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 :)