Tag Archives: family

Going Back to Cali…I Don’t Think So

It was a long, busy, and pretty boring fall semester. At the end of August, my main man ruptured his ACL in a fishing accident (only in Alaska!) and has been functionally out of commission since then throughout the injury, surgery, and recovery periods. That really cut out our plans for fall weekend adventures, and weekdays were impossible to squeeze any extra minutes out of. With my new job at a new school farther from home, I have a substantial commute. Add on two busy little boys and a commitment to whole foods cooking, and each weekday feels done before it’s over.

But enough of being a bummer! 2015 is already looking up. John’s ACL recovery is progressing well through PT and trips to the gym with his exclusive and private personal trainer (moi). With the baby getting older (14 months and he finally walked a little on Friday!), we’re hoping for a little bit more opportunity to camp, fish, and adventure this year. I barely made a dent in my 2014 checklist, so I’m just going to roll it over. We’re also investigating options to improve our life/work ratios; the most viable choice being moving closer to work. Maybe I’ll even be a bike commuter soon! The gold standard option, of course, is making life = work, but we’re not quite there yet.

As a nice transition to the new year, we had a great reprieve from routine over winter break with a week long trip back to California. The little boys and I followed that up with a week of getting outside back in AK during a stretch of mild weather. Here are a few shots from those weeks:

The icy trail behind me is usually a squishy bog.
The icy trail behind me is usually a squishy bog.
Daddy and baby Skye on Beach Lake.
Daddy and baby Skye on Beach Lake.
The brother bathtub picture. A childhood requirement.
The brother bathtub picture. A childhood requirement.
Last 4pm sunset in AK before we left for CA.
Last 4pm sunset in AK before we left for CA.
All the Kennedy boys together.
All the Kennedy boys together.
San Francisco Zoo!
San Francisco Zoo!
You'd think all the animals would be enough, but, no, there's a playground too.
You’d think all the animals would be enough, but, no, there’s a playground too.
Before...
Before…
...and after at One Shot Tattoo in SF.
…and after at One Shot Tattoo in SF. Stay tuned for Alaska-themed refinement.
Joe's Crab Shack in San Francisco with our friends Chris and Shane. Good crab, not so good service.
Joe’s Crab Shack in San Francisco with our friends Chris and Shane. Good crab, not so good service.
The CA weather really got me...60 degrees on December 23rd. I'd forgotten such a thing existed!
The CA weather really got me…60+ degrees on December 23rd. I’d forgotten such a thing existed!
Going for a walk with the baby tucked away back in Yreka.
Going for a walk with the baby tucked away back in Yreka.
Grampa Gary finally met Skye!
Grampa Gary finally got to meet Skye!
Alaska Zoo...a bit different animal selection than in San Francisco...
Alaska Zoo…a bit different animal selection than in San Francisco…
...and different viewing conditions.
…and different viewing conditions.
Going for a run around Beach Lake. Neither boy was very impressed with the Chariot situation.
Going for a run around Beach Lake. Neither boy was very impressed with the Chariot situation.

Gathering: Wild Blueberries

I’ve been planning for the last year to pick blueberries, but I had no idea where to go.  Luckily, I joined a group for an AMAZING trail run, and found myself running through bushes absolutely thick with them.  I only snacked on a few that day, but went back last week with the boys.  it wouldn’t have been possible to return to the Land of Endless Blueberries with a baby and a kindergartener, since that was at least 4 miles out, but there were plenty along the trail. We happily picked, made up blueberry songs, and got eaten by mosquitoes for almost 2 hours.  Our take?  6 oz.  Worth it? Our purple tongues and fingertips give that answer.

Focused!
Focused!
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Though they be but small, they are delicious!
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Satisfaction.

 

No Place Like Home-r

After weeks of suffering from daily-grind-itis, it was high time for us to get out of town for the weekend.  Since the weather has been turning spring-ish, John hooked up our little trailer, loaded our fishing gear, and we took off Friday after work on the 5 hour drive to Homer, the artsy-hippie-fishing town on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Driving

The drive to Homer goes by fairly quickly.  In all, it’s amazingly scenic, and there is plenty of wildlife to look out for.  We spotted a half dozen moose on the way down, but no bears, even though they should be waking up from their winter nap.

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Arriving in Homer is a great finale to a nice drive.  When the little fishing village first comes into sight, you are high up on the bluff above Kachemak Bay, with the town laid out below.  The long stretch of the Homer Spit, a long, beachy peninsula, shoots into sight across the bay.

