Winter in Fairbanks
Winter is here!

Wednesday, November 3rd 2010

It's November already. It's stunning. Winter has been with us for a month or so now. Not the real winter we're expecting and preparing for. But a good preparation at that. We're realizing how much propane we're using, how much firewood. As well as how much flour. I've probably used 35 pounds of white and 15 pounds of wheat flour. You never quite realize what and how much you eat, until you bake from scratch.

We're using about 50 gallons of water a week, give or take. We have 16 jugs of water that we fill up with 5-6 gallons each at the Water Wagon. Bill is going to scale down on work this month to put more energy in the book. We've caught up on bills as much as we could. With Bill not oing to town often, we won't have the chance to fill the jugs up continuously. In this case we're counting on a pack of snow to help us out. We figure it'll take three gallons of snow for every gallon of water. We'll see.

A gift from Tante Magdalena; a reading book in Dutch. I'm amazed when Cheyenne has a go at it, how much she still remembers of the Dutch alfabet.

This week we've been to town together. Always more groceries to do. Another chance for fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. We also buy some new sleds. The purple one has cracked in half and is now more a snow scooper then a sled. Bill finds a similar one in green, as well as two little green seat sleds for Robin and Jasmine. These little ones won't go so fast.

Bill is being handy... With two sleds of supplies he's coming down the hill. All goes well, until he reaches the birch tree dividers. He catches one with his pants leg and is stuck. But stopped too, and that's convenient.

With the new needles in the sewing machine, we're back in business. Cheyenne gets the chance to finish the purse she was working on. Robin and Jasmine have started new ones. They're getting more particular and more complicated every time. Round pockets, diamond shaped pockets, pen pockets, more pockets, big pockets and small pockets. Every purse is radically different then the previous one. Their creative minds never stand still. The girls have sold 33 already! Thank you Wilma, Afina, Casey, Froukje and Z. It's nice how the orders keep trickling in. It's not too overwhelming for the girls (or for me). It keeps it very enjoyable.

Dogge goes along for the ride.

The latest purses! These two are going to the Netherlands!

Cheyenne gets another chance to go to work with Bill. Actually, Bill will go to work and Cheyenne gets the chance to spend the days with Dick and Patsy. This time she gets to go with Dick to work in his black smith shop. Thanks Dick! What a great experience you're giving her!

Jasmine, Robin and I get a chance to test the new sleds. The two little ones are a bit new, you sit on them, but have to keep your feet up if you don't want them to slow you down. These work great for Robin and Jasmine. They both can keep their speed in check. Great times in the snow.

Jasmine is figuring out her new sled.

Racing the sleds down the hill.

Little girls in the woods.

Later in the afternoon we climb to the road. We bring all the sleds. The little ones are not that good for belly sledding; there just isn't enough space. The big ones work terrific though. The snow is frozen and the cars have made great tracks. Once the sled is in the tracks it keeps a pretty steady line. Of course I don't forget to indulge myself in this pleasure too.

After a while of belly sledding it is time to climb up the hill again. Jasmine enjoys the challenge eventhough she doesn't make it to the top this time. Robin enjoys laying in the snow; as happy as a pig in mud.

The feeling of freedom.

I make a pile of snow with the little seat sled. It's like having a pile of leaves, freshly raked. It can't be resisted. Robin jumps in it. As soft as a feather pillow. We keep piling on for a while until a scoop full ends up in Jasmine's neck. The fun is quickly over then. Jasmine runs straight down the hill to the cabin, quickly undressing and warming up in front of the fire. Robin slides down the hill on her sled, all the way from the road to the cabin. She's so proud! Good job Robin!

For a warm snack Robin and I bake some cookies. She places two chocolate chips on each cookie. Except on one, that one gets three pieces. That cookie needs to be saved for Daddy when he comes home tonight.

Baking cookies with Robin. Simple joys.

Saturday, November 6th 2010

We're so thankful for this little place on earth, that we call our home for now. We love the cabin, the surroundings, the snow and the crisp air. We love the cabin being lit up by the light of the fire and the candles. It's a cozy and romantic athmosphere.

The morning light comes later. The evening comes earlier. Every week one hour of daylight gets traded in for night time. Every day the stars come out a little earlier. It's a new moon. The stars rule the sky at night. So many stars, what an abundance of beauty. We haven't seen this many stars since camping in the California desert this past January. So far no new sightings of the Aurora Borealis though. But we're keeping our eyes open on the way to the outhouse.

A pink morning sky. It shines through the entire forest. It's almost surreal, but this is as real as it gets.

