PFDs and Full Freezers

A full freezer is a happy freezer!

Almost 100 pounds of meat flew in on a tiny bush plane this weekend, with our name on it! I was excited to receive our first PFD this year. The PFD (Permanent Fund Distribution)is money given out each year to every qualifying Alaska resident. It stems from the fact that Alaska is an owner-state, and each resident receives benefits of profits off the land. Oil money goes into the fund and dividends are distributed yearly. You have to have lived in Alaska for at least one full calendar year, and be able to prove your residency before applying. So for teachers who move in August, it takes until your third school year to actually receive any benefits.

Many Alaskans (especially out in the bush) hunt, so their main supply of meat is wild game including moose and caribou among other things. Neither my husband or I hunt, (although he always talks about wanting to go- he just has to find the time!) so we either bring meat in with us in frozen luggage on Alaska Airlines, or we have to order it from a store to be flown in freight. This is an expensive option, as you have to buy in bulk, but it is certainly easier than packing and hauling coolers from the East Coast or Anchorage when we are visiting.

Last year I ordered from Span Alaska, and while there was no problem with that order, I found that ordering from Mike’s Quality Meats in Eagle River was cheaper. For those interested in numbers I have included the invoice below:

Yes you read that right. Shipping and handling is more than half the cost of the meat itself. Welcome to the Alaskan bush. Overall, I was pretty happy though. We got a large variety of meat for about $4/lb, and they gave us a bigger turkey than what was listed on the order form. Thanksgiving will be good this year!

The absolute best part of this though? I placed our order on Thursday when the PFD’s were distributed, and it arrived- wait for it- SATURDAY. Like, in the same week! It was at least a two week wait with Span Alaska, and ordering anything from Amazon is at least a week, sometimes up to a month for larger items. I couldn’t believe it when we got the call that our freight was on it’s way to the village.

When we decide to move back down to the Lower 48, it’s going to be nice to just walk into a grocery store and pick up whatever I want for dinner that night, but I do think I will miss the great feeling of having a full freezer. It’s like having the grocery store right at home! Do any of you shop in bulk? What is your favorite part about it? I would love to hear from you in the comments!


9 Essentials for Living in the Alaskan Bush


A dog sled team training on the frozen Kuskokwim River

Now that we have lived here a couple years I find myself echoing some of the same advice to new teachers each fall. We learned the hard way, and I hope that the information I’ve collected here can help someone in the future avoid some of our mistakes. Albeit, most of our mistakes have turned into great stories, (like how you should ALWAYS choose priority shipping, or you will end up with a fridge containing only Jello and wild caught salmon) but they didn’t seem so funny at the time.

I’ve compiled a list of ‘essentials’ for anyone thinking of making the move to rural Alaska. Now, most of these I think would be pretty universal, but remember that Alaska is a HUGE state- and has a lot of diversity in its land. Make sure you do your research and ask questions about the specific location you will be moving to. We live in the Kuskokwim Delta of South West Alaska, and it is vastly different from say, the Northern Slope.


Essential #1: Good Quality Winter Gear

Don’t wait until you are here to get your winter gear. Cold weather comes early, and especially if you come from a more temperate climate, you are going to want that heavy coat sooner than others. Your winter gear needs to be from head to toe. Wind chills are intense and frostbite is a real threat. Think, Hat, Balaclava or face cover, Scarf, Heavy Coat (longer is better!), Snowpants or Snowskirt (my personal favorite!), wool socks and good snow boots.

If you haven’t had to buy good quality gear before, the price tags can be a little scary, but don’t skimp- try and shop sales, or if you know far enough ahead of time, see if you can get anything from last season. Online you can find great quality stuff from Lands End (my favorite) LLBean, or REI. There are also several stores in Anchorage that ship to the Bush and have a great selection.


Essential #2: Ice Cleats

Where we are at there is a ton of ice, and in the winter there is no plowing, so Ice Cleats are essential for walking anywhere in the village. We decided to skip the cheap elastic type pairs at a neighbor’s suggestion and got the heavy duty “Stabil-icers”. It has been worth every penny. They have held up great for two winters getting daily use. And when you have to go out and walk the dog multiple times a day they are a lifesaver. I had fallen several times in the week before they came in the mail, and not once since.