 

Staying

We spent Friday and Saturday night parked at the Driftwood Inn.  They provided both RV parking and hotel rooms.  Other amenities included bathrooms, showers, a laundry room, a small playground, and a fish cleaning counter.  The best part was the location: high on a bluff with a stellar view of the confluence of Kachemak Bay and the Cook Inlet.  A few short trails led down the bluff to the beach.

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Fishing

Over the last week, John picked up a couple of shore-casting rods so we could fish from the beach.  I still have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to fishing, so I just let him choose my gear for me.  After breakfast on Saturday, we drove down the Homer Spit.   It’s lined with cutesy little gift shops and charter fishing businesses.  We parked at the very end, I fed the baby and put him down for a nap in the trailer, and we set out to try our luck with our new set-ups.

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The morning was chilly.  The thermometer on the truck said it was in the forties, but the breeze created a significant windchill.  My hands went numb almost instantly.  I let John get set up and test the waters, literally, and played with Si on the beach.  The view from the spit made the cold tolerable.  The beach was a mix of sand and millions of perfectly round, flat rocks; a stone-skippers dream.  Out across the water, the other side of the bay was a panorama of jagged, snow-capped mountains.

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After awhile, John seemed to have the new fishing method figured out, so I gave it a try.  Shore-casting rods are heavy and in the range of nine-feet long, and casting requires flicking the rod to send the rig flying hundreds of feet off the shore.  The problem is that flicking is a light and quick movement, and the rods are…not.  John didn’t have too much of problem reconciling that issue, but my casts were a bit less than impressive.  It didn’t take long for John to start reeling in Alaska Walleye, a kind of pollock, with long spotted bodies, big, round eyes, and similarly shaped mouths.  I tossed out my pathetic cast, felt a light tug, and pulled in…a little purple starfish.  A few casts later, and I felt like I was getting the hang of it.  I felt a bit harder resistance on my line, and reeled in a bit bigger of a starfish.

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We stayed on the spit for two or three hours.  Our final tally was seven Walleye for John, and three starfish and two lost rigs for me.  I am completely clueless about what qualities make a person good at fishing, but I don’t have them.  However, to be fair, John was fully focused on fishing for those several hours, while I part-time fished, and part-time kids-line-untangled, rock-hunted, baby-carried, photo-took, snack-delivered, water-out-of-boots-dumped and lost-hook-searched.

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Eating

We usually pack our cooler to the brim for camping; eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks, chicken, fruits and veggies, it all comes.  For this weekend though, we suspected all that planning would go to waste since we’d heard so many good things about all of the options for eating out in Homer.  We kept the cooler empty for fish.

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On the drive down Friday night, we stopped at St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna.  We had been there before, last summer after fishing on the Kenai River, and knew we wouldn’t leave disappointed.  I knew full well this weekend would be a huge gluten-bomb to the system, so I just rolled with it and ordered pizza.  John had Pesto Chicken, Si had Pepperoni, and I had Chicken with Pineapple.  I think we all liked John’s the best.  We also filled up our Hydroflask growler that I bought John for Christmas with their Dos Lobos amber ale before getting back on the road.

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Our next four meals were all within walking distance of the Driftwood Inn.  Saturday morning we ate at Maura’s Cafe.  It was amazing.  Si had Blueberry Crepes, crepes stuffed with farmer’s cheese and topped with a generous serving of blueberries with a chicken and apple sausage on the side.  I ordered the Root Veggie Hash, which was a pile of potatoes, yams, and arugula topped with fried eggs and the same chicken sausage.  John asked for the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict, and it really gave my own recipe a run for the money.  The salmon was cold smoked, and the sauce was topped with capers.  My recipe has definitely been suffering from a caper-deficiency.  Their poached eggs were truly a thing of beauty, and I vowed find out what their secret was.

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For lunch, we went to the Two Sister’s Bakery.  I usually just say no to bakeries to avoid the temptation, but everyone I’d talked to about Homer had mentioned it, and I’d already fallen off the gluten-free wagon.  John had a turkey sandwich on foccacia stuffed with almost every kind of veggie – kale, zucchini, roasted red peppers, grilled onions.  I had Hungarian Mushroom Soup with a salad, and I ordered Si some veggie soup that came with two giant hunks of bread.  He only the ate the bread, of course, so I had vegetable soup along with my soup and salad.  Si likes to talk a big talk about our nutritional lifestyle, “Oh, I can’t eat that.  We only eat protein.”  But put him in a sugar/gluten/dairy situation and he’ll destroy it like nobody’s business.

