Memorial Weekend on Kenai Lake

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Memorial Day Weekend is full of memories for me.


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Every year, my family prepared for the first camping trip of the season. We usually went South towards the Russian River, and I remember the car rides being painfully long (though fun). All of us kids would get to pick a candy for the trip, trading with each other or turning our riches into games. Obviously, I hoarded all of the red Starbursts.

Something I noticed about this year, is how different camping looks as an adult now.


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For one thing, so much preparation goes into a weekend (even just a night) away from home. Packing food, sleeping gear, extra clothes, recreational gear, dog, wet shoes and dry shoes, cooking gear… I mean, the list goes on and on. I appreciate my mom more than ever, after realizing last week just how much time she spent preparing for our family weekends away. Dad would get the truck/camper/boat/etc ready to go, and Mom would make endless PB&J sandwiches, go grocery shopping for camping food, make sure all of the kids were packed, never forget dog food, and maintain the campsite while we were there.


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We all had our merry fun in the woods– my cousin, sister, brother and I (and sometimes other friends). I honestly have no idea what all of our parents did while we were romping through the trees, building forts and foraging for various flora that would make fun sounds when thrown into the fire. We had water balloon fights, squirt gun fights, river dunks, ocean splashes, and many instances of pouring water out of our boots. So much water. We roasted marshmallows, played Uno, and subsisted off of salmon and Pop-tarts.


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And yet, I had no idea of the work that it took to make those weekends so memorable. My parents put so much time and energy into making the weekends things to look forward to. Not only the energy poured into, but now that I’ve been camping as an adult, the work required afterward always surprises me.


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Rinsing out coolers, taking down tents, making sure the dog is dry-ish before throwing her into the car, cleaning cookware, washing campfire-smoked clothes, emptying backpacks, and just putting everything away… So much work.

But you know, I have to think that all of that work is worth it. Sure, it’s a lot for a slim amount of time…but it’s time spent in nature. On riverbanks. On beaches. Beneath trees. On windblown plateaus. You get to watch the sun make its way across the sky with a camp-cup of coffee. You get to skip rocks. You get to watch the miracle that is a burning fire. And you get to be away, if only for a few moments.

While I know that camping isn’t the point of Memorial Day, I do always hope for rest and peace to surround the day. It’s a “holiday” that I’m grateful for, and I know I’m not alone. I think we all need that reset a little more these days. So, from me to you, I hope your weekend was full of heart…and I hope you plan more weekends like that this summer.

We’ve made it to Late Winter

posted in: Musings | 0

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So many times, I have thought about leaving Alaska again. Especially this time of year. The weather just won’t seem to cooperate, whether we’re claiming we want snow or we want sunshine. I think Alaskans in March don’t know what we want. We want to ski! We want to camp! We want all of the hobbies! And we’re so good at hobbies, aren’t we?


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Aside from our two very long in-between seasons (you may have thought they were Spring and Fall, but really, they’re just Late Winter and Early Winter), we’re spoiled. The plethora of hobbies that people pick up in Early Winter just astound me–myself included! In early October, we start a common chant of “Well, I gotta have something to do this winter,” which amuses me to no end (you know you’ve said it too). It’s not like we’re quitting our jobs and will have endless amounts of free time in the winter for all of these new hobbies. I know we’re just trying to make ourselves feel a little less crazy…less stir-crazy, at least. Being inside all of the time can start to mess with a person for sure.


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But, enough about the crazy! It’s late March, there is no snow on the ground in Anchorage, it’s weird, and we have hobbies to discuss!

My own additions for the winter included a sourdough starter and subsequent bread, making my own kombucha, meal prepping (a little), and Netflix. As badly as I wanted my hobby list to just be healthy, productive, and utterly fascinating, I have to say: Netflix is a perfectly decent hobby, and sometimes a necessary one. Especially when it’s cold, dark, and an entire season of a new BBC show just appeared.

As a full-time graphic designer, my creative outlet at home is no longer Art. Sometimes that’s a tough pill to swallow, but, it has made me vastly more interested in cooking. The sourdough experiments have truly been experiments, but there have been a couple of winners! The kombucha was a wonderful and painless addition to my list of activities, with only one utter fail so far. And I’ve taken to cooking up two large pots of food on Sundays, to freeze part of one and use the remaining with the other pot as lunches for the week. There have definitely been winters where melted cheese was the main course of every dinner, but I’m ecstatic to say that this hasn’t been one of them.