Essential #3: Good Rain Boots

The last clothing essential would be good rain boots. There is a lot of debate about brands, but really you just want to avoid the cheap pairs that will split after a few uses. It rains a lot in the spring (and right now in the fall!) and at least in South West Alaska that means mud- and lots of it. I literally only wear my rain boots and winter boots outside in Alaska. I have other shoes I keep at the school, but I avoid wearing them outside. Not everyone does this, but I have found I have to clean my shoes a lot less, and it is much simpler.


Essential #4: Blackout Curtains

Regardless of where you live in Alaska, there will be days where the sun is out longer than you want to be awake. Blackout curtains for at least your bedroom are lifesavers. I have them in every window in our apartment and try to close them before it gets too late, otherwise it is so easy to find yourself still awake and full of energy at 1am.


Essential #5: Candles/Lantern

Electricity isn’t always a given in the Bush. It can go in and out, and especially in the winter time you want to have alternate sources of light. We have multiple candles as well as a couple battery powered lanterns that have gotten a lot of use.


Essential #6: Extra Water

The water situation is different everywhere you go, but we have learned that it is important to have extra water at all times. We have piped water, but when things break it can be days before they are fixed or a part comes in. So we have containers with extra water for drinking as well as non-potable water for other uses.


Essential #7: Alaska Airlines Credit Card

While not strictly essential, you would be hard pressed to find someone out here who doesn’t take advantage of this card. Travel is expensive and airline miles are gold. In addition to miles you also earn an annual companion fare for only $99 plus tax. You pay an annual fee for the card, but it is more than worth it to us.


Essential #8: Amazon Prime

Another negotiable essential, but with recent changes to shipping rates for almost every company out there, Amazon Prime is becoming more and more my one stop shop for everything. Prime doesn’t guarantee two day shipping to us, but it does send priority, which means we get things in about a week if all goes well.


Essential #9: A Good Sense of Humor and Laid Back Attitude

Things are always in flux when traveling and living in the Bush. I was a serious type A personality prior to moving here, and it hasn’t always been easy, but relaxing my attitude and remembering to laugh has made this whole experience a lot more enjoyable.


Like I said before, Alaska is an extremely diverse state and not everywhere in the Bush is identical, so needs vary. What are some things that you have found to be essential? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!


*I have not been compensated by any of the brands mentioned, I just seriously love their products! As with everything, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Year Three Alaska


Snack time on the first flight!

It has been a long time since my last post, but I have long since given up on the dream of writing over summer vacation- we are simply too busy soaking up every moment we can with friends and family. And that’s okay. At least I keep telling myself that!

It was a long trip back, with an overnight in Anchorage, and I was really nervous about traveling with a 10 month old. The baby has been flying since he was only 4 days old, but now that he is mobile I can’t just strap him in the carrier and bank on him sleeping on our 4(!) flights back to the village from the east coast. Lucky enough on our first flight there were enough open seats that the other person in our row opted to move. It’s a six-ish hour flight from Newark, NJ to Seattle, WA, so having the extra seat in our row was a godsend. If tickets weren’t so expensive I would just book the baby his own seat.


Baby Boy loved looking out the plane window!

Once we got back into Alaska, we had a 14 hour layover in Anchorage. We learned that there is a little known rule in the fine print that if you have a layover longer than 12 hours Alaska airlines short checks your luggage. For us that was almost 200lbs including a cooler that had to be frozen. After paying to keep our luggage in the storage at the airport until the morning, we called our hotel and grabbed a shuttle downtown. We have stayed in teh airport during long layovers before, but figured that it would be more comfortable to get a hotel. It was seriously the best decision we could have made. We were all able to relax, shower, and even go shopping downtown. We stopped in at GCI and got new phones. Our old ones wouldn’t connect to the 3g in the village, even though it has been available for about a year and a half now. New iPhones in hand, we are now connected!

The next day we left the hotel at 3:30am on the first shuttle, and headed back to the airport. We dealt with our luggage, and back through security again, and we were on our way. We arrived in Bethel on the first flight, and then took a shuttle over to our favorite charter service Renfro’s Alaskan Adventures. It’s refreshing to deal with great customer service, and it doesn’t hurt that they tend to run on time, and cost less than the other airlines to the village!

