Our Little Oasis


Summer time has finally arrived here in Alaska and that means it’s time to get outside and soak it up before winter descends again in a few short months.  Luckily, our rental house has a little balcony right off the main living room that is a perfect spot to sit and enjoy an evening chat.  Unfortunately it was looking a little sparse when we first moved in this winter.  So I decided to make it a bit more inviting.

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I had already picked up two strawberry plants at the farmers market last weekend, which would be hung in the two square baskets I already had.  But I was going to need a lot more than two strawberry baskets to save this sad little balcony.  The first thing I knew I wanted to add was some chairs, because you can’t sit and relax without those!  I contemplated purchasing some plastic chairs but didn’t want to spend almost $20 a pop – especially knowing we probably wouldn’t use them again when we move.  Then I remembered we had ‘camping chairs’ which would fit well in the space.  Although the chairs have a cup holder built in, I still wanted a little table in between to hold a few little things when necessary.  I also knew we needed some flowers to liven up this space.  So list in hand, I headed for the largest nursery in town.

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I was literally amazed at this place.  Not only do they have a HUGE green house full of every type of plant that grows in Alaska, they have 3 HUGE green houses!  Plus they had a coffee bar and cafe along with a large gift shop!  They are are so big they even do bridal registries!  I could have spent all. day. long. here and still not seen everything they had.

TableThe first thing I found was a little stool that I thought would work nicely as a table for the chairs and can later become a photo prop or garden stool.  At $26 it wasn’t a super bargain, but I thought it was fairly priced. I knew it would compliment the blue chairs and make a perfect spot for one of the little citronella pots we brought with us from Kodiak.  I love how the blues and greens all work together – creating a natural soothing palette.  It’s almost like I planned it! 🙂

I picked out marigolds and lobelia to fill the rail baskets we already had, but when I went to hang them I realized the hooks were for a smaller top rail.  Lucky for me, my ingenious hubby figured out how to tweak the hooks so they would work on this taller board. Love that man! Hopefully the marigolds add to the citronella and keep the bugs at bay so we don’t spend our evenings swatting the air.  BerriesI also snagged a lavender plant for the pretty grey pot I had planted seeds in, which never spouted.

After I’d planted the strawberries in the hanging baskets I had to figure out where and how to hang them.  I had these pretty bird brackets I’d purchased on DecorSteals.com for our new house several months ago and decided we should start enjoying them now.  The hubs put up the brackets where I asked and I think they look great.

Near the check out we spotted a stand of nautical bell wind chimes and tested them all out to find the perfect tone (hopefully the neighbors agree!).  We selected one with a dog at the end of the chime rather than the typical Alaskan bear, moose or salmon because it was more symbolic of our little family.  Granted neither of our girls have tails, but they didn’t have a chime with a ‘nubby’ dog! LOL  Although it was a bit of a splurge at $68, I’ve wanted one for a long time and I knew that was the standard cost for something of that size and weight, Dogespecially when you don’t have to pay shipping!

I brought a wrought iron piece out from inside to give the space a little extra flair and then placed the cherry tomato plant I snagged during another trip to the farmers’ market for just $10 under it.  We already have a few tomatoes about ready to be picked and enjoyed!

I topped everything off with the little rug we already had so there’s a comfy spot to wipe any dirt off your feet before coming back inside.  The hubs replaced the ripped screen so we can also enjoy the breeze from outside even when we are inside.  But the best part is that everything we’ve done (except the repaired screen) can be taken down and brought to our new house as soon as it’s ready.  So here’s the finished product.  What do you think?

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I think I’ll light my little citronella pot, sit and enjoy a nice little chat with my hubby after dinner tonight!

Tiki

New Bling for Our New Home


Think us crazy, but during the Memorial Day weekend the hubs and I purchased ALL of the appliances for our new home, even though we haven’t broken ground yet!  Before you start dialing the looney bin, let me explain why.

We’ve been researching appliances for a while and knew what we wanted and how much that was going to cost.  Definitely more than the builder’s measly appliance allowance even for just the range, microwave and dishwasher.  So when my now bargain-detecting trained husband discovered Best Buy was offering 10-30% off appliances for the holiday and would price match he started seriously crunching numbers cost comparing their prices against Home Depot’s, including the military discount.

So Saturday after leaving a movie he asked if I would mind making a ‘quick run to Best Buy’ since we were in the same shopping center.  Already knowing what his intentions were, I noted that I was sure this was likely to be just the opposite of a quick trip, but agreed.  Almost two hours later and two calls to the Best Buy credit center to work out the details, we are now owners of a complete LG suite of home appliances.