Once it's light enough, Jasmine is the first to say she's ready to go outside for sledding. Once Jasmine goes, so does Cheyenne, and then Robin too. They climb to the top of the driveway, each dragging a sled. Not much later they come whizzing down. I hold my breath, but there is no need to do so. They're very careful and have thaught themselves to roll out when they need to. Or just for the un of it. Especially Jasmine is a start at rolling out.

Ready to slide down the hill. Robin and Jasmine love their small sleds. They're in full control, turning left and right as they please, stopping or rolling off when they want.

Cheyenne whizzes down the drive way. Snow sprays up all around her. She's exhilarated.

Robin enjoys sliding on her seat-sled. Heals up to go fast, heals in the snow to slow down.

Bill is home these days. He's scaled back on working so he can focus on writing. He writes the bulk, then I add my two cents worth to it. We've send the first two parts to Kevin this week. We've got the first part back already. Shredded... We need to rewrite it. Kevin is harsh, but he's right. With several pointers we're back at it. It isn't easy, but nothing worth doing is. The bike journey wasn't easy either, but we did it, and it's given us (and still does) a lot of joy. Stroke by stroke we'll make it happen.

Cheyenne is enjoying the silence of Bill's writing station. Nicely huddled up in front of the fire, with a book in hand.

With my little helpers around me, I keep busy in the kitchen. The outdoor air makes everyone hungry. This time I'm making some sort of apple pie. In these past couple of months with all the baking I've done, I've realized it's the flavor that counts, and not the perfect size of the rectangle, circle or triangle that the recipe book describes. I make the shapes as best as I can, even if it isn't recognizable as a rectangle, it'll still work.

An apple pie (sort of) in the making.

It's not the first time I'm baking. I used to bake a lot in Kentucky too. Even when I still lived in Culemborg in the Netherlands, I enjoyed baking. I've probably enjoyed baking ever since I was tall enough to help my mom in the kitchen. With enjoyment comes the willingness to experiment, to try, to fail, and to lick the pots. There's always something yummy in the kitchen. And the girls know all about it.

Jasmine will serve. Mmm. Delicious.

I'm still amazed at how much sun we have here. Our first impressions of Alaska started with rain, rain and more rain. And that didn't change until we crossed the Alaska Range and arrived in Denali National Park. Ever since we're on the north side of the range we're enjoying great weather. Even when it is cloudy it isn't bad. It's not going to rain. It's too cold for that. Thus we'll have snow. Being the chee-cha-ko's that we are, it still excites us.

Our cabin in the afternoon winter light at 4pm.

A leaf in the snow.

At 5pm the sun sets on the horizon.

Last night I stayed up extra late. It gets dark early. So early that there is no real feeling of needing to go to bed yet. Dark is dark. Before you know it, it's way late in the evening. This evening I decide to build something for the girls. The simple joys of toys!

I have the urge to build the girls a train track with several stations. What a surprise that'll be in the morning.

For over an hour I build and play. It is that it's getting near 1am, otherwise I would've build a big lego tower too. I can barely wait till the girls wake up.

Enjoying the train track.

The girls are all excited. It's like Candyland, but without all the candy they say. Cheyenne is all proud of the castle I build. Jasmine and Robin are okay that I mixed up their blocks to make the several train stations and tunnels. They can figure that out later. For now they're loving the train playground. They play with it several times today.

There is more in a day then trains. Of course there is a time for sledding. This time there is also a time for filling up a garbage can with snow. We're going to see how much water we'll get from 10 gallons of snow. If my guess is right, we'll get about 3 gallons. I could be awfully off though! Tom from Oregon has informed us it's more like 12 gallons of snow for every gallon of water! We'll be shoveling this winter that's for sure.

Robin loves her hair in bunny-ear style.

We've been so generously blessed with gifts and packages from all over the states and from the Netherlands, that it's hard to keep track of where everything comes from. Today we break out the paint and paint brushes. The girls are going to town with them.

Painting the day away.

Robin has started on another purse. This time she doesn't want to sit in my lap. She's somehow figured out how to pedal the treadle sewing machine. She can't guide the material, but I can do that part. Our littlest girl is growing up. This coming Saturday she'll be four! Imagine that!

Tuesday, November 9th 2010

The temperature; we check it every morning. Sixteen degrees. Not bad. We're getting used to it.

It's great to have Bill back with us again. With him leaving so early, then coming home so late or sometimes spending the night in town, we feel incomplete. We're fortunate that he can scale back on work. We don't have regular bills here except for the internet. It's good to have no electric or water bills. We decide how much we spend on propane (we've definitely cut down on the hours we're burning the lights), and with water at 2 cents a gallon, that's about a dollar a week with our use.

