Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Very Juneau Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Cody and I had a fun Christmas Eve full of baking cookies, watching movies, opening gifts, and playing games.  In Cody's family it is tradition to watch the original version of The Grinch on Christmas Eve.   So, we popped some cookies in the oven and settled in to watch the movie.  After, we followed my families tradition of opening a new pair of pajamas and playing a board/card game.  Cody got me silly old lady pajamas (they were sooooo cozy) and I got him Chicago Bears pajamas.

Our teeny, tiny first Christmas tree. 

Modeling pajamas! 

Christmas morning rolled around and Cody promptly woke me up at 8:30am.  He repeatedly shook me and shouted, "WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP!!!!"  So…..I did.  We made coffee and cinnamon rolls and tucked into present opening.  Cody and I had the best gifts!  We felt so thankful that our families and friends sent us such wonderful presents. Our families rule!

Cody opening a Kurt Vonnegut book (one of many). 

My new blu-ray player (finally I can watch NetFlix!) 
Specks doing tricks for his Christmas bone. 

After presents and all of that excitement we geared up (using new gear-thanks to my parents!) and took off on a hike. We went out quite a ways into the woods today.  We stumbled across an abandoned car at one point and stopped for some pictures.  It was very Into The Wild-esque. We hiked for about an hour and then walked down to the beach (well, the one in our front yard) and stuck our feet in the water.  Together with Specks we played out in the ocean for another thirty minutes.  It was so nice and relaxing to have the day to spend as a little family.

Abandoned car on Bonnie Doon Trail.

Christmas hiking as a family. 

Christmas views from our house. 

Matching XtraTuff's in the ocean. 

All in all, it was a great Christmas.  We miss our family and friends a lot but we ultimately got to have a great adventure this year.

Merry Christmas from the Thompson-Middleton family. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Recipe for Hiking in Alaska (Winter Edition)

Hiking in Alaska requires a plethora of gear.  You need summer gear, winter gear, rain gear, and snow gear.  Cody and I have actually purchased an extra dresser just for gear.  It is a little ridiculous.  Today, it took me thirty minutes just to put on enough gear to go outside in these single digit temperatures.  For all of my lovely friends and family living the lower 48, here is a guide to what you must wear to venture outdoors (for any length of time) in the winter.

1 pair of long underwear (shirt and pants)
1 regular knit long-sleeve shirt
1 pair of fleece or heavy material workout pants
1 pair of insulated, waterproof pants
1 fleece jacket and/or vest
2 pairs of wool socks
1 pair of leg warmers
2 pairs of knit gloves and/or 1 pair of waterproof gloves
1 pair of waterproof winter boots/hiking boots
 1 pair of removable boot liners (good to -25)
1 scarf (preferably wool)
1 hat and/or earmuffs
1 winter coat (heavy insulation)

Additionally, you may want to take: 

1 backpack 
1 cell phone (for emergencies and picture-taking) 
1 water bottle (purification system optional) 
1 whistle
1 first aide kit
1 knife
1 set of cleats for your boots/shoes 
1 dog :)
Food (packaged-enough to sustain you if you get lost for a little while!) 

And….your set to leave your house for anywhere from 30minutes-3 hours (pending you don't get lost).  If any of you plan on coming to visit you may want to invest in anywhere from one to several of these items.  We like to hike and we want you to all enjoy it with us!

Barely able to use my eyes! 
Trail off of Bonnie Doon Rd. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

White Christmas?

This week in Juneau it has been…sunny?  I haven't seen the sun in so long! I had almost forgotten what it looked like (ha ha).  But, we have had a few days of reprieve from the snow, rain, and clouds.  However, the tradeoff has been incredibly cold temperatures.  We have been ranging from zero-fifteen degrees with chilly Taku winds ripping through town.  I wish we could find a happy medium with this weather!  And, I am a little disappointed that there isn't any snow in the forecast for Christmas, I mean we live in Alaska!! There is no way all of our leftover snow will melt between now and then with these temperatures.  So, it will be more of a leftover-White Christmas.

