2012 in Photos

2013 will be upon us in 2 sleeps. Another good year has almost come to an end.

2012 brought us new friends, lots of family, more staycation adventures (most in the rain), our first time in Hawaii, a new car, more moving, a team captain and a proposal!  Memories that will last forever.

And so, it's time to look back and plan forward.

Here are my top 12 "best" (or more correctly, favorite) personal photos of 2012...


And the best for last...




1. True story 2. Red fox 3. Our small furry friend Mo 4. Inspiring words from a 5th grader 
5. A new beginning (rehabbed bald eagle release) 6.  Curious crab 7.  Hawaiian sunset 8. Playful spinner dolphins 9. Caribou 10. Ground squirrel 11. Moose 12.  A proposal

I hope your 2012 was a good one.
 Bring it on 2013!





DIY Wine Cork Christmas Tree

Since the invention of Pinterest, I've been hoarding our wine corks for a "big project".  As of last week, the jar was almost full and I had yet to use a single one. Just in time for Christmas, I came across this little DIY that I thought I would try.  We'll be having 17 people over at our place for Christmas dinner and our apartment is desperately in need of some sparkle and festivity. 


diy wine cork christmas tree

Wine Cork Christmas Tree

What you'll need:

  • paper or styrofoam craft cone (11'' or 14'' tall)
  • wine corks (either cork, synthetic or both)
  • hot glue & glue gun
  • mini tree topper star

Note:  An 14'' tree requires about 100 wine corks. (If you don't drink as much wine as we do, Michaels craft store sells them in bags of 20.)

Before you begin adding corks, secure the tree topper to the top of your cone. To add the corks, start at the bottom and glue them vertically.  Make sure they are secure. After you complete one row of vertical corks, you can either continue gluing the other rows vertically, or glue one row horizontally (like I did in the picture to the right) and continue the pattern. There is really no right way to glue the corks on, just be creative! But note, since not all corks are the same size, you may need to cut some corks smaller to fill in any larger gaps.   

Voila! Easy enough, right?  Now you have the perfect centrepiece for your Christmas dinner, whether it be small or as big as ours!

We hope you all have a safe and happy holiday!




Party Like It's 3012 Tonight

Over dinner last night, a girlfriend and I had a good chuckle regarding the chaos the latest snow fall has created in the Lower 48.  It's causing pileups, closing interstates, creating delays and ruining travel plans. To us "Alaskans", it's just another day.  To the Lower 48, it's like the end of the world.

So, it got us thinking, with tomorrow being "the end of the world" and all,  what would happen if the world did end? How would we react?  

I can't help but get sucked into NatGeo's new show "Doomsday Preppers".  If you haven't heard of it, I suggest you check it out.  If not for some "tips" on how to prepare for the end of the world, then for your own personal entertainment.  The series follows various survivalists, or "preppers," preparing for the end of civilization, whether it be due to economic collapsesocietal collapseelectromagnetic pulseterrorist actsnuclear incidentsfuel shortageswarpandemicsgeomagnetic reversal and other one-in-a-million type circumstances (such as zombies). The interviews detail the actions that the preppers have taken, and end with an expert analysis and recommendations for improvements. While I very much think being prepared for emergency situations, such as fire, flood etc., is extremely important, I also believe that people can overdo it and overreact. I believe that if it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen and we'll all be toast regardless of how much we prepare.

Anyways, back to reality.  By now we've all agreed the world is NOT ending tomorrow.  NASA says so. Friends in Europe have even confirmed they're still very much alive. But for a moment, let's entertain the fantasy that it was. What would you do?  How would you react?  Are you one to have a go-with-the-flow attitude about it?  Or are you a so called "prepper"?

My thoughts?

Well, for starters, the world is supposed to end at 5:11am, or so I saw somewhere on the Internet (credible, right?!). That means that we would not need to set our alarms for work Friday morning (also giving us an excuse in case the world was not to end and we're late for work, right?).

Next, is that Eastern Standard Time?  I kind of need to know. If it's EST, that's 1:11am Alaska Time, soooo we may as well not even go to bed tonight. In the words of Justin Beiber, "We're going to party like it's 3012 tonight!"

As for that New Year's resolution of getting in shape for the wedding, guess I may as well throw that out the window. Heck, may as well throw all of the wedding plans that we've worked so hard making out the window too!

