A Walk in the [Chugach State] Park

So our border collie Moose is crazy. She’s a sweet and loving baby to us, but when we take her hiking, she gets crazy overwhelmed when she sees other dogs on the trail.

It makes hiking with her suck.

So we’ve been trying to find places where we can take her, allow her to play off leash, and not worry about her getting aggressively friendly with other dogs.

We finally found that place.

One of Matt’s coworkers mentioned an isolated hiking spot south of town where there are hardly ever people out. It sounded perfect, so we packed up Moose (Sasha Bear is on our injured reserves list, after her last hike left her with a two week limp) and made our way out.

It was a cold, windy, and cloudy day.

It was beautiful.

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Not gonna lie, my eyelash extensions look great in this picture

Not gonna lie, my eyelash extensions look great in this picture

IMG_6215 Moose got to be off-leash, so she was so happy. She would run ahead on the steep, icy trail and then run back to us. She kept wanting us to follow her. IMG_6212 IMG_6210 IMG_6217 IMG_6224I think this place will be our secret hiking spot. It’s amazing, we were so isolated but could see Anchorage in the distance. We didn’t see a single soul on the hiking trail (although we did see several hikers and two dogs at the parking area). For the first time since we’ve gotten her, we weren’t concerned with leashing Moose or fearing other hikers with their dogs would come around the corner. We got to work with her on coming when called, and sitting even though she was excited.

It was a perfect Sunday hike.

 

Anchorage loves Cabela’s

Anchorage has a Cabela’s!!

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Sorry for the finger in the photo. Clearly, I’m not as good a photographer as I thought.

The Cabela’s in Anchorage opened last Thursday, April 10th. People freaked out. Over 4,000 people went to Cabela’s on its opening day. I was actually in Kenai the day it opened, and struggled getting a flight home because grown adults were flying into Anchorage from all over with empty duffels to go shopping at Cabela’s. Oddly enough, flying into Anchorage to go shopping isn’t unusual. A lot of people fly in from bush communities to go grocery shopping at Costco and clothes shopping in town because it’s more affordable. A gallon of milk in the bush community can be over $10, and go bad quickly.

Anyways. Matt & I met up at the Cabela’s on Friday after work to explore. In our old town Greenville, they had just gotten a Cabela’s days before we did so I was excited to go explore.

The place is a museum of stuffed animals and beautiful things.

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Beautiful ceilings, chandeliers, and whales.

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The biggest fireplace you will ever see in a retail store.

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Commemorative hats calling out the city of Anchorage. (Disclaimer, I actually bought one of these for Matt because they reminded me of a leather Browning hat he wore all the time when we first started dating)

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There was a forest of taxidermy-d animals in the center of the store…. IMG_6181

… directly over an aquarium. With real live fish. I know, guy in my photo, it is pretty cool.

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There were taxidermy-d bears and goats all around the top of the store. I loved that they made the bear swipe for taxidermy-d fish.

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There is also a gun library. I’d say half of the store shoppers were in the gun and ammo area. Very popular in Anchorage.

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Matt got some ammo! & he was in heaven.

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There were a lot of shoppers.

 

It is very exciting that Cabela’s has come to Alaska. I’m honestly surprised there wasn’t one up here sooner, but apparently something is causing retail chains to finally make their way up (A Bass Pro Shop opens this summer). The Cabela’s is really close to our house (less than 5 minutes) so I may have to start checking our credit card statement and making sure Matt doesn’t spend too much time there. ;)

For those of you in SC, how was your Cabela’s opening? Does your store have the cool stuff ours does?

Attending a Tweetup

Last week, I RSVP’d and attended my first ever Tweetup.

What is a tweet up, you ask?

Basically, it’s a group of people with similar interests on twitter (#aktweetup, y’all!) meeting up in real life to network.

I’ve been trying to do new things that I didn’t do back South up here, and this is something that I’ve thought was cool but never had the guts to participate in.

Originally, I was going to go on my own, but then I wussed out. What if everyone was weird? (weirder than me, rather) What if everyone was just on their phones the whole time staring at their screens tweeting at each other instead of having a real conversation? My nerves got the best of me, and I showed up at Matt’s office when he got off work and kidnapped him and made him come with me. There goes all my independent woman street cred.