View from my office-couldn't ask for a better view! 

In other Christmas news, we are ready for December 25th! The tree is decorated, the stockings are hung, and it generally looks like Santa threw up in our house.  I couldn't be more thrilled!  I am still working on wrapping some presents but I think I can get them ready in the next two days.  Cody and I are happy to be spending our first Christmas together here, in the last frontier :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dandelion Jelly

Christmas is nearly here and I couldn't be more excited.  For the first time in years I know without a doubt that we will be enjoying a white Christmas.  The best part about the holidays this year is that Cody and I have two days off together.  We never get time off together so I am extremely excited for our time.  We are planning a trip to Eaglecrest Ski Area and a trip to a local shelter to help distribute meals on Christmas Day.

In the meantime, I am enjoying my kiddos at work and all of their wonderful projects and plans that they have been doing to honor the holidays.  They have been thoroughly covering the school in glitter, beads, ribbons, and tissue paper.  We are celebrating with a Holiday Pajama Party tomorrow.  Everyone will come in the pajamas and we will eat sweet treats and enjoy watching The Polar Express (a personal favorite!)  

Dandelion Jelly (homemade).  Courtesy of a lovely kiddo at my center. 

In housing news, our oven is broken.  The broiler and stovetop work great! But, the oven won't heat.  So, while we wait patiently for the repair man to fix up our source of cooking-goodness.  We are stuck improvising and making some very random dishes.  Here is a picture of our stovetop veggie wraps and rice with peas.  It was a pretty tasty improvisation.  

Veggie wrap (sauteed vegetables and beans) with rice and peas. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pretty Pictures

We are enjoying another snowy weekend in Juneau.  Last night I walked around at the Juneau Gallery Walk (aka First Friday).  This happens on the first Friday of every month.  They open all the shops downtown and feature local artists.  All of the shops have yummy free food and adult beverages as well.  Tonight we went to my company Christmas party.  Cody and I dined on some tasty treats and then headed home.  So far, it has been a fun weekend but pretty low-key.

 I haven't done much picture-taking this week.  But, I did snap a few good ones of the view from our new place.  Enjoy :)

Oceanfront views from casa de Thompson-Middleton. 

Our house-This is the distance from the ocean to our front door. 

Another beautiful view.  

Side view of our little blue home. 

Front of our cute, little home. 

I hope everyone has a happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Snowstorms and Christmas Spirit

It has been a little while since I have written in my blog.  But, we are alive and well up here! We are surviving our first bought with Alaskan snowstorms.  I am sure by standards up here, it has been a teeny, tiny storm.  But, to those of us who are unused to the snow, it has been a bit of an adjustment.  We have also been hearing rumors that we are now in avalanche country.  So, I think our snow fights could get more intense as the season continues. For now, Cody and I are enjoying the change :)  

View from my schools playground. 

We have also been getting into the Christmas spirit.  This is pretty easy to do with a foot of snow on the ground!  It has been nonstop Christmas music, baking, and decorating at Casa de Thompson-Middleton.  We went for a small tree this year but it is still awfully cute (and real, my favorite!). 

Our first Christmas tree! 
Finally, we have been busy moving!  As I posted before, we found a house with ocean-front property!  Granted, we share this property with the other three people living in our complex.  But, still it is a peaceful little place.  We can literally walk out to the water.  Specks is loving being next to the woods as well.  It has been wonderful so far! 

One of my amazing ocean/mountain views.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Snowy Birthdays

It is a snowy weekend here in Juneau.  We woke up to quite the coating this morning.  I slid my way to Home Depot to buy my Christmas tree (a real one of course)!  But, I am waiting until Cody has a day off from work to put it up.  So, I settled for enjoying a snow day today.  I made some hot coca, listened to Christmas tunes, stayed in my pajamas all day, Christmas shopped online, and played outside with Specks.  Here a couple pictures from our snowy day.
Specks frolicking in the snow! 

