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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is some SERIOUSLY simple living!

Today was actually a really good day, and I'm so grateful for the support I've gotten from friends and family in such a difficult time.  Times like these really make you realize who is there to support you and who you better not rely on.  I'm not one to ask for help much, but the kind words and good thoughts are so helpful!

To make a long and upsetting story short, Karl and I were no longer able to stay at his dad's house as of a couple days ago.  He wanted us to put Willow to sleep if we wanted to continue staying at his house.  Those of you that know Karl and I know that Willow is basically our entire life and we couldn't possibly get rid of such a loving pet.  Willow is basically my shoulder to cry on every time I'm upset or homesick, so I couldn't possibly imagine handing this move without her.

No sooner were the words out of his dad's mouth when we both said we wouldn't be coming back that night.  We headed out to take care of a few errands and came back a few hours later to pack some overnight bags.  We didn't want to waste any money, so we planned to camp for the night.  We headed down the Palmer Hay Flats, which is basically a parking lot for the hunting trails.  Camping is permitted, however, so we thought it was a good choice.  Because it wasn't an actual campground, we decided against setting up the tent and instead set up our sleeping bags in the back of my car.  In hindsight, this was a really bad idea for my emotional health.  Waking up the back of my car made me feel like I was truly homeless and made me want to crawl back in my sleeping bag and cry.

We decided to get a hotel last night so we could get showers and use the free wifi to crank out some serious job applications.  We both felt like we'd applied for just about every job we were qualified for and went to bed hoping that today would be a day of phone calls.  We were pretty successful and Karl has interviews on Thursday and Friday, and I have two on Friday.  I am so hopeful that of these four interviews we'll walk away with at least one job offer!

I'm also feeling a lot better about the potential living situation.  We are housesitting for a cousin of Karl's for about ten days starting next week, and have two low cost options for afterward.  We are meeting a guy about a one room cabin available on a month to month basis tomorrow night, and have also located a hotel with a VERY reasonable monthly rate.  These are both options we could afford with the part time job I'm 99% sure I've secured, and would only require us to dip into our savings a bit.

For now, we're staying in the hotel again so we can be pretty for our job interviews.  We'll likely camp over Labor Day weekend, because hotel rates are likely to be a bit more expensive and even a cheap nightly rate tends to add up!  I've learned my lesson though, and we'll be staying at a campground with a fire pit and we will be purchasing hot dogs and the fixings for s'mores!

I'm sorry I don't have any pictures to add - we had amazing views at the Hay Flats and this hotel is directly on the lake, but I haven't been in the mood to even take my camera out for the last few days.  Thank you for reading my sob story, and thank you for your well wishes!  I'm convinced that your prayers are what have made things start looking up!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Trout Fishing on Knik Lake

I apologize for the lack of posts this last week, but things are pretty rough around here.  Gives a whole new appreciation for Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, that's for sure!  I don't want to post too much about it right now - I'm hoping for some good news in the next few days that I can share.

In any case, here's some photos I've been hanging onto since Karl and I headed out trout fishing for the day.  It took us awhile to hunt down the fish, so we relaxed and enjoyed the scenery around the lake.  We were so lucky that we managed to see four bald eagles in the few hours we were there!

Once we found a school of trout, it was game on!  I completely destroyed Karl and caught five rainbow trout to his piddly two!  Don't worry, we threw them all back.  I was a bit disappointed we hadn't kept one though when I saw a recipe on the Today Show for stuffed trout - drats!

I love this picture of Karl - I think it turned out perfect!

Don't expect to see too many posts in the coming weeks unless things turn around a bit.  I don't like writing blog posts when I'm upset because they just turn out whiny.  Think good thoughts for me and send some positive energy to the north!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Off Roading Fun

In an attempt to pick blueberries that were allegedly the size of grapes, Karl's dad took us out to Sutton (about an hour away) to head to a blueberry patch he'd seen in the past.  We loaded up the little white truck (which is a bizarre combination of truck and 4-wheeler), and headed to Kings River Trail.

I had decided to ride in the back with Karl, but I didn't realize that the trail was incredibly long, bumpy, and muddy.  We aren't talking little bumps either - I thanked Karl about a million times for strapping the seat into the bed.  Otherwise, we would have surely flown out the back.

About halfway in, we stopped at Ruby Lake for a quick break.  It was gorgeous, and great timing as it had just started to rain.  We waited it out under a tree before hopping back in and heading up.  A minute or two later, we came across two moose grazing in the forest.

