Weekend Hikes : Donegal Bay Beach

We are all about the weekend hiking in this family.  When we lived in Juneau it was not unusual for us to spend every Saturday and Sunday out hiking, sometimes for 4+ hours a day.  It’s been tough to get into much hiking here on the island.  I’ll admit that it’s probably my own fault.  I’ve been so sad and nostalgic for Alaska hiking.  Don’t get me wrong, there is some good hiking on the island.  There are many nice trails that twist and turn through dunes, beaches, pine and birch forests, and other cool places.  My heart just hasn’t been in it though.  I’ve been in an Alaskan funk lately with hiking.  I’ve been missing my rainforest trails and my mountain views.  This weekend I had to kick myself into gear though.  For my own mental health I needed to be outside.

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Cody, Specks (the dog), and I decided to spend Saturday and Sunday both at the beach.  Donegal Bay Beach is only a few miles from our house.  While there aren’t any actual trails there, Lake Michigan is frozen enough to allow for some lengthy strolls across the ice.  We spent nearly an hour out there both days.  Just tromping around in the snow and ice.  It was a pretty nice day on Saturday, with temps in the mid-thirties.  Sunday was bone chillingly cold though.  Temps in the single digits and wind chills that put us well below zero.  We were frozen by the time we got home on Sunday afternoon.

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This weekend was just what the doctor ordered to cure my winter blues. Totally worth braving the cold.  The views were pretty spectacular.  Plus, we got some much needed exercise for us and the doggy. It was a wonderful weekend.  We finished it off with a pizza from a local joint and a binge-marathon of Law and Order.  Not too shabby.

Your turn…What do you do to fight off the winter blues?

Currently listening to…Johnny Cash- Big River

 

Why I Miss Living in Alaska

It’s been five months since Cody, Specks, and I left Alaska.  Not a day goes by that we don’t miss it.  We’ve spent the last five months having fun and keeping ourselves busy.  We’ve truly thrown ourselves back into Midwestern life.  But, something has been missing.  Life just isn’t the same here.  I’ve narrowed it down to a few key points.  I know what we miss and why we miss it.  Alaska just gets in your soul.

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1.) The lifestyle.  I miss having thousands of miles of hiking trails at my fingertips.  Cody, Specks, and I hiked at least 2 times per week.  Plus, there was a breathtaking glacier in the middle of town that I walked to at least once a month. Every weekend was new adventure when we lived in Alaska.  We rarely ever spent a weekend inside, even in crummy weather.  We hiked, fished, camped, and climbed mountains.  Exercise in the form of outdoor activities drove our lifestyle.  Dull moments were few and far between. We were healthy, happy, and whole living this lifestyle.

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2.) The community and culture.  Alaska has an incredibly rich culture.  I miss living somewhere so identifiable by this.  There are no Tlingit dance groups or storytellers in the Midwest.  There aren’t monthly artist walks through downtown Beaver Island. Canoes don’t carry tribes from all over the state to a yearly Celebration.  Poetry slams, theatre performances, and symphonies are all missing from our life.  Juneau was a tiny city with a HUGE cultural impact.  Not many towns of 30,000 people can boast such a rich repertoire of events. It’s just not the same living without these cultural elements.

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3.) Winter.  Winter in the Midwest isn’t like winter in Alaska.  Sure, there are places to ski (kind of) and hike in the winter here.  It’s not the same though.  Alaska lives in near-constant darkness in the winter, which I never minded.  If anything, it made me more ambitious because I had a much shorter amount of time to accomplish tasks like shoveling or exercising.  We were constantly taking trips to the ski resort( five minutes from our house) or hiking out to NFS cabins to spend snowy weekends. I also really like cozy, dark evening snuggling at home with my family.

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4.) The weather.  Now, the Midwest tends to have far better summers than SE Alaska.  Midwestern summers are long, hot, and gorgeous.  SE Alaska has the better weather overall though.  Juneau is in a rainforest and the weather is incredibly temperate.  We typically didn’t see winter temps below 30°F and we didn’t see summer temps higher than 60°F.  There were exceptions to this obviously but the average is between 30°-60°F for the whole year.  Midwestern weather on the other hand is a fickle thing.  Take last week for example, we had five days of temperatures in the -15°F range.  The summers might get above 100°F for weeks at a time.  It’s a big change and I’ve found that I prefer my temperate climate.  I like that in Juneau I could wear the same outfits all year and I could hike all winter with only a fleece and a raincoat.  It made life easy.

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5.) The mentality.  There is just something about the people in Alaska.  Juneau is a blue city in the midst of a red state.  But, the state as a whole is very libertarian.  People tend to be very “stay out of my business.”  I like this.  I knew people, people were incredibly friendly, but people generally stay out of each others business.  Everyone takes care of each other without needing to discuss it.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Your turn…What are your favorite things about where you live?