When you think about it, the world ending is a little bit of an inconvenience. So much to do, so little time...   :)

Happy end of the world!





Practice Kindness.

I love putting a smile on someone's face.  Giving them an experience they have never had before.   Something that they will remember for years to come. Whether it is seeing a polar bear up close for the first time, feeling various furs or getting the wolves to howl.  It's easily one of the best parts of my job.

Today I arrived at work and found a giant envelope sitting on my desk, with my name on it.  Inside were 12 personalized notes from 2nd grade students that I recently had in one of my zoo classes....




"Thank you for showing us around the zoo."

"I really liked when we got to go close to the polar bears that was fun even when I got a little scared."

"My favorite part was well I don't have one I liked it all."

"I hope I can go to the zoo again!!!

"The musk ox was my favorite animal.  I thought the alpaca would spit in my face."

(Don't kids say the darndest things?)

And my favorite?

"If I ever go to the zoo again I will remember you."

These kind notes were not required or expected. But, they were very much appreciated.

It's things like this that put a smile on my face.  That easily turn an "off" day into a fantastic one.  It's things like this that I will remember for years to come.

Remember: Small gestures go a long way. Sometimes, the little things can mean so much. They can even turn a day around.

Practice kindness and pass it on. There can never be too much.


Have you completed any random acts of kindness lately?




Trying Something New: Confessional Friday {Linkup}

Today I am linking up with A Blonde Ambition for my FIRST EVER Confessional Friday. Here goes...

I confess,

... I am horrible at making pancakes.  Even if I follow the directions on the box to a t, something always goes wrong.

... I have felt completely unmotivated lately.  Maybe because of the darkness?  The cold?  The almost foot of snow we got the other day?  Flu season?  Luckily, I am one of a handful of people at my work that has not been praying to the porcelain God this past week.  (too much info?)

... This time of the year I turn into a serious hypochondriac.  But who doesn't during flu season?!

... I cannot wait for the newest season of Pretty Little Liars to start.  I love the drama.

... I want the beach. BAD.

... Christmas time really makes me wish Steve and I had a place to call our own.  Our house would be totally blinged out with sparkle and Christmas cheer.

And last but definitely not least,

... I have been seriously emotional lately.  In a good way. Examples:  Picking out music for our wedding playlist.  Tears.  Realizing that next Christmas I will be buying presents for my husband.  Tears.


Have a wonderful weekend.




Comforting the Cold

Nothing says winter like -10F weather and frozen eyelashes.  And nothing cures the winter blues like homemade soup! 

Soup is the perfect winter comfort food. This crockpot recipe for split pea soup will not only warm your body, and soul, but also make your house smell wonderful!



Split Pea Soup 

Ingredients:

+  1 medium onion, diced
+  1 large carrot, peeled and diced
+  10 cups of water (or 5 cups water, 5 cups lower sodium stock)
+  1 lb. dried yellow split peas
+  1 smoked ham hock (~1 lb.)
+  2 bay leaves
+  salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add all of the ingredients to your crock pot and set on high. Cook time should be approximately 4  hours. Once the soup is cooked, remove the ham hock. Pull the meat away from the bone, and shred or chop into small dice. Discard the bone and stir the chopped ham back into the soup. Remove bay leaves and discard these as well. Be sure to taste the soup and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. To save for later, freeze in appropriate containers.

Enjoy!







DIY Birdseed Ornaments

Feed your feathered friends in a festive way this holiday season by making them some birdseed ornaments! They are a simple, and inexpensive, way to attract birdies to your backyard this winter. Not to mention, they make perfect gifts.


Birdseed Ornaments


Yields: approximately 8-10 ornaments


Materials
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups bird seed of your choice 
  • cooking spray
  • twine or yarn
  • large spatula or spoon
  • medium to large cookie cutters 
  • waxed paper
  • toothpick

Directions
  1. Place the cooke cutters on the wax paper and coat with a layer of cooking spray.
  2. Mix together the flour, corn syrup, water and birdseed in a large bowl.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the cookie cutters. Pack well.
  4. Using a toothpick, create a hole in the birdseed. This is where the twine or yarn will go. Be sure to leave a large enough space at the top of the ornament so that it can hang without breaking. 
  5. Allow the mixture to harden in the cookie cutters.  Depending on the size, this should take about 6 hours.
  6. Once dry, remove the ornament from the cookie cutter and string each with a piece of twine or yarn. 
  7. If the ornaments are going to be gifts, package in a cute bag.
  8. Hang in a tree that is visible from a window of your house so that you can watch the birds enjoy your special treat. The birdies will thank you.