The location of the Tweetup was at a place called The Boardroom. It’s a co-work space where individuals who don’t normally have offices or are running their own businesses can call home, and do work with the added benefits of human socialization. There was a place like it right beside our house in South Carolina, and I considered going several times when I was an account manager to motive myself to do more than computer work with Netflix streaming.

IMG_6163The tweet off started a little slow, I think a lot of the other people there were a bit nervous as well. Luckily, they had free beer from a local brewery to help provide some social lubrication!

IMG_6160Matt & I spent our first 15 minutes there talking with the beer guys (because, duh, they had beer) about a new beer they were coming out with and about the beer competition happening in Denver, and other beer related things.

After drinking some beer, we explored the layout. One thing they had that was super cool was a projector showing tweets about the tweet up! (so meta)

IMG_6161After exploring, Matt & I went to the Wheel Good Food Truck outside of the building to get some dinner. I love food trucks, and this one didn’t fail! I had a quinoa reindeer mix, matt had a caribou burger, and we split some fries. Overall, delicious as always.

IMG_6164OnIMG_6164Once we ate, drank, and explored, we became the social butterflies you all know us to be. Sadly, I was battling a sinus infection (literally, I went to the doctor that morning), so I sounded terrible and my throat hurt so badly. I think people were avoiding me for fear of contagion. Whoops!

But we did meet a lot of really cool people! We chatted with people we wouldn’t normally have ever met, like a girl who does roller derby, a lady who runs the Girls On The Run chapter for Anchorage, a food blogger, a guy who works for Visit Anchorage tourism, and DJ Spencer Lee: the best DJ in Anchorage who once kicked me out of a bar because Matt dared me to turn the turn tables. (Happily, he didn’t remember me).

Another cool thing they did was give out door prizes! I won a $10 gift card to the local coffee shop, Kaladi Brothers!

DJ Spencer Lee & I posed with my win (and our matching Louis bags!)

DJ Spencer Lee & I posed with my win (and our matching Louis bags!)

Matt won a door prize too: two tickets to a Roller Derby event for Saturday night! We went, it was a neat experience that I’m glad we took the time to explore. A bit weird, but we’re learning that if it ain’t weird, it ain’t Alaska.

Overall, there were about 50 people at the Tweetup, ranging in age from hipster (young) to classics (older than your usual tweeting demographic). We got to meet a lot of cool and interesting people who we would have never met before, and share stories of life in Alaska. I would definitely go to another Tweetup, maybe even by myself!

Would you ever go to a Tweetup? Would you be braver than me and not kidnap your significant other outside of their office to attend with you?

Two Years of Marriage!!!!!

It’s strange to think that Matt & I have been married for two years now!! We’ve been together for so long (September 2007) that two years doesn’t seem like long enough to have the adventures we’ve been able to have. If anyone would have told me I’d meet the love of my life at a dorm room party on the Beta Theta Pi hall my sophomore year of college, I would have laughed. Mainly, because that’s a very specific way to meet.

Since getting married, Matt moved to Greenville, South Carolina, we backpacked around Europe, bought a mountain cabin in Tiger, Georgia, I took a promotion with my old company, we made incredible South Carolina friends, decided to move to Alaska, sold our house in Greenville, South Carolina, i quit my job, drove with our dog Sasha on a 10 day trip from South Carolina to Anchorage, i found a new job, and we made some pretty amazing Alaska friends.

whew! Who knew so much could happen in such a short time?

To celebrate our anniversary this year, we are doing a 10 day tour of China, spending our time in Shanghai and Beijing. We’re super excited, because neither of us have ever been, and I really enjoy seeing Matt experience new cultures. It’s so cute seeing a country boy in new settings.

Since it is our anniversary (and I didn’t have a blog when we got married to originally show off these pictures), I wanted to share with y’all some of my favorite pictures from when we tied the knot two years ago! It’s been an amazing ride, and we love all of you for joining us!lisa-carpenter-EM-wedding001 lisa-carpenter-EM-wedding011 Continue reading

DIY: Home Address Plate

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We had a problem at our house.

