July 29, 2014

Seattle, the [Un]Rainy City

For all of the times that we had flown to and from Alaska in the three years living there, neither Steve or I had ever stepped foot outside of the SeaTac airport. Visiting Seattle was always on our radar, but never a top priority. So, for our 1st anniversary, we decided to tack it on to our trip back up to Alaska. When we were invited to friends' wedding just outside of Seattle over the holiday weekend, it became a done deal.

We stayed in Belltown, a very hip section of downtown Seattle. I definitely recommend staying in this part of the city, as we were within walking distance from the main attractions, such as the Pike Place Market and Space Needle, the waterfront and many different restaurants.

Allow me to walk you through our four(ish) days in the "rainy" city...

Day 1:
We checked into our hotel (Ace Hotel) and headed out in search of brunch and some Seattle coffee. We needed it, especially after waking up at 3:00am, to fly out of Anchorage at 5:00am. We found ourselves at Local360, a locally sourced cafe and market, with delicious coffee, home fries and chicken fried steak.

After we were fuelled up for what was going to be a long day, we headed down to Pike Place Market  to see what all of the hype was about. The hype is legit, filled with local produce, fish, fresh flowers and artisans, it's a pretty cool place, and also very busy.

For dinner, we ended up at Pike Brewery, located right in the Market. Couldn't pass that one up.

Day 2:
After picking up the rental car, we hopped on the highway and drove south to Olympia, WA for for our friends' wedding. It was amazing to be at their wedding, because we had the opportunity to see their relationship begin just a few years before in Alaska.

Day 3:
After driving back from the wedding early to make the most out of the day, we decided the best way to see the city would be with the Seattle CityPASS.  While not too pricey at $64 per adult, we definitely made sure to get our money's worth. We took an Argosy Cruise through Elliot's Bay, which provided views of Seattle's waterfront, toured the Seattle Aquarium and got a bird's eye view of the city from atop the Space Needle.

Lunch was at Elliot's Oyster House, right on the waterfront at Pier 56. We sampled a variety of Washington and BC oysters, paired perfectly with a local IPA.

For dinner, we stumbled across the Anthony Bourdain recommended 5 Point Cafe, for burgers, fried Beecher's cheese curds (genius idea by the way), and more local IPAs.

Day 4:
We continued to empty the Seattle CityPASS ticket book, by hitting up the Experience Music Project and Pacific Science Centre. 

We wanted to make the most out of our last day in the city, so we hit up the first Starbucks, and waited in the crazy long line just so we could say we went. 

Happy hour was calling our names, so we indulged in $1 oysters back at Elliot's, of course paired with a local brew, then went back to the 5 Point Cafe for the same meal we had the night before, but for less than half the price. We're not usually creatures of habit and definitely like to try new things, but these restaurants were just too good not to go back. Gotta love happy hour! 

I am now a total believer in Seattle, and am very glad we made it a destination on our trip. In the four(ish) days, we successfully checked off every destination on our Seattle bucket list. And for the record, it didn't rain the entire time we were there.

Have you ever been to Seattle? What was your favourite part?

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July 27, 2014

Funny River Pups

In the middle of May, Alaska's Kenai Peninsula was ravaged by a likely human-caused forest fire. Due to its location, the fire quickly became known as the Funny River Fire. Fortunately, no one was harmed in the fire, and it was contained before moving into heavier populated areas of the Peninsula. Unfortunately, less than a week after its started, it consumed 156,041 acres, or 243 square miles, and everything in its path. 

As the fire tore through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, it caused wildlife to flee. But, not all were able to escape. As firefighters worked the area, they found a den of wolf pups left behind when the rest of their pack fled the advancing flames. The two week old pups were dehydrated, injured, hungry, and 5 of the 6 were alive. Following the rescue, the pups were taken to Anchorage for further care, and then transferred to the Alaska Zoo, which cares for injured and orphaned wildlife. Since the Zoo already has a wolf pack, and the pups cannot be released back into the wild, the Zoo provided care until the pups became healthy enough to move to their permanent home at the Minnesota Zoo on July 15.

During our time in Anchorage, we spent quite a bit of time at the Zoo visiting friends, both furry, feathery and of the human kind, and thanks to a former coworker and one of my best friends, had the opportunity to sit in with the pups.

Determined to get the camera.
Wolf pup selfie.
And, they're out.
We've both interacted with the adult wolves at the Zoo in the past, but this was a whole new experience. I think Steve is still on a high and its been almost three weeks. 

Please note, while they are cute and cuddly, these wolf pups are still wild animals. Please do not try this at home. We were supervised by someone with years of experience raising wolves and other wild animals.

Have you ever had a memorable wildlife experience?


July 25, 2014

How did I end up here?

Whoa! Wait, how did I find myself here?

Well, when your husband's twitter followers more than triple in the matter of a few hours, people take notice and start to ask questions...

Everything happened so quickly. The phone call, the offer, the signing and the announcement, all in a matter of a few days. I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't yet prepared for everyone to find out. But when your husband has chosen a career that puts him in the public eye, sometimes that choice isn't yours to make.

And so we started to tell family and close friends, the planning begun and then when the visas was finally secured and the excitement level rose to an all-time high, we couldn't hide it any longer and I eventually told my work. We told them that a new adventure is awaiting us - one in the land of jumpers and crisps, loos and mobiles, castles and countrysides, in Nottingham, England!

While I won't be joining the Mr for a few weeks, I am so excited for the new adventure that await us across the pond, and I can't wait to share all about our new expat life!

Things are going to get exciting around here again...

Have you ever been to Nottingham? I'd love to hear your recommendations for things to see, eat, drink and do!


