Seward Side Trip

On our way back to Napaskiak this year, my husband and I decided to spend a few days in Anchorage before heading out to the Bush. I had to visit the OBGYN who would be taking over my maternity care in September, so we figured it would be nice to spend a few days shopping and exploring some more of Alaska.

On one free afternoon we were talking and decided that we should take the Seward highway out of town and visit the Kenai Peninsula. I was excited to see some glaciers in the fjords. Despite having lived in state for a year, we have not traveled outside of Anchorage or Bethel. Alaska is a huge state with really diverse populations and geography, so we had only had a small taste of what the state has to offer.

People are always remarking about how it must be nice to live in such a beautiful place, and while I love living in Napaskiak, it looks nothing like the ‘postcard Alaska’ that most tourists experience when they come here. We don’t have any mountains nearby, and because it is so flat and near the river, you can’t really appreciate the beauty unless you are flying in a plane above.

Our drive down the highway was accompanied by fantastic views, and I tried to catch what I could with my camera phone. We didn’t have time to stop at the many roadside photo pull offs if we wanted to make it in time for our dinner cruise, so we lived in the moment and tried to preserve what we could.

The highway hugged the water the whole way to Seward. It was beautiful!

The highway hugged the water the whole way to Seward. It was beautiful!

Road signs at one of the very few gas stations along the way.

Road signs at one of the very few gas stations along the way.

The nice thing about this trip was that it was very easy to get there. We hopped on the Seward highway, and drove essentially to the end of it. Alaska’s road system is pretty straightforward. We had to be careful about gas though, as there were long stretches with no amenities. It’s important to plan ahead in that respect.

Hugging the rocks on one side, and water on the other.

Hugging the rocks on one side, and water on the other.

More beautiful landscape.

More beautiful landscape.

Finally we arrived in Seward about two and a half hours later. We parked in the lot designated for our tour and caught a bus into town. Seward had that seaside charm that reminded me of Maine… if Maine had mountains that is.

The view of the downtown from the port.

The view of the downtown from the port.

I was in love. Immediately I was dreaming with my husband about opening a bed and breakfast in the town and living there after we decided to leave the bush. It’s just a pipe dream for now, and one of many for sure, but I love to dream and plan for the future. If I’ve learned anything it’s that life can take some pretty crazy turns when you least expect it, so just go with the flow. If you decided to be happy in your life it doesn’t really matter where you land on the map.

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The boat for our dinner cruise.

The boat for our dinner cruise.

Our cruise was scheduled for three and a half hours, including a dinner on Fox Island. We would not get far enough out of the bay to see the larger glaciers, but they did say we would see all sorts of wildlife, and the views were amazing. On the trip we saw Eagles, puffins, seals, and even a lone humpback whale surfacing. I was giddy with delight. To see these animals in their natural, unspoiled habitat was simply breathtaking.

View from the boat.

View from the boat.

Bowl glaciers up on the mountain.

Bowl glaciers up on the mountain.

Arriving at Fox Island for dinner.

Arriving at Fox Island for dinner.

Walking on the stone beach of Fox Island after dinner.

Walking on the stone beach of Fox Island after dinner.

Fox Island

Fox Island

After dinner and some time exploring on the shore, we were back on the boat. Some more wildlife sightseeing, and then warm chocolate chip cookies served by the crew capped an unforgettable trip.

The wake off the boat.

The wake off the boat.

Cold, but loving every moment!

Cold, but loving every moment!

Hopefully in the future we will be able to plan a little better and take one of the longer day cruises and get out into the fjords and glaciers. If you are planning a trip and wanted to check them out, I would highly recommend Kenai Fjords Tours as they have an amazing variety of options. (I’m not being paid, just passing along some advice- I really had a great time!)

Thanks for reading! Any advice on other day trips out of Anchorage we should try in the future? Let me know in the comments!

2015 Reading Challenge- Halfway There!

The two pieces of advice I have heard over and over again for people who wish to be better writers are as follows:

1. Write more

2. Read more

So, at the beginning of this year, I decided to really commit to reading more. And not just in terms of volume. I consume books at a really fast rate, but when I’m not thinking about it, I tend to gravitate towards the same types of books over and over again. Now, there is nothing wrong with reading in the same genre, especially because it gives me insight into what works and what doesn’t, but if I really want to push myself as a writer I would be dumb to ignore the plethora of other genres and authors out there. In the end we all have access to the same words right? It’s just about putting them in a different order.

I stumbled across this really diverse list of book suggestions from Popsugar over on Twitter and was interested at once. It had categories such as: “A book you were supposed to read in high school but didn’t” and “A book with antonyms in the title”. The categories seemed fun and not too specific, so I felt I was up for the challenge.

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In actuality, you have to read 52 books as one of the categories is a trilogy, so that evens out to one book a week for the year. I had a friend on Facebook who was able to complete a 100 book challenge last year, so I thought ‘hey- this will be a cakewalk! I read really fast, and what is a book a week?’. As I have come to find out, it is really easy to fall behind, and my reading isn’t very consistent. I tend to go through binges where I will read three or four books in a week, but then I only read one book in the months of June and July because I was busy visiting family for the summer. (more on those adventures here!)

As of September 1st, I find myself having completed 25 books, marking the halfway point (kind of) of the challenge. Due to the large amount of variety in options, I haven’t really felt restricted in my book choices, and have been able to read pretty much whatever I wanted, worrying about fitting them to a category after turning the last page.

The complete challenge list, with the books I have read so far crossed off.

Things are getting a little more difficult now, as I am having to search harder for books that fit the categories. (Anyone have a suggestion for a book set in Camden, NY? My hometown is seriously small!) I’m still having fun though, and Goodreads is more and more helpful when searching for books with specific characteristics.