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Also, we finally took down our christmas lights today, April 5th. I kept singing Redneck Woman all day.

We had no house numbers. Just remnants of the mismatched numbers that the house came with. One of the first new home projects I attempted was replacing them when I was putting up our Clemson flag.

Unfortunately, the address plate I ordered off Etsy never came, the seller became unresponsive, and two months later American Express (seriously, best credit card company ever) removed the charge from our card. And we were back to square negative one.

Instead of ugly numbers we hated, we had no numbers at all, and just an outline of where some used to be.

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I’m actually a bit embarrassed it took us this long to get an address plate. We literally haven’t had one since August. And aside from a rude comment from the UPS guy (hey! we had numbers on the mailbox!) and telling anyone who came over to ‘look for the orange clemson flag!’ we were fine without them. I know, so lazy. There were just so many other cool things to do!

But it was ugly.

So we browsed on Etsy again, but the address plates were so expensive for what we liked, and so ugly for what we wanted to pay. So I browsed on Pinterest. I ended up finding some cool ideas, and decided “I’m handy. I’ll build one!”

So, it was off to my favorite home improvement store, Home Depot for supplies.

IMG_6058We picked up a 1″ x 8″ x 6′ board, a 60″ long edge molding, the house numbers we needed, and a fancy new brad nailer.

Side note about the brad nailer: I have been wanting this guy ever since I heard it was coming out. It allows you to basically use a pneumatic nailer, WITHOUT the pressurize air. All it takes is the Ryobi One+ batter (it’s a really cool system for any homeowners looking to do their own projects, but not trying to abuse them day in and day out).

Anyways, here’s how we did.

First, we measured where we wanted the address plate to hang. The space was 21″ wide, so we decided to cut our 1″x 8″ to a 19″ length. That way it would fill the space, without being too tight.

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After cutting our big board, we cut our molding to the same length (19″) to have it align properly. Since I don’t have a great way to cut angles, we just put our molding on the top and bottom of our address plate. I’m sure it would look awesome on all four sides.

After making our cuts, it was time for the fun part: using our new Ryobi One+ Brad Nailer!

IMG_6072Since the nails that came with the Brad Nailer were 1.5″ long, I just used wire snips to cut them flush with the wood.

IMG_6075After this was done, we were on to the hardest part: ensuring the new numbers were going to go on straight.

We used a level and painters tape to tape the number stencil down and to ensure it would be perfectly straight.

IMG_6076After drilling the pilot holes, we decided to stain + seal the wood, because obviously Alaska is a harsh environment on anything, and we wanted our hard work to last for the entire length of our home ownership

Quick Tip: Whenever painting or staining, an easy way to prevent your project from sticking to the paper is to use pushpins to hold it up!

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Ta-Da!

Ta-Da!

For staining, we used the same stuff we used for our behind the couch table, a Cabot stain in the color Gingersnap. I like it because it stains + seals in one coat, so you don’t have to worry about going back over to seal it and missing spots.

IMG_6081While we were waiting for the sealer to dry, we I had a major dance session with the dogs to some great 80s music.

When it was finally dry, we mounted the board onto the house first. This allowed us to hide the mounting screws behind the numbers, so you can’t see them.

Once the board was mounted, we used a waterproof silicone glue to mount the numbers in our drilled holes. This will help our project last by 1) keeping the numbers in without cracking over time, and 2) prevent water from seeping into the wood and rotting it from the inside.

Overall, I think it looks great!

Yay! Our home is now identifiable to EMS in case we ever have an emergency!!

Yay! Our home is now identifiable to EMS in case we ever have an emergency!!

So I have to ask: What easy projects have you been putting off? I know one of my next ones is painting our front door, and hopefully putting in a glass screen door so we can let the light (but not the mosquitos) in this summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Observations: Parking Lots

Since I am not a local Alaskan and I grew up in the South, I’ve had so many times where I see something and think “that is so different. I feel like my friends back in the Carolina’s would find this as interesting as I do”

Today I was at the local grocery (Fred Meyer) buying food for lunch, when I thought about parking lots.

