Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our little family to yours!! 

We had a beautiful day here in Alaska.  The temps were fairly warm, but not warm enough to melt away our white Christmas! We woke up early, opened our presents, took naps, watched movies, cooked a big dinner, and went to the beach with Specks.  It was an amazing day and I could not have asked for more :) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve!

The picture above is of Cody and I last year on Christmas Eve.  We've come a long way in the last year! At this time last year we had only been living in Alaska for three months, we'd been living in our apartment for only a couple of weeks, and Cody and I were both working low-paying jobs while we held out for our dream jobs (me-waiting for a teaching position, cody-waiting to get hired as a behavioral case manager).  This year is a much different tune! We have made our house a home, we've settled into our own traditions, and we are no longer struggling to make ends meet.  What a difference a year makes :)

It is tradition in our little family to open a pair of pajamas and a game on Christmas Eve.  Our evening will look a little something like this…

6:00pm- Dinner (prep and eat)
7:00pm- Watch the original cartoon version of The Grinch
7:30pm- Open Christmas Eve gifts (pj's and games)
8:00pm- Play a few rounds of whatever game we bought this year
9:00pm- Splurge on some Christmas treats before bedtime
9:30pm- Head to bed to read, snuggle, and drink some warm tea

I will hopefully have a few more posts to share about Christmas over the next week because….I am heading home! I will be taking a trip back to the Chicago-area to visit my parents this week.  Cody and Specks aren't coming with me so I will miss them dearly.  However, it has been fifteen months since the last time I saw most of my family so I am pretty jazzed.  I hope all of you have a beautiful holiday season! :)

What are your Christmas traditions? 
Are you doing any holiday travel? 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Day In The Life: Alaskan Teacher

6:00am: Usually I am hitting snooze about this time.  Zzz….  But, then I somehow make it out of bed to walk the dog, primp, and eat breakfast.

Shameless bathroom selfie before work. 
7:20am: Leave the house (in the dark) for work and make the ten minute drive to the elementary school.   Typically this involves getting stuck behind a school bus. Cody and I carpool fairly often because we work at the same school.

8:00am-3:00pm: School! I have students in my classroom at this time.  The rest of the elementary school gets out at 2:30pm but because my classroom has two sessions (AM and PM) each class has to be the same length. The AM class is at school from 8:00am-11:30am and the PM class attends from 11:30am-3:00pm.  This makes for a pretty crazy schedule and some long days for me but I really like my job so I don't complain…much ;)

I try to do a cooking activity with my students each week (this teaches math, reading, writing, and practical life skills).  This particular day we made homemade hot cocoa! It was perfect to sip on after our "winter adventure."

Headed out on our "winter adventure" at 9:30am and it's still not completely light outside! 
3:30pm: Leave school (in the dark). Depending on the day I head home and take Specks for an extra long walk or hit the gym.  I try to split my time pretty evenly between these two things.  Specks takes walks every day but I try to do longer strolls/hikes a few times a week.  That is getting a LOT more difficult on weekdays though due to the lack of sunlight.  We have to wear reflective vests when we want to walk at night so that cars can see us.

Snowstorm as I leave the school! 
4:45pm: I usually am either picking up the house or doing some at-home classroom prep at this time.  For classroom prep I usually spread out at our teeny kitchen table.  Also, cleaning our house is a pretty speedy activity because the house is so tiny.  I suppose this is one perk of being a renter? Haha.

5:00pm: Start cooking dinner.  I cook almost all of our meals but usually once a week Cody will cook or we will go out to eat at one of the few local restaurants (Juneau is seriously lacking restaurants).  On this particular night we were having Tomato Soup with Feta & Spinach Grilled Cheese! 

