Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer in Southeast Alaska

My camera is once again overflowing with pictures that I haven't shared with anyone (other than Specks-haha).  A few months ago I posted this, which detailed some of the photographs that hadn't made the cut in my blog's regular posts but were still beautiful and depicted our lives in Alaska.  I wanted to make a habit of occasionally dumping some of my favorite (and previously unseen) pictures.  The pictures below were all taken this summer during some truly amazing adventures.  The weather was perfect, the adventures were perfect, and it was an amazing season.  Some of the adventures we had included…

Whale-watching on the beach…

Strolling through the local parks…

Exploring the ruins of the local mining communities…

Climbing a few mountains...

Enjoying the views from the top…

And, setting out on the hunt for blueberries :)

We love having adventures and try to fill our free time with lots of exploration.  Here's to hoping that all of you are doing the same!

What was your favorite summer adventure?
If you could go anywhere on vacation where would it be? Why? 

**Note- Sorry for the lack of posting lately! School is back in session and I am one busy teacher.  Hopefully I can get back in the groove once school settles down a bit :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hunting for Berries

This weekend Cody and I set aside some time to wander up into the mountains in search of wild blueberries.  We are lucky enough to have a tasty blueberry bush growing next to our front door.  But, the summer is getting late and the birds have made a feast out of it.  In order to have enough berries to use in canning we had to do some wandering.  The wandering was worth every moment.

We drove our car up into the mountains (as far as the road allowed) and set off on foot.  There were bushes everywhere.  We could have started picking berries within about 500ft of our car but we were in need of a little weekend adventure So, we traveled up into the hills and settled on a spot in a high valley between two higher peaks.  This ended up being the perfect spot. The berries were huge and incredibly sweet.  We snacked the whole time we picked :)


The weather only added to our incredible day.  Fall is my favorite time of the year.  Everything about this season makes me happy.  Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin beer, fall colors, chilly weather, big sweaters, the list goes on and on.  On this particular day we were graced with some serious Fall weather.  It was in the 50's and quite breezy in the mountains.  The threat of rain loomed near for the duration of the expedition but we were lucky enough to stay dry.  The colors up this high were incredible as well.  Everything was turning brilliant shades of red, brown, and orange!

This adventure left me longing for Fall to be in full-swing.  I am sure in a couple of months I will be missing the sun and warmth but the weather this weekend made me so nostalgic for my favorite season.   We were lucky to collect multiple bags of berries and we hope to make another trip up later this week.  I am sure we will be busy making blueberry concoctions (both to eat and store) over the next week.  Just another reason why I love my favorite season :)

What is your favorite season? Why?
Do you ever go berry picking? 
What should I make with my abundance of tasty berries? 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to School: Teaching in Alaska

It's that time of the year again.  The time where pencils are sharpened endlessly, bulletin boards are made (and re-made), names are learned (and forgotten), new shoes become scuffed, and I begin the process of teaching another wonderful group of pre-k students!

This year I was lucky to be offered the opportunity to move to the elementary school near my house, which turned my commute into downright amazing.  I was also introduced to my new co-teacher (each pre-k classroom in our district has two Lead Teachers) and we hit it off immediately.  I couldn't be more excited about the new school year in Juneau! There are a lot of unique things about teaching in Alaska that I am still getting used to seeing/doing.  Just check out my alphabet….

Not an "A is for Apple" in sight. Apples (I was informed) are actually taught in terms of food and not in terms of a Fall-type item…because most of my students have never seen an apple tree!  Much of my classroom is labeled in the traditional Tlingit language as well.  Elders from the tribe will be in and out of the classroom all year to ensure that we are carrying on their cultural heritage in an appropriate way.  This is one of my favorite aspects of teaching in a classroom funded through the native tribes, so much heritage!

My room is coming together slowly…but surely! I have the rest of the week to get it finalized.  Check it out so far!

I hope to update again at the end of the week to show the before and after of the classroom layout.  I love decorating so I am sure it will just keep getting more colorful!

Any suggestions for room layout? 
Do you like the back-to-school time of the year? Why or why not? 
What are some of your favorite children's crafts? 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Happiness Comes From Contentment.

On a beautiful evening this week I boiled some water and when I opened my packet of tea it said this…

For some reason, these words seemed so true and wonderful to me.  Happiness really is being content in your life.  I am lucky to be one of those people who feels truly content.  For me, life has the perfect balance of love and adventure.  And, while I dearly miss my friends and family back in Illinois and Michigan, I know that they love the adventures that I am having for myself.  My wanderlust and need to fill my life with adventures is just part of my genetic makeup.

