Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Views

Juneau is home to some of my favorite scenic views.  And, I fancy myself a professional photographer (just kidding) so I have tons of pictures that only I ever see.  This post is just going to show off some of the amazing views that are in my backyard each and every day.  Enjoy :)

Eagle Beach…

Eagle Beach Trail…

Mendenhall Wetlands...

Downtown Juneau (as seen from the Juneau-Douglas Bridge)…

Douglas Island (as seen from the Juneau-Douglas Bridge)...

Downtown Juneau/ Mt. Roberts…

North Douglas…

Finally, the view from my front porch on a misty morning.

I hope to do another one of these posts in the future.  I love sharing the beauty of Southeast Alaska with others.  It truly is a beautiful place to live.

**Stay tuned tomorrow for a post about a BIG decision in Cody and I's lives :)

Do you love where you live?
If so, what are some of the things you love about it? 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Great Debate: Living in the Alaskan Bush

This has been a post I have been considering writing for the last few weeks.  It has been the source of much conversation in my house lately, so I have gone back and forth about writing it.  Finally, I decided that maybe if I wrote it out I would be able to look at it from a fresh perspective.  That's always the best solution, in my opinion.  So, if your interested in reading (a rather lengthy post) about living in the Alaskan Bush, stay tuned.

The topic that has been on my mind lately is teaching in the Alaskan Bush….let's rewind.  In 2010, I was living near St. Louis (going to college) and I desperately needed a little adventure.  So, I took a job working for a commercial fishing company (accepted the job off of CraigsList-seriously) and I boarded a plane to a fishing village in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  It was a small, rural town with a mostly native population and virtually no resources.  I ended up having the summer of my life! I wrote a few blog entries about it in my previous, and short-lived blog, Naknek Grime: A Summer in Bristol Bay Alaska.

Flying through the mountains near Anchorage. 
I had such an incredible learning experience.  We lived in a house with concrete floors, a steam house(to take baths in), no cars, and high-level bear activity.  Many homes in town did not have indoor plumbing and ran off of generators. There was one store that sold milk ($10/gallon), candy ($15/bag), and basic toiletries ($10-$20 per item).  If you wanted anything more involved than these simple items you had to order them online and have them shipped through a major company like Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer (and shipping took 4-6weeks).  It was truly "roughing it" and living the minimalist lifestyle. I can't explain the experience in a way that would make sense to most people but I can tell you that it made me appreciate my life in the Lower 48 so much more.  It also opened my eyes to an amazing demographic of people and they, and their lifestyle,  stuck with me through the years.

General Store in Naknek, AK. 

Ruins of a Russian Orthodox Church. 

Overlooking the ocean in the middle of summer. 

The backyard. 

F/V Oly aka the boat that ruled my life for three months.  

Sockeye Salmon. 

Upon graduating college I dreamt of going back to Alaskan Bush and teaching in a culturally and economically diverse school, which may or may not have electricity and indoor plumbing.  However, I had a fiance to consider and Cody still needed to finish college and adjust to living 3,000miles away from his family.  So, we settled on moving to Juneau, Alaska.  In Juneau he could adjust to living away from home and still attend University of Alaska Southeast.

We LOVE Juneau and every aspect of living here.  We have made great friends, we love our home, and we love our jobs (honestly, we both are in love with our jobs).  Our weekends are packed with fun activities and we are always exploring and finding new skills that we didn't know we possessed.  Juneau has truly been the greatest adventure we've had as a couple thus far.

Cody and I hiking in Juneau, AK. 

Walking across the ice on Douglas Island, AK. 

But, there is still something missing.  I am not helping the demographic that I have always dreamed of helping.  I do work for the native corporation through the school system in Juneau but I am not working for those truly rural students.  I wanted to immerse myself wholly in their culture and spend a year living a truly minimalist life.  Juneau is still a city, even if it is a fairly primitive one compared to cities in the Lower 48. Stores sell regularly priced goods, students graduate and attend college, plumbing is indoors, and all of the creature comforts are available in some way or another.

So, here we stand at a crossroads. I know that I will spend at least one more year in Juneau, because I do love it here and really can't imagine living anywhere else at the moment.  But, maybe next year, or the year after that, Cody and I are going to try to move to central or northern Alaska (possibly north of the Arctic Circle).  Believe me, it will be the source of much (healthy) debate in our household over the next year because it is such a huge decision.  But, I really wanted to share my thoughts about the love I have for the Bush.