Cheyenne has the task to fill up the garbage can. We've testing it out to see if it's worth it. It looks to be about 2.5 gallons of water for 10 gallons of snow. Not bad. That certainly makes it worth the time to fill them up.

Cheyenne shovels snow into the can. She enjoys her task.

A 10-gallon garbage can full of snow. We're letting the heat of the stove turn it into water.

The result is about 2 and a half gallon of water. I use the sieve to filter the water.

Filling up the garbage cans is a daily task. Cheyenne has gladly taken it upon her. We've had some fresh snow again. As long as the snow keeps falling, we won't be out of water soon.

Bill is working on splitting another cord of wood. Every morning for about an hour or so. We figure we have about 7-8 cords so far, minus what we've burned already. We've found eight pine trees in the woods, dead standing. That'll be a great addition.

The rest of the day he is focused on writing the book. We've rewritten the first chapter. We've also finished the third chapter. Well, the first draft of it. We'll get it all back to rewrite again. It's an interesting process. We get lots of great feedback back full of advice and tips. They're very helpful to make the story flow. It's a great way to relive the thought process and preparation time again. The printouts of the training and the journey are very helpful tools. Also fun to see the pictures of the girls and ourselves. Yes, I'm glad I did the website. What a memory.

Chop chop away.

The temperature is in the steady tens these days. It got down to four degrees at night once. Inside the cabin it stays nice. Perhaps it'll drop to in the 50s at night, but that's quickly solved once we perk up the fire. It's good to have a small cabin. It quickly heats up. We still find some new cracks in the logs every now and then, causing a little draft, especially when the wind is blowing. Some caulk is a simple way of stopping the draft. As the temperature keeps dropping I bet we'll find more and more cracks. By the end of this winter this cabin will be as tight as it can possibly get.

Winter wonder land.

Yesterday two of our neighbors came to visit. We have more neighbors then we'd realized. They live with their respective partners here on Darling Avenue. Like us in a dry cabin, although our cabin is considered a big one!

Robin is all excited to find out what neighbor Carrie has brought for us.

The girls talked Angela and Carrie into a sled ride. Wow they go fast! Thanks for visiting us, neighbors!

Today Bill went to work again. For two days. It works well. He gets the chance to pick up some fresh groceries when he comes back tomorrow. Today Jasmine went with him. All proud that she gets to spend the night away. My little girls are growing up so quickly. I can't get over it that Robin is turning four already! That's how old Jasmine was when we started our bike ride. Time flies.

Cheyenne is reading as we have a simple dinner. A habit she's appparently copied from me. Whether good or bad, I love it that's she's enjoying reading so much.

The girls have been clipping and pinning. We'll soon have our third batch of purses ready to ship. Bill can send them off next time he goes to town. It's been, and still is, a good experience. The girls can proudly claim the bus "their bus".

Robin can just reach the pedal. She's got a great rhythm going. Now she wants to guide the material too. Combining the two is not so easy, but she's doing it!

This weekend was daylight savings time weekend. It came and went. We've decided not to change the clocks (except for the cell phone of course; that goes automatically). We're going to be on Pedouin Time this winter. What it comes down to is that Pedouin Time is an hour ahead of Alaskan time, thus is the same as Pacific Time.

Friday, November 12th 2010

Winter is all around us, slowly allowing us to get in the grip of it. Mid teens for day, single digits for night. It hasn't broken the zero degrees line here yet. During the daylight hours from 9 through 5 we also see some sun every now and then. It takes a long time to get over the hill to our south east. Then it stays about a hand above the horizon before bumping into our western hill. We can see clearly it's hanging lower and lower in the sky.

Cabin in the icy woods.

The girls are still excited about the nature surrounding us. Cheyenne is enjoying the can filling. Especially when she sees that it yields us over 5 gallons of water. That's well worth the five minutes of shoveling. Eventhough we try to teach them delayed gratification, instant gratification is very rewarding too every now and then.

Cheyenne is working hard, while Robin is bundled up on the swing.

When the job is done, we head up the road. Some belly sledding, mountain (hill) climbing, then down the drive way again. As soon as the sun hides behind the western hill, we can feel the temperature drop. It's usually also a little windier at the road. We don't linger long and sled down the drive. It's a great experience. The girls are in control of their sleds and take it at their desired speed.

Down the road.

Jasmine and Bill came home with several boxes from the post office. From Kentucky to Californai and the Netherland they come this time. We're all excited, but decide to wait till it's day light again. Jasmine already knows what's in one of the boxes. Her tea set! A gift from Christie in Lubbock, Texas, last winter. For several hundred miles it traveled in the trailer with us. Then we left if with friends in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now she has it again. What a joy.

