump.  I didn't think that was at all possible, but it felt rrrreeeeaaaallll good!  Almost refreshing. I am in need of more cleanses like this.
  
I did get SOME help rearranging from a small friend.

Oh the things I found... When I was younger I used to keep every single momento (now considered worthless garbage).  I was a bit of a pack rat. I found at least 5 shoe boxes filled with old notes (from high school, over 8 years ago), old pictures, cards and even ticket stubs from Steve's many hockey games.  (I don't really get what fuelled my need to keep those ticket stubs.)  There were some good laughs at the pictures I found, mostly at my own expense. I had one of the most awkward "awkward phases" EVER (Picture this: caterpillars for eyebrows, braces AND glasses. What a hottie!). And I have to admit, some of the old notes from high school were quite hilarious and worth putting the cleaning on hold to read.  

Ever since we moved to AK we have been very conscience of what we buy and what we keep, knowing that we may have to pack everything up and move at any second.  The more stuff we have the more difficult, and expensive, that will be to do.  While difficult at first, always asking myself "Do I need this?" or "Will I ever use this?" really does help.  Simplifying my life has made things a lot easier.  I don't need three rubbermaid tubs full of clothes I will probably never wear again, or those 5 shoe boxes filled with old notes, cards and ticket stubs.  Likewise, when I'm out shopping, I am constantly reminding myself that I work at a zoo where my daily spring wardrobe consists of xtratuf boots, cargo pants and a hoodie. It's not a fashion show, comfy is key.  So, I don't need new fancy clothes for those two days of the week that I'm actually able to dress like a normal person. I need to be happy with what I have. Simple is better, less is more. You should try it.

Yesterday my dad took me for a tour of their new property.  I've seen it once before two summers ago, but seeing it in the winter gave it a whole new look.  It made me even more excited for them to have my dad walk me through their vision.  It is going to be absolutely gorgeous! As we were walking along the beach, my dad said something like "Just imagine, in about 4 years I'll be able to take the kids for walks up and down the beach".  I just about had a heart attack, for a second I thought he meant grandkids... but quickly realized that by kids he meant the 3 dogs.  Phew! But, I did tell him those probably won't be the only "kids" they'll have living at their new house, there will be two 30 year olds (aka Steve and I) living there too. No, I wasn't totally kidding.  Thank goodness they are so supportive of this lifestyle we live and are perfectly ok with being our storage locker while we chase our dreams.

The new beach.


It really is bittersweet. I hate to see the house I grew up in go, but I know that I will always have the memories we've made here.  It's time to move on and make new memories in a new place, and let someone else create their own memories here. 

This was truly the house that built me.


Leavin' On a Jet Plane

FINALLY! The three week long road trip ended and I got to see Steve’s smiling face again. Even better, he got to see mine! Three weeks is a loooooonnnnnggggg time. A long time to be away from your own bed, home cooked meals, Rocky and Mo… and ME! Sometimes I’m really glad I’m not in his shoes.

And just as Steve gets home, I’m taking off... I'm heading back to the good old stomping grounds tomorrow to have some much needed family and Titus time. My week will also be spent sorting, organizing, packing up and storing what remains of my life there because my parents are putting their house on the market and building their dream house!

The past 2 weeks have been extrememly eventful - Vegas, Sunday dinner Mexican fiesta, Steve's 26th and Valentine's Day, just to name a few. It's been such a busy couple of weeks that I'm not even packed to go home tomorrow.  I haven't even made a list of what I need to bring! Steve says this is very unlike me. So, I will leave you with these pics of Vegas as I pack my bags to leave on a jet plane (don't worry, I'll be back in AK again)...


My brother and I
Fam jam at Hoover Dam
Bellagio water show
Red Rock Canyon
My sister even made an appearance!
Steve's fam on Fremont St
My fam on Fremont St
Steve and I on Fremont


Ps. I confirmed one thing about myself on this trip to Vegas - I am a horrible liar and have  an extremely guilty conscience.  This combo makes me a lousy gambler!

The Home and Native Land

These videos have been taking YouTube by storm lately and this one (by IFockingHateThat)  especially gave me a good laugh.  Mostly because I am the only Canadian working at the Zoo and get called out for a lot of these things at work, on a daily basis. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t bother me. It's all in fun.)  I can't forget to mention that I can always count on being asked if I’m Canadian at least once a week by my edZOOcation students and their parents.  How could you tell?  Was it when I said "eh"? Or “oot and aboot”? Gotta love the Canadianisms, eh?


My fav from this video? "Do you have two loonies for a toonie?" It reminds me of the head keeper at the Zoo, my not-so-secret-anymore Canada Day admirer (see pictures below). Bless his heart. Every time I ask him any type of question his response is "Give me a loonie." One day Smitty will get his loonie, maybe even a toonie if he's lucky.


A gift from my secret Canada Day admirer:
The beers were enjoyed under the midnight sun that night and
the crackers and poppers were given to our friends' kids (you're welcome).
Our mouse Rocky got her paws on the flags and turned them into blankets. 
Kind of embarassing for me to say that, but it's cute.

Some Canadian cutie.