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Dinner that night was AJ’s Steakhouse.  I saw a poster advertising the live music from the previous Saturday night, and, as it turned out, we were a week late to see Nikos Kilcher, Jewel’s brother, play.  Instead, our dinner was accompanied by a woman with a beautiful voice, a guitar, and jeans and Sorels; true Alaskan style.  We thought about steaks, but decided there was something sacrilegious about having beef in the “Halibut Capital of the World”.  So, I had the halibut.  It was a bit overcooked, but had decent flavor.  John ordered scallops, and had no complaints.  Ever since the scallops I made him a few months ago, he’s been a fan.  I usually let Si get whatever he wants when we go out to prevent any foods from acquiring a forbidden allure, but was still disappointed when he ordered PB&J.  I mean, seriously, kid?!

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Sunday morning, we went back to Maura’s Cafe.  I had been expecting them to be closed for Easter Sunday, so it was a pleasant surprise.  This time, we both had omelets.  John’s had shaved ham and brie, and mine had shrimp, rice noodles, and sweet and spicy Thai sauce.  Both were excellent.  Si had just scrambled eggs and the good ol’ chicken sausage, since he had just eyed my eggs over his blueberry crepes the breakfast before.  All breakfasts were delicious once again.  I remembered to ask about the poached eggs.  Apparently, a bit of vinegar in the water helps keep the egg together.  Who knew?  Well, probably everyone, but it was news to me.

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Overall, it was a fabulous weekend.  A new destination, a check off the Alaska list, some much needed R&R, and a whole set of plans for future return trips.  There’s no place like Homer!

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Alaskan Winter Survival: Mission Almost Complete

Current season: Spring

Current conditions: Overcast, lightly snowing, 30* F.  Not very spring-like.

Current backyard view.
Current backyard view.

According to the calendar, we’ve officially survived our first winter in Alaska.  In recent weeks, we’ve had beautiful sunny days that last until after 9pm.  Many days have reached above 40*F, and the bears will be waking up soon.  Most of this is likely a tease, though.  Last year, the final snow day was May 18th, which gives us over a month to go until spring really breaks through.

Regardless, the worst of winter is behind us, and I feel triumphant about making it through unscathed and unshaken.  I didn’t do everything I wanted to over the winter, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get another chance.  Here is our winter overview:

Fireworks and carnival @ Fur Rondy
Fireworks @ Fur Rondy, February
Playing in the backyard
Playing in the backyard, December
Early winter sunset
Early winter sunset, December
Taekwondo lessons
Taekwondo lessons, December
Bowling.  Lots of bowling.
Bowling. Lots of bowling.
Christmas Tree lighting
Christmas Tree lighting, December
Urban wildlife viewing
Urban wildlife viewing, December
Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing, December
Snuggling...lots of snuggling
Snuggling
More snuggling
More snuggling
Little bit more snuggling
Little bit more snuggling
Skiing
Skiing @ Alyeska, February
Pony riding
Pony riding, January
Pony sledding
Pony sledding, January
Aces hockey game
Aces hockey game, January
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Ice skating attempts, January
Beach Lake
Beach Lake, February
Running...but not nearly as much as I'd have liked
Running…but not nearly as much as I’d have liked
Indoor soccer...always moving too fast for a clear shot!
Indoor soccer.  Always moving too fast for a clear shot!
Outdoor carnival in February.  Only in Alaska!
Outdoor carnival in February. Only in Alaska!
Snowmachining
Snowmachining, March
Truck trouble
Truck trouble, March
Iditarod
Iditarod, March
Birthday at Bouncin' Bears.  Yes, the cake is a Storm Trooper head.
Birthday at Bouncin’ Bears. Yes, the cake is a Storm Trooper head, April

That sums up our first winter in Alaska!  We were never bored; there was always plenty to do, both inside and outside.  We made new friends, saw new places, tried new things, and still have a list of what we have yet to do for next winter.  But when spring finally shows up, there will be no tears shed here.  Winter was good, but this summer will be epic.

The Last Great Race on Earth

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On Sunday, March 2, I loaded up my two little boys and headed north to Willow.  We’d been to Willow before, when we went up for the Winter Solstice 5k, but Sunday was a whole new world up there.  We went to see the start of the Iditarod!  The idea of the Iditarod has always inspired me.  I’m sure I have a predisposition towards grueling races of insane distances over rugged terrain.  Although I have no immediate plans, I know I’ll run 100 miles someday.  The challenge is just too tempting.  With that internal beast calling to me, there was nothing I could do to resist going to see 70 individuals, each with 14 -18 dog teams, start on a journey of over 1000 miles through vast expanses of western Alaska.

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Sunday’s weather was beautiful: clear skies, radiant spring sun, and temps just above freezing.  Absolute perfection, since the start line was nothing short of an outdoor festival.  Starting at 2 o’clock, one musher left every 2 minutes, so the start lasted for almost two and a half hours.  It was truly a spectator event.  Amongst the crowd of thousands, there were camp chairs, tents, fire pits, beer coolers, snow machines, hockey games (it all took place on a lake), sleds, and everything and anything else you could want for a winter celebration.