Tea time with Jasmine. She has her tea set again. We biked it from Lubbock, Texas, to Mountainair, New Mexico.

It's a feast unpacking the packages. I find a new version of an old learning game I used to play when I was a little girl; Loco. A question and answer game where you put the right blocks on the right answer. When you flip them all over a drawing appears. If it matches the answer key on the page, you did it right. If not, try again. It's great to see the girls are having loads of fun with it too.

Robin in butterfly outfit. She's so happy with it! She flutters through the room. Thanks Rhonda and Fletcher!

Going loco over Loco; a learning/puzzle game. Bedankt Watte, Tanja, Floris en Hugo!

When we're all around the table, we take turns saying what we're thankful for. Robin is not so good at awaiting her turn, but when it's finally hers, she rattles off all the family members and friends she knows. "I'm thankful for Adam, Jesse, Sara, Pake en Beppe, Cheyenne, Jasmine, Mom, Dad, Pake en Beppe, Christopher, Lindsay,... And I love chipmunks!" Yesterday she asked me if she'd forgotten anyone. Which gave me the idea to make a family tree. The girls jumped on the occasion.

Cheyenne rolls out the big roll of paper. Perfect for this event. Then she's already starting a tree; taking it quite literally - and rightfully so. Jasmine starts with cutting out apples from red paper. On them I need to write the names of all her stuffies. A hustle and bustle of activity.

Cheyenne is drawing a tree to hold our family lineage. Robin is always thankful for everyone in our family and wants to know if she's not forgetting anyone.

Our family tree. We've started from the bottom up. The grandparents and great-grandparents are the roots and the trunk of the tree. Bill and I are where the trunk meets the canopy. Cheyenne, Jasmine and Robin are our fruits, from which new branches eventually will spring. Jesse, Adam and Sara are another branch on the tree, where Sara has already sprouted two new fruits with her husband Chris. And so the tree will keep growing.

This is an update on Bill's kids:
Jesse is doing quite well in middle school. He has just purchased a longboard skate-board and having a blast, wearing the wheels off of it. We're looking forward to trying to get him up here for the holiday season.
Adam is in college in the state of Tennessee. He is released from the National Guard and he joined the ROTC unit at college. He seems very happy with his new life. Just months away from his 19th birthday he's going to have his first car licensed and is going to be riding. He is not happy that we got him a standard transmission. He was hoping for an automatic. But he's finally decided he can learn to drive it.
Sara has two wonderful children; my [Bill] grandchildren. Her husband has come home from Iraq. They have settled in Bristol, Virginia. Sara relays that my grandson Christopher asks for his PaPa daily.

While Robin and Bill take a nap, I take Cheyenne and Jasmine up to the road; sleds included. I inform them I'm going for a walk. Always the curious couple, they are eager to follow. Today I want to walk to the beginning of Darling Avenue, where it meets Old Murphy Dome. It's about a mile, relatively flat, with some minor ups and downs, perhaps good for sledding. It's a clear day, with clouds on the horizon. I'm hoping to see Mt McKinley, although I doubt it due to the clouds.

On the road to the beginning of Darling Avenue.

In the seal pose they slither down the slight hill.

Upclose with the snow. They're tiny frozen slivers. Magnificent.

Where Darling meets Old Murphy we encounter three sled dog teams. What a sight! There was also one team that really pulled a sled.

Sighting Mount McKinley. Eventhough it was pretty cloudy, we can clearly see it high on the horizon. I'm so thankful I took the guess to walk to the intersection.

On the way back there is more down hill. It's great, trying to race each other. Cheyenne asks if we can go again tomorrow. That's a great question to receive.

A final game with Robin on this sabbath evening before she completes her fourth time around the sun.

Tonight we eat stew - beef, potatoes, carrots, tomato soup all mixed together. Cheyenne made it a couple of days ago. It's always good to have a left over day. The stew stayed frozen outside, in our constant freezer. I try something new to go with it: pita bread. It's fairly simple, although the kneeding is a bit more involved. The result is funny. The little balls come out of the oven totally puffed up, like mis shapen balls. When we taste it, especially after dipping it in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice, we can't but fight over it. It goes great with the stew too.

Bill: My first delicious pita bread since coming home from Israel may of last year.

Here is the weather forecast for the coming week. Reality check? We shall see.

It's getting colder. If it's right... They usually change it again, but we trust it's getting colder for sure.

We're very happy where we are, with the progress we're making with the book, with the wood supply, the water situation, the amount of food we've stocked up. We're living here with lots of enjoyment and are very thankful for this opportunity to share it with you.