Parking lots in Alaska are interesting (to me, at least) in the winter because there are no rules.

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Source: www.barnorama.com

With snow covering the lines, people literally park wherever they want. Quadruple park in 4 spots at once? Why not!

Also, it’s much easier to push a shop cart along a clean lot versus a lot filled with snow and/or ice. With the snow melting, I am relieved to find my carbonated beverages are no longer on the verge of exploding from the rocky road to the car

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I hope you guys are ready for these insights I plan on sharing with y’all!

Life with Four Dogs

So for the past week, we’ve been petsitting for some friends of ours that we met up here in Alaska, but are originally from South Carolina and went to Clemson the exact same time as us. (Small world, huh?)

They headed south for his sister’s wedding, so we offered to watch their two adorable and mischievous pups, Meiko and Sully. Meiko & Sully are 8 months old, and ENORMOUS. Like, 75lb and 90lb big. They make our dogs look small(ish) in comparison.

Sully wears blue

Sully wears blue

I think it is so cute how Sully & Meiko look like they could be Sasha’s babies (Sully even has the exact coloring, right down to the cute little eyebrow dots!) I also find it really funny that both sets of dogs are M&S initials. This makes using the shortened nickname in texts to Matt quite difficult.

We’ve enjoyed having Meiko & Sully because they exhaust Moose. Yes, the dog I thought was inexhaustible can apparently be subdued by 10 hour play sessions with two puppies who will play chase and wrestle with her until she says Uncle (or whatever the dog version of Uncle is). The pups are also incredibly adorable, soft, sweet, and Sully rivals Moose in the cuddly department.

How Moose feels after a week of playing with the other pups

How Moose feels after a week of playing with the other pups

One thing we’ve done with our four legged house guests is gotten a lot more relaxed about some of the house rules (which may come back to bite us in the butt when their Mom & Dad come back this Sunday!). Sasha & Moose have been sleeping in our bedroom (but NOT on the bed) since we felt bad that Meiko & Sully got to sleep inside.

I lied. They slept on the bed once. They were bed hogs, so they were banished to the floor forevermore.

I lied. They slept on the bed once. They were bed hogs, so they were banished to the floor forevermore.

And, since Meiko & Sully tend to eat blankets, we haven’t been following our ‘red blanket’ rule. The ‘red blanket’ rule is that Sasha & Moose know they can’t get on the downstairs couch unless red blanket is down. They are only allowed on red blankets covering, which helps prevent more dog hair from getting on the couch, and helps keep the couch looking fresh.

Luckily, this is how Meiko prefers to lay on the couch

Luckily, this is how Meiko prefers to lay on the couch

We’ve known Meiko & Sully since they were pups, and they’ve played with our dogs since we met their owners Jason & Erin, so it’s easy to treat them as if they are our own. I even had one of those ‘remember when they were so small!’ chats with Matt last night

Flashback to August 2013 when Meiko was this tiny!!

Flashback to August 2013 when Meiko was this tiny!!

Regardless, there are definitely some downsides to having four dogs. The biggest would be yard cleanup.

Having dogs has made me more comfortable with poop than I would like to admit. As Matt and I were doing yard cleanup tonight (45 minutes with both of us!), we found ourselves joking about the ‘crappy state of the yard’ and that this was a ‘shitty job’ to have. Yes, I am becoming someone who uses potty humor. I must have picked it up for the Outhouse Races during Fur Rondy!

The only other downside has been the warmth outside. It’s been really warm in Anchorage the past week (temps in the 40s!), so as the snow starts to melt, the flower beds are turning to mud. And four dogs LOVE playing in mud.

So tonight, Meiko, Sully, & Moose all got baths. (Sasha apparently is a priss and hasn’t gotten muddy. I think she’s waiting until we feel like she’s the best).