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When I’m starting to feel pretty much over Alaskan Winters, it’s great to look back at the past season and see what reality looks like. Some winters, the view doesn’t look good. It just doesn’t. Like that melted cheese I was just talking about. And other ones, well, they make me feel like another blissful summer is just around the corner…and I don’t put any more thought into abandoning this great place. After all, we’re in this together. Truly.

What were your additions this year?

Indigo shadows, and the fear of walking alone

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Little Watson and I went for a little trot down the Chester Creek trail last weekend, cold air stinging our faces (well, mine, at least). While I am so grateful for the trail system Anchorage has, walking around by myself does make me a little nervous. It’s something I’m trying to be better about, especially since Watson enjoys her walks so much. A part of my journey in shaking the fear, has been to look for the magic while we’re out. Once my blood gets moving, and my eyes are attuned to the colors of the forest…turns out, we’re just fine.

The little layer of frost under our feet crunched quietly as birds darted overhead. I can’t believe it hasn’t snowed yet, I thought to myself. We were walking fast, but we like it that way. The shadows lurked in indigo tones as we stepped further into the forest. Only a few frigid winter bicyclists careened down the trail, cheeks and noses rosy, the “just-keep-peddling” look on their faces. I smiled a little, hoping it would be some encouragement as they continued their journey across town. It was a cold day to be biking.


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Once the bikers were past us, we were again alone in the frosty wonderland. Houses surround the entire trail system that weaves throughout Anchorage, but for much of the time…it doesn’t feel like it. Another fifty feet in, and it feels like you’ve entered another world, and no one else knows you’re there. It’s wondrous.

Part of living here, I think, is to come to terms with fears like mine. I’ve traveled all over the world, but still get nervous walking in the greenbelts of Anchorage. Alaska is a wonderful place, but it’s not always going to be friendly or safe (weather, animals, crazy people, etc), and that’s part of its allure and mystery. The reality is, if you live here:

You will accidentally startle a moose (and vice versa!).
You have to be aware of your surroundings.
You need to tell someone where you’re going.

And aside from taking the necessary precautions to be outside in Alaska, the only thing left…is to just go.

So we did.

Sometimes: That’s Okay

Sometimes you’re not going to have time for all of your lovely, daring dreams.
That’s okay.

We spend a lot of time rushing around, trying to accomplish everything that simply must be done in a day…but sometimes, it just can’t be done. And that’s okay.

My to-do list lately has stretched a mile long with task after task, both for my day job and my heart projects. It’s easy to feel like you’re letting yourself–heck, your dreams down, but I’m here to tell you that is simply not the case. You already do so much, dear one. You take care of people. You take care of yourself. To add in multiple jobs and projects beyond that is extra, and an honor. But it can also be daunting. It can feel impossible and pointless. It can leave you sleepless, restless, and done. But don’t let it get to that point.

Remember why you love these projects so. Remember why you chose your current career (or in my case, keep trying to appreciate that the career chose me!). Remember how good you feel at the end of a productive day. When you’re starting to get burnt out, the productive days can feel few and far between (but really, as humans, it’s impossible to be productive 100% of every day, so don’t you fret). Remember why you’ve chosen the projects and path that you’ve chosen.

If you can’t remember, it might be time to change some things.

Cold & Dark is Here


Photo by Loren Holmes / ADN

Last week was rough–did you feel it? (No, not the multiple earthquakes, but, did you feel those too?) What I mean to ask is: Did you find it a bit harder to get out of bed in the morning than usual?

It seemed to be the theme of the week. Almost everyone I encountered seemed bewildered, as we’d gone from glorious to gloomy within the span of a weekend. And so, we drank another cup of coffee, put our heads down, and tried to keep our eyelids open. You’d think we would get used to it, but the sun and the warmth and the dry roads: they spoil us. We bask in the ever present light, we make ourselves wear shorts, and we forget that the winter ever happened.