My second fav of the video, obvi the shout out to Tim Hortons.  You're not truly Canadian if you don't like Timmy's.  What's not to love? It will definitely be one of my first stops when I go home for a visit next Friday. Large coffee and vanilla dip donut please. Even Titus, my dual citizen chihuahua, is a fan.  The nice ladies that work there used to always give him a plain timbit when we went through the drive-thru (so spoiled), but he always ended up being more interested in shredding the paper bag it came in than his special treat. Oh, the things that amuse him and his small brain! It's also a staple in our house up here in AK. We always have a tin of Timmy's coffee in the freezer and whenever we see my parents we get a new one, along with several packs of Nibs (who knew you could only get them in Canada?). Until I moved to the States, I didn't realize "double double" was a Canadian thing. Last week in Vegas we stopped at a Starbucks and my mom tried to order a large double double for my dad. The woman stared at my mom as if she was speaking a foreign language. I had to step in and translate "She'll take a grande Americano, with room, please and thanks". (Notice the "Canadian politeness"?) Good thing I was there or it would have been WWIII if someone didn't get their morning coffee (just kidding). 


Now if only Canadians actually sounded like this guy in the video....

I hope this video gives you a chuckle, even if you're not a fellow Canadian.  Enjoy :)

The S Word

Our Zoo photographer, John Gomes, was busy this past week capturing the beauty of the snow, all while trying not to get lost in the heaping piles of it.  I thought I would share so you can see for yourself how much snow we have at the Zoo. Click here to check out his photos.  (This album also includes pictures of our new eagle aviary!)

Although the amount of snow that has fallen is not an Anchorage record, I've never seen anything like it! To put a number on it, I heard on the radio the other morning that the "official" amount that has fallen in Anchorage is 103 inches so far this winter... that's over 8 feet!  And we've still got March, the snowiest month of all... Yaaaaaay. (Can't you just feel my excitement?)  

Love.

Just one of the many reasons I love my job...



           

brrrrrrrr

Last week's temperature = BARF!
Winter is definitely not my favorite season.  In fact, I dislike it so much that I am counting down the days until it is over and breakup hits (only 3 more months). Sure it's pretty, the way the sun shines on the snow-covered mountains or how blue the sky looks against the white landscape. But, the beauty of it doesn't take away from the fact that it's still cold and my eyelashes freeze together when I walk outside. I'm so ready for summer that I often catch myself daydreaming about what it will bring.  Fishing, camping, sitting around a bonfire with friends and realizing it's 1am and still light out...  I cannot wait! 

Don't get me wrong, my dislike of winter and the cold in no way means I don't like living in Alaska anymore (definitely not the case). I can deal with the cold if I have to, bbbbuuuuutttt not before I do a little whining first.  Even though this is our second winter in Alaska, I'm pretty sure the seasonal depression has kicked in THIS winter. Steve will probably call me a hypochondriac for diagnosing myself with seasonal depression, but I swear I have it! Besides the color of my skin turning slightly see-through, I have noticed a change in my attitude and motivation (see previous post, Organization Smorganization).  For example, my boss, who is also a good friend, has noticed that I will not go outside at work unless I absolutely have to (am I really that obvious?!).  I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem, but getting out of bed in the morning in the winter is also a challenge for me. I have no problem hoping out of bed before my alarm wakes me up in the summer, but in the winter when it's dark and cold, not a chance! The heat in our house is absolutely horrible and I dread walking out into a cold kitchen every morning. I often find myself setting my alarm for 7:15am, only to wake up in the middle of the night and change it to 7:30am.  You'd be surprised how big a difference just 15 more minutes under the warm blankets makes in my day! I thought taking vitamin D every day was supposed to prevent this sort of thing? 

This January was the 4th coldest January in Anchorage on record.  The average temperature was somewhere around +2F (approximately -15C).  Usually the norm for January is +15F.  But, I guess I shouldn't complain too much about the cold.  An average of +2F isn't THAT bad!  In other places in Alaska, obviously north of Anchorage, thermometers have actually stopped working because temperatures have dipped so low, some places to -60F and others as low as  -80F (approximately -60C)! How is that even possible?! It is so cold in northern Alaska that if you throw hot water in the air it will freeze before it hits the ground (No lie, I've seen the video with my own eyes.  YouTube it to see for yourself.)

I must also mention that not only have the temperatures been extremely cold, we've also had a massive amount of snow... 92 inches to be exact.  That's 7.5 feet of snow!  And it's only the beginning of February! On average, in an entire winter Anchorage only sees about 74.5 inches of snow.  Crazy!!

Enough of my complaining. Today made me happy.  The temperature was +15F (-9C)!  And it's only supposed to get warmer this week (+30F on Thursday).  It's a heat wave! Believe it or not, with temperatures like this some crazy Anchoragites will definitely be wearing shorts.  But of course, these above 0 temperatures decide to make an appearance the week I escape to Vegas for a little R and R, family, hockey and SUN (my skin has never been more excited).  Just my luck it will be -18F and snowing when I get back.

This is how the warm weather is making me feel (replace apartment with office)...



So until winter is actually over, I guess I just have to keep daydreaming and know that I still have Vegas on Thursday, Hawaii in June and a summer full of outdoor adventures ahead of me. Bring on the sun :)