Saturday, November 13th 2010

Robin's 4th Birthday!

Snow welcomes our morning! Big fluffy flakes fall down from the sky. What a pleasure. While the snow keeps falling we have a hot cake breakfast. When we're all satisfied it's time for presents.

Robin gets a soft purple ball from us. We'll be throwing it around the cabin this winter. That's for sure. Cheyenne and Jasmine surprise all of us with presents for Robin. Each of them has gift wrapped a book with self made wrapping paper. On top they added a card with lots of love. Soooo special.

Robin is excited with her gift from Pake en Beppe.

And if all this is not enough, Cheyenne and Jasmine have another surprise. That one is outside though. We get all dressed up for a walk in the woods. Following the trail Cheyenne and Jasmine make, we find a burrow under a fallen tree. Leaning against the tree are spruce branches, providing some shelter from the snow. It's not snow tight, but we can always add to it. It's beautiful. Robin moves in immediately.

Cheyenne and Jasmine have a surprise for Robin; a burrow in the woods.

When we're back inside it's finally time for cake! Chocolate cake with strawberries and of course a number 4 candle. It's a delicious one. We enjoy it tremendously.

Robin is 4! It's time for cake.

At the beginning of the evening we decide to watch a movie together. "Up" is our movie of choice. A great story. During the movie we receive neighbors Matt and Cari. What a pleasant surprise. Cheyenne is a perfect hostess, providing hot tea, peanuts and a piece of chocolate. It's hilarious. We enjoy the company and finish the movie way later, making us all go to bed real late (Pedouin Time speaking that is).

Monday, November 15th 2010

The rest of the weekend is spend in inventions and adventures. We have a book on the shelve called "101 great science experiments." Jasmine has been leafing through it and has already build a crane. This time it's a lamp she wants to make. She has a little light bulb and will not stop until she's figured it out.

Jasmine didn't quit until she figured out how to use a battery and aluminum foil to make a bulb glow. She proudly shows it to Daddy.

Close up.

Later we walk to the end of Darling to visit our neighbors. They have a beautiful tiny little cabin. The first one they'd ever build. They build it from scratch, as they could afford it. It reminds us so much of us; we did that as well in Kentucky, although our cabin is a shed compared to theirs. Beautiful, cozy, perhaps 12 by 12 (feet!), with a loft for sleeping. What more does a young couple need to get started!

We're going down the road to visit our neighbors.

Bill is pulling the ladies' train.

Today Bill and Cheyenne are heading for town. Bill doesn't have work this week, but has some errands to run. A pleasant adventure awaits Cheyenne as she and Bill decide to take the sled down the mountain a bit.

Cheyenne and Bill are heading out for an adventure. They're going to walk and sled the 8 mile to the mailbox where David is going to pick them up to finish their journey to town.

They're not even a hundred yards from our drive way or a four wheeler appears. They get to hitch hike to the end of Darling. Being pulled by the four wheeler is grand! Some more walking and sledding, then it's a down hill ride off Spinach Creek, until they meet David. Thanks David!

Friday, November 19th 2010

A cup of coffee is in the making, I read a book (The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss) while I wait. Bill sets up the computers. We're going to sit at the table and work there tonight. It's after ten, the girls are just in bed, although not yet asleep.

As I'm standing in the kitchen "doing my thing", I hear crying coming from upstairs. It's Jasmine. I hear her talking to Cheyenne and Robin how she doesn't want to grow up. She wants to stay five forever, and she doesn't want Robin and Cheyenne to change either or mom and dad.

I listen to it for a little while, debating what to do. I need to do the website. I didn't come home until late last night and didn't do it yesterday. I have to do it today...

When did modern life become so complicated? When did we start to put work over everything else? Over the feelings of a little girl? Why am I even thinking about this question of whether to ignore what's going on upstairs or to postpone an update? What is more urgent?

Of course, my Jasmine is more urgent. I'm on my way Jasmine! There we lay, head to head, my hands tenderly loving over her head. "Do you want to share with me what's going on?" It doesn't take long, then between sobs it comes out. She wants to stay the way she is. She doesn't want to change.

What can you say to that? I believe it isn't what we say, it is what we do. She needs my love right now. She needs me to tell her that I don't have an answer, but that I do understand what she feels. I've had those feelings too, and still do from time to time.

These are the moments that time stands still. Only here and now counts. These moments, I'll always remember.

During the time I'm upstairs, Bill joins us. He lays with Robin, who doesn't quite understand what's going on (but doesn't mind the attention either), and Cheyenne, who is well aware of what Jasmine is talking about. When Jasmine is feeling better, I move over to Cheyenne's bed, to have a moment with her.