Sully didn't mind bath time

Sully didn’t mind bath time

Moose was terribly upset

Moose was terribly upset

The other great things about petsitting has been that we have learned Moose & Sasha LOVE crates. Everytime we let them in the house, they would go straight for Meiko & Sully’s crates, and seem so sad when we told them to get out. This made us go online to Amazon (yay Prime for free shipping! I don’t care about your price increase, the fact that you ship 2-day to Alaska is AMAZING!!!) and order Sasha & Moose crates of their very own.

As I was assembling them this evening, they both kept trying to climb in. I consider this a success! Hopefully this will make Sasha sleep on her bed instead of the hard concrete by the garage door and ease the pain on her hips.

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It’s been wonderful, if not chaotic, having so many big dogs. Sadly, I feel like once their owners come pick them up Matt & I are going to miss having the little energetic ones around. I think even Moose & Sasha will wonder where their daily companions are!

One thing that blows me away is that in Alaska, having 4 dogs in one house isn’t a big deal. I know several people who have 9-16 dogs, because they use them for dog sledding and other stuff. I’m not sure what other stuff, hunting, maybe? But dogs in Alaska are definitely for function as well as pets. So despite her fur, this makes Sasha a terrible Alaskan dog. She doesn’t even do a good job of alerting us to strangers. She does do a great job at barking at nothing, so maybe that’s her true calling?

Anyways, that’s just a quick note about what we’ve been up to this past week in Alaska! Coming up in our schedule is our two year wedding anniversary (April 7th!) and our anniversary trip to China! I’M SO EXCITED!

Sunset From A Mountain Top (well, kind of)

On Sunday night, my friend Stephanie and I decided we were going to hike Flat Top Mountain and watch the sunset with a bottle of wine.

The sunsets are finally starting to occur later in the day here in Anchorage (finally! I feel like I’m not being rushed through my evenings!) and Sunday the sunset occurred at 8:41pm. Steph came over for dinner before our hike, and Matt made sure we had everything we would need for our hike, aaaand just in case we got lost on the mountain we could survive for two days.

Oh yeah, I’m pretty terrible at packing for a hike myself. I typically forget things like gloves. hats. jackets. headlamps. you know, basic things for warmth and darkness.

So Matt ensured we had all the gear we would need: a camo backpack (of course) filled with headlamps (4), toilet paper, a portable propane tent heater, a lighter, ice trekkers, a tarp (to sit on), gloves, a hat, collapsible wine glasses, a charged cell phone, our park pass, and the reminder to bring a jacket. Steph was in charge of bringing the wine, a warm blanket, her own jacket, gloves, hats, and her super nice Nikon camera.

We left the house around 7pm thinking we would have plenty of time to hike to the top. We took the Glen Alps trail to the east side of Blueberry Loop, and then up the Flat Top trail. The trail was still kind of slick, due to the bright sun melting the snow during the day, and then freezing to ice at night. We took our time, especially on the narrow and steep parts!

One slip, and then you slide down the mountain. Hopefully the trees 100 meters down catch you!

One slip, and then you slide down the mountain. Hopefully the trees 100 meters down catch you!

Needless to say our caution (and the MILLIONS of steps along the Flat Top Peak) had us nervous we were going to miss the sunset! So we headed back down towards The Best Darn Bench to watch the sunset.

Rushing back down

Rushing back down

it literally had a sign calling it the Best Darn Bench. It did have the Best Darn View.

it literally had a sign calling it the Best Darn Bench. It did have the Best Darn View.

So we cozied up with a blanket, a propane heater, and wine…

Also, people that look cool in winter gear are mythical unicorns. I NEVER seem to pull off the 'casual hiker' look.

Also, people that look cool in winter gear are mythical unicorns. I NEVER seem to pull off the ‘casual hiker’ look.

to watch this:

IMG_5993I’m trying to really appreciate the sunsets we have right now, because the days are getting longer and when summer rolls around, there won’t really be any sunsets to watch for a few months. Last summer when we got up here, I went a little crazy over the fact that I hadn’t seen a dark night sky in two months. It’s a bizarre feeling that made it seem like my days were running together and I lost all concept of time. (It’s 11pm! Let’s go on a hike without flashlights because we don’t need them!)

Steph took some amazing pictures with her real-deal camera, these are all from my iPhone (which still came out pretty good, in my opinion). I can’t wait until she shares her photos with me so I can share them with you!