These are also a great activity for children!

Have you ever made birdseed ornaments before?


 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

Breath of Fresh Air

It's winter.  It's dark and there's barely any snow.  Which means it is also super cold.

I have been out and about taking photographs the past couple of days.  Capturing the beauty of winter - the frostsicles, the 4pm sunset, the clear blue skies and the animals in their thick winter coats.

My fingers may have been frostsicles themselves by the end, but it was such a breath of fresh, and very cold, air.

Adult dall sheep have the coolest looking eyeballs.

This girl's eyes are pretty stellar too.









Turkey Day Leftovers

Now that everyone is out of their food coma from Thanksgiving, it's time to talk about what to do with all of those leftovers!
From the cookbook Plenty by Diana Henry, the perfect post-Thanksgiving dish when you have left over turkey and ham. It's been tried, tested and given four thumbs up from our household!

Chicken [or Turkey] and Ham Pie (serves 4)

Ingredients:
+  1/4 cup butter
+  3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
+  1/2 cup flour
+  1 3/4 cups milk
+  salt and pepper
+  1 tsp Dijon mustard
+  2 cups leftover cooked chicken or turkey, cut in chunks
+  1 cup cooked ham, cut in chunks
+  2 tbsp chopped parsley
+  nutmeg
+  2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
+  1 egg yolk, mixed with a little water and salt

Directions:
1//  Melt the butter in a heavy pan and add the leeks.  Cook gently for 5 minutes, add a splash of water, reduce the heat, cover the pan and sweat for 10 minutes.  Add the flour and stir for 1 minute.  Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the milk.  Return to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring; reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Season, and add the mustard, chicken/turkey and ham.  Heat through, then add the parsley and nutmeg to taste. Cool.
2//  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Spoon the mixture into an enamel (we used Pyrex) dish (measuring about 8x9 inches).  On a floured surface, pinch together two sheets of puff pastry and roll out to the thickness of a quarter.  Place on top of the mixture.
3//  Brush with the egg yolk and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden.

From Plenty by Diana Henry. Copyright 2010.

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1/3 of our Sunday dinner team moved a back months back.  As a gift we were giving this fabulous new cookbook, "Plenty" - a book filled with good, uncomplicated food for the sustainable kitchen.  It came with a very heartfelt message "Even though we are moving, we can share our Sunday dinners together through the recipes we love."  And that is just what we continue to do.


How do you spend your Sunday? 
Do you have any dinner traditions of your own? 



My Adventure

I haven't picked up a good book in a while.  I call it a "reading slump".  But in an effort to minimize the amount of electronics time before bed and to relax my brain rather than overstimulate it with a USA Today Crossword on the ipad,  I picked up my first book in months.  Our personal library is limited, so I went with "What the Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell.  I've read all of Gladwell's other books, and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Not even through the book's preface, I read this paragraph, and it stuck with me.  It perfectly describes my writings, and sometimes ramblings, on this blog...

"... Nothing frustrates me more than someone who reads something of mine or anyone else's and says, angrily, "I don't buy it." Why are they angry? Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade.  Not the kind of writing that you'll find in this book, anyway.  It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else's head - even if in the end you conclude that someone else's head is not a place you'd really like to be.  I've called these pieces adventures, because that's what they are intended to be.  Enjoy yourself."

This is my happy place.  A place for my writings, my adventures. And whether you love them, hate them or maybe even "don't buy [them]", I hope I have succeeded in engaging you, in making you think, or, at least, in giving you a glimpse into my adventurous, somewhat crazy, but altogether amazing, life.



The Place That Beckons Me Back

During winter, I often catch myself daydreaming about warm places.  Wishing I was laying on a beach with a pina colada in my hand.  It helps me get through the darkness.

The other night I woke up from a dream about Andros, Bahamas.  I know it sounds kind of random, but I traveled there in 2008 for a two-week long marine biology field course. It marked the end of my undergrad. Tough, I know.

We spent two weeks exploring the 2300 square-mile island, taking in its beauty and studying its natural history. The first week was spent snorkelling the variety of habitats between the beach and the reef, exploring the tidal creeks and examining the blue holes and pine barrens, while the second week was devoted to individual research projects. We were welcomed with open arms from the people that call Andros home, sharing meals and stories with them. 

