Monday, July 29, 2013

Family Time

This morning I am just checking into the blogging world briefly because….

I have visitors! My dad(Ross) and my step-mom(Jen) flew into Juneau on Friday and I have been having non-stop amazing family time since then.  They are leaving on Thursday so I plan to spend as much time as possible this week showing them all that Alaska has to offer.

We've already had bonfires and cookouts, explored the glacier, swam in the pacific ocean, and climbed rocky beaches at the end of Juneau's civilization.

Still on the agenda this week: climbing Mt. Roberts, exploring Juneau's downtown-area, hiking a few glorious trails, and relaxing on the beach.  I will have tons of pictures to post at the end of the week.  It is so wonderful to see family and get to show them the wonder of the 49th state!  Life is pretty darn good :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fireweed Jelly: The Intro

It's that time of the year! Time to start collecting berries, plants, and other goodies so that we can store some food for the winter.  Now, this is my first year doing any storing/canning/harvesting myself.  I've always been interested in gardening and the homesteading lifestyle, but I haven't ever done anything about it.  So, the move to Alaska seemed like the perfect time to start.  I grew a garden (a pathetic one as it was still snowing in May), collected berries, and began making as much of my own stuff (shampoo, detergent, etc) that I could.  Now, I hope to do a longer post about this lifestyle in the future but today's is going to focus on making... Fireweed Jelly!

Fireweed is a purple, flowering plant that grows in Alaska and many other places in the United States.  It is an incredibly durable plant and typically will be the first plant to return to an area after a forest fire (namesake).  If you are more interested in learning about the plant itself, you can check out this link.

 I haven't made my own batch of jelly yet, but I am hoping to this weekend.  However, I have been doing plenty of fireweed picking and snacking on the jelly that I have been gifted (my neighbors are the best).  The awesome-ness of the batch that the neighbors gave me has inspired me to make TONS.  We will never buy store-bought jelly again! (Well, maybe once in awhile :))

My students helped collect the plants for me too! They heard I was making jelly and decided to pick me a few giant bags to contribute to the collection. Their only condition was that I give their families each a jar.  Obviously, I've taught them well :)

When I do finally make my own jelly I plan to use a combination of this recipe and this recipe. For my vegan friends, I am trying to find a good substitute for pectin, any suggestions? It seems impossible to find a fireweed jelly recipe without it, but here's to hoping!

Do you grow/harvest/can any of your own food?
What beauty or food products do you make yourself?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How To: Have Fun in Alaska (Despite the Weather)

I think we can all agree that Alaska is an amazing place.  But, one BIG change that Cody and I had to get used to when moving to the Last Frontier was spending time outside, no matter the weather.  During the winter it may snow (every day) for six weeks and then the wind will blow 60mph for another week.  So, do you just stay inside for months at a time??

Not a chance.  The picture above is of Cody hiking out at Eaglecrest Ski Area during the winter.  The snow was deep, the winds were nasty, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to spend all of our time cooped up indoors. Thankfully, it is summer now and we have been blessed with some truly beautiful weather. 

But, it is still Alaska (specifically SE) and the norm that we are experiencing for summer weather is temperatures in the 50's and rainy. This may not be perfect summer weather but I have found that we appreciate it 100x more than we ever appreciated it living in the Lower 48.  So, here are a few of our favorite activities that we've been doing this summer.  Take note, we do these activities rain or shine! 

We go hiking and exploring….

Strolling at the local park….

We collect berries and fireweed to make jam….

Cody catches fish and prepares them for winter storage….

We sing karaoke for the locals….

We watch the rainy weather roll in….

And, we swim in the ocean! 

There are so many activities that we love to do here in Juneau.  Cody and I try to make the most of the experience by exploring our surroundings no matter the weather.  Sometimes you just have to throw on your raincoat and boots and go out exploring anyways. 

Do you go outside even in poor weather?
What are some of your favorite rainy day activities? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Adventures in Bread Making

This week I decided to try homemaking bread for the first time! I have always been interested in baking my own bread from both a frugality standpoint and a sustainability standpoint .  While browsing the internet this weekend I checked out a TON of bread recipes for the crock-pot and it seemed like something fun to try, you can check out a few of the recipes here and here.  I finally decided to test out this recipe, courtesy of the Chicken in the Road blog.

All mixed up and headed into the pot! 
The process was super simple! I just made the dough, plopped it into the crock-pot, and set the pot to low.  I turned it over at the one-hour mark and then continued baking for another hour. After two hours I checked it and it still seemed fairly doughy (recipe deviation) so I repeated the process for another hour. Also, I pulled it out at the end and stuck it under the broiler for 5-6 minutes in order to achieve my desired color. Check out the finished product!