We sat drinking wine and enjoying the long sunset until all of a sudden it was freezing cold!!! Luckily, Matt had also ensured we had Hot Hands in my pack, so we shoved them in our gloves, threw our stuff in our bags and made our way down the mountain.

Maybe it was the wine, but heading down we felt so confident with our footing that we felt like made record time getting back to the car. We felt like we owned the mountain too, since we saw maybe a handful of people during our whole journey.

It was super fun, and I enjoy having someone who is on my level when it comes to snow hiking. I believe we determined we were “amateurs. or whatever level is below amateur. that’s it, that’s our skill.” Also, Steph is one of my favorite running buddies, despite the fact that she kicks my butt every time we venture out.

It’s definitely a hike I would do again, but maybe in the fall instead of spring. That way we could go up with a similar sunset time, but without the snow to create death trap hazards.

So people of the South, make sure you have mercy on me this summer and send me sunset photos! You know I’ll be sure to post photos of our Midnight Sun. ;)

Solo Roadtrip to Homer

On Tuesday afternoon, I packed up my car for the night and headed south towards Homer, Alaska. I have some customers in the peninsula, and I honestly didn’t want to deal with airfare and a rental car this week. The fact that the sun is setting later each day, and we’ve been having warm, beautiful weather made me more excited then ever to escape Anchorage’s bustling city life (I know people in cities with 500,000 people. You can laugh at me) and escape to some isolated land.

According to apple maps, it was a 6.5 hour drive. I did it in 4.5, with all the stops for photos

According to apple maps, it was a 6.5 hour drive. I did it in 4.5, with all the stops for photos. Without even speeding. (yay for no RVs slowing me down!)

I feel like I took a million pictures, and blew up everyones Instagram feeds (P.S. Follow me on Instagram if you like seeing me brag about pretty things in Alaska!)

So I figured what better way to share them with friends, family, and internet framily then through my blog!

So here goes:

View along Seward Hwy near Beluga Point

View along Seward Hwy near Beluga Point

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Moose hanging out on a frozen lake on the side of the road. So cool!

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Mt Iliamna at sunset!

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Descriptors of Mt Iliamna and Mt Redoubt (volcanos!) at a viewing point

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Ninilchik High School. How would you like this to be your mascot? (Because in all actuality, it looks really bad ass!)

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Sunset in my rearview mirror. I stopped for this photo, I promise

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Sunset from the Welcome To Homer hill! you can see two volcanos and a barge in the water. AMAZING!

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Literally the OTHER side of the parking lot. Welcome to the Halibut Fishing Capital!

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No visit to Homer is complete without a stop at the Salty Dawg Saloon!

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Got Matt (ok, I totally hope it doesn’t fit him and that I can have it) a classic Salty Dawg sweatshirt! Also, I had to sleep in it as my hotel room was freezing and I couldn’t figure out the heat.

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Good Morning! My view from my hotel Wednesday morning. Bonus: walking distance to my customers AND to lots of great artshops!

Sadly, I didn’t get to go in any art shops while in Homer. I’m saving those for a trip down with my girlfriends. Or if Matt & I take a trip down, I can go shopping while he fishes!

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Amazing breakfast joint, the Cosmic Kitchen!

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Best breakfast ever!

Bonus fact about the Cosmic Kitchen: They serve breakfast, lunch, AND mexican! Finally, a restaurant Matt & I can agree on.

IMG_5880 The next few shots are from Kasilof, Alaska. An incredibly cute town, with a surprising amount of cool tourist photo ops (I didn’t even get all of them!)

Check out this super creepy video on how to actually pronounce Kasilof (or just watch the video I posted on Instagram!)

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Realistic size of mosquitos. No lie, in Alaska they’re enormous.

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Can you find your state? I spotted a South Carolina!

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In Cooper Landing, I saw some guys fly fishing and fishing from a kayak on the Kenai River. As it was a super pretty, 40 degree day, I really wanted to join them and kayak around. Disappointingly, I saw no bears on the Kenai river. I guess I’ll have to wait for salmon season.IMG_5886 IMG_5885 IMG_5884Overall, amazingly beautiful drive. I also had an excellent day at work and had great interactions with my customers. Perfect cherry on a 27-hour time span.