July 23, 2014

Summer Treats

My drink selection changes from season to season, especially the adult beverages. Is anyone with me on that one? 

In winter, I'm a red drinker. Moving into summer, I switch to a chilled glass of white or a cold pint of a local craft brew. Funny coming from a girl that didn't enjoy her first beer until she was 23. (Side note: I did have my first beer long before 23, but I did not like it.) I went from refraining from gagging when trying to drink a bottle of Canadian, to enjoying a nice hoppy IPA. In fact, the hoppiest IPA you could find. I'm talking that put you on your ass IPA, 100+ IBUs. Total 180. 

My taste for IPAs definitely took off in Alaska, where microbreweries are abundant. As I'm sure everyone on the West Coast would agree, the Pacific Northwest craft beer scene is top notch. Ontario on the other hand, not so much. It's gotten better, I'll give them that, but it still cannot compare to the beers we were drinking on our most recent trip out West. Allow me to show you...

From left to right:
1.  Fridge full of hops
2.  Moose's Tooth Hefeweizen
3.  King Street IPA
4.  Midnight Sun Pleasure Town IPA
5.  Alaskan Brewing Co. Icy Bay IPA
6.  Alaskan Brewing Co. Hopothermia
7.  Pike Place Brewing IPA
8.  Fresh oysters and Deschutes Brewery Fresh Squeezed IPA
9.  10 Barrel Brewing Co. Apocalypse IPA

I think I have a hops problem.

What's your favourite summer treat?

Where to find her:
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What is So Fill Your Heart blog all about?
So Fill Your Heart was started because I got so much enjoyment out of reading other peoples blogs that I wanted to see if that same enjoyment could be experienced from starting one of my own. Turns out, it gave me more than I ever thought. It's been my little corner of the internet where I can share whatever it is that I want; whether that's the embarrassing story I've just gotten myself into, or what I'm currently doing, or the newest makeup product I'm currently loving. It really is all over the place but I feel like that's exactly how it's supposed to be when you're talking about your life. 

What is your favourite summer treat?
When it comes to summertime drinks, besides my normal love affair for coffee, my favourite would have to be a cold beer. There's nothing more that I love than sitting on a patio on a hot summers day with some friends and having a beer! So simple, but yet so great! 

Where to find her:
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What is Batty's Bath all about?
Handmade, natural skin care solutions for problem skin! Batty's Bath specializes in skin care for sensitive skin, acne prone skin, eczema, and rosacea!

What is your favourite summer treat?
I love to eat cereal topped with lots of berries in the summer! (see this link)

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July 20, 2014

Fresh From the Sea

Fun fact about me, I'm allergic to shellfish and have been for about 10 years now - shrimp, crab and lobster are my enemy. I know, poor me. But for what I lack in the crustaceans, I make up for in the molluscs - clams, mussels, scallops and oysters.

When the opportunity popped up to visit a friends' oyster farm in Kachemak Bay on our recent Alaska trip, we couldn't say no. I'm a huge fan of local food, and getting a chance to experience the whole farm to table process is right up my alley.

Oysters that come from the cold, salty water of Alaska are known for their uniformly shaped shell, with deep cups and plump meats, perfect for serving on the half shell.  While checking out the farm, we were given the chance to try an oyster, harvested not even two hours before. While hesitant at first without the fancy sauces to take the edge off, I knew I'd regret it if I refused, so down it went. It definitely tasted like the ocean, salty and cold, but was also pleasantly sweet and creamy, if you can believe it. You can't beat fresh.

Oyster farming is, by definition, green and sustainable. They are an important component to Kachemak Bay's ecosystem, acting as a sponge, constantly filtering the water to feed while taking in other excess substances, improving overall water quality of the Bay.  In addition to being an important player in ocean nutrient cycles, farmed oysters help reduce greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide from the ocean for shell formation. Oysters cannot tolerate the discharge of contaminated water, so the presence of an oyster farm often results in increased awareness and monitoring of coastal waters. 

The whole farming process is quite interesting, and definitely hard work. In Alaska, the water is too cold for oysters to spawn naturally, so the initial spawning and growing process is done within a hatchery. Once the oysters reach about the size of your thumbnail, they are large enough to be introduced into the open water system. From above, it doesn't look too fancy, just a bunch of floating buoys. Below is where the magic happens.

A specific number of oysters are stocked into each net that hangs from the longlines attached to the buoys. These nets are called lanterns and consist of several tiers, each holding about 50 oysters. While growing, they must be handled and cleaned a few times each season in order to keep the nets free of seaweed and marine animals, such as sea stars, which may harm the stock. 

When it's time to harvest, the lanterns are pulled up onto the boat and into a large tray. The full grown oysters are then dumped into a sorting tray and thoroughly cleaned. Any unwanted visitors, like urchins and sea stars, are removed. 

The entire growth process for one oyster takes around 3 to 4 years! Crazy to think for something we gulp back in a matter of a few seconds. I definitely gained a deeper appreciation for the hard work that goes into harvesting this ocean treasure that we take for granted. 

Would you ever try an oyster fresh from the ocean?

And speaking of sea life, check out the size of this kelp...

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July 17, 2014

Favourite AK Photos

This month's instalment of #totalsocial is all about favourites. And so, with our recent return from Alaska, I thought I would share our top 5 favourite photos from our visit...

5// Mama and babies.

4// Beautiful Homer harbor.

3// New wolf pup friend.

2// Where we got engaged.

1// Midnight sun.

I'm not yet done sharing our trip, but in case you missed the first few posts, start here:
Our Vacay, According to my iPhone
Down by the [Kachemak] Bay
Tips for Sea Sickness

Which photo is your favourite?

Helene in Between

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