Lookin' tasty! 

"Almost" an awesome loaf of homemade bread. 

So, it did turn out as bread, which I was concerned about (hah!).  I've heard it said that baking bread is a lot of trial and error and I would have to agree.  I wouldn't say this bread was UNsuccessful but it also wasn't perfect.  The middle was still fairly soft and it turned out pretty dense as well.  While it is edible, I know that I can do better.  So, I will be at it again trying to perfect my bread in the crock pot.  I plan to repost the perfect loaf when I finally bake it :)

Do you homemake bread? 
Would ever consider trying it in the crock-pot?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our Journey in Minimalist Living

Q: Why be a minimalist?
Minimalism is something that I posted about here a few weeks ago.  It is a lifestyle that Cody and I became very interested in, specifically after moving to Alaska.  We had WAY too many things in our lives and not enough adventure.  As all things in life though, it is a work in progress.

We are still in the process of de-cluttering our lives and it has been difficult at times. There are books, furniture, movies, and frankly just lots of stuff that we have accumulated. Personally, getting rid of clothes has been a difficulty.  I gave away three entire trash-bags of summer clothes when we moved to Alaska (seriously).  This was super difficult for me because I have always loved clothes and enjoyed an interest in fashion.  Even after giving away those bags I still had an incredible amount of clothing to take with on our move...and what I would consider a bit of a shopping habit.  So, quitting the shopping and cutting back to the basics has been tough.  I am doing fairly well (and haven't bought ANY clothes lately) but it is still a struggle every time I see someone with a new pair of Tom's or a new shirt from UO. But….

There are still LOTS of clothes to go through! 

Guess what?? It feels so good once you finally do it! I struggled to give away certain items (books, clothes, etc) but none of them were items that held any sentimental value! Anything that is "special" I have kept and held onto dearly.  But, a shirt I bought three years ago at the mall (and have worn maybe 10x) is NOT important.  This has been difficult to grasp but I honestly don't feel like I am missing out one bit.  I feel more free and less dependent on my things every day.

Enjoying the "little things" in life. 

Cody and I want to focus more on human experiences.  We want to find more things that we enjoy doing together as a couple.  This weekend we are doing yoga together for the first time and we hope to find many more activities to do together that we love.  It is still something that we are striving for and occasionally struggling to enforce in our daily lives, but when we follow-through with it we feel so accomplished! It is so important just to focus on our experiences and our lives without stuff.

Waking up to see the sunrise, a beautiful experience. 

I hope to focus more on this topic in the future and expand as we expand it into our lifestyles more and more. If this is a lifestyle you are interested in pursuing check out the links in my original post (listed above) or feel free to ask me any questions about our own personal journey!

Would you ever consider a minimalist lifestyle?
What are three things you could easily give up? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Veggie Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods of all time.  It has veggies, cheese, bread, and basically everything I could ever want in a meal.  Sometimes though, you gotta spice up your pizza a bit! This pizza recipe is one of my favorites to make for parties/cookouts/weekly lunches.  It is perfect for parties and cookouts because it is fingerfood-ish and quick to make.  I also like it for lunch because it keeps me feeling full for a long time!

So, for this pizza you just bake a pizza crust to the package directions (without anything on it) and let it cool for 10-15minutes.  Meanwhile, whip up a package of ranch dip (the powdered kind, and they DO make vegan/organic) and mix it with your favorite dairy or non-dairy sour cream, I prefer Tofutti.  Spread the mix on the cooled pizza crust and add the toppings of your choice! I usually add peppers, carrots, onions, and broccoli.  I haven't tried it with spinach (yet) but I really want to at some point! I also recommend loading it up with veggies.  This particular pizza was a little bit skimpy on the veggies because it was grocery day.  Still super tasty though!

There you have it, a quick and easy meal that everyone can enjoy :)

How do you feel about pizza?
Would you ever do a cold-style pizza like this one? 
What is your favorite kind of pizza? 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Perseverance Trail

This weekend we went hiking! Ok, so that may not be very surprising since we go hiking EVERY weekend.  But, we have been meaning to make it out to Perseverance Trail in Juneau for weeks and keep getting distracted by other activities.  Check out the links here and here if you are interested in hiking this trail/ learning more about it.  The trail is well maintained, although fairly rocky at places and moderately steep (especially the first 1/4mile).  It is three miles long (or six miles roundtrip), so if you hike the whole thing you can really make an afternoon out of it.  The trail also branches off into a ton of other trails.  So, halfway through you can choose to head out farther into the wilderness on Granite Creek Trail or head up Mt. Juneau for some breathtaking views.  It really is a great trail! 

