Mexican Fiesta

Whoops, a day late!  Totally forgot to hit publish on this yesterday...

As Steve takes his pregame nap and I sit on the couch watching Bizarre Foods of America dreaming that [sometimes] I could have Andrew Zimmern's job, I figured it was about time I wrote a post about Sunday dinner.  It's been quite a while.



After over a month long vacation, Sunday dinner made a comeback a few weeks back, before playoffs took over our lives. And this time, we were up! The challenge?  A Mexican fiesta complete with salmon tacos and orange-cilantro slaw, spicy baked sweet potato fries (obviously deep fried because that's how we roll) and margaritas!  When you're having Mexican, margaritas are a must, and I must admit Steve makes one of the deadliest margaritas I've ever had. You can never have just one!
This was the perfect Sunday dinner meal.  There is never a shortage of fish, specifically salmon or halibut, in the freezers of Alaskans.  And since it is almost that time of the year again, it also means people are trying to rid their freezers of last year's haul.  All the better to make fish tacos :)



Not only was it delish, it was fairly simple, which is definitely needed when you're cooking for 9 people.  Another plus of simplicity?  No near death battles in our kitchen.  Always a good thing when Steve and I are cooking. I can't forget to mention the great company for this meal. The Sunday dinner gang, plus those [lucky few] that occasionally join us, are amazing people and always make Sunday dinner a delight. Yummy food and drink and good company, what more could you ask for? This meal was easily given an A+.

Sadly since playoffs are in full swing, we probably won't get to enjoy another Sunday dinner with friends until the beginning of June.  By that time, we'll be able to sit out under the midnight sun, which makes Sunday dinners even better. We'll be picking that recipe so stay tuned for a good one!



Birthday Girl

Time for me to brag, again.

Today was Maya's 1st birthday.  In case you don't know who Maya is, you clearly need to catch up on Our Alaskan Staycation.  Maya is my large fur baby, an orphaned muskox calf that I have been friends with since she arrived at the Zoo last April.  I've watched her grow from 25 to 200 pounds. Hard to believe she is 1 year old. Time flies.


With the end of the school year fast approaching and school children descending on the zoo for end of the year trips, I haven't had the chance to spend any time with Maya lately.  But today she was in need of some lovin', and so was I.  I know what you're thinking,  she's crazy/what on earth would you do with a musk ox?!  Well, we have fun.  Today, we played soccer and pushed around a barrel.  That head of hers is pretty tough, an those horns have turned into little daggers, daggers that she loves to have scratched. I was laughing my head off as she pranced around like the happiest little muskox in the world. I'm pretty sure if muskoxen could talk, she would have been laughing too. I had many zoo visitors stop to watch us interact, ask questions and make comments about how gentle and loving she was toward me, despite being twice my size. She definitely shows love. I even got some passing kids to sing her "Happy Birthday" to her. Made my day. 

So in honor of beautiful Maya's birthday, I thought I'd do some reminiscing, from day 1 all the way up to day 365. I dare you to tell me these pictures don't make you crack a smile or let out a small "awwwweee".

Don't be fooled by the bottle... we recycle.
Harness training. 




Going for a walk after meeting Jack Hanna.
This will forever be my favorite picture.




Clearly I could go on forever, but I'd rather not make you gag over the love I have for this little girl.

----------

Interested in seeing what's going on at the Alaska Zoo this season?  Click here to check out the Zoo's spring/summer newsletter!





Spring.

This afternoon we took advantage of the nice weather and went for a walk around Westchester Lagoon.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were entertained by all the of the birds that had returned from their winter vacation. Spring is officially in the air.









-----------

In hockey news, the Alaska Aces beat the Stockton Thunder 4 games to 1 to win the Western Conference Semifinals.  They now face the Las Vegas Wranglers in the Western Conference Championship! Let's go Aces!

Also, our roomie Kane Lafranchise was recently crowned champion of The Hockey News' "Coolest Names in Hockey" poll.  Thanks to everyone that voted for him :)


Breaking Up

Spring is in the air. I know, officially spring started in March, but that was in the rest of North America. Not in Alaska.  We set the record snow fall on Easter weekend... I don't call that spring.

In Alaska there is a season that comes between winter and spring.  This season is called breakup. For Alaskans breakup is a word that creates excitement. It can be both dreaded and beautiful. Ugly, yet oh so awesome. Grass, and garbage, are slowly emerging from underneath the massive snow banks, my allergies have decided to make an appearance because of all the dust and dirt on the roads, water is pouring off the eaves like it is raining cats and dogs, small lakes are popping up in parking lots, potholes are large enough to swallow a car, rain boots are fashionable and our car is crusted in an inch of dirt.  Not only is breakup about all of the above, but it also means sun is pouring in our windows at 6:30am, we're able to fire up the grill, take after-dinner walks and it gives us a reason to wear sunglasses at night.  I've even seen people in tshirts and shorts, despite it being only reaching the mid 50s, maybe even low 60s if we've lucky.  But that's Alaska for you - Breakup is what we live for.  It's the reason why we put up with 8 months of darkness and 11 feet of snow. We know what comes next, and summer in AK is sooooo worth it.

View from our window at 10:45pm.  And it's only going to get better.

-------

Thought I would share this beautiful picture from alaska.org. 
This shot of Anchorage was taken at 10:30pm earlier this week. 


For those of you interested in crossing Alaska off your bucket list, alaska.org is a great resource for all things to do and see in Alaska! They even have an iPhone app!