They waited patiently as I took a few photos, and stared as we drove off.  This was the first time I actually got to stop and take a good look at a moose!

We travelled higher and higher up the mountain, and my inherited fear of heights kicked in a bit as we were near the edge of a VERY high drop off.  Beautiful view, but I kept my distance.

The trail got rougher and more boulder filled the higher we went.  The rain from the past several weeks made for some really tricky situations, and we ended up a bit off the trail!

Luckily this truck is so light, the three of us were able to lift the back end up and kind of throw it back on track.  We didn't make it too much further before we realized that the rocks were too big and we just weren't going to make it through with this vehicle.  Just one more time when I really wished we had some four wheelers!  I can just imagine throwing on some old clothes and flying through the mud puddles and up the trail!

We stopped and nibbled on some cranberries on the way back to make up for missing out on blueberries.  We had a yummy lunch of sandwiches and fruit salad back at Ruby Lake and headed home.  One last stop at the river by the road to give Luke a quick bath (he was coated in mud from head to toe), then on to the bar for Taco Tuesday!

Fresh Picked Veggies from the Farm

Since I'm not able to have my own garden this year (appropriate though, considering I don't have a home), Karl and I decided to visit a local pick your own farm.  Pyrah's Pioneer Peak Farm is located in close by Palmer, and has a huge variety of delicious veggies to pick.  Their prices are great too because you're doing half the work!  Palmer is known for it's great gardening, which is partially due to the long summer days in Alaska.  Palmer also has some great soil and is less rocky than a lot of other places nearby.

Palmer is such a beautiful area because it is so close to the mountains.  I would definitely consider living here, except there's two problems:  One, it is ridiculously windy all year round.  Two, I haven't found any places for rent or sale.  Actually, I guess that's kind of the bigger problem...

We got this whole load, including lettuce, spinach, radishes, potatoes, rhubarb, and cauliflower for just $15!  I know it looks like a lot of rhubarb, but I have plans for it - check back tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Camping in Seward

Once we made it down to Seward to visit with Karl's family, we ended up camping for the night before heading back to Wasilla in the morning.  Seward is such a cute little town on Prince William Sound and is one of my favorite places to visit.  Most of the camping is right on the beach, too!  There's nothing better than listening to the waves lull you to sleep!

Last time I went to Seward was in the winter, and I was somewhat disappointed because nearly everything was closed.  This time around, the streets were packed with tourists and a cruise ship was in the harbor.  It's nice knowing that I'm living in a place that people dream of visiting, but I really do not like crowds of people and traffic!

We found this fun sign at the car rental agency which gives some perspective about how far we are from some key places around the world!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hiking to Exit Glacier

On our way down to Seward last week to meet Karl's dad (who was doing some halibut fishing), we made a detour to visit Exit Glacier.  Just a few miles outside of Seward, it was the perfect place to kill some time while we waited for his dad to come back in from fishing for the evening.

Exit Glacier is easily viewable from the road, and is only a 1 mile hike from the parking area provided by  the NPS.

Exit Glacier is one of over 30 glaciers flowing from the Harding Icefield, a 30 by 50 mile stretch of ice in the Kenai Mountains.  This glacier was given its name by being the exit route for the first exploration party to successfully cross the icefield in 1968.  There is a longer hike that will take you all the way up to the icefield, but we started out far too late in the day to see it on this trip.

All in all, it was a great spur of the moment detour!  After we'd left, Karl told me about a sign near the entrance to the trail that he'd read while I was off searching for a bathroom.  Apparently, it warned about bears in the area and gave these instructions:  "If you see a black charging you, slowly back away.  If you see a grizzly bear charging you, play dead.  If the grizzly bear starts to eat you, fight back."  I don't know about anyone else, but I don't think I would be able to play dead while a bear was eating me unless I was ACTUALLY dead.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Visit to the Blueberry Festival

To finish out Blueberry Week, let's take a trip to the Girdwood Blueberry Festival!

While advertised as being all things blueberry, I was a bit disappointed in the amount of blueberry deliciousness.  We were able to find a few yummy treats, like blueberry cobbler:

And oatmeal, raisin, & blueberry cookies:

Even though the festival left a bit to be desired, it was held at the absolutely gorgeous Hotel Alyeska.