Thanks to the AWESOME holiday sale, their price match – including the military discount, and a friend who just happened to work at this store and worked some AH-MAZ-ING magic ;), we ended up saving around $2,000 and got 0% financing for 3 YEARS!  Plus they will hold the items indefinitely without a fee until we are ready for them, then deliver and install them for free.  And the warranties for each of the appliances, including the extended warranties we chose on the fridge and dishwasher (at 10% off) don’t start running until they are installed.  To top it off the range we wanted was discontinued, so they sold us the new version for the old model price!  That was a deal we just couldn’t pass up, knowing that we WILL be purchasing these items in the coming months one way or another.  All this while earning enough rewards points to make the fancy new TV the hubby wants when we move affordable!  Here’s what we got:

LG Ultra-Large Capacity French Door Fridge with Door-in-DoorFridgeLG 6.1 cu. ft Capacity Gas Double Oven RangeRangeLG 1.8 cu. ft. Over the Range MicrowaveMicrowaveLG Fully Integrated Dishwasher with Flexible EasyRack PlusDWLG 5.1 cu. ft. Mega Capacity TurboWash Washer with Steam TechnologyWasherLG 9.0 cu. ft. Mega Capacity Dryer with Steam TechnologyDryerYes we went fancy, but having lived with the annoying features of the appliances you are provided in military housing and our current rental (i.e. clothes eating washers, no space fridges and quirky stoves) we knew it was worth it to buy what we wanted from the get-go rather than settle for something less efficient only to end up replacing it sooner than necessary because we weren’t happy with the ‘bargain’ model.  And because we purchased higher end items with great reviews they should last us a LONG time!  I promise to do my own reviews once we’ve been using them for a while.

I wish we could start using them right away, but it will be nice to have them brand new in our home.  Now that puny builder’s allowance for appliances can be used for something more important like covering the potential extra cost of drilling a well beyond their well depth allowance of 100′!  We should be meeting with the builder this weekend to finalize our deal and once we do they have just 7 days to begin construction!  I can’t wait to watch our home come together, board by board and am already envisioning our first Christmas there.  Stay tuned for all the details and the thousands of pictures that will ensue!

Some Gave All


As I sit here on this beautiful Memorial Day with all of the windows and doors of my house open, feeling the breeze float through my home, I am thankful to those who make this life possible, especially those who gave their lives to ensure my right to live as I please.  I have been blessed to have never lost one of my numerous friends or family who have served in our armed forces, but there are many who have and I hope that they know their sacrifice is not in vain – at least not in my eyes.

I may not always agree with the politics that send them on missions, but I ALWAYS support the troops.  They did not choose where they would serve or what the objective is.  Rather they respectfully fulfill their duties without understanding why one day a stretch of ground is worth American lives and the next it’s not.

Part of my remembrance of those who have given all includes decorating our home with a collection of red, white and blue I’ve acquired over the years.  Just as it does every year, this patriotic decor will remain on display throughout the summer in celebration of Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day – reminding me of the liberties I enjoy because of the brave.

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For me, the song “Some Gave All” by Billy Ray Cyrus is a fitting tribute to those we honor today.  May they rest in peace because freedom isn’t FREE.

I knew a man called him Sandy Kane
Few folks even knew his name
But a hero was he
Left a boy, came back a man
Still many just don’t understand
About the reasons we are free

I can’t forget the look in his eyes
Or the tears he cries
As he said these words to me

All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all

Now Sandy Kane is no longer here
But his words are oh so clear
As they echo through out our land
For all his friends who gave us all
Who stood the ground and took the fall
To help their fellow man

Love your country and live with pride
And don’t forget those who died America can’t you see

All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all

And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall, yes recall
Some gave all

Some gave all

Banana Republic for Under $5!


I decided to check out a thrift store I’d spotted around the corner from my office while at lunch today.  I’m glad I did, because I found this beauty just sitting on a rack waiting for me to find it!

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I loved the bright color and the short sleeves because summer is finally making an appearance here in mainland Alaska, albeit slowly.  I about swooned when I saw the price tag of $4.50!  Seriously?  There were no rips, tears or snags anywhere that would justify that price, but I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I continued browsing hoping to find another super sweet deal and spotted a cute little Uncle Sam figure for $3.  I won’t share him now since he is very likely to show up in my patriotic decor change over this weekend!  All together I walked out of the store for $7.50!  You just can’t beat that.  I would have paid that total for the jacket alone!

When I got home this evening I tested it out with a favorite layering piece.  Of course it’s just adorable!  Even with wrinkles!  I love that it’s versatile too.  I can see pairing it with jeans, black or grey slacks or even brown pants. I might have to try it out with a cute little dress I bought while in San Diego recently too!