The above picture shows a bit of my contentment with life.  My gardening tools stacked on the side of the house with rain boots and  the flowers that Cody picked and placed in a vase for me.  The little things in life really cause me to feel very inspired and very loved.

Finally, I leave you all with this snapshot.  I took it while walking Specks early one morning.  The sun was rising over the mountains and the whole channel was bathed in color.  The only noise I could hear was the gulls down by the waters edge.  It was a beautiful moment and I was lucky to capture it on my camera.  I hope everyone gets to experience a moment like this throughout their week.

What quote do you find inspirational?
Do you take the time to appreciate the little things in your life? 
What is something "little" that makes your day brighter? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mt. Roberts

This weekend Cody and I decided that we needed to climb a mountain.  We hike most weekends but we have yet to attempt an actual mountain.  This is something we have both been hoping to accomplish this summer and Juneau offers mountains in every direction.  We chose to hike Mt. Roberts, which rises from the downtown-area of Juneau.  There is a tram that goes up and down the mountain to provide easy-acess to tourists during the summer months.  For our first mountain hike, it was well-populated and easily traversed (in most sections).

View of Mt. Roberts from our house.  The night before the hike. 
The trail is about 2.5miles each way if you only hike as far as the tram.  However, you can continue up further to the summit, which rises 3,900ft above sea level.  The mountains in Juneau are unique because they rise from sea-level.  Mountains in many other places (such as the Rockies) are rising from already highly elevated land.  Our mountains rise straight up from the ocean.  This creates quite the views and I think it makes our mountains all the more beautiful.  I love the mountains in Alaska!

Peek-a-boo views from halfway up the trail. 

Stopped for water near to top. 

Lookout point from the tram.  Views of Downtown Juneau and Douglas Island. 

The hike was moderate to strenuous at times.  There had been heavy rains a few days prior so places in the trail were nearly washed out and extremely muddy.  We enjoyed the hike and explored a little further than the "traditional" trail allowed.  In total we spent about four hours on the trail.  It was beautiful and we loved the adventure!

Would you ever climb a mountain? 
What was a summer goal you hoped to accomplish? Did you? 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Trampled By Turtles Goes North

Trampled By Turtles, a popular bluegrass band, made a stop in Juneau this week! We don't see an abundance of live entrainment in this area so this was a huge deal for all of the locals. The extent of live entertainment in Juneau generally looks like this…

Yes, that is Cody singing karaoke at a local bar.  He actually got a standing ovation from a few patrons.

Trampled By Turtles coming to Juneau was such a neat thing for the community. I've never seen so many people from our little capital stuffed into one building.  There were fellow teachers, families, friends from throughout and the community, and innumerable people that we didn't know.  They put on a truly amazing show and I can't say enough good things about this band. This isn't the first time that I have seen them live (Wakarusa 2010) and they've seriously impressed me on both occasions!

 It was also pretty funny for Cody and I to compare how concerts in Lower 48 operate compared to this tiny production.  One big difference was the opening band.  Here in Juneau, the opening band for this nationally popular band was the school counselor! He and a few other guys covered some Zeppelin and Black Keys songs.  They were pretty darn good!  The way to buy tickets/security was also pretty hilarious.  The tickets were being sold right before the show out of a shortbus…and security was non-exsistent.  Nobody even checked our tickets! The thing that was craziest to me though was the parking.  I got there AFTER 8pm (when the doors opened) and still got to park about 200feet from the entrance of the building.  After spending most of my life attending concerts in Chicago, I was amazed!

Overall, it was an amazing show. I really commend Trampled By Turtles so much for being willing to come to Juneau and all of the other smaller Alaskan communities they visited this week.  More bands should make the effort to include smaller communities in their tours.  So, thanks you TBT for putting on an awesome show for all of us here in Alaska!

Have you seen any good concerts this summer?
What is your favorite concert venue?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fireweed Jelly Recipe

Fireweed Jelly Recipe
8cups of packed petals (no leaves!)
 5cups sugar
2packets OR 7tbs of Pectin
1/4cup lemon juice
4 1/2cups water

Directions: Place petals, lemon juice, and water in a large pan.  Bring water to a boil.  Once boiling, set the timer for 10minutes, stir frequently to avoid burning petals.  Petals will begin to loose their color and the water will turn a deep purple.  Remove from heat and strain out petals.  MAKE SURE TO SAVE THE JUICE.  I strained my juice into a large glass bowl.  Then, return juice to the original pan and heat on medium.  Add all of the pectin at once and stir.  Bring back to a boil and add sugar.  Make sure to return the mixture to a boil for about 5minutes after adding sugar.  Remove from heat and distribute into hot mason jars.  Begin the processing (aka boiling the jars to make sure they seal).