Currently listening to…The Lumineers- Dead Sea

 

Snowshoeing

On Friday, it snowed a bunch and Cody and I both had the day off of work together.  Cabin fever set in pretty quickly so we decided to strap on our snowshoes in the early afternoon and trek around at a local beach.

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We walked to the beach near our house and then snowshoed down a small hill and out onto a beach.  Much of Lake Michigan was frozen where we were so we walked out onto the lake too.  Thankfully, our snowshoes have ice cleats on the bottom, making the trek seem much easier than it would have been otherwise.    It was great fun!

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By the time we got home we were freezing because it was only about -15°F outside.  The wind blowing off of the lake froze us to the bone, even in our heavy winter gear.  Specks loved it though.  He doesn’t seem to mind the cold so much.  Snow is his favorite thing in the world. He was pretty pooped after it was all said and done though.  Perfect way to spend a snow day : )

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Your turn…Have you been partaking in any winter sports lately?

Currently listening to…Sweater Weather- The Neighborhood 

Snow Day

I’ve been teaching for three years now, and until today I hadn’t ever been gifted a snow day.  Once, in Alaska, it snowed 30inches overnight and we still had school.  For real. This morning when I saw that school was closed I was thankful.  After spending a few years in Alaska I had forgotten how awful Midwestern winters can be.  Juneau winters are great…temps between 20-30, occasional warm-ups with rain showers, and winter sports galore. Midwestern winters are evil…temps in the -20 range, drifting snow, and ice storms. I’ll take those dark SE Alaskan winters any day.

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Today, I am hoping to spend the morning relaxing with a good book and then maybe I’ll go out snowshoeing this afternoon.  I got some Redfeather Snowshoes for Christmas.  Winter sports have always been something that I enjoy so I can’t wait to test them out.  Cody got a pair too so I think we’ll make a family event out of it.  Stay warm!

Your turn…Were there any snow days in your state this week?

Currently listening to…Eddie Vedder- Setting Forth

A Review of 2014

This year was an exciting one for me. I traveled across two counties and over ten states. I camped under the huge Canadian Rockies and watched a moose drink from a roadside pool. I nearly hit a bear…and then a bison with my car on the ALCAN Highway. I climbed mountains and hiked all over Alaska. I scaled a glacier and ate a hunk of ice right off of the side. It was a truly incredible year. To wrap-up the year I have decided to compile a list of my favorite pictures from each month. Enjoy!

JAN

January: This was snapped at Skater’s Cabin in Juneau, AK.  January was a ridiculously warm month in Alaska last year. It had been in the 40’s for many weeks and we made the most of it by spending every day outside.  This particular day was a sunny Saturday.  We packed up our grill and met friends at the cabin for a big cookout.

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February: This was taken on Bluff Trail in North Douglas, AK.  This trail is one of my favorites for doggy walking.  It is a pretty wooded trail that opens onto a big, beautiful beach.  We often saw otters, bears, and other creatures on the trail.  Specks loved it!

MAR

March: This was taken at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, AK.  Cody and I trekked over Mendenhall Lake, up the side of the glacier, and then INSIDE the glacier.  We hunted around the ice caves. The ice was incredibly blue and ethereal-looking.  This was one of the most incredible days of my life.  Once in a lifetime.

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April: This was taken at False Outer Beach in North Douglas, AK.  Again, this is one of my favorite dog walking spots.  The beach is right off of the road, but there are huge bluffs and rocky beaches to explore at every turn. The day was seriously breathtaking.

MAY

May:  This was taken at Eagle Beach in Juneau, AK (out the road). The weather was unseasonably warm  and we loaded up and met some friends for a day of fun at the beach.  It was in the 70’s and the sun was shining bright.  I actually managed to get a sunburn!

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June: This was taken at Fish Creek in North Douglas, AK.  A very sunny and warm winter/early spring gave way to a rainy and cool summer.  It stayed in the 50’s for most of June.  We made the most of it though by getting outside and finding fun activities to do.  This day was spent fishing, hiking, and relaxing at one of our favorite spots.

JUL

July: This was snapped on top of Mt Roberts in Juneau, AK.  My family was in town visiting from Illinois and we braved the climb up Mt Roberts for a little fun.  The days were still chilly, which made for perfect climbing weather.  My mom brought along this compass and had the idea to take a picture with it at the top.  Turned into a perfect shot.

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August: This was taken on the ALCAN Highway in the Yukon Territory of Canada.  This was a tough month to pick a favorite picture.  Cody and I took a huge road-trip and drove the ALCAN.  It was incredible.  The Yukon was probably my favorite place we drove through, British Colombia comes in at a close second.  I highly recommend this trip!

SEPT

September: This was taken at Donegal Bay Beach on Beaver Island, MI.  Cody and I were LOVING the warm weather in Michigan.  We spent almost every day at the beach that month.  Lake Michigan was a wonderful temperature for swimming.  So tropical!