…Until it comes back around again. And suddenly, we’re pulling ourselves out of bed in the darkness. Stepping one foot on top of the other to keep toes warm on the kitchen floor. Hugging ourselves a little tighter on the way to the car, telling ourselves that it’s not time yet to put on the heavier jacket (It’s not that cold yet, honestly!). But oh, OH! The first snow has landed on the mountains! It has dusted the hillside in a way that makes you desperately want a plate of french toast with powdered sugar. It carries with it a smell that you’d forgotten: cold.

It’s here.

Here’s a few fun links to get us through the week:

  • Art of squeezing in a workout was a hilarious read, which I nodded my way through.
  • Gala Darling just posted her list of 30 Things to Do in Fall, and there are some gems in there. Better get started!
  • This soup recipe is making it okay that it’s cold out!
  • It’s almost time for the AK Ski Swap! It’s on October 24 & 25, and this year it’s at the new Alaska Airlines center. I think I have all my gear in order for this winter…but it never hurts to look. 😉

Time to Cozify!

Foggy morning in Anchorage


Uh oh. Waking up at 6 AM suddenly means waking up in the dark.

I wasn’t prepared for it this morning, and my flannel sheets felt endlessly cozy upon waking and feeling the chill creeping up my bare shoulder. I tucked it under the covers, balled up for a few minutes in preparation before springing up to hunt for warmer layers. (Note to self: place hoody and slippers by the bed…not the door.)

After the initial flabbergast that is waking up in the dark, I found myself ready to write this post. The entrance into Fall is so lovely. It’s charming. It’s stimulating. But inevitably, it invites Lady Cold and Lady Darkness into our lives…just when we got used to the Warmth and the Light. No matter. Here’s how we approach this:


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[This list is for anyone, but especially the folks that have a harder time with Alaskan winters. I’m right there with you, sisters, so these are some of my ways to combat the SAD!]
 

  • Time to pull out the hats, mittens, and wool socks.
  • You can now switch out your fun-loving sandals for adorable boots.
    (Bonus: tall boots are still on trend)
  • Our coffee habit is about to increase exponentially. I keep my zen by stashing a bag of Kaladi Trieste Decaf in the freezer, thus limiting my actual caffeine intake.
  • One word: Candles.
    Light a few when you wake up, and not only will your house smell more snuggly, but you’ll just feel warmer in the presence of a flame.
  • Soup.
    Get out that crock pot, throw some things into it before you go to bed, and the smell will ease your senses into awareness come morning. If you’re not into the smell of soup for breakfast, you can adjust the timeline so it’ll be ready when you get home from work!
  • Blankets.
    I find that if I can pile enough sweater blankets on myself, I can easily stay warm. Mind you, “blanket” is a blanket term here (not sorry). Huge sweaters, ponchos, sweater dresses: they all count as blankets to me. The cozier the clothing item, the better.
  • A good read.
    Few things are better than retreating to the above pile of blankets, and getting sucked into a few chapters. It exercises your mind in a way that screens can’t, and it’ll help take your mind off the cold&dark.

 

See, that feels better already. And now the sun is up!
(Watson isn’t convinced.)


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What happens, upon letting go.

posted in: Musings | 0
I love days like today. I love days where things just work out. When Time seems to agree with you, the day runs smoothly, conversations are pleasant, and before you know it: Boom. Time to go home for puppy cuddles.

As an introduction, please note:
This blog post may have changed my life.

I’ve spent much of this life not being content, and part of that has come from the whiteout conditions we feel when things feel out of our control. It’s out of our hands. Fate/God/Universe is driving, and we’re stuck being a passenger. Of course that means we’re side-seat driving. “BUT WAIT! I didn’t WANT to go right! Well, since we’re going right, I’m going to sulk about it the whole loooong way home. Would’ve been shorter if we’d gone left. Jab.”

For all of the years I’ve spent trying to be in control of things, sobbing when all hell breaks loose, and then later trying again…one might think I would have changed my ways. But no–these habits sit way down deep. And when things are habits, they’re easy. We all know that building habits is the hard part. My current habits have told me to that getting bummed out is a decent reaction to life. That if I don’t get what I want, I can be bummed out (I can even be snarky, if I want!). They’ve told me that I’m allowed to react negatively when someone else is reacting negatively.