The trail started and we were immediately greeted by two signs.  One of them was simply warning us of the steep cliffs on the trail (it is in the mountains) but the other one was letting us know that a mama Black Bear and her cubs had taken up residence on the trail.  Thankfully, we saw maybe 10-15 other hikers so the trail was fairly well traveled.  We didn't see any bears! 

Bear! Eek! 

The scenery was amazing from all viewpoints on the trail.  It was a toasty day (upper 60's) and the sun was shining bright. We got hot pretty quickly and ended up cooling off in a teeny waterfall.  But, we did get some cool breezes when walking by the old mining buildings! 

View of the old mines, river, and bridges. 

Funny trees near Mt. Juneau. 

Cody and I had a great time and are hoping to try and climb Mt. Juneau sometime in the near future.  All in all, a successful day of wilderness exploration.  Perfection :)

Feeling pretty tired at the end of our hike! 

What is your favorite outdoor activity?
If you hike, what is your favorite brand of hiker-friendly clothing? 
Would you ever off-trail hike? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Smoked Salmon Pizza

Today I thought that I would post a very "Alaska-ish" recipe that will appease my meat-eating friends and family.  While I do not eat meat, Cody does (only organic and mostly local).  I came home from work on Wednesday night to find him cooking this tasty-looking pizza.  It isn't necessarily the most healthy (unless you count the fish) because of the gobs of cheese but it was apparently VERY tasty.  So, here is the recipe for Smoked Salmon Pizza.

1 smoked salmon fillet
1 pizza crust (pre-made, homemade, any kind works)
Marinara or Tomato Sauce
Alfredo Sauce
Mozzarella Medallions (natural, old-school mozzarella chunks)
Any additional cheese (Cody used a mix of cheddar and parmesan)
Spices (of your choosing)

Directions: Pre-heat oven per crust directions.  Shred the salmon fillet.  Mix the two sauces together and spread on the crust.  Top with shredded salmon, spices, and cheeses.  Cook per crust directions (ours took about 15minutes). Enjoy!

Cody gave the pizza great reviews! He used locally caught Sockeye Salmon for the pizza but I am sure that any kind would work well.  Let me know if anybody tries it out with other fish/salmon types!

Next up in my "Recipe's to Post Queue" are…

Potato Soup Bread Bowls

Homemade (Healthy) Mozzarella Sticks

Do you LOVE pizza? If not, why????? 
Would you ever try Smoked Salmon Pizza?
What is a recipe that you are loving right now? 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Ice

I know that I have posted pictures of the Mendenhall Glacier a few times in this blog.  However, I intend to keep posting them because, I mean, it's a GLACIER.  How many of you have seen a glacier? Probably not very many (ha ha).  I know I hadn't seen one before moving to Alaska.  So, I will continue to share the awesome-ness of the wild and random hunks of ice in my state.

Glacier- Winter 2012

As you can see in the picture above, that was the glacier in the middle of winter (January or February I think). Cody and I hadn't been out there in a couple of months so we loaded up the car and headed out to the Tongass National Forest.  When we first arrived we were a bit overwhelmed…tour buses and tourists EVERYWHERE.  We had to park quite a ways away (we normally park right at the entrance). Then, we had to fight through hundreds (possibly thousands) of people just to get to the trailhead.  It took longer than usual to do the 30-minute walk to Nugget Falls because of the sheer volume of people on the trail.  But, it was totally worth it when we finally got to the base of the falls.

At the base of Nugget Falls, Mendenhall Glacier. 

Nugget Falls. 

The scenery was beautiful and I totally understand why nearly a million people visit Juneau each summer.  Mendenhall Glacier, and visiting Alaska in general, is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for most people.  Cody and I are just lucky to be able to call the 49th state home.  When we reached the glacier and the falls I was actually happy to see so many people getting to enjoy the natural beauty our home has to offer (although I was still a little prickly about being unable to take any decent close-up pictures due to the amount of people, ha ha).  I completely understand why people choose to come here for vacations.  I hope that they all enjoyed it as much as we did!

Rock climbing near the falls. 

View of the glacier on our hike back to the car. 

Is tourism a summer money-maker in your town? 
What vacations are you taking this summer?
Would you ever vacation in Juneau? 

*P.S.- I know I have been slacking on reporting any other areas of my life lately (teaching, cooking, fitness, etc).  This week I am going to try to bust out some new posts that talk about the parts of my life not necessarily related to Alaska-living.  Enjoy :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Do Vegetarians Go Fishing?

Today's post is about my adventures fishing in Alaska.  Before I start though, I thought I should address that fact that I AM a vegetarian.  Let's rewind…my veggie beliefs began at an early age.  I began refusing meat when my parents first tried giving it to me in my toddler years.  They were supportive of the no-meat attitude I had somehow developed by the age of two.  So, I just never ate meat and I was always actively against it.  As I grew older I was mainly against factory farming and big business controlling our food (I hate Monsanto too but that's a conversation for another day). I marched in parades to support vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, I handed out pamphlets, and generally supported my fellow veg-lovers and animals!