6:00pm: Eat dinner with my future hubby :)

7:00pm: Usually around this time Cody and I will play cards, watch a movie, do a project, etc.  This is a pretty quiet time of the night at our house.  On this particular day Cody was feeling really under the weather (side note: it turned out to be pneumonia-he's on the mend though).  So, he made a little bed up on the couch so that he could be sick in peace (I am a CRAZY sleeper and so is Specks).  Specks had other ideas about Cody's peaceful bed though…

7:30pm: Get ready for bed.  I am usually showering, making tomorrows coffee, packing my lunch, laying out clothes, possibly watching an episode of something on Netflix, and doing any last minute prep for the following day.  My job requires quite a bit of outside prep work (I don't actually get a "planning period" due to the crazy schedule) so I am working on stuff at home pretty frequently.

8:30pm-10:00pm: Get into bed.  Yes, I am an early to bed kind of lady.  I am someone who needs relaxation/quiet time each day so I make it a point to get in bed super early each day so that I can do a little reading. I try to read for at least an hour every night, it makes me feel so relaxed and puts my mind at ease.

Mostly, my days look like the days of any other teacher.  The biggest difference is probably environmental.  The constant darkness that accompanies my days in the winter is something much different.  Or, going to school in two feet of snow and playing on the playground even when the wind chill is -10° (in Alaska you have to go outside unless temps are lower than -20°).  Another huge difference is the content that I teach.  We focus on tribal values and Tlingit culture. This is something that would probably be frowned on in classrooms in the Lower 48, but here it is embraced and encouraged.  Elders come to our classrooms to act as storytellers, families teacher native dancing, we regularly learn songs in the traditional Tlingit language.  It is a fascinating experience!  Overall, my days are much like they would have been in Illinois.  But, there are these few glaring differences that make the experience so meaningful and wonderful.

Do you have any similarities/differences to my day? 
What is your favorite part of your day? 
What makes your day unique? 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life Lately: November Wrap-Up

November was a wonderful month in Juneau.  We started the month with some downright amazing weather (sunny, warm, etc).  We couldn't escape the snow forever though.  By mid-month we were buried.  And, because this is Alaska, we will stay that way until April.

Oh well, we didn't move to Alaska to enjoy a tropical vacation!  The month was gorgeous though and I took a TON of pictures.  This post is essentially a photo-dump of all of my cool pictures from the month that I never shared.  So, here's a little peek into what a typical November in Southeast Alaska looks like…

This month we ate delicious food…

enjoyed amazing views from the house…

wandered around this beautiful state...

spent a ton of time with friends…

snuggled the puppy…

spent too much time prepping the classroom…

and enjoyed this kooky-crazy life we are living in the 49th state! 

What did you do this month?
What was you favorite part of November? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving in Alaska (Year Two)

Cody and I had only been living in Alaska for three weeks at this time last year.  Thanksgiving was a VERY different affair.  This was the first year that either of us had ever been away from our families for the holidays.  Admittedly, we both had a tough time with the holidays last year.  We still had a blast exploring and making new traditions, but we were homesick.  We spent most of Thanksgiving 2012 at our apartment, just the two of us.  We cooked, and ate, and watched football.  But, we also drove up to Eaglecrest Ski Area and did a little hiking before we tucked into our big meal.  It was just the two of us, we made the most of it, and we had a wonderful time.

This year was a much more social affair.  Cody and I were invited to multiple Thanksgivings! We spent the earlier part of the day with two of our good friends (parents of one of my students) and their families.  It was such a nice time and very family-oriented.  We ate food, played games (hide-and-seek with the little ones), talked, laughed, and generally had a beautiful time.  Then in the evening we headed to another friends home.  This event was dubbed "Friendsgiving" and it was a bunch of our other child-less friends.  There was more food, more laughter, and adult beverages.  Friendsgiving was much more informal and imitated what I am sure lots of twenty-somethings do for Thanksgiving…drink with friends (haha).  Both parties were great! I wish I had pictures from the day but I was too consumed with having an amazing time.  Someone else did manage to snap a picture of Cody and I at Friendsgiving.  It's a silly picture, but I still like it :) 

Holidays can be tough without family.  But, by creating a loving and close-knit group of friends we have been able to make the most of it.  Besides, this is what our twenties are about, right? Adventure, friends, over-induldging, seeing the world, and learning about ourselves :) Happy Thanksgiving! 