Spending the day fishing after finishing an 18hour shift.  In love with life.  Bristol Bay, 2010. 

There are so many incredible places to visit in this huge state.  Alaska is home to some of the most amazing wildlife and the most amazing sights imaginable. Bears wander onto our school playground, moose graze on the sides of the road, eagles nest directly outside of our apartment.  Alaska (and everywhere I have been in this state) truly feels like home.

So, we will see where the next year takes us.  It may be here in Juneau or we may be heading north of the Arctic Circle by next May.  We plan on going where the tides take us.  Right now, it looks like they may take us as far north as we can go without a passport.  It may seems crazy to some people, but to us it just seems like the next great adventure.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Good Food & Good Fishing

Saturday was an amazing, albeit busy, day for Cody and I.  We had a ton of plans with friends (we like to jam-pack most of our activities into one day so that our other day can be spent doing couple-ish things).  So, we had breakfast plans, hiking plans, and fishing plans.  It ended up being an incredible day full of first-time experiences for both of us.

We started out with a trip to the Sandpiper Cafe.  I had been hearing great things about this place but I still hadn't ventured out to it yet.  Now that I have been I will be going back regularly!

The Sandpiper Cafe is the only restaurant in Juneau (that I know of) with a great selection of vegetarian and vegan meals that are super tasty.  I ended up getting ricotta and sourdough pancakes, eggs, and fresh fruit.  Cody got a burger and was given a huge selection of meats to choose from.  We also tried their mushroom soup (amazing) and walnut pancakes.  It was a seriously tasty meal.

After breakfast we headed out to the Shrine of St. Therese, which is located Out The Road in Juneau.  It is a well-kept retreat area in the woods.  The grounds are incredibly well maintained and so are the buildings.  It was so beautiful! The walk was super short and easy, accessible by pretty much anyone.  To get in a little more of a hike we traversed the rocky beach. I ended up finding this cute starfish :)

Shrine of St. Therese. 

Views of the walking path. 

Starfish :) 

After the hike we tucked into some fishing.  I have never really done much fishing but it ended up being pretty fun. And, my arm got a serious workout! We didn't catch much but I did end up hunting down some clams.  We are hoping to try out some new spots in the next couple weeks because the salmon run is currently in full-swing and we would love to be able to catch and freeze some of our own meat for the winter.  We hope to live very sustainably one day, and catching our own meat for the winter would be the first step (at least for Cody's survival-ha ha)!

Baby Hermit Crabs. 

Catching some fish! 

Do you like to try out new restaurants?
What are your favorite outdoor activities?
Do you ever go fishing? Would you ever catch your own meat for winter? 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Solstice 2013

Happy Summer Solstice! It was officially the longest day of the year on Friday and I was loving every minute of it.  Juneau saw almost 19hours of sunlight and even when the sun "set" it was still fairly dusky outside.  We never saw the typical pitch black that happens at night.  Sunset, when it did happen, was amazing!

The last time I enjoyed Summer Solstice, I was partaking in a raging bonfire on the beach in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It was such an incredible throwback to enjoy it under the midnight sun again. We celebrated and enjoyed the views by having an apartment-wide bonfire/cookout.  Good food, good brews, and good friends.  Not a bad way to start the weekend :)

We stayed up and watched the sunset for as long as we could but we had a HUGE day planned on Saturday so we knew that we had to call it a night at a decent time.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's post about our Saturday shenanigans.  Happy Monday!

Do you celebrate Summer Solstice? 
If so, what did you do to celebrate? 
Did any of you see the Super Moon this weekend?

Friday, June 21, 2013


I LOVE Mexican food.  I don't know if very many people know that about me, but it's true.  I am not a fan of greasy, nasty fast-food-type tacos, but authentic Mexican cuisine is just magical to my taste buds. Here in Juneau we are seriously lacking in this area (and in the restaurant area period).  There is no authentic Mexican food that (in my opinion) lives up to the divine cuisine of the Lower 48.  Sad =(

To cure this craving my girlfriends and I had a Mexican Fiesta! And, to make matters more amazing they were all totally on board with a vegetarian fiesta.  Pardon our classy (and not-so-classy) beverage choices ;)

Above is a shot of our overall spread.  We had both crispy and soft corn tortillas with your choice of  beans, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, corn, peppers, onions, guacamole, and rice.  It was seriously amazing.  My taste buds were lovin' it.