Rocking my cute Sorrel boots. 
Today is also a very special day…my dad's 60th birthday!! So, happy birthday to my wonderful father. I wish I could be with you in Illinois today.  Missing you lots!

Dad & I enjoying Christmas circa 1996. 

Dad & I playing my favorite game, Pretty Princess! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey-less Thanksgiving

I enjoyed a very satisfying turkey-less Thanksgiving.  Did you??  Ok, I know most of you filled your bellies with meat this holiday and I understand.  But, for those of us who enjoy gorging ourselves on slightly more humane dishes I thought I would post my two favorite recipe's from this Thanksgiving.  One is healthy and one is a wee bit more indulgent.  Enjoy :)

Vegan Cheesy Potatoes (with a side of veggie Stuffing!) 
Vegan Cheesy Potatoes 
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup Veggie Broth
2 tbs of Nutritional Yeast 
5 large potatoes sliced thinly 
2 cups corn flakes cereal/bread crumbs/whatever      topping you choose
2 tbs veg butter 

1/2 cup veg sour cream 
Spices Used: Onion flakes, garlic salt, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and basil. (Add to taste!) 

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a small casserole dish.  In a separate sauce pan add butter and melt.  After the butter has melted add flour and whisk.  When the mixture is smooth add milk and broth and continue whisking.  Then, add sour cream and nutritional yeast.  Add spices to taste.  When sauce has thickened begin layering it in the casserole dish with the potatoes.  Top with cereal, break crumbs, etc.  Cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  

Sugar cookies aka Cody and I's late night snacks. 
Sugar Cookies 
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 cup  sugar 1 cup butter (soft, not melted) 1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla 
Spices: Salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. (Add to taste)  
1 container cream cheese frosting (can be homemade if you are feeling ambitious) 
1 container of sprinkles 

Directions: Preheat oven to 400.  Combine all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl (flour, sugar, baking soda, and spices).  Mix well.  Add butter and mix thoroughly.  After mixing well add the egg and vanilla. Mix with a fork for best results!  Then, place cookies on a tray and put them into the oven for 7-9 minutes.  When the edges begin to brown pull them out.  Let them cool for twenty minutes before adding frosting and sprinkles.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Juneau

Happy Thanksgiving from the Thompson/ Middleton gang!! Thanksgiving was a bit of a challenge this year for the two of us.  It was the first year that either of us had celebrated without our family.  Skype provided us with a chance to chat with the family live. But, we were sad to not have family around for the actual holiday and celebration.  Together, we worked really hard to make it an incredible holiday and I think we succeeded :)

In the morning we drove up to Eaglecrest Ski Area.  The ski runs and lodge aren't technically open yet so we were able to go up for free and hike/play in the snow.  Here are some amazing pictures from the trip!
Greetings from 1500ft! 

Cody being blown away by 60mph winds. 

Me, stuck in a snow drift up to my thighs. 

After our eventful morning and afternoon we tucked in to some cooking. Thanks to cooking for only two people and the lack of meat involved, we managed to cook our feast in only 2.5 hours.  We then enjoyed ourselves a vegetarian feast!

Me, posing with a pumpkin pie in our messy kitchen! 

Stuffing and  Vegan Cheesy Potatoes were just two of our dishes. 

All in all, it was a fun day.  We made the most of our time together and enjoyed making some new traditions for the holidays.  I hope everyone else had a truly wonderful Thanksgiving! Gobble, Gobble!

Specks, the family turkey! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waterfront Apartment Living

I have been seriously slacking on the blog writing this week! But, I am hoping to redeem myself over the next few days because Cody and I have some shenanigans planned to occupy our time off from work.  Part of the reason that I have been MIA is that Cody and I found our own apartment!! We miraculously found an awesome place on the water (DIRECTLY on the water!).  With minimal neighbors and acres of free land in our backyard.  We couldn't be more excited.