This is one of those fancypants hotels you only dream of being able to afford!  It's probably a little cheaper in the summer, but I'm sure it costs a fortune in the winter as Alyeska is Alaska's premier ski resort.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fun with Jam!

Welcome to Day Three of Blueberry Week!

Obviously, jam is delicious on toast and in PB&J sandwiches, but what other yummy ways can you use it? I decided to make fresh blueberry pancakes one morning, and figured a little extra sweet never hurt anyone.  I took a bit of the leftover strawberry & blueberry jam and thinned it out a bit with some hot water.  It made an absolutely delicious fruit syrup for the pancakes!

It also made a killer ice cream topper!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strawberry & Blueberry Jam

Blueberry Week continues!

Well I obviously had to do something with our piles of blueberries, and one of my favorite things to make is jam!  I was a bit disillusioned with the amount of blueberries I would need to make pure blueberry jam (basically everything we had picked for just 6 jars), so I decided to make a combination of blueberry and strawberry.  I took my classic strawberry jam recipe and adjusted it for 60% strawberries and 40% blueberries.  Here's my recipe:

3 cups crushed strawberries (I sometimes use a blender if I'm feeling lazy, but make sure you do in very small amounts and only for a few seconds.  If you blend it too much your jam will end up a soupy mess.)
2 cups crushed blueberries
7 cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell

Follow your typical canning instructions (sterilize jars and all that good stuff).  Combine your fruits and pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, then add your sugar and boil again for 1 minute.  Process your jars of jam for 10 minutes.  I got ten 8 oz jars with this recipe.

It's very sweet, but that's just how I like it!  Check back tomorrow for a great way to use this jam!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blueberry Picking in Hatcher Pass

Welcome to Day 1 of Blueberry Week!

In a spurt of nice weather, Karl and I decided to head back to Hatcher Pass and hunt for some blueberries.  Without a four-wheeler, we had to find a place to hike to that might have a berry patch.  We headed up Hatcher Pass Road and turned onto Archangel Road, which took us to the Reed Lakes Trail.  Archangel Road was a typical unmaintained Alaska road, which meant your max speed was about 3 MPH.  It was a beautiful day for a hike, and we got an up close glimpse of some of the mountains that have already collected some snow.

About 1.5 miles in, we came to the last remnant of the Snowbird Mine Village, an active mineral mine from 1939 to 1959.

You would not believe the number of abandoned mines in Hatcher Pass (the most popular being Independence Mine - I'll show you that someday too!).

Seriously, look at the view outside this window.  Makes you feel a little bit better for the miners that were basically stuck here working until every last resource was extracted from the mine!

After we passed the mine, the trail became a lot rougher.  There were makeshift bridges and lots of boulders to climb over and around.

We passed gorgeous Lower Reed Lake, which I of course didn't manage to get a picture of...

Just as the the trail started to get a lot steeper, we came across a TON of blueberry bushes that were almost completely ripe!  We'd seen a few bushes lower on the trail, but most of the berries were still a few weeks from edible.  It seems that the higher elevation helped the berries out a bit.  We sat and berry picked for about two hours, all the while being eaten alive by mosquitos because someone forgot the bug dope.  We both felt like we'd rolled around in poison ivy by the time we headed back to the car.  Once all the berries were washed at home, we were able to get a good look at what we got.

And to think, we only stole a few handfuls on our hike!  I'd definitely like to hike the entire trail, but I think we'll need to be a bit more prepared to go further than a couple of miles.  One of the coolest things about Alaska is you are basically allowed to plop a tent down anywhere in the state.  Perhaps an overnight in Hatcher Pass is in order?

More blueberry fun coming tomorrow!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

One Month Alaskaversary!

Today marks one full month that Karl and I have been in Alaska!

Time has really flown by!  It does seem like a really long time since I have seen any friends or family, but I can't believe I've already been in this state a whole month.  We've gotten a lot accomplished - we have Alaska driver's licenses, our cars are registered in the state, we've changed addresses, and Karl has changed his cell phone to a local number.  We've each applied for several jobs, but no response to anything so far.

We are still living in Karl's dad's house, which is certainly challenging at times.  We're in an interesting position, because we can't pay rent if we aren't working, but we're really enjoying the freedom to travel, camp, and generally explore the state without the commitment of a job.  I'm still feeling burned out from my last job, and can only imagine going back to work if it's in a slightly different environment.  I'm hopeful that we'll be able to find jobs within another month or two, so we can get our own place sooner rather than later.  It's really hard to feel settled when 95% of all of my belongings are still boxed up and hard to even access.  It's also frustrating knowing that I can't even start harassing people to come visit until we are living in our own place.