It was such an amazing experience that I promised myself one day I would go back.  I would return once again to swim in the blue holes, to dive the barrier reef and to relax with my toes in the sand and a pina colada in my hand. It's been almost 5 years and so far I have only returned in my dreams.  One day, it will happen. I will make sure it happens.

Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas and the least explored and developed.  There are no large resorts, only family-run inns and lodges, and you can drive the entire island in a day. It's beauty is breathtaking, and it is even featured as one of the "1000 Places to See Before You Die". With its many mangroves, blue holes, hidden beaches, creeks and the third largest barrier reef, no wonder Andros is called the Bahamas' natural wonder.

Research station.
Examining the critters found in our nets.
My research project consisted of checking nets in the water every 3 hours for 48 hours.  Yes, I was tired.
The whole class jumping in a blue hole.
Celebrating the end of a wonderful four years.

Of all the places I've been in the Caribbean, Andros was the one that stole a piece of my heart.  Maybe when Steve and I are able to take our honeymoon, we can make our way to Andros, Bahamas.


Have you ever visited a place that will stay with you forever?


20 Wishes

I've never done a "linkup" before, but when I saw this one come up in my daily blog feed, I figured I'd try it out.  I love making to-do lists!

Being extremely busy at work and planning a wedding from a distance leaves my brain fried by the end of the night.  I feel like I have been constantly on the go lately. Life is short and I need to stop and smell the roses more often. I've never really sat down and thought about the things I would like to accomplish in one year. Things that I really want to do. Things that I look forward to doing.  New things. Fun things. Or, just happy things. Not necessarily things that I have to or need to or should do, but things that I WANT to do. So, today I am linking up with Truly Lovely to share my "1 year, 20 wishes" to do just that, write down 20 things I WANT to do in the year 2013.  

I know 2013 is already going to be a BIG year for us, but here goes my list (in no particular order)...

1.    Marry my best friend.
2.    Have a place that we can call our own.
3.    Spend some time at the beach.
4.    Have more family time.
5.    Visit some place new.
6.    Create our own family traditions.
7.    Disconnect myself from my phone and computer more often.
8.    Complete at least one DIY project I've pinned on Pinterest.
9.    Take more photographs.
10.  Become a better people picture taker.
11.  Become a better photographer in general.
12.  Grow my hair out.
13.  Find a new hobby and stick with it.
14.  Be a supportive fiancee/wife and number one fan.
15.  Bake more often.
16.  Go on more winter hikes.
17.  Curl my hair more often.
18.  Continue blogging.
19.  Go scuba diving.
20.  Have many more "I love Alaska" moments.



So, I challenge you to create your own list and share...  


What are some things that you would like to accomplish in 2013?



"Paw"sitive Future

So by now everyone knows the results of the US presidental election, and if you don't you should probably crawl out from under that rock.

BUT Did you know that this also happened last night? 

That's right, Ahpun to polar bear was elected as the first animal president of the Alaska Zoo.
Photo by John Gomes

It was a wild race, with Ahpun trailing behind her competition, Denali the gray wolf, for much of the two-month long election. But in the end, she was able to fend off Denali and his posse and make a stunning comeback for victory. As an iconic Arctic species and with Alaska as the only state that has polar bears native to its lands, it only seems fitting that the first animal president of the Alaska Zoo be a polar bear.

AHPUN'S STATEMENT: "It was a WILD campaign. Paw to paw… all the way. It’s an honor to be elected the first animal president of the Alaska Zoo. I want to thank all my supporters and even those that voted for my opponents. In the end, we've furthered the Alaska Zoo's mission to promote the conservation of Arctic, sub-Arctic and like climate species through education, research and community enrichment."   

Ahpun's official inauguration is on December 9 at the Alaska Zoo's Christmas for the Animals event.

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The fun campaign was a fundraiser for the Alaska Zoo. Ballots were $1 and Zoo patrons were encouraged to vote as much and as often as they wanted.  Thank you to all that voted!

To learn more about the Alaska Zoo and their efforts to promote conservation through education, research and community enrichment as well as providing homes for injured and orphaned animals arctic and subarctic animals, click here.



Long Lost Summer Photos

Found these while purging my computer... Pictures from a girls float down the Kenai River this summer. So peaceful and beautiful. Enjoy :)