Unfortunately we were on weather hold due to fog- something that is rather common in South West Alaska. After a couple hours the fog lifted enough to take the short hop to Napaskiak. It was still pretty low though, and even in our tiny busy plane we were skimming the bottom of the clouds!

We have finally settled back in to the beginning of our third year here in Napaskiak. Although I haven’t put away the suitcases yet, they are (mostly!) empty, and our boxes with food and household goods have started arriving. I didn’t do an inventory at the end of the year like I did at the end of our first year, and I thought it would be okay. Mostly we are okay, but I did run out of canned potatoes, and I didn’t buy any over the summer. So only one thing isn’t too bad, but it’s surprising how many recipes call for potatoes!

It got me thinking about how influential the way we grow up is on things like how you cook. I was so used to hearty Irish cooking, that dinner to me is usually some variation on ‘meat and potatoes’. If Alaska has taught me anything, it is certainly how to be flexible and think outside my normal cooking box. And now with an almost 1 year old, I’m even more conscious of creating meals that tick all the nutritional boxes, while dealing with a limited supply of food- particularly fresh foods.

I have a cook book that really frustrated me in the desert section too. Normally I love ‘easy’ recipes that use ingredients that everyone has, but here I tend to make all baked goods from scratch. It’s just more sensible money wise to buy staple ingredients in bulk that can be baked into anything as opposed to premade mixes. However this cookbook is all about starting with cake mixes! It drove me up a wall. I did look up how to make my own premade cake mix, and I think I’m going to have to put some together in jars or ziplocks or something.

In other news, Nathan has started teaching, and finished the first full week of classes today. It is so exciting to see him grow in confidence as a teacher- the difference I see in him (and his overall demeanor) from year one to now is amazing. Teachers don’t get enough credit- I swear it is one of the hardest jobs out there, and it takes a special person to go in every day into what can be a battlefield and foster learning and growth in their students, not to mention dealing with the enormous mountain of bureaucracy and paperwork on top of it all! So a huge thanks to all the teachers out there! You guys rock!

The new school is coming along too. We took a tour of it the other day, and even though things need to be finished, it is beautiful, and huge! Nathan will be able to teach all of his classes in his room without having to move because there aren’t enough desks. And the library is beautiful! The library now is located in the lobby of the old school, and there simply isn’t enough room. I went in the first week to organize the books that had been messed up over the summer, and it took two days. Having a separate space for the books away from just anyone who passes through the school will hopefully help with the organization.

They are hoping to be in the new school before too long, so we are going to keep our fingers crossed that everything keeps going well! I plan on a bigger post (with lots of pictures!) about the evolution of the school construction once it’s open.



Initiation- Flash Fiction

I’m so excited to announce that my first piece of flash fiction has been picked up for publication over at StrippedLit500, for their first issue of this online literary magazine.

I have always wanted to write about the really visceral experience I had when I first landed here in Napaskiak. This short science fiction piece grew out of that experience. (And a super thanks to Seraphima for her awesome name that I totally stole!)

Check it out! (Click the SOURCE link for the whole story)

By Elizabeth Bradley

Dust exploded all around Seraphima and she shielded her eyes as the shuttle winked out of sight. The silence that followed settled heavy on her ears. Seraphima scooped up her b…

Source: Initiation

Marriage isn’t the End


Two Married People Traveling- What?! Adventure and Sarcasm after Marriage??

I am the first of my friend group to get married. And after that I’m the first to have a baby. If you believed the myriad of articles and mommy bloggers on the internet than you would think that I no longer have any friends, I sit alone all day, and my life is basically over. Quite frankly that is so far from the truth, and I’m getting tired reading articles that purport this kind of thinking.

I have found myself reading articles like this, or this, or this one, a lot recently. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of single friends that they keep popping up on my social media, but I feel like I need to scream. This has to stop. We need to stop treating marriage like it is simply a destination, and the end of being an individual. The fade out, happily ever after at the end of the movie, nothing else matters. The same goes for articles that have the same sentiments about having kids. Sure things change, but I don’t know why our culture is obsessed with listing X things you MUST do BEFORE you are in a relationship/married/have kids. Perhaps it is just a way to feel better about not having reached these (extremely personal) milestones by an arbitrary age.