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As I watched the teams pass on the beginning of the trail to Nome, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of emotion for each one.  Considering the planning, training, sacrifices, and commitment of each racer all wrapped up in the history and legacy of the race itself, I knew what I was witnessing was, in fact, a very big deal.  In my brief glance of each team, I felt nervous and excited for them all at once.   I tried to imagine what each one must be going through: the adrenaline rush of being ushered off by thousands of cheering fans at the beginning of 1000 miles, countered by the anxiety of entering into the unknown of wild and uncontrollable variables.  For each team, be they rookies or 30-year veterans, the same possibilities lie ahead, of unexpected dangers and disasters, or anticipated victory and glory.  I know experience must be a huge advantage, but this is Alaska.  Anyone who enters this kind of endeavor with 100% confidence would be nothing short of delusional.

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Looking over the list of entrants, it is interesting to see the diversity.  Most racers are from Alaska, and a few are from the Lower 48, but it is an international event.  There are participants from the predictable home countries of Canada, Norway, and Sweden, but also less expected locales of New Zealand, Australia, and Jamaica (!).  In addition, there are almost 20 women on the roster.  You can follow this year’s Iditarod here.

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Experiencing the start of the Iditarod was truly an awe-inspiring event.  I hope to make it an annual family tradition.  Maybe one day I’ll feel all those same emotions (multiplied by a million?!) for my own boys-turned-mushers!

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I spent the day in my Flutter Pullover from INKnBURN.  I layered it over a merino shirt, and was warm enough all day.  I thought the Flutter print was fitting for the day, since monarchs annually migrate 2000 miles!  For 15% your first order from INKnBURN, use code INBSK14 at checkout.

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2014 Checklist and New Year’s Day in Photos

We may be living in the last frontier, but we are still far removed from frontier living.  In lieu of resolutions for the new year, I instead made a checklist of things I’d like to accomplish in 2014, all centered around sustainable, local living:

1. Grow a garden – Last spring, John did some strategic Craigslisting, and traded a jackhammer he no longer needed for piles of redwood 2×12’s, which we made into planter boxes.  We lined the bottoms with gopher wire, filled them with dirt, and fertilized with worm castings.  I collected packets of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Spring just finished melting off the last of winter and…we decided to move to Alaska, so we had to scrap the whole project.  I’m looking forward to sweet redemption this year.

2. Shoot something and eat it – I grew up around hunting, but still have managed to know almost nothing about it.  Tags? Licenses? Permits?  I don’t even know where to start.  I’ve fired a 9mm and a .45 in a shooting range, and an M-16 with blanks, but that was about 10 years ago.  Despite the obstacles of ignorance and inexperience, I’m sure it can be done.  I should probably start making some local friends.

Once I navigate the legalities and subtleties of the hunting part, I’ll be thrilled to get on to the eating part.  I picked up a copy of “Cooking Alaskan” at a thrift store, and have perused such timeless recipes such as “Baked Seal Hindquarter”, “Moose Tongue Stew”, and “Ptarmigan and Dumplings”.  The only question now is which magical meat will end up in my pan?

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3. Catch more fish – This at least I have a start on, having caught my first Sockeye salmon last July.  I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of Alaskan fishing with those outings, however.  There is still charter fishing, fly fishing, and ice fishing among other fishing venues that I continue to know next to nothing about.  Again, friends in the know would be quite a boon.

4. Can – This should easy if my garden is remotely successful.  Anything that can be done in the kitchen is well within my comfort zone.  I tried to make blackberry jam once, and it completely bombed, but I came up quite short of the recipe’s called for amount of blackberries.  I’ll call that one a fluke.

5. Make soap – I bought a book on soapmaking in high school, undoubtably linked to the timing of Fight Club coming out on VHS.  I’ve dragged the book with me everywhere.  It’s time to make that dream a reality.

6. Go berry picking – For this kind of expedition to be fruitful (terrible pun intended), I not only need to make friends, but make friends that really like me.  The locations of berry picking spots in Alaska aren’t something that can be Googled.  They seem to be filed less in the category of ‘public information” and more so in ‘highly classified’.

To add some check marks to my list, I’ll need to put in some concentrated effort on planning, learning, and networking. It’s a good thing I gave myself the whole year.  Meanwhile, here is a photo recap of our New Year’s Day.

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John and Silas enjoyed some more downhill action…

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while Skye and I explored 4 miles of trails.  Here is what we saw:Image

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