There you have it folks! I am an official Alaskan…kind of, ha ha.   I collect my own berries, make my own jams, catch my own fish…seriously?! The jelly turned out amazing.  I couldn't have asked for a more successful first attempt at jelly making.  Sadly, a few of my jars didn't seal so I will be re-processing a few of them.  However, for a first attempt I am pretty impressed with myself.  I actually did a happy dance around the kitchen (much to Cody's amusement).  I can't take total credit for the recipe though.  I snagged it from this blog, which was recommended to me by a friend who frequently makes her own jelly. Woo-hoo for awesome jelly!

Have you ever done any canning? Made your own jelly?
If you have your own jelly recipe, share it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family Adventures: Part Two

So, you've seen the beautiful pictures that my family and I shot at the beaches last week.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the weather was phenomenal.  The sun was shining (almost) every day and the temperatures were super toasty.  I actually ended up with a serious sunburn and sun poisoning on the third day of our sun-filled adventure.  Yikes!

To ensure the true "Alaska Experience" we spent a ton of time hiking while my dad and stepmom were in town.  We ventured to a few tourist-oriented places but for the most part we took them off the beaten path for the real, authentic experience.  We started out their first day in town by heading to Mendenhall Glacier.  This is typically a tourist-type area during the summer but we managed to get a day with very few cruise ships in town.  That coupled with the cloudy weather (it looked like it may rain any second but it never actually did) made for the perfect day to venture to this popular locale.

My parents were in awe of the amazing sights at the glacier.  It is truly one of those places that you have to see in person to understand its scale and magnitude.  I've always felt that being near the glacier made me feel somehow smaller, but more aware of the nature around me.  Cody, myself, and my parents definitely walked away feeling amazing.

We took a few detours to see the glacier from different angles throughout the week.  Each was breathtaking!

We even hiked to the infamous Mendenhall Ice Caves.  Sadly, we couldn't find them.  It was a 7-mile hike though and we got to see plenty of amazing sights that made the trip worth it.

One day we did some hiking at the end of the road.  This is generally a VERY unused area because it takes anywhere from 20-40 minutes to reach and the locals are the only people willing to make the drive.  It is so worth it though!

We watched the salmon run start and it was amazing.  Hundred (maybe thousands) of fish were flopping through the water! We also had a bear encounter while on this hike.  While tromping through the woods we ran into one and scared it away.  But, less than five minutes later we realized it was hiding in the bushes and watching us! Eek! We were scared but made lots of noise and made sure to NOT look like food (ha ha).

Other hiking excursions for the week were equally as beautiful.  I would venture to say that we walked/hike close to 20miles in the week that they were in town.  My legs got quite the workout! The views made it totally worth it for all of us though.

Eventually, the trip had to come to an end.  I was incredibly sad to see my family leave Juneau.  They had an amazing trip though and by the time they left they were already planning next years trip!  I hope that they inspire other friends and family to make the trek up to Alaska.  It is a once in a lifetime experience.  Not to mention, Cody and I are fantastic tour guides :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Family Adventures: Part One

This week was absolutely amazing.  My dad and my stepmom flew in from Michigan to spend the week in Juneau. I hadn't seen them in almost a year so it was quite the reunion! Looking back, I can't believe how fast the week with my family flew by.  It couldn't have been more amazing and beautiful, we were very lucky :)

I have (probably) hundreds of pictures from the last week so I have decided to scale them down a bit and break it up into two different posts.  One post will focus on beach-y adventures and the other on hiking adventures.  Then, I plan to somehow sprinkle in some pictures from our times relaxing at home….like this one!

The weather this week was completely out of this world.  It was in the upper 70's and lower 80's almost all week (one day of cloudy and 60's) and we didn't see rain once! My dad and stepmom packed mostly jeans and sweaters because I had forewarned them about the rainy and cool weather we had been having.  Boy was I wrong!

We visited a few different beaches over the course of the week, each more incredible than the last.  We saw wildlife at every turn! Whales swam by us while we sat on the rocks, sea otters played around, and we even caught a few starfish! It was so amazing to spend the week in/on the water.  It is very unusual to have that much sun in SE Alaska so we reveled in every moment of it!

After our days at the beach we cooked out and sat outside until the sun decided to set, which in Alaska at this time of the year basically means it hides behind the mountains but it stays light outside.  It was a truly beautiful vacation.  I enjoyed the week of fun and adventure with my family so much!