What did you do for Thanksgiving?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Alaskan Snow Day!

Juneau was blanketed with 13inches of snow on Thursday.  I looked out my front door and immediately thought, "uh-oh."  The snow was DEEP and very wet.  Me, being a midwesterner, figured this would mean the closure of JSD (Juneau School District) but I was sadly mistaken.  Schools in Alaska don't close unless they absolutely have to.  Their answer to the snow…chain-up your tires, slap some spikes on your boots, and enjoy the weather!

Snow falling on the driveway. 
Sadly, the following day it warmed up to a toasty 40° and most of the snow melted (yuck).  This also meant that I didn't manage to get a single picture of our deep, wet snowfall.  The temperatures cooled back off over the weekend though and we found ourselves with a couple fresh inches of powder.  I did manage to take a few pictures of our lesser snowfall, which is much less impressive but still pretty.

Slippery roads outside of the school. 

Frozen waters in "the valley." 

On another snowy note, Juneau's own Eaglecrest Ski Area is competing for a top spot in Powder Magazine's Ski Town Throwdown.  If you're interested in learning more about Eaglecrest you can read this post or this post, both written by me.  You can also check out their website.  I've been voting for them to help support my local ski town/business.  If you have a second, stop over and do the same! You can vote by following this link and liking Powder Magazine on Facebook.  

Do you ski or snowboard?
What's your favorite winter activity?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Snow Is Coming...

That's right folks, snow is officially headed our way! Autumn was unusually long and warm for SE Alaska.  I didn't even break out my winter coat until last week.  But, now we are in for it.  Temperatures are supposed to get down into the single digits this week and snow is predicted almost every day.

Thankfully, Cody and I got the snow tires put back on the cars this weekend (woo-hoo for studs).  Here in Juneau we run studded tires during the winter.  Legally, you can run them from September-April (typical times of the year when it is snowing).  We were lucky to keep them off of the cars until November this year! Lots of other "winter prep" is happening at our house this weekend.  We have to winterize the windows and doors, find our snow shovel (I am hoping its buried in the shed), and do any last minute outdoor cleaning.  Busy, busy!

I'll leave you all with this pretty picture I snapped on Friday night.  Cody and I were outside walking the dog when the moon popped up over the mountains.  Beautiful :) I hope everyone is keeping warm!

Has it snowed yet where you live?
What do you do to prepare for winter? 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Northern Lights & Tasty Meals

This weekend in Juneau was a MUCH needed holiday weekend.  Parent-teacher conferences demanded most of my attention last week, and I still have a couple to wrap-up tomorrow.  But, I felt so excited after wrapping up (most) conferences on Friday afternoon that I treated myself to a few tasty treats.

Yup, that's a strawberry velvet cupcake….heavenly.  And, I paired it with a little peppermint tea.  Both were bought at a couple of my favorite local hotspots.  It was an amazing way to kickstart my weekend.

The most exciting part of our weekend took place on Friday and Saturday nights….the Northern Lights were visible!!  Sadly, I don't have picture proof but we did get to see them faintly.  They were incredibly bright on Friday night and you can check them out here, on local artist Elise Tomlinson's Facebook page.  Keep in mind that the harbor that she pictures is only about three miles from my front door.  Whoa.

I snapped this picture at sunset one evening this weekend.  Not nearly as exciting but I still like it :) In an effort to see the Northern Lights a second time Cody and I ventured out to the glacier at 10:00pm on Saturday night.  We didn't see them but we did enjoy a romantic (and chilly) evening under the stars.  We could see the entire Milky Way. Amazing.

Anyways, back to something I have picture proof of…food.  Cody and I seriously indulged on meals on Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday we had chik'n parmesan sandwiches with homemade fries.  We also enjoyed a few tasty brews with our food.  The bottle caps gave us some weird, and possibly enlightened (?) messages.

Sunday we indulged on creamy tomato tortellini soup. Then, we topped it off with some chocolate cheesecake brownies. It was a delicious weekend but we will both be hitting the gym tomorrow, that's for sure!