Activism, 2006. 

Then, I moved to Alaska in 2010 and saw the lack of resources.  It was impossible for me to be a vegetarian living in the Bush.  There was no milk of any kind (powdered-only), no vegetables, no fruit, and generally not a whole lot to choose from.  It took up 4-6 weeks for mail to arrive so ordering fresh food online wasn't even an option.  If food wasn't at the general store (and it almost never was), I didn't eat it.  So, while living in the Bush I ate fish, but only fish that I, or another villager, caught.  I chose to only eat locally caught fish by people that I knew because it allowed me to know who/what/when/where and that the person respected the animal.
Catching Dinner, 2010. 

So, while I am still not a meat-eater, my views have evolved after living in such a remote area of the world.  I learned that my lifestyle is actually impossible in some corners of the world (at least I found no other alternative).  In Juneau the vegetarian options are readily available (thankfully).  But, I still believe that Alaskans as a whole are a subsistence people who rely on hunting, fishing, and trapping to sustain themselves throughout the year.  They respect animals, they recognize that they are not the top of the food chain, and they hunt for survival.  This is simply their way of life and I respect them so much for this.

The Dolly that I caught under JD Bridge. 

Do vegetarians go fishing? This one did! I decided that I would try it out as long as we wasted none of the meat…and that is exactly what we did.  Cody plans to catch enough fish and other game to sustain himself this winter without store bought meat.  If I can contribute to the decline of factory farming through this route than I have decided that I will try it.  So, here are some pictures of my fishing adventures (as a vegetarian).  Enjoy:)

Fish Creek. 

Juneau-Douglas Bridge. 

Are you a vegetarian? Why or why not? 
What choice would you have made in my position?
Do you enjoy fishing, hunting, trapping, or gathering? 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Accidental Trails

Cody and I went exploring last weekend and stumbled upon some truly wonderful trails.  We intended to hike Perseverance Trail but got distracted by Mt. Roberts, Flume Trail, and about 100 other little off-shoot trails that the area had to offer.  Whoops!  Oh well, we ended up having an amazing time and spending some much needed one-on-one time together :)

It was a pretty toasty day for SE Alaska (75ish) so we even kicked off our shoes and took a dip (legs only) in the freezing waters. The water temperature was probably in the 40's where we stuck our legs in.  It was so invigorating!  We splashed around a bit in the water, gave directions to various tourists (they were out like flies last weekend), and then sunned ourselves for a bit on some old tree stumps. Relaxation at its finest.

There were so many amazing  views to see on the trails, I wish I could capture them better to share with everyone.  Cody and I spent a lot of time talking about our love for Juneau and the entire state of Alaska.  I think we are both feeling truly at home here.  If only we could share it with everyone!

What are your feelings on hiking? Do you enjoy it for pleasure or exercise? 
Would you ever try climbing a mountain? Why or why not? 
Are tourists a HUGE part of life where you live?

**Happy 4th of July! Sadly, I do not have any pictures from the 4th to share.  Juneau does their fireworks at midnight (the only time the sky is semi-dark) but it was so foggy we couldn't see them :( Oh well, we still had fun cooking out and celebrating at home.  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rainy Day Yoga

We are finally getting back our "typical" SE Alaskan weather….

In other words,  it is in the 60's and raining.  The super awesome summer weather lasted for almost a month though so the rain is a nice little break.  The views from my house are back to normal.

Since it has been raining so much the last few days I have been re-discovering my love for Jillian Michaels.  I love all of her workout DVD's. But, her yoga DVD is my current favorite.  I highly recommend trying it out, especially if you are interested in body-weight strength training (using your body weight to build up muscle).  I really enjoy body weight training so I am digging the workouts.  And, clearly Specks is enjoying her workouts too ;)

As far as a workout schedule goes, my days are ruled a little bit by the weather.  I am feeling a pretty lazy about running in the rain lately.  But, if I actually manage to stick to my weekly workout routine (and I am going to REALLY try) it will look like this…

Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: Jillian Michaels Yoga
Wednesday: Running (30minutes)
Thursday: Jillian Michaels Yoga
Friday: Running (30minutes)
Saturday: Hiking (this week we are doing a 3.5mile hike on Perseverance/Granite Trail)
Sunday: Hiking (shorter hike with Specks, probably on the beaches near my house)

Do you schedule your weekly workouts? 
Do you leave room for flexibility/ weather changes?
How do you handle running in extreme weather? Snow? Rain? Wind?