But I think it does more harm than that. Stating that there is a list of musts before you do any of these things isn’t exactly the problem. The problem are the types of things that are listed. Over and over again I read that you have to travel before you are in a relationship, or married, or have kids, because it will be impossible once you are. I’m married with a kid. And a dog. And guess what? I still travel! Yes, it takes a little more effort, but these things are not mutually exclusive. So let’s stop treating them this way. Writing and sharing articles like this reinforce the ideas that these things can not be done once you commit to anything else in life. How many people are afraid to commit because of these lies?

Babies are really good at hanging out in airports. They travel better than you think.

Life is a journey where we can continually expound on our experiences. So that means if you value traveling, even when you find someone you decide to spend your life with, you will continue to value traveling and make time and space for it in your life.

Now this doesn’t mean there aren’t things that you should focus on prior to a relationship. Learning to communicate, and love yourself as well as learning sacrifice are all great things that will deepen relationships you do have. I guess the message is that life doesn’t stop when you get married. You will continue to grow, just with someone else by your side. In most cases, that other person will help you grow in ways you couldn’t alone.

Same goes for saving money or being set in your career. There isn’t some magic number that your bank account hits that makes you ready to plan a wedding or have a kid. If you waited until you had enough money, you would never decide to get pregnant in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know how to budget, or save as they are both important life skills for anyone, but please let’s stop pretending that you have to be completely secure before living your life with someone else. If I waited for that time, I would still be alone, worried about the balance of my savings account.

Maybe this is why we have commitment issues nowadays. We are being slammed with ‘advice’ from all directions saying we have all of these things to accomplish before we settle down. We have to have our fun before we say ‘I do’. Quite frankly, if you aren’t having fun in your marriage, you’re doing it wrong. Every relationship has ups and downs for sure, but if you look at your wedding day as the death of yourself as an individual, you are doing a disservice not only to yourself, but your partner as well.


Still Havin’ Fun. Take that!

In full disclosure, I write this after almost 4 years of marriage to an amazing man, with whom I have a beautiful son, and spunky adopted dog. We have lived in Pennsylvania and now Alaska. We travel each year, albeit with more luggage than we used to. We are still spontaneous, and occasionally have vacations away from each other. We didn’t stop having individual needs and wants. We didn’t stop seeing our friends, shared or individual. We didn’t stop being fun people when we had a kid. Life got more complicated, but really, it became so much richer because of it. Live each day as a gift, and you will worry less about what ‘Musts’ you have checked off someone’s arbitrary list.

Shasta Taiko Japanese Drum Group


Shasta Tyco at the school in Napaskiak

If life in the Bush has taught me anything, it is to be flexible and spontaneous. Nathan came home for lunch on Monday and told me about a really great Japanese drumming group that had preformed at Cama-i (an annual dance festival in Bethel- read more about it Here) and that they had just given a performance at the school. They were going to have a second show in less than an hour, and he thought I should go.


I wasn’t dressed, and neither was the baby, but I didn’t hesitate, and I’m glad for it. The performance was amazing. It was really cool to see a family rediscovering their cultural heritage, and having do much fun at the same time.


It was more than just drumming. Each song has a cultural significance and story behind it that they shared. And they moved like they were dancing or fighting.

The kids favorite had to be the lion song. We were told that if you were bit by a lion you would have good luck for the rest of your life. The kids went crazy and stood up, ask hoping to be bit!


The lion in the audience


The lion dancing

Baby boy liked the drums too. Since people were worried that it might be too loud, but he was happy, and not scared at all. He even feel asleep half way through the performance and slept soundly in his carrier. Hooray for baby wearing!

I love to see people across cultures sharing their heritage. It reminds you just how vast the world is, and that even though people are different, you can learn from them, and maybe even find something in common. We all have the same ancestral roots after all.

If you are interested in learning more about the Shasta Taiko group, you can check out their website Here!

Six Essentials on my Breastfeeding Journey


Becoming a mother was one of the biggest transitions of my life. I was excited and scared about everything. I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby from the beginning because my mom had, and I knew about all of the health benefits for baby. Beyond that though, I didn’t know too much. So I did what any type A person would do: I researched and read everything I could get my hands on, and even went to a La Leche League meeting before I gave birth.