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So that’s my bargain score for the week.  I’m pretty happy about it and will be enjoying it’s little details for a while! Including this awesome texture on texture look!  🙂

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Blessed Strength


I had been on the phone with the military’s new insurance company a good chunk of the morning trying to figure out why they still seemed to think I had another primary insurance when we had filled out the form saying I didn’t and turned it in on base over a month ago.  I was frustrated and irritated with people in general after being bounced from department to department with no resolution to my problem other than those requiring ME to resubmit the same form.

A little while later I took a break from work and checked Facebook quickly.  That’s when I saw the posts.  Each a different variation of “Prayers for OK.”  No specifics were mentioned, but to see that many I knew something horrible had happened.  So I Googled “breaking news Oklahoma” and saw the images that prompted these Facebook messages.  Luckily I don’t have any close personal friends or family in the area hit by the tornado, but my heart ached all the same.  Those scenes playing out on every website I found resonated with me because they reminded me of a similar situation just 5 years ago when a tornado skirted my friends home, but demolished several around it.

Her teenage daughter was home alone when the twister hit and somehow knew to go to the innermost room for shelter despite living in an area not prone to such dangers.  The experience caused her nightmares and anxiety afterwards.  And rightly so.  I recall seeing a 2×6 from their neighbor’s rafters lodged into the interior wall of their family room when I came to help them pack up to move out for the repairs.

I have many memories of that event, like my friend’s frantic call to me as she rushed home that night once she heard the storm had hit and her daughter had been home.  I remember watching her neighbors shift through the debris pile that used to be their home just hoping to find a few photos to keep.  I can still see the path the twister took through the neighborhood, obliterating some addresses and completely skipping others clearly in my mind.  I recall marveling at the force and power the funnel had as I saw cars left inside buildings.  But what I remember most about the entire event is the generosity of the people.

Some volunteered to help my friend pack up and move out of her home like I did.  Friends watched pets who couldn’t stay in the hotels with displaced families.  Others opened their own home for victims to have a place to stay when the hotels became full.   Complete strangers patrolled the neighborhood handing out food and water for victims and volunteers.  Everywhere you looked everyone was doing something to help.  It was amazing to see not only their small community, but the surrounding region well up with such a vast support network.  Miraculously no one was killed that time, even with a middle school and hospital directly in the storm’s path.

Now the damaged buildings have been repaired.  Those destroyed homes have been rebuilt.  The earth’s scars have been covered by new growth.  And those affected have learned what is truly important and just how strong they really are.

All of these thoughts flashed through my mind as I saw the news footage yesterday and suddenly I just couldn’t bring myself to complain about my menial issues.  I realized I am blessed in so many ways that I often don’t even realize it.  I often try to remind myself to look at the big picture in those moments of frustration.  Just this weekend I printed and framed a quote for my bathroom that says “Someone else is happy with less than what you have.”  I am sure that many of those survivors fall into that category right now, including this woman who was happy enough to have survived, but elated to then find her dog alive in the rubble as she recounted her experience. I hope the lyrics of Craig Morgan’s “This Ain’t Nothin” become these victim’s anthem as they recover and eventually rebuild their presently shattered lives.

I hope each of you will take stock of your blessings today and make a conscious effort to remember that even when the storm hits there are those worse off than you, who are picking up the pieces and carrying on regardless.  I call that blessed strength, because only a power higher than yourself can give you the strength to carry on when the facts say you should just give up.  I wish you all such a blessing and especially those affected by this horrible loss.

Storage Hidden In Plain Sight


I. love. storage.  Seriously.  I always consider storage whenever purchasing something.  Either it provides storage or it has to be stored.  So when I was considering adding a bench to the foot of the bed in our guest room, something where guests could stop and remove their shoes by the front door and a chair in the corner of our master I knew I wanted them to add storage if they were going to take up room.

I found the storage bench for the guest room first.  I’d looked at similar styles online and at Target, but just couldn’t stomach the $100-200 price tags.  So during a late night run to Fred Meyer I decided to cruise through the home decor area just to browse.  And then I spotted it.  The bright orange sign that said “Today only! All ottomans 1/2 off!”  *Cue heavenly music**

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I started scanning the shelves and found a pleather storage bench and a small rattan storage ottoman.  The bench seemed the perfect size for the foot of the queen bed in our guest room and was regularly $160.  $80 seemed a pretty fair price for such a big bench, so in my cart it went.  I pondered over the rattan ottoman for the entry way.  I considered getting two to make a longer bench but our rental has just a small stair landing inside the front door so I opted to get just one.  They were normally $60, making it just $30.  Then I remembered I had a coupon for home decor!  Another 10% off!