The finding of the apartment came in a very coincidental way.  We stumbled upon it, or rather nearly slid my car into it! I got my car stuck in a random driveway out in North Douglas (heading out towards the ski resort/end of the road in that direction).  This very nice family helped me get my car unstuck and they ended up having a rental available.  We really hit it off with them during the hour it took to get my car un-stuck and now we are the proud renters of this gorgeous waterfront apartment.  It used to be a bed and breakfast so it is pretty decently sized for a 1 bed, 1 bath home.  Can't wait to post some pictures for everyone!!

Well, that is all for now.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Cody and I have big plans to celebrate our first Thanksgiving apart from our families.  We are hiking out at the ski resort in the morning, moving some stuff to the new place, and somehow going to make a deliciously, vegetarian dinner.  I will keep everyone updated as the week/weekend unfolds :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rough Terrain: Our First Big Hike!

This has been a weekend bursting full of excitement.  We ended Friday as a sleepy day, which we usually do.  I am always exhausted by the time I get home from work so we usually have pretty quiet Friday evenings.  We did find out that Cody starts working at Home Depot on Tuesday morning though! We are pretty excited for him to start working.  He was going stir crazy staying at home.  It isn't his ideal job, but it is a job that pays the bills for the time being.

Saturday morning/afternoon as a lazy one!  We slept in until 9:30am, which is sleeping in pretty late for us!  We are used to getting up so early that anything after 9am seems like sleeping in late.  We got up and made delicious cinnamon rolls and pretty much lounged around all day.  But, in the evening we got dressed up and headed over to Hangar on the Wharf for some drinks.  It was a lot of fun!  The drinks were pricey but we were able to sample some awesome beers.

Sunday morning we made it a point not to sleep in because we wanted to get in a full day of hiking.  We were a little disappointed this morning to see that it was only thirty degrees and raining (typical Juneau weather for this time of year).  It had also snowed so we were looking at some pretty slippery hiking.  But, we bucked up and decided to try it out anyways! It turned out to be an amazing way to spend the day.  We got to see and do some pretty incredible stuff.

First, we walked up to the visitors center.  This is the easiest access point to start the trail.  The woman in the visitors center forewarned us that while the trail was only 3.5 miles it was very rough terrain and would take multiple hours to complete.

Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center/ entrance to the trail.

View of the glacier-blue ice! 
We then spent the next 1.5 hours hiking upwards on a pretty serious trail (at least for us less experienced hikers).  It was a beautiful hike but fairly taxing.  The incline was steep and the weather conditions made it very slippery.
View from the summit of the hiking trail.  
On the way back down we were able to hike a little more leisurely.  The decline was more gradual the trail was more developed.  We stopped and played out on a frozen lake for a bit and enjoyed goofing around on the trail more that we did on the way up the mountain.

Specks and Cody out on the pond.
Finally, we made it back to our starting point.  Round trip we were gone for between 2.5 and 3 hours.  The sun was starting to set by the time we got back at 3:30pm.  We didn't realize it would get dark so quickly! 

The end of the trail. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weekly Reader: Ken Follett

Surprise! I am gracing you all with midweek post (not that very many people read this ha ha.)  I wanted to give all of my wonderful friends, family, and fellow bloggers a good book recommendation. Not sure how it is in the Lower 48, but here is Alaska it has been cool and rainy for the better part of the last week.  Perfect time of the year to tuck in to a good book (or four!)

With that being said, my book recommendation for this week is actually an author recommendation.  That author is Ken Follett.  Now, some of you might not be huge fans of historical fiction.  Follett's books are truly amazing and really have something for everyone though.  Each book can be read as a series of a stand alone story.  There is action, adventure, love, intrigue, political turmoil, etc.  My personal suggestions are: Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, Fall of Giants, and Winter of the World.  The first two are a set as are the last two.  There is also a miniseries that was recently created that follows the book Pillars of the Earth.  The only downside, for some readers, is that each book is roughly 900 pages long. But, you really can't go wrong with an epic novel by this guy.  Check out the books for yourself!