Armed with knowledge I was confident that I was going to be great at breastfeeding. Like any mom before she gives birth, I knew it all. Of course, as they say, having a baby changes everything. It has been a crazy journey with ups and downs, but we have made it six months now exclusively breastfeeding, and I couldn’t be happier or more proud.

In celebration of six months, I’m going to share six things I couldn’t have done without on this breastfeeding journey:

1. Nursing tank tops


These have been a lifesaver for my wardrobe. I find nursing bras to be uncomfortable, and it’s difficult to get the right size. The tank tops are stretchy, and offer enough support for someone who is small like me. They are also great to layer with t-shirts, and then you can discretely nurse in public!

2. Nursing infinity scarf


I personally hate nursing covers. They look like unattractive aprons. So when I saw an infinity scarf that doubled as a nursing cover, I was sold. I could look stylish and nurse modestly in public? Sign me up! Now I don’t always use it, because baby boy doesn’t like it when it’s too hot, but I love having the option, and because I can wear it, it doesn’t take up precious space in the diaper bag.

3. Lanolin

Don’t skip out on lanolin thinking that you will see how things go and buy it only if you need it like I did. You will need it. Even with a good latch and no problems you will still be sore.

4. La Leche League

The women and volunteers involved with this organization have been lifesavers. No question was ever too dumb, and they were available all hours through Facebook for support. Living rurally I wasn’t able to attend meetings, but I never felt alone. They helped me get through it when baby and I got thrush (twice!) and when I had mastitis the leader of the Anchorage group checked up on me and got me in contact with an IBCLC who talked me through everything on the phone, and encouraged me even after I developed an abscess and ended up in the ER. With their help I was able to keep nursing even after I dried up on one side because of the abscess. I would have quit after one month without their support and knowledge, when the ER doctor gave me bad advice.

5. Support at the hospital

I was lucky to be able to deliver at one of the nation’s top hospitals. Providence Alaska Medical Center was amazing, and really focused on helping you form a strong breastfeeding relationship from the start. Skin to skin immediately, lactation consultants on staff to help even after you left the hospital, and nurses who were knowledgeable about breastfeeding as well. Baby roomed in with us, and nurses made sure I had everything I needed- including filling up my huge water bottle at all hours so I could stay hydrated.

The hospital you choose and their policies are really important in the crucial early days of establishing breastfeeding.

6. Support of friends and family

The most important thing I found though, was having the support of my friends and family. When I wanted to give up my husband would remind me that I wasn’t to quit on a bad day. I could quit, but not in the middle of the night just because I was tired. He knew I could get through it, and I just needed him to tell me I could. Breastfeeding can be very lonely and polarizing if you don’t surround yourself with people who share your goals. Once baby and I established a good nursing relationship I never felt like I had to leave the room or seclude myself to feed him because my friends and family supported me however I wanted to feed my baby. There was no judgement and nothing but love- something I really can’t be thankful enough for.

Looking back on those early days, when everything hurt and leaked and both baby and I shed our fair share of tears, I’m so happy I kept at it. Now we have a rhythm and a great nursing relationship that is especially awesome when traveling. Baby boy is happy and healthy and in the end that is really all that matters.


Here’s to six more months!


What essentials do you swear by for nursing? Have a breastfeeding story you want to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Flat Stanley Visits Napaskiak

When my cousin contacted me about a week ago about her son’s school project I was super excited. They had read the book Flat Stanley in class (it’s all about a boy who gets squished flat, and then mails himself around so he can travel) and they were sending out their own Stanleys. She asked if I would be willing to take some pictures, and I immediately agreed. I had read the book myself in Elementary school, but never participated in a project like this. The students are going to be sharing and mapping where their Stanleys go, so it will be cool to have Alaska represented.

Check out our tour of the village with Stanley:


Looking out at the frozen Kuskokwim River


Checking out the fish drying


Bush Planes are cool!