What did you do this weekend?
Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sunrise, Sunrise

Our mornings and evenings have been surprisingly clear these last couple of weeks.  That's not to say that it hasn't still dumped rain on us every single day (because it has).  But, we've been gifted with some pretty beautiful skies.  I've noticed the clear skies mostly around sunrise and sunset, which is now happening at 7:30am and 3:50pm.  It's only a matter of time before we're down to a whopping six hours of daylight.  Woo-hoo.

Rising and setting times for the Sun

   Length of daySolar noon
DateSunriseSunsetThis dayDifferenceTimeAltitudeDistance
(million mi)
Nov 9, 20137:33 AM3:49 PM8h 16m 25s− 4m 30s11:42 AM14.7°92.066
Nov 10, 20137:35 AM3:47 PM8h 11m 56s− 4m 28s11:42 AM14.4°92.044
Nov 11, 20137:38 AM3:45 PM8h 07m 31s− 4m 25s11:42 AM14.1°92.021
Nov 12, 20137:40 AM3:43 PM8h 03m 07s− 4m 23s11:42 AM13.9°92.000
Nov 13, 20137:42 AM3:41 PM7h 58m 47s− 4m 20s11:42 AM13.6°91.978
Nov 14, 20137:45 AM3:39 PM7h 54m 30s− 4m 17s11:42 AM13.3°91.957
Nov 15, 20137:47 AM3:37 PM7h 50m 16s− 4m 13s11:42 AM13.1°91.936

You can check out more sunrise and sunset times on this website

I have been lucky enough to snap pictures of a couple of these incredible sunrises over the last weeks.  I think you'll all enjoy them…they are seriously spectacular.  And, to make it MORE awesome, none of the pictures have been edited and they all retain their original colors and beauty.  Enjoy :) 

And, then there is my personal favorite….

Cody was outside walking the dog when he spotted this beautiful sunrise.  He hurried back inside, dragged me out of bed, and insisted that I make an appearance in the front yard.  It was totally worth it. 

Do you ever watch sunrise?
Which do you prefer, sunrise or sunset? 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Things To Do In Juneau: Eaglecrest Ski Area

One of Cody and I's favorite things to in Juneau is drive up to Eaglecrest Ski Area.  It's only a 7-10minute drive from our house, which is incredibly convenient.  Once the snow hits, this area is open for skiing (my preference) and snowboarding (Cody's preference).  There are tons of "alpine trails" for your winter sport enjoyment during the cold season.  Prices are expensive but that's pretty typical for skiing and snowboarding.  During the summer, Eaglecrest is a popular hiking spot and when the berries start coming in it is the best place to go picking (seriously-DELICIOUS blueberries).  I'd highly recommend a trip up to this beautiful place at any time of the year.  You can check out more about it here.

Cody and I headed up to Eaglecrest this weekend for a hike and we snapped some pictures.  The views were spectacular! The temperature kept us from hiking/exploring for too long though.  It was in the upper 20's and neither of us had busted out our winter gear yet (wishful thinking that it might be warm a bit longer).

The weather at Eaglecrest varies, much as it does in the rest of SE Alaska.  It will finally open (officially) for the year after the snows get deep enough for winter sports.  The opening date changes from year to year.  To show the extremes, I've included a picture from last year at Eaglecrest in November (knee-deep snow drifts) to compare to this year in November (no snow and sunshine).

Only in Alaska ;)

What kind of weather are you experiencing?
Do you enjoy winter sports? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Insta-Lately: Fall in Juneau Edition

Juneau has been rainy and incredibly October-like these days.  The leaves are red, the wind is howling, and the days are growing shorter.  Fall could not be any more amazing.  I've been snapping lots of pictures lately to capture everything I love about this season.  Here are a few of my favorites from this beautiful month.  Enjoy :)

Fallen leaves in the Gastineau Channel. 

Sunset on downtown Juneau. 

Rainy days in the woods. 

Sunset skies and falling leaves. 

I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
--L.M. Montgomery

What is your favorite month?
What do you love about October?