One of my favorite parts of this meal was the corn.  This is a recipe that Cody invented (I am sure other people make it) a few months ago.  It is just butter (EB Vegan Spread), fresh corn (best if cooked on the cob and then cut off), and chopped cilantro.  Heat all ingredients on low, in a medium dish and cook until warm and melty.  Add it to a taco or eat it as a side dish…heaven!

So, here is my meal suggestions for the weekend.  Try having a Mexican Fiesta!

Do you love Mexican cuisine? 
If so, what is your favorite dish? 
If not, are you crazy???? (Just Kidding!) 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

While You Were Out...

While I was away from the blogging world this week I was….

Drinking coffee in the beautiful weather…..

Hiking with girlfriends…..

Spending some quality time with Specks…..

And, missing my fiancée!!

Cody has been out of town for EIGHT days.  He finally comes home tonight and I couldn't be more ecstatic. It's been pretty rough being 3,000miles away from Cody (and every one of my family members) for the last week.  I tried to fill my time with friends and some substitute teaching at a local preschool. But, Saturday evening the flu hit me like a ton of bricks.  So, for the last four days I have been confined to the couch.  Finally, I am feeling a little bit better today but still not 100%.  I think I can muster up enough energy to tackle Cody in the airport though :)

How do you kill time when your spouse is out of town? 
Getting the flu in the summertime, awful or what? Ugh. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hiking Eagle Beach

Hiking is one of my favorite activities, especially in incredibly beautiful weather.  I knew when I saw the forecast for Saturday (highs in the 80's) that I needed to plan a hiking expedition.  So, we made it a girls day and I hit the trails with two of my friends and our pups for a 3-hour hike.

Beginning of the trail. 

We started on a trail Out The Road (where the road in Juneau ends) that leads to a great beach, aptly called Eagle Beach. The sign at the beginning of the trail simply read, "Primitive Trail."  And, they weren't kidding.  While parts of it were maintained, like the picture above, other times we were tromping through weeds that reached my waist. We ended up getting a little off-trail and walking along the beach for a period of time.  We sat in the sand and took a rest after about 1.5 hours to refuel and water the dogs.  Perfect!

 Lavender plants that we had to tromp through to reach the beach. 

Snow-capped peaks in the summer. 

Specks & I stopped for a rest on the beach. 

All in all, the hike was beautiful and I couldn't have asked for more perfect weather.  We've really been having perfect summer weather the last three weeks.  Temperatures in the 70's and ample sun.  It has been perfect for physical activity outdoors.  I will typically hike no matter the weather (sun, rain, snow, wind, etc) but this near-perfect stuff we have been getting has given me a new appreciation for Alaska Summers and the hiking season.

We made it! 
I hope all of you are getting out and hiking, biking, kayaking, or any other physical activity while we have this amazing weather.  Even you Lower-48ers should be getting out and enjoying your summer weather (despite the heat).  Enjoy it while we have it!

Do you like to hike? 
If so, where are your favorite places to go? 
Are you enjoying your summer weather? 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Running Weather

This week we are expecting PERFECT WEATHER! Weather this good is a rarity here in Alaska. Where's the rain?  Where's the snow? Where's the frost? Ok, so there is one day with the possibility for rain.  But, in SE Alaska this kind of weather is just amazing.

That being said, I am back in my running grove, which is ideal for this amazing weather.  I am still not running for long periods of time but I am managing between 20-30minutes.  It has been perfect and by supplementing with yoga, strength training, and hoop dance I am really getting a full body workout everyday.  Workouts are good.  Weather is good.  Life is good.  Enjoy this awesome view from my regular running route :)

Do you run the same path everyday? 
If not, how often do you switch it up? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Meatless Monday #2: Weekly Eats

This week I decided that I was going to do a collection of meatless eats to celebrate this wondrous weekly holiday.  Since I always eat vegetarian, I figured there was no better way to honor the meatless holiday than a collection of super simple veggie eats.  Enjoy :)

Three Cheese & Tomato Tarts: Basically pizza but cooked to be much crispier (thinner crust) and made without tomato sauce (substitute ricotta or greek yogurt for the sauce).