Ken Follet Official Site
Good Reads Review 
Amazon Reviews & Book Listings

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Eventful, Rainy Weekend

Back home when it rains, life stops.  Everyone stays indoors and curls up with a book or a television show to wait the rain out.  But, here that's really not possible because it rains all the time (or snows lately).  Cody and I have been adjusting to living the rainy life.  This weekend we weren't going to let a little sogginess put a damper on making the most of our time together.

View of the mountains 11/02/12. 

The mountains during some heavy rain. 

On Saturday we woke up early and got around just in time to go pick up a new car! Well, a new car to us.  We bought a 1996 Toyota 4Runner for Cody to have to get around in.  He sold his car when we moved from Illinois and sharing a car was getting pretty difficult.  But, we weren't ready to make too big of a purchase yet so we bought quite the interesting ride.  On the bright side, it came equipped with snow tires!

Cody's class new ride. 

On Saturday we also opened an Alaskan bank account (WOO!) So, I can finally cash my paycheck on Monday.  Also, we checked out a restaurant/ bar called Hangar on the Wharf.  It was a neat little place that served just about anything you can imagine, including southern comfort food.  Very, very tasty food! Check the link out below.  It has the menu and a little information about the place.

Hangar on the Wharf

Finally, we made it to Sunday.  Sunday is a bittersweet day for me because it is very relaxing but I am always dreading the end of my weekend.  I try to make the most of it though.  So, Cody and I went to   the mall this morning and stocked up on rain gear and then took the puppy on a nice little hike.  We did some stuff around the house and then tucked in to a pizza from our new favorite pizza joint, Island Pub.

" The Big Cheese" has mozzarella, feta, bleu, provolone, and gouda cheeses!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween, Bears, and Everything Spooky

TGIF! I am so glad that Friday finally showed up to greet me.  It has been a long week.  Between halloween fun, over-eating sweets, sick kiddos, sick employees, and the general inability to find substitute teachers around here, it has been nuts at work.  But, it was still a fun week and there were lots of new adventures to be had.

Tuesday and Wednesday we celebrated Halloween (Juneau style). This meant enduring heavy snowfall while attempting Halloween festivities.  There was a "trunk-or-treating" school function on Tuesday for the kiddos who are too little to walk around to get treats.  All of the preschool employees and families passed candy out of their cars instead of houses.  This was fun and the kiddos got way more candy than necessary.  Then, on Wednesday we had a Halloween party at school. For dinner, I dined on BRAINS (aka tasty spaghetti) and watched The Exorcist with Cody in the evening.  The following day was basically passed by in a sugar coma.

Finally, we made it to Friday! After having a crazy week full of sickness at work we finally had everyone there today.  But, then the craziness just multiplied.  There was a bear at our school! We were out on the playground when a child noticed a bear had approached our fence.  Insanity ensued and we all ran inside.  Thankfully, one of our teachers had a whistle on and was able to get the kiddos inside quickly.  We made so much noise getting inside that we scared the bear back into the woods!

Cody and I had anticipated having a fun Friday night out on the town.  Every first Friday of the month in Juneau there is an art festival-ish gathering downtown which involves a free beer and wine tasting.  We were pretty excited about it but the craziness of the week wore us both out.  So, we made potato soup and lounged instead.

Cody preparing the soup! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Weekend/Mendenhall Glacier

This weekend I was feeling a little glum about our lack of Halloween plans.  Usually, Halloween is my favorite holiday.  I LOVE planning elaborate costumes, decorating, baking spooky treats, etc.  This year we couldn't decorate because we were moving and I ran out of time to get a costume.  So, I was looking for a way to fill my Halloween void this weekend and I found it via traveling to Mendenhall Glacier. 
Panoramic shot of Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls. 

Cody and I loaded in the car yesterday and headed out to the glacier! I had never seen a glacier before, except on google pictures, so I was pretty stoked.  When we got there we decided to go off the beaten path a bit and hike on the beach pathway instead of the main trail.  We hiked back to the glacier and a waterfall known as Nugget Falls.  It was soooo gorgeous! We couldn't believe our luck at getting to hike out there on such a sunny and beautiful day.  The weather was perfect! A little chilly, but that is to be expected :) 
Cody on Steep Creek Trail.  There aren't many bear signs in the Midwest!

