What a fast year 2007 was! It just zoomed right by and is almost gone! Does this mean we're getting old?? (SMILE)
We are all doing well. We stay busy with our day jobs. Don is still working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. He also took another computer course this fall semester through the Tanana Valley Campus of the University of Alaska here in Fairbanks; another class to keep up with the ever-changing computer world. He's been working with computers for most of the last thirty years and has seen a lot of changes in that time.
On his days off he "enjoys" shoveling snow from our driveway, or taking care of our lawn - depending on the season. (SMILE) Don did some work on our back yard deck this year. The deck stairs needed rebuilding and some of the deck flooring needed replacing. That kept him busy during the summer weekends.
In his "spare" time, Don likes to work on wood carving projects he gives as gifts at Christmas and other occasions. I am the lucky recipient of many of his carvings! (SMILE) You can see pictures of many of his carvings HERE.
Grace is still working for our local newspaper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She also worked part-time for a while, at the College Coffeehouse this summer. She enjoys being a "barista." Grace bought a little kayak this summer and went out on Chena Lakes, about 18 miles south of Fairbanks, and Robe Lake near Valdez. This year our "traveler'" also camped in Eagle River, Alaska, climbed Angel Rocks near Fairbanks and visited San Antonio, Texas. Next trip I think she wants to take is to Hawaii, since Alaska Airlines flies there now and someday she'll have enough miles to fly free! And lest I forget, Grace also got braces this year! (SMILE)
You can read Grace's Christmas letter HERE and see pictures from some of her travels HERE.
Grace atop Angel Rocks, May 2007
I am still working part-time at the best little Credit Union in Alaska - ten years now! I have said it before and will say it again, it is the best job I have ever had, and my boss Vicki is like my big sister. I have known her family for many years and she has made me part of it. I first babysat her daughter in the early 1990's in my home daycare. I also babysat for some of her sibling's children. Vicki just became a Grandma for the first time in October - Congratulations, Vicki! (SMILE)
On my days off I enjoy working on our "Family Tree" ancestry research. I have met more "cousins" online this year. I love finding out more about our family! There were four new babies in the Bill and Maxine Smith family this year; that's three more great-nephews, Hunter, Austin and Kaden and one great-neice Launa for me! Congratulations to my "Grandma" sisters, Becky and husband Reggie (Hunter, born to son Jerry and wife Stephanie, and Launa, born to son Nick and wife Becky); to Trisha and husband Dave (Kaden, born to son Alex and wife Jeannette), and to the new "Grandpa," my brother Don and wife Bev (Austin, born to daughter Crystal and husband Justin). (SMILE) Brother Dwight and his daughters are living with our parents and helping them out now. Momma and Daddy are doing as well as can be expected for their age. Daddy will be 82 in January 2008, and Momma was 84 on her birthday last July.
I also work on making and maintaining several web pages. My favorite passion would have to be that I love to take photographs of everything - in Alaska and elsewhere! I especially love to see the birds that come to our bird feeders. Last winter there were lots of Redpolls coming to our feeders. They are small sparrow-like birds with a red spot on top of their heads. They have voracious appetites and went through a lot of thistle seed over the winter months! Fewer came once the weather warmed, but then a large flock came back with their young in the summer. I had a lot of fun photographing them. Redpolls come and go on a two year cycle, and in the fall the majority of them disappeared. Ornithologists suspect many reasons for this cycle, but we noticed that our birch trees haven't got many birch catkins this year, and that is one of their favorite foods. We have only seen about half a dozen hanging around the feeders this winter. The pigeon numbers are down as well, but that's mainly because they scavenge what the Redpolls scatter! Hopefully the Redpolls will return to our feeders next year! (SMILE)
We have also had regular visits of about half a dozen Black-capped Chickadees, and the occasional Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. Most of the other songbirds we see in the summer migrate south for the winter. This winter we noticed a juvenile Northern Shrike flying around a couple of times. Shrikes eat smaller birds, and since this year there just aren't that many birds around, it doesn't stick around. There are a couple of Ravens around watching a Red Squirrel that has a food cache in our neighbor's Spruce tree. The squirrel lives in another neighbor's bird house, and is now using one of our birdhouses for nut storage! We have been putting peanut butter and nuts out on the deck for him and he takes pistachio nuts one by one to the bird house. It's fun to watch him eat the peanut butter and wash his face and hands. He carries frozen chunks of peanut butter up to the Spruce tree! I know the Ravens would "raid his pantry" if they could! (SMILE)
Last May I was fortunate to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk up close and personal - he caught a pigeon in our yard and had it for "lunch" in the neighbor's yard. Our mailman saw it first and told me about it. Thanks to him letting me know about it, I was able to get some close-up photos of that hungry little hawk! He was just beautiful! In my thirty years in Alaska I had never before seen one. The only other raptors I have ever seen close-up are various captive rehab Owls at the Alaska Bird Observatory Owl events, a Great Horned Owl that was nesting in a lumber yard in town and a juvenile Goshawk that caught a pigeon on our deck several years ago. Wish I had had my camera handy for that! (SMILE) Grace has seen many Owls while hiking at Creamer's Field, but I have never seen one there!
Some friends from my youth toured Alaska this summer and we spent a short time visiting and catching up. It was great to see Phil and Shirley after at least thirty years! More of my California friends need to visit Alaska! (SMILE)
I guess that's about all for this year. Stay in touch!
We hope you all have a Merry Christmas, rejoicing and praising God for his wonderful gift, and may God be with you and bless you in the coming New Year! We love you!