Karl is happy to be back with his family and friends, and it's so nice to see him in his own environment.  I try to think of that when I'm feeling a bit out of place, and hope that it's only a matter of time before I can consider Alaska home.  Willow is quite content, although she's generally pretty easy to please.  She will probably be devastated once we are working again, because she's gotten very used to us both being around all of the time.

We have had so many opportunities to travel around the state, and there are still so many places to explore.  It's been very exciting to find a place I like and realize that I can go back whenever I want.  It's also so much less pressure, because we're not trying to fit 10 years worth of experiences into a 10 day vacation.

In short, life here in Alaska is still very new to me and I have my good days and my not so good days.  I am really looking forward to having a place to call my own and friends that will come to visit.  Until then, I'll just have to suck it up and keep visiting all of the beautiful places in Alaska!

Blueberry Week will start tomorrow - I couldn't ignore my Alaskaversary!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blueberry Week!

I'm a busy little bee up here in the last frontier and I'm announcing Blueberry Week here at my blog!  Next week will be all things blueberry because they sure are ripe here in Alaska.  First we'll go berry picking, then see what fun things we can do with fresh blueberries!

Have a great weekend everyone - I wish you were all here to share in the berry harvest!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Blogging (and a giveaway, perhaps?!?)

Hope everyone has had a chance to check out my newly redesigned blog!  It's definitely still a work in progress, and my apologies to anyone who has tried to navigate while I'm making a mess of things.

I never imagined myself as someone who would blog.  It's also safe to say that I never imagined myself as someone that would move to Alaska, either.  I decided to start a blog when I realized I was moving away as I had became a faithful follower of my cousin Laura's blog.  It is such an incredible way to share photos and stories, and I think I would cry if she stopped posting Sammy pictures all the time!  I hope that my blog is able to do the same for my friends and family - I know you can't all come to visit, but I want to share what I see and what I do with everyone.

Even beyond my desire to share what is going on, I write this blog for myself now.  It helps me to focus on the good things in life, and gives me a chance to reflect on my experiences.  I love going back and reading my older posts!  It's like a diary, but minus the teen angst and whining because I put a lot more thought into what I write.

But my real point here is that I know I have a lot of stalkers and lurkers out there.  You know who you are - you don't 'follow' me and you aren't leaving me comments!  To help remedy that, I think I will be doing a giveaway sometime in the near future.  I definitely want it to be Alaska themed - what would you guys like?  T-shirt?  Bumper sticker?  Mug?  Socks?  A Moose?  Let me know how I you are most effectively bribed!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two Spoiled Dogs

 When we left the cabin a few days ago, it was just starting to rain again.  This made our boat ride home absolutely FREEZING.  Had to bust out the winter coat in August – what a tragedy!  Willow, on the other hand, still has her summer coat and shivered the entire way back.  We covered her up with Karl’s extra jacket, but it only helped a little bit. 

I decided to make her a little jacket until we see if she is able to grow enough fur to keep warm, especially in 30 below temperatures this winter. 

It’s a little difficult to use a dog as a model, but I think it turned out pretty well.  I love how the front looks like a preppy sweater wrapped around her neck – goes perfectly with the argyle print!

With fleece on sale this week at Joann’s, I decided to make new doggie beds for both Willow and Luke.  Willow’s was kind of gross, and only came with us so she could sit on it in the backseat of the car.  Luke’s poor bed can hardly even be called a bed, as it has no cushion at all. 

I wanted to buy foam cushioning for the inside, but it was going to cost an arm and a leg.  Instead, I went with a queen size mattress pad, which I was able to cut into pieces and layer to make a nice fluffy bed.  I sewed a zipper on one end so the cover is removable and washable.  Easy project, and made me feel a little more at home with my sewing machine back in action!

Looks like they both like their beds!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wild Berries

The types and numbers of wild berries everywhere in Alaska continually surprise me.  I found a big patch of wild raspberries in front of the cabin and collected a bowlful.

There wasn’t enough to collect for jam, so what’s the next best thing?  Fresh raspberry pancakes!  

These wild berries were so sweet and delicious, and made for a wonderful breakfast!
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