Stir-Fry Noodles: It's all in the name.  Use some noodles, crisp them up with some tasty veggies and some Bragg's or soy/stir-fry sauce of your choice.

Crock-Pot Roasted Veggies: Vegetables chopped and cooked for 5-7 hours on low.  Just add 1/4cup of water and season.

Breaded & Baked Tofu: Bread some tofu with nutritional yeast and seasonings of your choice.  Preheat oven to 400 and bake for 30 minutes (or until crispy).

Hope you all will help my out and celebrate this weekly tradition.  If you haven't before, try out one of these easy treats that I posted today.  All of these recipes take under and hour and require minimal prep work.  Happy eating!

What is your favorite way to prepare tofu? 
How often do you go meatless? 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Reviewing My 2013 Resolutions

In 2013 I made some lofty New Year's Resolutions.  Maybe a bit too lofty?  You can check out the link  here and see exactly what my reasonings were behind choosing these specific goals.  Since it is June, the halfway point, I wanted to review my goals and evaluate if I had/had not completed any of them. So, here is the list.

1.) Re-Start Couch to 5k: I have been doing this program again!  However, I have been doing it only about 2x per week, which isn't how the program was intended.  I am doing it with a mix of yoga, hiking, and walking though so I feel like my exercising goal is happening, just in a different way.

Cooling down after a jog on the beach. 
2.) Recycle: Check! Cody and I are now recycling glass, cardboard, and aluminum (basically Cody's soda cans and our group effort collection of adult beverages).  Our next goal will be to take on plastic and paper :)

Our new bins! 

3.) Plant a Garden: Check! Well, sort of.  It snowed until the beginning of May this year so my garden got started a little bit later than intended and is much smaller than my original plan.  But, it did get started! Pictures to come at a later date :)

4.) Give Back To The Community: FAIL! I haven't done much giving back to my community.  During Family Night's at my school I was on standby for childcare, which really is part of my job, so I don't think it counts but at least it is something (kind of).

5.) Plan My Wedding: Umm…I think we decided on July 2014 as opposed to June 2014. Does that count? I did find a couple dresses that I liked and looked at a couple venues too.  But, not much progress has occurred. Then again, I am not much of a wedding person.

6.) Spend More Quality Time With Cody: Check! Ever since Cody switched jobs we have spent a lot of real quality (out having fun/one-on-one) time together! Since we both work in the school district and work the same schedule/hours this has naturally improved without a ton of effort on our part. Basically, we have tons of time to goof off and do things like this….

Umm….need a little help? 

7.) Write Letters to My Family: I have sent TWO rounds of postcards.  Not a huge amount of progress but at least I have made the effort.  I probably would have sent more but my mail gets returned to me all them time and it is a huge hassle.  The Alaska mail system totally blows.

So, there you have it! A wrap-up of my goals for 2013.  Not a huge amount of triumph but I have at least made some progress. I think I have decided that instead of doing yearly goals I am going to switch to doing monthly goals for myself.  I got the idea from the blog Peace Love & Oats (check it out!).  Doing monthly goals is just WAY more realistic.  I am more of a short-term planner and year-long goals never seem to pan out for me. Check in on July 1st for my first set of monthly goals!

Do you make yearly goals? 
If so, do you stick with them? 
If not, do you make monthly goals?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The End Of The Road

This weekend Cody and I did something that we have been meaning to do since the first day that we arrived in Juneau…we drove to where the road ends!

The mountains at low-tide. 
The road actually ends in Juneau at two different spots, North Douglas and "Out the Road".  We have driven to where the road ends on Douglas Island (our home base) a ton of times because it is only a ten minute drive from our house.  But, the area of Juneau actually known as "Out The Road" goes quite a bit further into the wilderness and is where they intend to connect Juneau to other parts of Alaska by road in the future.  This area goes about 30extra miles to be exact (ish) and in the complete opposite direction of Douglas Island.  The drive took about 60minutes (each way) from our house so it was a bit of a trek by Juneau standards. There wasn't any indication that the road was ending (imagine my surprise).  But, after skidding my car down a narrow dirt road and realizing I was no longer on a "road" and indeed headed into the unknown I decided to backtrack a bit and park about 1/2 mile back at an outlook.  We hiked the rest of the way down to see what there was to see where the road to civilization ended.