Cheyenne remembers the time when she was four or five and she wanted to skip a birthday. I'm pretty sure I put the number of her choice on her birthday cake. We talk about how sometimes we want to jump ahead and see what's around the corner, and sometimes we want the time to just stand still, when everything is just right.

Also here I can relate. We talk about building a time machine so we can fly to the times of our likings. We talk about the stuffies, how they in a way are a timemachine by themselves, transporting us back in time, to the moment we got them, the friends who were with us, where we were. We talk about each and every one of them.

About old Dogge, how he was her best friend, going with her wherever she went; roaming the yard, going to school, even going through the scanners at the airport. We talk about new Dogge, how much we love him already, and how complete our family is again to have that silly dog with us.

I end with a story of Super Dogge, how he helps a ptarmigan in trouble. We laugh, love and hug. For now, they have been consoled, until their amazing minds start spinning again with the questions of the why and what of this world.

I go back downstairs, and decide to share this moment with you. It is these moments that make life; where love and feelings are arroused and shared in the comfort of our together ness.

What just happened is real life. How we live and what we do is just a minor part of it. A part we're gladly sharing with you. We live our life the way we see fit. How we live doesn't fit most people's lifestyle. And that's great! We're all different and that is so great about it. We choose what fits us, with the amplification on "choose".

We've chosen to spend an arctic winter here in this 700 sq ft cabin high in the hills north of Fairbanks. A cabin without wired electric or running water; necessities as most would say. No electric, no problem; we have car batteries, thus we have light; we have propane, thus we have light and an oven to cook and bake with; we have a woodstove to heat the cabin and our water. No running water, no problem; we have a shovel, two garbage cans and snow - add them all together, and we have water; we have a cast iron tub, thus we can take baths; we have a sink with a straight down pipe - there is your "indoor plumbing"; we have a watering can (yes, the one usually used to water flowers) for a tap. And of course we have an outhouse, as well as an indoor potty for the girls.

In these short months that we've been here, we've acquired our share of material items: a cd player to go with the computer to watch DVDs with; a generator to charge the batteries with; a computer for Bill with a printer to print the parts of the book we've written; several sleds (great fun, and handy for hauling items up the drive way, or bringing items down); and lots more.

We have hundreds of pounds of food; flour, sugar, rice, beans, noodles, cheese, butter, milk, eggs, meat, juices, cans of vegetables and fruits, cans of spaghetti sauce, etc etc. All in preparation for this winter. Just in case we get stuck here at minus 40 for two months. We've made our choices, we've prepared for possible outcomes and we'll keep making choices.

We make choices all the time. Minor or major ones, they all count. Be mindful of what you choose. Do something with this life that makes you feel filled with love and joy as many times as possible.

The previous days

We've seen subzero temperatures for the first time! Not only during the night, but also during the day! It's cold, but it's not that cold yet. It dropped to minus 9 at the window, probably a little colder away from the cabin. Jasmine, Robin and I add a couple of extra layers of clothing and head out the door to enjoy a walk. It's refreshing to say the least.

The sun at noon.

Crystal clear.

This bundle is Robin. I'm pulling the sled up the road to see if Denali is visible. I'm soo disappointed to see the snow is scraped off the road. There isn't even a yard left to pull a sled over without scraping the bottom over the gravel. (Rinze kin dus wol tus bliuwe!)

Crackers and chees in a sun spot.

We make it to Old Murphy, admire Denali for a bit, then head back to the cabin. It's more down hill this way, but not much sledding without snow!

Bill and Cheyenne come back home on Tuesday, with a surprise for me! I get a ride into town on Wednesday to spend an afternoon, a night and a day, all by myself! Bill will not take no for an answer. It's been a long time to have some quality time alone for me. As we've travelled across the country we've heard many older married couples say they were happy together because they had "quality time together AND quality time apart".

On Wednesday afternoon I head out with Cari and Matt. First and last stop: the Hampton Inn & Suites. By Bills request I'm going to spend the night there. I finally get a chance to meet manager Casey and to thank him for the hospitality we've received when we arrived in Fairbanks on August the 13th by letting us stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites for two nights.

For the next day and a half I pamper myself with a hot shower, a plunge in the hot tub (quite boring by myself), an overload of nothing on tv, a hot meal at Chili's, roaming in Walmart and Barnes&Noble, and surfing super fast internet. On Thursday evening neighbor Angela brings me back up to the cabin. It was great.

Bill and the girls played puzzles, worked on workbooks, enjoyed the fresh new snow and worked on splitting and stacking firewood. Lots and lots of daddy time.