Me standing in front of Mendenhall Glacier-on the beach trail.

To top off our day of fun we made some Mexican food and tucked in to a scary move.  We watched Insidious, which was pretty scary.  To make matters freakier, we got a call at 9:30 that there had been an earthquake and we were under s tsunami advisory (huh??).  As midwesterners, we are not used to earthquakes, tsunamis, or anything of the sort.  Thankfully, we didn't see any effects of it.  But, my sister saw a bit of it living down in Hawaii.  Anyways, we are all safe and sound for now! 

So, maybe not my typical Halloween weekend but it was still an eventful one.  We are going back to the glacier today and taking the dog.  Thinking about making a little bit longer of a hike today.  Then, this evening we are going to look at a car.  We are hoping to buy a second car with 4WD so that Cody and I aren't stuck sharing mine all winter.  

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday :) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bear Drills

Well, today marked my first day as a Curriculum Supervisor at my new job.  To be clear, this is my first adult job so I was pretty nervous.  The day went very smoothly though.  I did a lot of training with the other supervisor and met all of the kiddos.  There are forty kiddos at the center so I have a lot of names to try and remember!

The most interesting part of the day was when I learned how to do a "bear drill."  When I first heard of this I honestly thought it was a joke.  But, I guess that bears wander up on to the playground sometimes so they have practice drills.  For these drills the kiddos hear a whistle blow and they basically take off running for the entrance of the building and get inside as quickly as possible.  This is pretty hysterical to me.  I can't believe that I am living someplace where drills need to happen like this!! Crazy stuff.

Have any of you ever done a bear drill?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Illinois to Alaska: Days 3-7

Well, I know we didn't keep everyone updated on the road as much as we would have liked.  Things were crazy though and by the time we got to the hotel at night we were pooped.  So, here is a little crash course in the last few days of our travels.

Day 3:  On the third day we drove out of Colorado, through Utah, and finally stopped in Idaho.  It was a very long day of travel.  We could have made the trip in eight hours but we got held up in Colorado by a cop.  We were pulled over for some crazy reason.  The cop then said that we were "suspicious"  and that he needed to question us individually! Cody and I felt like we were being harassed.  He pulled me out of the car for no reason and told me he thought the car was stolen even though I gave him valid insurance and registration!  All in all, he kept us for forty minutes.  Thankfully, Cody and I are the opposite of suspicious, so he had to let us go.  The rest of the day was mildly uneventful after this point. The drive was pretty and the towns were few and far between.  We went 110 miles between towns in Utah!

Day 4:  On the fourth day we drove out of Idaho, through Oregon, and stopped in Washington.  Idaho was pretty and Oregon was too.  We were expecting Oregon to be a lot more green than it was but we were in eastern Oregon and we didn't realize the desert stretched quite that far.  Washington was by far our favorite scenery of the driving trip.  We got to Port Orchard, WA and stayed with some wonderful family friends who graciously took us in for the night.  We were incredibly thankful for home cooked food and a comfy bed  (Thanks Gina and Conny!!).
Specks & I in Oregon 

Port Orchard, WA

Days 5-7:  We finally boarded the boat on Friday!! Woo! We loved the ferry ride and Bellingham, WA (the ferry left from Bellingham).  Bellingham was gorgeous and the ferry terminal was in such a pretty location.  We finally boarded this GIGANTIC ferry boat and took off for Alaska.  It was a breathtaking trip and Cody and I met some fun people on the ferry.  We stopped in Ketchikan, Wrangle, and Petersburg.  We ate breakfast at this restaurant called "The Landing"  in Ketchikan and it was really tasty.  The boat ride was fun for us, Specks wasn't a huge fan though.  He hated using the bathroom on the boat.  But, we all survived and made it to Juneau at 5am this morning.  Finally, we are tucked in our new apartment and are spending some time relaxing :)
Cody waiting to board the ferry.  

Cody & I sailing through the Gulf of Alaska!