The following is a list of the books I have read so far. You can also check out my bookshelf on Goodreads dedicated to the challenge for my personal ratings on each. I hope you find some new reading material here! There are some real gems in this bunch!

1. A Book you were supposed to read in High School – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
2. A Funny Book – The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
3. A Banned book – Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
4. A Book published this year- The Heir by Kiera Cass
5. A Memoir- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
6. A book with more than 500 pages- The Firm by John Grisham
7. A book that became a movie- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
8. A book with nonhuman characters- The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
9. A book by a female author- Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand
10. A mystery or thriller- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
11. A book with a one-word title- Younger by Suzanne Munshower
12. A book set in a different country- Animal Farm by George Orwell
13. A book a friend recommended- Raven’s Gift by
14. A book based on a true story- Night by Elie Wiesel
15. A book that scares you- Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
16. A book you can finish in a day- Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm
17. A trilogy- The Selection by Kiera Cass
18. A trilogy- The Elite by Kiera Cass
19. A trilogy- The One by Kiera Cass
20. A book with a love triangle- The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons
21. A book set in high school- The Second Ship by Richard Phillips
22. A book with a color in the title- Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
23. A book that made you cry- The Gemini Effect by Chuck Grossart
24. A book with magic- The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello
25. A book by an author you’ve never read before- Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

The next book on the list for me? Geek Love- a book published the year I was born. It was re-released as a ‘vintage contemporary’ (1989 is vintage now???) but I’m counting the original release for the purpose of the challenge.

Are you doing any type of reading challenge? Let me know about it in the comments below!

Alaska State Fair

I am now in the final month of my pregnancy, so that means that I have left the village and am staying ‘in town’ (Anchorage) until the big event! As much as I miss my husband, it is kind of exciting to be spending some more time in Anchorage, and exploring the surrounding area with friends!

This past weekend I went to the Alaska State Fair. I was excited to see how it compared to The Great New York State Fair, which was one of my favorite events every summer before school started up again. I haven’t been able to go in years, so I jumped at the opportunity to eat fair food and explore!

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The Alaska State Fair is held in Palmer Alaska, about 45 minutes north of Anchorage at the base of the Chugach Mountains. It was a chilly morning when we set out, bundled in coats, gloves and winter hats.

We spent three hours checking out all the fair had to offer. It wasn’t as large as the NY State Fair, but it was jam packed with great exhibits, and I didn’t even feel bad about not being able to go on the rides.

The first place we visited was a small booth selling Birch Syrup. Think maple syrup, but from birch trees. Having grown up in Central New York where I looked forward to the taps and buckets hanging from our large trees each fall, and the promise of sweet treats to come, I was immediately interested in birch syrup. It was fascinating to learn about the process from Dulce East of Kahiltna Birchworks. She took us through a tasting of the various blends from the 29 day harvest- from the spicy notes of the dark first day reserve, to the final run that was much sweeter, but still had that spice and citrus that set it apart from a traditional maple syrup. What really blew my mind was that it takes 110 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of birch syrup; compare that to the 40:1 ratio for maple! I left the booth with an 8oz bottle that set me back $17, but the promise of that spicy syrup on homemade pancakes in the coming cold months made it worth every penny.

In the farm pavilion I saw baby chicks hatching, and even got to pet some that were a few days old. There were adult chickens of all sorts, including some with fancy feathers sprouting out all around their heads that looked like something you would see on the Parisian runway.

Along with the birds there were rabbits, cows and the biggest pig I’ve ever seen- it was as big as some of the calves! I’ve also decided that tiny jumping baby goats are adorable, and someday I want to own some… I just need a yard to keep them in.

Alaska is also known for it’s large vegetables, and the fair certainly didn’t disappoint on that count. Not only could you purchase a zucchini the size of my thigh for $5, there were prize winning veggies on display as well.

Crazy big zucchini!

Crazy big zucchini!

Many people assume that the growing season in Alaska is too short, or too cold, but the long summer days and warm temperatures of June and July lend themselves to monstrous produce.

Prize winning produce

Prize winning produce

The annual cabbage weigh-off wasn’t scheduled until later, but one of the contenders was this amazing entry, weighing in at over 100 pounds. Imagine that!

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After visiting the produce pavilion, we headed on over through the booths to the craft building. I’ve always been amazed with the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the artists in this state. Alaska seems to breed people with imagination and the talent to transform simple materials into beautiful art. The building showcased not only native art, but a wide variety of crafts including quilting, crochet and knits, mixed media, photography and visual arts.

One of my favorite examples of the ingenuity of the Alaskan people came from the spinners presentation:

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This was a sample blanket made entirely with yarns spun from various dog breeds. I’ve always joked about making a blanket with our puppy’s hair, because she sheds like no one’s business, but I didn’t know that it actually was a possibility! Each square in the blanket was a different breed and pattern. They were so soft, and quite frankly, I want one! I am going to start saving our puppy’s fur from when we groom her. Now I just need to learn to spin…

My husband would have really loved the next display:

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Behold: crocheted hats complete with beards, for all of the characters featured in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The time and effort that was put into this display is mind blowing!

What day at the Fair is complete without food? I enjoyed a huge Alaskan baked potato smothered in cheese and broccoli, and then for desert I stopped by the donut shop for mini donuts and hot cider. It was the perfect combination to cut the chill of the air.

Mini donuts and hot apple cider- Mmmm.

Mini donuts and hot apple cider- Mmmm.

Three hours after we passed through the gates, we were headed back to our car, peeling off our layers as the sun began to warm the crisp Alaskan air. I was thankful that we had arrived early though, as the parking lots had filled up and the road into town was jammed with people headed to the fair for the day. It was a great experience that left me tired- but inspired as well!