GuestStorageI happily made my way to the register as they announced the store would close in just 10 minutes.  It was obvious that the cashier was ready for her shift to be over and not excited by the rush of people now in her line due to the announcement.  As she rang me up we realized that the storage bench didn’t have a bar code on it, so she called back to that department to get a SKU number.

The department clerk had a hard time locating one because I’d grabbed the VERY last one of this style.  Several minutes later the cashier was read a bar code which she entered.  After the computer automatically applied the sale discount it rang up at $24.99!  She didn’t bat an eyelash, although the rattan ottoman had rung up for more and was smaller.  I waited a moment for her to say something, but she didn’t.  She was ready to move on to the next customer and bring an end to the day.  She told me my total, I paid and practically bolted out of the store before EntryBenchsomeone would tell me I needed to pay more.

Once I got it home and placed in the guest room I packed it with extra blankets that guests may want to use.  The prettier ones left over from this storage in the family room.  The rattan ottoman worked out perfectly for the entry way landing and provided the perfect spot to store the extra dog leashes, ‘pop’ baggies and collars our kiddos have amassed.

MasterI’d been stalking an ottoman at Target for the master for a while when I finally decided it was worth the price.  Normally $80 I got it for 5% off because I used my Target Red Card – if you shop at Target often and don’t have one you’re crazy!  Not the super deal I was hoping for, but I figured it made up for the super savings I’d gotten on the guest room bench.  And it was the perfect size to fit in the little corner between the back door and our closet.  It makes a perfect spot to sit and put on my socks/nylons and shoes each morning, which was exactly what I wanted.

MasterStorageI haven’t stored much in it yet, other than things that I don’t want the dogs getting into during the day when I’m at work.  For now the plan is to start storing clean trash bags there so I have a ready stock when I do the weekly yard clean up, eliminating the need to traipse through the house with dirty shoes upstairs to get one out from under the sink in the kitchen.

The best part about each of these ottomans is that they could work anywhere in our new home and probably will end up in areas different than they currently are.  Which is why versatility is the second thing I look for in each item I purchase!

A Little Hope for Humanity


Today was a very busy day for me.  Not only did I have a BIG morning event that required an early on-site time, but I had a late afternoon event that had BIG meaning.  Luckily I still had enough time to squeeze in lunch with my hubby at one of our favorite little Mexican restaurants.

As we sat chatting over our food a disheveled man walked in and started talking to a waitress about some metal platters he wanted to sell.  I tried not to give the situation too much attention because I didn’t want to make it awkward, but from where we sat not far away I could tell these platters were nothing special.

Despite his loud voice and social awkwardness the waitress was patient and polite with the man as he showed her each platter and described it.  She told him she would go get the owner because that he would have to decide if the restaurant would buy something.  By this time he had the entire restaurant’s attention.

A moment later a clean cut Hispanic man came to speak with this solicitor, and he too calmly listened to the lengthy description of each platter.  Once the man was done with his pitch, the owner explained that they had certain regulations about what kinds of food serving materials they could use, but rather than buy a platter he would offer the man a meal.  The man agreed and was seated at the booth next to us, where he was quickly served a plate of hot food.

When he was done eating he loudly addressed the bar tender nearby about how he remembered coming here with his wife years ago when the restaurant was nothing more than a wood box with a lady in it selling tacos.  Then he wandered out.

It was humbling and heart warming to see a business man treat someone who he knew would likely never contribute a dime to his bottom line with such respect and kindness.  I was so touched I almost offered to pay for the man’s meal, but after watching that interaction I knew the owner would likely turn down my offer with the same sensitivity.

When we left the owner was back in the kitchen overseeing his staff so I asked our waitress to pass on our appreciation of how he had handled the situation, making it a positive experience for all around rather than approaching it in a way that could have gone 180* from what it was.

Needless to say the next time I need to choose a place to eat in that neighborhood I’ll choose that business because it’s more than great food and atmosphere at a great price.  It’s about supporting a local business who does more than employ people and pay taxes.

Situations like these remind me why I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to humanity.  I BELIEVE there is still good out there and that it appears in little moments like this.  I can only pray that I will have the grace to act in a similar manner whenever presented the opportunity.

After my long day I came home and checked email and Facebook.  Chatted with friends and got caught up on what they are doing.  I ended up watching a funny video link a family member shared, which lead me to others because the artist featured was so talented that I wanted to learn more about her.  At that point YouTube suggested the video below.  I believe that God made the electrical connection that placed that suggestion on my screen, because this clip reiterated the hope that had been kindled during my lunch date.  These young friends are an amazing duo both musically and personally.  And their talent was bestowed to let them share the beauty of their souls with others!  I hope it moves you as much as it did me.