Today we're all together again. We probably have received an additional five inches of snow. It's covered the road again. Back to belly sledding! We enjoy puzzle time inside; I brought the girls a puzzle with all the countries of the world. And we enjoy outdoor time. We sled and walk up to the road. The girls climb the steep side of the road, slipping back down regularly. Then trying it again and again until they make it to the top.

Bill snaps my picture as I arrive all snow covered from a sled ride.

Plenty of snow!

Coming back from the outhouse.

Robin in nature.

Jasmine enjoying the swing.

Robin enjoying the sledding.

Robin's birch.

Later in the afternoon Bill and Robin ride to town with Johnna. The charger for the batteries doesn't work and we need it fixed. Since Cheyenne and Jasmine are usually going to town, today it's Robin's turn. On the way to town Robin informs them she wants to go to the library, nowhere else. Her demand is granted, thanks to Johnna. Robin proudly walks out with seven new books in her back pack.

While they are in town, Cheyenne, Jasmine and I work on more purses. They pick and choose all sorts of material. Pockets on top of pockets. There is no limit to their imagination. We sew four purses and have a whole bunch ready to be sewn. Our little purse factory on full steam ahead.

Finding the right materials.

Thanks to Glenda, Ron, Pake, en Beppe, the girls have sold 37 purses already! We're limiting ourselves to a total of 75 purses. So you still have a chance to order your unique Pedouin purse! Click here to go to the order form!

Cheyenne suddenly says: "Look at that." It's the evening sky she points out. Wow.

More snow is in the air.

Thanksgiving week 2010

What a week! And it has barely begun. Highs have alternated with lows. Cold has alternated with warmth (!). A week that we feel fully alive, but sometimes also regret that life is not a bit more mundane from time to time.

From subzero temperatures it has rizen into the 30s! Above zero. The most beautiful snowflakes you've ever seen, fluffy, slowly drifting down from the sky, adding to the already beautiful winter landscape. A bright full moon making it as bright in the night as it is in the day. No flaslights needed on the way to the outhouse. It's awesome.

Icicles over our bicycle.

Arctic Robin.

Cheyenne is getting a Nordic ski lesson from Angela.

The sky is ablaze.

Robin found a great play place.

Jasmine's turn to try on the skies. She stays on level ground for now, and is doing great.

On Monday we wake up to rain! It's hard to believe. Rain at this time of the year. The loaded snow covered trees are getting heavier and heavier, until they can't hold no more. Down drops the snow, in big avalanche like masses. It's a saddening sight, until we realize that wet snow is great for packing! Time to build forts and igloos. The girls get right to it.

Wet snow is great for building. Cheyenne built a fort.

Jasmine built an igloo.

Robin is tapping the snow down, making sure that the bed she made for Cheyenne is comfortable.

When I join them a little later, I'm going for the bigger igloo. I've always wanted to build one and now is the perfect time. I line up buckets full in a circle, leaving one place open for the "door". Bill and Jasmine fill the cracks with more snow.

On to bigger projects. Bill and Jasmine secure the buckets of snow.

Then I add three more layers, each leaning in a bit more, until they meet at the top. More and more snow is added, until it looks like a massive block of snow. The opening is just big enough to crawl through. The girls are delighted. And so am I, it's a great project. I finally did it!

The igloo is ready!

The ups and down in weather is a great reflection of us in relation to the book. After writing, revising, adding, rewriting and more revision, we feel we finally have a good chapter one ready. We feel relieved to have this accomplished. We're trying to figure out the system behind it. The learning curve is huge, but we're climbing it, one stroke at a time.

Chapter two has been thrown out (rightly so), chapter three is under revision now, chapter four has been started. It's an immense project. A good thing we didn't know what it entailed, or else we might never have started it. We try to look at it as if it is the bicycle journey. That certainly had its ups and downs. Well, so does writing the book.

We're still in our first miles with the book, but we have the route roughly laid out and we know where the finish line is. Eventually we made it to Fairbanks. Eventually we will have the book ready. We're still aiming for late spring/early summer.

As a thank you to all our friends, family and supporters we are planning to have the first chapter available to you online! The idea is to have it available by Thanksgiving, but as of this writing (Tuesday), we have no internet reception. This storm that brought in all the rain must have done something with one of the AT&T towers or so. We keep on trying. If it's meant to be, it'll be online by Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy it in the company of loved ones. We do too.

Read the first chapter of the book! Click here!

Tuesday, November 30th 2010

There is a sound in the woods I haven't heard before. Even through my bivouac hat I can hear it clearly. The thought of a moose comes to mind, but I quickly discard it. We haven't seen moose on the property since September. A buck and a female came running by our cabin; they were just as stratled to see us as we were to see them. The only evidence of moose we see now are tracks. They lead into the driveway, then disappear into the woods.