At the School


More Alaskan Handicrafts at the School

Next up, Stanley is headed to my sister in Florida- hopefully he will warm up a little bit, and maybe even see a beach. It will be a good vacation after the frozen tundra I think!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

camp nano

With April right around the corner, I find myself prepping for this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Last year’s camp project was a disaster. I started out with lots of hope and ambition; I wanted to reach a goal of 60,000 words. In the end I finished out the month with just over 7,000. Some would say that any words written were a success, and in that light they are right, but I was sad that I couldn’t meet my goals.

My pregnancy was a lot tougher than I had expected. Physically, it was pretty mild, I didn’t have too many complications other than my gallbladder, but emotionally I was a wreck. Anxiety would keep me awake for days, just staring at the clock, and then depression would hit and I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I was still working at the school at the time as well, so between yo-yoing emotions and trying to put on a happy face and work, I was not focused on writing at all.

This year I’m in a much better place. I was really worried about post-postpartum depression, but things have been really positive. The first three months of being a mom were a blur, so I didn’t even attempt NaNoWriMo, but now I feel that I’m in a good groove with parenting, so I’m going to give Camp a go. Baby boy is by no means on a strict schedule, but he does nap several times a day, so I’m taking advantage of those times to get back into the swing of writing.

For this year’s Camp, I am going to be working on the sequel to my first Nano novel. After I finished that one, I realized that it served better as backstory for another character and his journey. At first I was really upset that I had written almost 300 pages of something that only scratched the surface of the story I really want to tell, but in actuality, I feel like I’m in a much better place to write this new story, because of all the work I did on the first.

I don’t have a title yet, but I do have a blurb written:

Hal, an orphaned young man lives in the restrictive confines of the American Resistance Compound. The world outside is a dangerous place; ravaged by war and disease after the North American Power Grid failed twenty years prior, the once free country fell to the oppressive power of the Chinese government.

Now with the ARC’s infrastructure failing and the appearance of a beautiful young Chinese scientist carrying a mysterious vial, the outside world is crashing in. People are getting sick from the plague they have battled to keep out for so long, and the only way to save them is a dangerous journey to a laboratory run by the Chinese that is rumored to have a cure.

Can Hal survive the outside world long enough to save the only family he has ever known? And can he trust his heart along the way?


I’m really excited to get started! And with Camp’s more relaxed rules, I may just get writing a little early.

Are you participating in Camp this April? What are you writing? Let me know in the comments below!

Winter Walks

Winter Walks3

Ravens Flying Over the Boardwalk

Alaska winters are long and dark. I’m always looking forward to the time of year when the days are getting longer, and the temperatures are rising enough to go outside for more than just a few minutes. The past week has had some really nice days where I could do just that. Winter walks are some of my favorite. You experience the vastness of the world in a different way after being cooped up inside all winter. The crisp air bites your face, but it feels fresh and exciting, and as long as you wear your ice cleats, you can really go anywhere!

Winter Walks Selfie

I’ve taken several walks now, strapping the baby into his carrier and bundling him under one of my husband’s coats. I’m worried about him getting chilled, but after each walk he has been toasty warm- kept so by my own body heat. I don’t know how people live without baby wearing, it is seriously a lifesaver, and one of my favorite things. You have a happy cuddly baby, and you can continue to actually do things- it’s a win-win!

Winter Walks2

Sammy, our dog, has enjoyed these walks as well. I feel bad for her being cooped up in the winter as well. We take her out multiple times a day, but when temperatures are below zero, we hardly want to go trekking on an adventure, so she settles for running around the apartment for her exercise (sorry downstairs neighbors!)

Winter Walks Sammy

Winter is far from over yet, but I think the worst is over. Tickets for the river breakup are being sold. Nathan and I have decided to try and guess this year. Last year we didn’t buy any tickets, but his guess was off by only a day. Essentially the idea is that people buy tickets to guess the day and time that the river ice will break up. They have a tripod set up in Bethel on the ice, with a rope leading to a timer. When the tripod collapses, it pulls the rope, stopping the timer. People from all over the delta try to guess the exact date and time. Whoever has the closest guess wins the prize of $10,000. Talk about an awesome opportunity!


Last Years Tripod on the River

I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and longer walks. As the boardwalks clear up, I will be able to take off my heavy boots and cleats, and the longer days will let us take walks after dinner. I can’t wait!


Do you ever take winter walks? Where are your favorite places to explore? Share with me below in the comments!