Remembering Rocky

We were definitely missing something in our lives this past year without our small face friend Titus.    Although not nearly the same, we temporarily decided to fill the void... with mice.  When I was younger, I always had small pets in the house, from turtles to fish to hamster, gerbils, guinea pigs and spiny mice.  Steve on the other hand, never had a small pet.  All the reason to get one in our mid 20s right?!  Working at a zoo, there was an unlimited supply and so one day I brought home Rocky. "He" needed a home and I needed a new tiny friend to temporarily fill that spot in my heart.  A few months later, our tiny friend family grew to two and we soon realized that Rocky was not a he, but a she.  Nevertheless, Rocky and Mo quickly became friends.  

But unfortunately, there comes a time in every living thing's life when it is time to move on. This week was Rocky's time.  It was time for her to move on to a better place. Mo lost his bff. 

Who knew we would have grown so attached. It's always sad when you lose something or someone, no matter the size.

Besties - Rocky and Mo.
This is how mice hold hands.




All Grown Up


Exactly 7 years ago today, this is what we looked like... 
My how we've grown.

From this...
...To this.

Time really does fly when you're having fun.
Happy 7 years.

New Experiences

Our Alaskan Staycation has been one of many firsts. First time salmon and halibut fishing, first moose and brown bear sightings in the wild, first time living together... lots of firsts and new experiences! While all new experiences have been amazing, one of the most interesting came one night earlier this week when our Sunday dinner friends invited us over to taste something new...

That something new?  Herring roe. Yes, your read that correctly, fish eggs.

Please don't turn up your nose.  Normally that would be my first move, but I've learned to be more open.  Before trying them, I obviously had to ask a million questions. Probably questions similar to those forming in your head as you read this.  Why?  How? Where? And again, why?!

Herring isn't a very glamorous fish.  The only time you ever really come in contact with it is when you are putting a big chunk on your hook to use as bait.  But this small, disregarded fish has a lot of importance to the world.  Not only are they an important part of the food chain in our oceans, they have played an important part in Alaskan subsistence hunters lives as well. The spring harvest of herring eggs has always been an important subsistence resource in coastal communities throughout Alaska. The collection is pretty interesting - In the spring, herring spawn nearshore in protected bays and their adhesive eggs attach to kelp or other vegetation.  Knowing this, subsistence hunters will deliberately place kelp and hemlock boughs in the water nearshore to collect the eggs when the herring spawn. The eggs we tasted were collected in the southeast, near Sitka, AK. 



Does it make you want to dive right in and try them? To be honest with you, they weren't too bad. The only words to describe them are "crunchy ocean", a little bit salty and kind of like pop rocks. Can you picture it?

To Alaskan subsistence hunters, herring roe is as much a tradition and cultural event as it is a food source.  It is a cultural coming together, a time when everyone is eating the same food at the same time. Kind of like what we did when we tried the roe.  Nice glass of wine, good friends, good conversation, and herring eggs. 




Have you tried anything "outside of the box" before?




We Did It!

Well it's official... the winter of 2012 is in the books as the snowiest on record in Anchorage! Exactly 134.5 inches of snow fell this winter, just over 11 feet! To compare to other years, the previous snowfall record was 132.6 inches, set in 1954-55, and the average seasonal snowfall is only around 74.5 inches. Record or no record, it's still a lot of snow!


While it's pretty cool to be able to say we were a part of the snowiest winter ever in Anchorage, I am really ready for it to disappear. Bring on summer!


playing in puddles.




Putting a Smile on Their Little Faces

Putting a smile on a kid's face is something I do nearly every day.  I'm not try to make myself sound cooler than I am, it's just part of my job.  Possibly even one of the best parts of my job. And while it makes me happy to see that smile, it makes me even happier to know that that smile is there because that kid has been given a new and exciting experience.

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to have been given opportunities and experiences that helped shape the path I chose to take, and ultimately the person I am today.  I remember in elementary school taking a trip to the Toronto Zoo, despite it being 3 hours away.  Because of my zoo experience, I figured it was a given that every child in Anchorage had been to the zoo in their own city.  Before every program, on or off zoo grounds, I always ask who has been to the zoo.  Most hands shoot up with excitement. However, I quickly realized that not every one is as fortunate, not all students raise their hands.  This shocked me.  

However, thanks to a generous sponsorship from ExxonMobil, we were able to change this.  For the second year now, we were able to make visiting the Alaska Zoo a reality for many 1st grade students from various lower income elementary schools in Anchorage that do not have the means to bring their students to the Zoo.  Activities they completed during their visit tied directly into their science curriculum.  They not only learned about Alaskan animals, they got to experience them up close. I think the polar bears were by far the biggest celebrities of the day.

Over the course of 2 days last week, I helped put a smile on the faces of 1300 1st graders (and nearly 300 adults, whether they want to admit it or not). They were given an experience they will never forget.  And that makes me extremely happy.




Photos  ©Marla Wales 2012


Earth Hour 2012

Earth Hour 2012 was the largest voluntary action for the environment, reaching further than ever before. It was celebrated in a record 150 countries and territories and 6494 towns and cities.  Millions of people joined to send the message that our combined efforts are needed to change our future to one that is sustainable.

The first official event in Anchorage was a huge success! Over 100 people enjoyed a candlelit walk during Earth Hour at the Alaska Zoo.  Here are some pictures from the event...















Photo(s) of the Week

This post is dedicated to my amazing mom on her birthday. 
Happy birthday Mom! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you, but instead will have a glass of wine on your behalf :)


This past week while Steve was out of town, I ventured out past my bed time to photograph Venus, Jupiter and the moon.  The result?  Loneliness because I was missing my partner in crime to share the beauty with (tear.), but also many many beautiful photos!  So, since I've had a hard time choosing just one, here they are... 







Photos taken at Point Woronzof Park and Earthquake Park.