I try to uncover my ear. My glove covered fingers are not doing a good job. I'm thinking of pulling my gloves off so I can accomplish what I'm intending to do, but at minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 degrees Celcius), I decide against it. I finally manage to free my ear. Then I hear the sounds again.

It's a creaking sound, like the rusted hinges on a barn door when they begrudgingly move under force. Well, there are no barns here. Let alone barns with doors with hinges that actually open. I'm mesmerized by the sounds. I automatically look up at the sky, cocking my head to the left to hear all I can.


My mind is making a picture to go with it. Frozen trees, frozen branches, covered in a dusting of crystalized snow. They want to sway in the slight wind, but are scared to do so in fear of broken limbs. All they can utter is grunts as their bones are forcibly moved, there and back again. While they surrender to the wind, with its slight but continuous force, they surrender some of the crystalized snow. It rains down in a tinkling sound; the sound a dressed up Christmas tree makes when accidentally bumped into.

It's magical. It's intoxicating. I can't help but linger.

My eyes are gazing up at the sky. I won't even begin to count all the stars. The Milky Way is right above me. To the southwest I can clearly see planet Jupiter. With binoculars or a telescope I would be able to find some of it's moon. An amazing thought.

We first see the planet in the late afternoon sky (it's getting dark by 5pm), low over the southern horizon. You have to look sharp between the branches of the trees. When you spot it it's like a lantern hanging from a branch, just somewhere randomly hung up in the woods. It's 10.30pm now, it's no longer hiding between the branches.

After visiting Jupiter, my eyes travel to find some familiar constellations; Cassiopeia and Ursa Major (the big dipper) are easy to spot. That's when I get a special treat. As the magical tinkling of the snow continues, accompanied by the creaking of "the hinges", two shooting stars cross the night sky. One shoots to the north east. The other follows the Milky Way towards the north. What a magical moment.

As I'm writing this, I realize I forgot to make two wishes. But what is there to wish for? I have a loving family with whom I'm traveling on a magical journey over paths unknown. I like it this way.

My two wishes? They go to you. I wish you the courage to take responsibility for the path you travel. And I wish you an abundance of love to surround you on your rewarding, and sometimes rocky, journey.

Adventures of the previous days

A week with an icestorm is traded in for a week of subzero temperatures. Really subzero temperatures. Minus 10 and colder during the day, minus 20 and colder during the night. The sky is clear, the air is crisp. Going from 65+ degrees in the cabin to minus 15 when you open the door takes your breath away. But once you're out there it's not so bad. We're wearing longjohns, extra socks, a thick pair of pants, a tanktop, a long sleeve shirt, a jacket and the accesories (scarf, mitts, boots, bivouac hats).

The girls are busy.

We're adding a tunnel to the igloo.

Jasmine in the igloo garden. The tunnel is complete.

Robin is coming out of the tunnel.

A little peek hole lets us see Cheyenne in the igloo.

I'm filling up a garbage can with snow.

The title of our book. Made by Cheyenne with aluminum foil, highlighters and sticky tape.

Robin and Jasmine are keeping Bills winterclothes hostage so he can't leave to go to work.

When we're outside we are keeping busy. We walk up to the road with sleds and skis. At the road I put Cheyenne or Jasmine in the ski shoes, then on the skis and off they are. Up and down the road they go. Each time a little more smoothly. Robin enjoys belly sledding. I'm glad she does, because it's important to keep moving. I walk with my little skiers, it keeps me moving too. I forgot my longjohns once and it was cold. It was as if my legs were on fire, a cold fire, with needles stinging in them. That's a lesson quickly learned.

We're heading up the driveway for some excersize.

Jasmine is doing great on skis.

Jasmine hits holes in the snow. The holes she uses to put her feet in so she can climb up the hill side.

We're on the trail of a bunny rabbit.

Jasmine scoots through the snow like a choo-choo train.

Keep on trucking Cheyenne!

What can I say...

The sun stays behind the trees, spreading its rays only to reach the tops of the trees behind the cabin. It's around three when the rays touch the cabin, before it sets on the south western horizon around four. The brightness of the snow with the clear ness of the sky gives us a couple of extra hours of light. It's hard to believe that in three weeks the days are getting longer again. The days don't seem to be so short yet.

The moon in the sky.

The western horizon.

The rays of the sun give the trees a golden hue.

Click here to enjoy
Life in a Winter Wonder Land!

Getting Ready for Winter
Our First Month in Fairbanks.

Winter is Coming!
Our Second Month in Fairbanks.

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