Strolling on the beach with my pup.  
This was the perfect end to our weekend.  It was beautiful, relaxing, and we still got a little exercise worked into our daily routine (for both us and the doggy).  We live in such a beautiful place.  It never ceases to amaze me that I can walk out my front door and stick my feet in waters from the Gulf of Alaska or climb a mountain that is part of the Alaska Boundary Range.  Realizing how luck we are to have the opportunity to live in such an amazing place for a few years has really made me appreciate life and all of its adventures :)

Do you live somewhere that allows you to go on hiking expeditions? 
Would you ever consider living in Alaska? Why or why not? 
If so, where would you want to live? 

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meatless Monday #1

Everyday is meatless in my world.  However, I know many of you are interested in the Meatless Monday craze.  I hope that both my fellow vegetarians/vegans and my meat-loving friends and family can try out this weekly holiday.  It can have such an awesome impact, not only environmentally, but on the lives of animals as well.  Check out the awesome links that tell you more about Meatless Monday here and here.

This weeks recipe is aimed at my non-vegan friends, family, and readers.  Typically, I go vegan on Meatless Monday (support of the true veggie community).  But, I figured I would start all of you out easy with something that still appealed to that meat-y loving side of you ;)  This weeks recipe comes to me from the Hungry Hungry Hippie blog.  I saw the recipe posted this weekend, attempted it (with modified ingredients), and fell deeply in love.  So, I thought some of you might enjoy it as well (and check out the blog because it is one of my favorites).  

Egg & Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale leaves (salad amount)
2 large eggs
1tbs of olive oil
Optional: garlic, onions, other veggies

Directions: Add olive oil to a medium-sized skillet.  Turn burner on med-high.  Put onions, garlic, or any other desired veggies into the warmed skillet and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then, place the chopped kale leaves into the skillet.  Crack two eggs on top of the kale (do not break the yolks).  Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to cook (no stirring) until the eggs have turned white (over-easy).  Place the contents of the entire skillet on your plate.  Voila!

Note: I served mine with a side of rice for added yummy-ness.  I ended up eating it for dinner but I really think it could be eaten at any time of the day!  Also, this ended up being ALOT of food for me.  I probably could have eaten half of this and been perfectly content.  If you have a smaller appetite/portion intake, I suggest sharing half of it with a friend :)

Do you observe Meatless Monday? 
If so, what started you on the craze?
If not, would you consider trying it out?  Why or why not? 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Becoming A Minimalist

Recently, Cody approached me with the idea of living a more minimalist lifestyle.  It intrigued me to say the least.  We already do many things to lower out "footprint" such as recycling, eating vegetarian, carpooling, etc. But, we are creatures of habits and "things."

When we first moved to Alaska (almost) a year ago we only brought one carload of belongings.  What didn't fit in our car simply didn't make the cut.  There were a few boxes of keepsakes and important things (like my record player) that my parents stored for me.  Overall though, we packed the car and that was it.

Packing our car for the move from Illinois to Alaska. 

Some time (not-so) later we managed to accumulate a ton of STUFF.  It is a little sad and a lot silly.  So, we decided to condense many of our belongings.  We took a load of books and clothes to the thrift shop this weekend.  And, we intend to continue to downsize.  We cancelled our cable (except for basic channels) and downgraded various other "plans" that we had going on in our lives.  We started a garden and began to really think about saving long-term and downsizing long-term.  It has been a freeing experience! It is still all new to us but we are liking it so far.

We are also looking into EarthShips quite a bit.  We probably won't be able to build/buy our own home for another 8-10years.  But, long-term we would love to build a sustainable "green" home. Check out the links and let me know what you think!

Here are some cool links about the topics:
Minimalist FAQ's from 
The Everyday Minimalist
Project 333
10 Reasons Why EarthShips Are Awesome

How do you feel about living a minimalist lifestyle? 
Would you ever consider this lifestyle? 
How awesome are EarthShips????