OCT

October: This is another shot from Donegal Bay Beach on Beaver Island, MI.  The weather turned cooler in October, but we still visited the beach frequently.  Sunsets over Lake Michigan are unrivaled in my opinion. There is no such thing as a bad sunset here.

NOV

November:  This was snapped at Fox Lake on Beaver Island, MI. The leaves were absolutely stunning this year.  A rainy fall made for some incredible scenery on the island. This picture was taken after a fun day cruising around the island.

DEC

December: This was taken from my bedroom window in Michigan.  Snow had recently fallen and the sun was rising through the trees.  It was a lazy Sunday morning and I was sipping coffee from bed.  The views from my bedroom window are always so relaxing.

Here’s to another fantastic year!!

Your turn…What was your favorite part of 2014?

Currently listening to…Avett Brothers- January Wedding

Merry Christmas

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful and relaxing holiday season.  My little family and I are back on the mainland and in the Midwest visiting family.  Today has been full of homemade goodies, naps, laughs, cocoa, holiday movie marathons, and quality family time.  It’s a very beautiful thing.

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Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

I finally dug into my reading list and spent the last two weeks reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I stumbled upon this book after seeing it on a Buzzfeed list (I know, I know, it’s a guilty pleasure).  I believe the list was about dystopian novels.  With the recent release of Mockingjay I have been on a serious dystopian-genre kick.

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I have to say…I LOVED this book! It sucked me in immediately and I read the entire thing in under two weeks.  The book takes place in America in the not-so distant future.  Religious extremists have taken over the country and women are no longer allowed to read, write, or make any major decisions.  Women who were married and successfully birthed children before the takeover were given the task of becoming handmaids (aka birth mothers).  Their only task in life is to be assigned to a household, become pregnant, give the baby to the family, rinse and repeat.  This happens until the woman is deemed no long fertile and then she is sent “away.”  They never say where this “away” place is but it sounds pretty horrific.  On top of that, crimes are punished by public execution, religious persecution is running rampant, there is blatant corruption in their government, undesirable people are sent to live in slum “colonies”, and overall there is just a super scary tone to the country that these people are inhabiting.

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There isn’t a necessary climax, just lots of constant intrigue, drama, and information.  Some people may shy away from this book simply because of the lack of climax.  The other thing I foresee some people disliking is the lack of dialogue between characters.  Personally, I like Atwood’s writing style because she uses a ton of inner dialouge. Offred, the main character, speaks very little because, as a handmaid, her position is considered fairly shameful.  The inner dialogue provides for some huge character development though and it makes the reader really identify with Offred and her struggles.

I’d read this book again in an instant and recommend it to any adult who enjoys the dystopian genre.  It’s definitely not a YA book like so many of the books in this genre.  It’s more in the same vein as 1984, adult content and focused on major issues. It’s a super quick read and I think a lot of adults would devour it pretty quickly.  I actually enjoyed it so much that I am now reading another adult dystopian novel called Oryx and Crake, which was also written by Margaret Atwood!

Your turn…Do you enjoy the dystopian genre?  Why or why not?

I’m currently listening to…M83- Midnight City

Baked Apples

My class made these baked apples during our Thanksgiving Feast last week.  So. Much. Deliciousness. It was an amazing treat.

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We just cored the apples and then baked cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, and butter in the middle. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  Heavenly.  The kiddos couldn’t get enough of these delicious babies and they looooved helping core the apples.

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Apple treats always make me think of crisp weather, carving pumpkins, and changing leaves.  Basically, apples are a huge part of my favorite season. Our fall was cut short this year by some SERIOUS snowfall.  So,  I’ll  just imagine this while I snack on fall treats…

Your turn…Do you have any seasonal cheats?  Hot cocoa in July?  Pumpkin pie in April?

I’m currently listening to…James Brown- I Feel Good

 

The Return of the Internet

Some of you may have noticed that it has been a VERY long time since I posted in my tiny corner of the internet.  I promise, there was a valid reason. Michigan (and other places in the US) got hit with a crazy amount of snow over the last two weeks.

This picture was taken AFTER an entire foot of snow had melted.

This picture was taken AFTER an entire foot of snow had melted.

So, the first snowstorm hits us and we lose our internet.  Three days go by and nobody can get to the house to fix it because of said snowstorm. Finally, after five days of no internet someone makes it to our house.  Voila!  Internet is fixed…for less than twenty-four hours.  The second wave of snowstorms hit at this point causing a violent loss of power. Our modem became completely fried because of the outages.  Nowhere on the island sells modems so we had to have one shipped in.  It’s been two weeks and we are still waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

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Thankfully, a kind person on the island managed to dig up an extra modem for us to borrow until ours finally arrives. We are THANKFUL for the kindness of strangers.

Your turn…Were you effected by the snowstorms at all?

I’m currently listening to…Modest Mouse- Float On