My main goal is usually to fix their situation/mood/hunger levels. I’ve mothered. I’ve patronized. I’ve cooked. The always surprising result? I typically find myself miserable while endeavoring to do the noble thing: help.

The point of all of this, dear one, is that through all of my reaching…I have failed to take note of this: I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR TODAY.

I feel relieved, honestly.

It’s just for today. Just for me. As the sole contributor to my actions and words (and even my thoughts), that’s more than enough. I can’t help the person that hates her life. I can’t help the person that is hungry in the morning because she just refuses to eat breakfast. I can be there to listen, but at the end of the day, they have to help themselves. (Bacon, eggs, and a bubble bath are all excellent places to start).

And so, I’m writing this phrase everywhere. I want to wake up with it, heed it, and make it a habit. I want to enjoy the contentment that comes from taking responsibility for my own life. You get to feel the wind wave through your fingers from the passenger seat window. You don’t get to do that shit when you’re driving–both hands on the wheel, ladies.


During this month’s closer look at Contentment (with a capital ‘C’), I’ve noticed a few things that at first glance I didn’t suspect were related. One of those things is: dreading things that are out of my control. Another: Empathy. Check back later on, as I plan on expanding on those two things this month.

Weekly Gratefulness – September 17th, 2014

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1. Quiet walks through the woods
The above photo was taken at the Eagle River Nature Center, and I’m so glad we got to go out there before winter hits.

2. Bar-side Chats
When you feel as though you’re on an episode of Friends, I think you’re doing things right. It’s not an activity that I get to do often [read: ever], so I’m so thankful it got to happen last weekend.

3. Live Music
There’s been so much excellent music in Anchorage this summer, and I’m grateful I’ve gotten to see many of the acts.

4. Baked mac and cheese
Honestly, I’d like to think that I’m a connoisseur of local macaroni and cheese. I’ve tried it just about everywhere that has it in Anchorage, but one taste of the delight at Rustic Goat blew me away. I have a couple other favorites, but for a truly decadent bowl of noodles: try them at the Goat.

Gift Yourself Some Time

posted in: Musings | 0

Here we are, nearing the middle of September already! As time keeps flying by, I wanted to make one simple suggestion: Make time for yourself.

Figure out the way you can best relax, and do that solo. Maybe it’s reading. Maybe it’s taking a bath (while reading?!). Maybe it’s going on a long walk with the dog. Keep the activity simple, and the intention clear: This is a gift for me.

When we take care of ourselves and give our minds a break in this way, we are better prepared to meet the needs (and sometimes, demands) of others.

For me, writing in the morning, while the coffee is brewing and the clock is ticking melodically, helps me get through the day with a little more patience than I would otherwise have. Just knowing that I did that one little task makes me feel like I did something important (at least for me, and maybe for you too), and I can come home feeling less frazzled.

As our Autumn days become shorter and frequently colder, what will your activity be? Although I’m excited to cozy by our fireplace this winter and hunker down into some hobbies, I’m enjoying every speck of fall–rain and all!

Eklutna in the Afternoon

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The trail winds back and forth, shrouded beneath the blazing Aspen yellow. It’s magical to behold. My eyes dart upward as I trip over a root, suddenly stepping amongst the halcyon light.


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And the crispness! You know what I’m talking about: the cleanest feeling in the world. Our sensationally fresh Alaskan air feels magnetized in the Fall. It buzzes with excitement as colors burst forth, as birds turn their lopsided W’s into perfect V’s. As berry pickers reveal blue teeth, full mouths, and less full buckets. As our massive mammal neighbors prepare for an enviously long nap.


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I always want to learn the colors by heart. I stare at them with unblinking eyes for as long as I can muster, then squeeze my eyelids shut and watch the colors reverse on the insides of my lids. If I could leach color and store it up for the whiteness of winter, I would.


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Do you remember the sunrises and sunsets we had last winter? That’s one thing I’m looking forward to. We’ve had some glorious ones as of late, but something about our lack of light and color in the winter just seems to magnify the intensity of the sun. Though I’m sure there’s actually some sun science that goes into it, I like to imagine it’s just that the colors explode more against our white canvas.


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On glorious days like this, I can’t believe we live here.


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This hike was along the Twin Peaks trail. We only went to the first bench this trip, but you can take the trail all the way up to the peaks.

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