Here’s a picture showing where the different cities I stopped in are on a map. I know Alaskan geography sounds foreign to anyone who hasn’t been here. (Prior to living in Alaska, I was so confused about city names in AK!)

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How did you survive your wednesday this week?

From The Kitchen: Quinoa Stuffed Tomatos

One thing I’ve been trying to do in 2014 is eat healthier. We’re doing more activities, so I want good food to properly fuel our bodies.

I also want to look good in my bathing suit when we go to the Virgin Islands this Christmas.

 

So, I’m always trying to find recipes that are easy (emphasis on the word easy!) to make, don’t use a lot of ingredients, and don’t use too many pots/pans/words I don’t know.

I’m going to be honest: I have no idea what sauté-ing looks like.

So when one of my favorite running blogs, rUnladylike, posted some recipes she made that incorporate some of the Best Food for Runners, I saw one that seemed easy enough to make.

I decided to modify her Quinuoa Stuffed Tomatos, and last night Matt & I gave kitchen work a shot!

Yum!

Yum!

The recipe says it serves 4, but there was enough stuffing left over to where you can easily serve 5. Also, each serving is really filling. We left the table stuffed.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole grain qunoa uncooked
  • chicken stock
  • 4 (or 5!) large, firm, ripe tomatoes.
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (i love garlic)
  • 2 cups spinach (I used the frozen stuff)
  • 1/2 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more to sprinkle on top
  • salt and pepper to taste
yay, it looks like Christmas!

yay, it looks like Christmas!

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees
  • Prepare the quinoa like the directions say, only use the chicken stock instead of water.
  • Cut the tops off the tomatoes, then carefully hollow out the insides. I went around the inside edge with a pairing knife, then used a spoon to scoop out the insides. Shake the leftover seeds/pulp out, then place the tomatoes cut side down on paper towels to drain. Your tomatoes should look like little cups. Dispose of the insides as you please (I ate them raw while we cooked, because I really love tomatoes)
  • Cook the bacon according to package instructions in a relatively big skillet. Once it’s cooled, finely chop the bacon up. Dispose of the bacon grease. (I like to dispose of it by lining a cereal bowl with tinfoil, draining the grease into it, and letting it cool. Then, once it’s hardened, I ball the tinfoil up and throw it away.)
  • In the same skillet, add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, zucchini, broccoli, and thyme. The original directions said to sauté, but since I don’t know what that is I just moved the food around in the pan on a medium heat setting until the zucchini was soft.
  • Add the spinach and bacon, and cook until the spinach is wilted (if you used fresh spinach) or is not frozen anymore and quite warm (if you used frozen spinach).
  • Add the quinoa the the veggie/bacon mixture, and stir until combined
  • Stir in 1/2 cup of pares an cheese. Season with salt and pepper if that’s your thing.
your quinoa stuffing! It's so delicious

your quinoa stuffing! It’s so delicious

  • Remove the tomatoes from the paper towels, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Scoop the quinoa mixture evenly into each tomato cup. Sprinkle the top of each cup with more parmesan cheese.
  • Place the cups on a baking sheet. You can lightly oil it to prevent the cups from sticking, or you can be lazy like me and use one of those non-stick silicone baking sheets.IMG_5837
  • Put in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese on top is melted.
  • Remove and serve immediately.

Ta-Da!!! You’ve just made a yummy meal that you can feel good about!

I also somehow served it on enormous plates, so the food looked so small on the plate

I also somehow served it on enormous plates, so the food looked so small on the plate

For our side, we made (instant) mashed potatoes, and I mixed in some of the leftover quinoa mix, rather then use butter.

To see how rUnladylike made hers (and to get her recipe for a Grilled Apple, Fig, & Goat Cheese Sandwich with Balsamic Mixed Greens), visit her post here.

So let’s be honest, who is completely impressed by my ability to come up with something deliciously edible that doesn’t involve Kraft mac & cheese?