And why are they not frozen? Because their hearts are warmed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Welcome to our blog! We hope you enjoy our travels and dialogues as we journey to Anchorage Alaska for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We hope that all have had a very Merry Christmas and you are all set for a productive and happy New Year.  We have had a wonderful Christmas season here in Alaska.

One of the things that has made Christmas so good for us, even though we're far from home, has been the thoughtfulness of our Bishop and his family.  As we mentioned in the last post, they sent us a 12 Days of Christmas that included a little gift for each of the 12 days.  You saw the first one (the Santa's hat) and each one was geared to the number of days.  They were all quite clever and, since our bishop is a dentist, a number of them were oral hygiene-related - toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss.  The best one of the group, though, was the 5th Day of Christmas - Five Marvelous Minnionaries!  Each was an individual, four were elders and one was a sister.  Here are a couple of pictures - the sister minnionary and the outfit for one of the elders --

We took them to the office and everyone went nuts over them, both the senior couples and the young missionaries.  Again, thank you Ponds for the all the effort and thoughtfulness you put into things.

Another of the things that made our holiday nice (and hectic!) was dealing with the DELUGE of mail, mostly packages, that came to the mission office.  We had truckloads of boxes delivered almost every day for the last couple of weeks.  Then it was our job to sort it all out, forward stuff to the outer areas and get the local stuff all handed out.  There were days when 5-6 people were all working together on the mail.  It was fun to play Santa Claus!

We received all manner of boxes, packages and letters, but the most interesting package we received was this one --

Yep.  As you can see, it came just like this.  We don't know how they got the stamps to stay on and the potato was in amazingly good condition (much better than a couple of "fragile" boxes we got).  No, it wasn't sent from Idaho.  It came from Wisconsin.  If there was a particular story behind it, the receiving elder wasn't sharing.

On Christmas Eve we (the senior missionaries) were invited to the Mission Home for dinner.  The dinner was excellent.  We had deep-fried shrimp and beef ribs (with all the other goodies).  Then we played a game of Farkle, watched a couple of church videos on Christmas and then read the Christmas story from Luke 2.  It was a very enjoyable evening.

Sorry the light wasn't the best, but here we are.  And, just because I know one of you yahoos will bring it up,
those are sparkling cider bottles on the table.

On Christmas Day, we got up late (no kids - no 4 AM!) opened our gifts and went to one of the other missionary couple's apartments for brunch.  It was the first time in 43 years that we have opened gifts on our own.  Kind of interesting, but enjoyable none the less.

And before we leave Christmas, thanks to all who sent cards, letters or gifts, it was wonderful to be remembered by loved ones.

The other thing that occurred this last week, although some of you in the Lower 48 probably missed its passing, was the Winter Solstice!  The days are now getting longer as we speak!  Hurray!  More daylight!  We've talked about this a little bit before, but here's an extra picture to give you the flavor of the season in the north.

This photo was taken on Dec 21st, the Winter Solstice, at about 12:30 PM.  The camera darkened the picture a little because of the direct exposure to the sun, but it really wasn't much lighter than this.  That is as high in the sky as the sun gets in Anchorage on the 21st.

Just to get a little more of the light today, we went out for a drive this afternoon.  It was pretty grey, windy and cold.  These photos were taken on the Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage.

But a little cold, snow, wind and ice doesn't slow down the Alaskans.  A little closer to town is Potter Marsh, where we do a lot of our bird watching in warmer seasons.  Everything was frozen over and you could see tracks everywhere of bicycles, skies, etc.  At the south end of the marsh, we saw these families out enjoying the winter.

We hope all is well with you and yours.  Thanks again for your thoughts during this Christmas season and Happy New Year to you all.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hi everybody! 

Over the last couple of weeks we've had a little bit of fun in our off-hours.  Last week, to honor the Dunns, who went home day before yesterday, we took them to a hockey game, something none of us had ever done before - the Alaska Aces vs. the Colorado Eagles.  The Eagles won in sudden death overtime, 3 to 2.  We went on a Wednesday so the crowd wasn't the biggest, but the noise was incredible.  I'd hate to go to a playoff game or something like that.  You'd have to turn your hearing aids off or your head would explode.  Anyway, we learned a lot about hockey and had a great time.

From the left - Sis. Dunn (Elder Dunn was taking the photo) Sis. Taylor, Elder Taylor, Sis. Weston, Elder Weston

Not many pictures, this game is too fast and all we had were our phones.

Getting ready for a face-off
These Alaskans are serious about their hockey!  All of the adults in this family are wearing Aces jerseys and they brought their two little children along.  Planned ahead, though.  Both of them had earmuffs to wear to protect their ears.  And they seemed to really enjoy the game!
Here's the job I want.  No, not the guy standing there with the goal net, the Zamboni driver!

On our last post we put up some pics about the snow and ice.  During the last couple of weeks we've had more of both.  It really makes things pretty around here, along with a little dangerous on the highway.  We went to Palmer yesterday for lunch, a Festival of Nativities at the local chapel and a couple of bazaars/craft shows and saw an 18-car pileup on the freeway.  Anyway, here are a couple of photos of the weather.

It is really amazing how the moisture in the air just freezes to the branches of the trees and when you breathe out your breath turns to glitter in the air.

Snow on the mountains, frost on the trees.

One of the elements of life around here is the number of hours of daylight.  In a post after our Halloween-time trip to Barrow, we mentioned that the sunrise in Barrow was at about 11:00 AM and the sunset was about 5:00 PM.  Today, in Anchorage, the sun came up at 10:07 and went down at 3:41 - 5 hours and 34 minutes of daylight.  In Fairbanks it rose at 10:48 and set at 2:41 - 4 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.  In Barrow... none.  They have entered what they refer to up there as "the dark time."  The sun set a couple of weeks ago and won't rise again until spring.

On the way to the office in the morning.  No, we don't go in that early - this was a couple of weeks ago at 8:30 AM.
That extra light in the center is the moon.
This is looking out the window of our apartment at 5:20 PM this afternoon.
We saw this the other morning on the way in to the office. (this was taken a little later)  None of us in the office had ever seen anything like it.  Pretty amazing when you realize that there is a total of about 390 years of experience in the office.

For Thanksgiving this year we had planned on going to the Institute building with the other senior missionary couples.  Instead we ended up being invited to dinner at the Mission Home with President and Sister Robinson.  It was a very nice day.

We are just about ready for Christmas.  On Black Friday we put up our tree, a small artificial tree given to us by the Poulsons when they went home.  It is all decorated and lit and we have added a couple of extra things to it.  Candice sent us some ornaments made from real painted eggs. We also received a package from our Bishop's family that contained a gift for each of the 12 days of Christmas.  We just opened our first one today.  Sister Taylor also bought a small Alaskan Nativity scene when we were in North Pole last summer.  It is quite cute with an igloo for the stable, a dog sled for the manger, eskimos for the wise men with a moose, polar bear, Dall sheep and wolf for the animals.

A Spirit Mask ornament.  The face is carved wood.  The "hood" around it is made of Caribou/Reindeer hair.

One of the painted eggs.  Real eggshells!
This is our present for the first day of Christmas - Santa's Hat!  Our thanks to the Ponds!

Tonight we had a special surprise.  The local district decided to do some caroling and stopped by our apartment to sing.  We had them all in for some caramel popcorn and visited with them for a few minutes until it was time for them to head home.  Being able to fellowship with these great young people made a great finish to a great Sabbath Day!