The Things I’ll Miss About Alaska

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As I’m fighting to chip off the hard pack from my driveway, which is amazingly several inches thick despite the care I took to shovel after every few inches/feet of snowfall, it’s easy to add to the list of things I definitely won’t miss about living here: hard pack removal, shoveling snow, subzero temperatures for months on end, wrangling eight dog paws into dog booties for a walk, freezing skin off my hands by accidentally touching metal….Yeah.

But there are so many cool things about Alaska that I never would have gotten to do had I not lived here. Riding in a dog sled? Check. Fished for king salmon? Check. Chased by a moose? Also check.

So as my time here dwindles down (and as the amount of daylight thankfully increases) I want to focus on the coolest parts of living in Alaska.

5. Blueberry picking. I’ve had wild blueberries in other places but the wild Alaskan blueberries that ripen in the constant daylight are by far the best. They are simultaneously sweet and tart and go perfectly in homemade sourdough pancakes, or reduced down into a compote.

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4. The midnight sun in the summer. People ask me if it’s really six months of light and six months of dark. It is, kind of. We still have the tilt of the Earth so it’s gradual but in the summer the sun skims below the mountains before popping back out for what seems like endless days of summer. It’s amazing. It never gets truly dark, just a little like twilight. There are baseball games at midnight, people play golf all night, and I have to dig out a sleeping mask and blackout curtains to sleep.

3. Salmon fishing. I’d never really been fishing until I moved here and went on a salmon charter and got hooked (pun intended). I LOVE fishing for salmon. The fish are huge and fight like crazy. There is nothing like fighting a fish in and landing it and then cleaning it and eating it. You appreciate it so much more.

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2. No sales or income tax. The price at the store is the price you pay. Some towns have sales tax, but Fairbanks doesn’t and I love it. I also love being able to buy things online and not have tax added to it.

1. The aurora borealis. This is by far my favorite part of Alaska. While I was deployed I found myself looking up at the night sky even though I knew I would never see it there. I missed the ribbons of green and red light waving over the sky and bursting in random patterns.

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Cabin Fever

For some reason, I have a harder time running outside in the cold when it’s spring than I do when it’s in the thick of winter. Even though I know it’s warmer, I’m still so frustrated that it’s below freezing and just want it to warm up already. It’s about now when I start trying to take shortcuts in my routines. Last weekend I was so pumped that it was warm (20 in Alaska is warm) that I tried to go to the store wearing my Dansko clogs. Unfortunately, it was still winter and as I went to climb into the truck I slipped instead and fell hard on my back.

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The clogs

It’s like that with running, too. Even though I really, really want to go running freely down the road, I know that I still need to put Yak Trax on. I know I still need to wear a hat and gloves and possibly even a couple of layers depending on the temperature. If I don’t I might have an uncomfortable run or cut it short or, like in the case of the slippery clogs, slip and fall and hurt myself.

Patience is not one of my virtues and it’s something I struggle with and running and working out is no exception. I want so badly to be in the thick of the process that I try to hurry things along. I know eventually it’ll warm up and the snow and ice will melt and I’ll be able to lose a few layers (and wear slippery clogs around outside again) but until then, I need to work on staying present in the process and try to appreciate where I am now and not where I wish I could be.

Friday Five: Favorite Podcasts

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First of all,  I wrote the headline as favorite “podcats.”

This is what Google says a podcat looks like

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Anyway, this Friday I wanted to talk about five of my favorite podcasts. I’m one of those weird people who likes to listen to podcasts while lifting in the gym. I don’t mind them while cycling sometimes, but I need music while running on a treadmill. I don’t wear headphones outside because I don’t want to get run over by a sledneck.

  1. TEDTalks. I’ve been listening to these for years. I also like the TED Radio Hour that NPR puts together and selects clips from different but related talks.
  2. Serial. I started listening to the second season because it was about the Bowe Bergdahl story and was hooked.
  3. Fresh Air. I like the interviews of different actors, writers, and artists. I’ve watched movies and TV shows I likely never would have considered otherwise. It calls itself a weekday magazine and while I think of magazines as being print, it’s a very apt description for the show.
  4. The Splendid Table. I love food and making it, but wouldn’t consider myself of a high enough caliber to be called a “foodie.” The Splendid Table looks at history of food, chefs, and will make you hungry for more as well as something to eat. I especially liked their episode about the black presidential cooks in the White House.
  5. How To Do Everything. I love how this show is a little bit of everything. It’s one part MythBusters and one part Explain Like I’m Five. The descriptions of their shows are curiosity-piquing such as : “how to talk to fish and protect your yard signs” or “how to protect your cow and pull a loose tooth.”

 

Packing For a Cross-Continental Move

I’m down to my last few weeks here before another big move cross-continent, which means I’m making a series of lists of things I have to do before I leave, I have a list of things to get signed off on before I can clear post, and a big list of things to pack in different places.

Right now my list of things to carry looks a little like this:

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– passport- for border crossings as well as an additional form of identification
– dog health certs (required for border crossings and the ferry)
– Sophie meds
– dog food
– leashes
– poop bags
– dog bed
– hard-sided cat carrier
– disposable cat litter boxes – this way I don’t have to tote something smelling like cat pee around for two weeks in the back of the car
– cat litter (also for traction in case I get stuck in a snowbank somewhere)
– cat food – I typically switch to wet food while traveling because my cat is too freaked out to drink water during stops
– water bowl for pets
– baby wipes (disinfecting)
– winter boots
– winter coat
– snow shovel (also in case I get stuck)
– flares (both in case I can’t get out and also if I have to stop by the side of the road)
– Jet Boil (P says I have to buy my own and can’t keep borrowing his, which I guess is fair since I use his more than he does! I’m going to wait for the REI sale this next weekend, though)
– lighter
– freeze dried meals (in case I get stuck and also for food on the Alaska ferry)
– 2 gallons of water (mostly for my dogs so they don’t get upset stomachs from different water)
– mittens
– hat
– sleeping bag
– cots (I might mail these down to GA instead of carrying them in the car)
– bike trainer (too big/heavy to mail)
– bike
– computer
– external HD
– towels (these ultralite ones take up little space, dry really quickly, and are also really absorbent. Plus they’re affordable)
– dry bags for clothes (I bought a couple of these from Sea to Summit and love them. I’m putting my clothes in a roof carrier so this will ensure they stay dry no matter the weather)
– running shoes
– flip flops
– cross-stitch bag
– 10 x  copies orders
– Milepost aka The Bible of North Country Travel
– bike rack
– mini lamp- I bought a neat USB chargeable one from Amazon while deployed and have been using it ever since.
I’m a big fan of anything that can pack up small and takes up less space so my travel pillow, sleeping mat, and sleeping bag can all compress to smaller dimensions. I also like dry bags because you can get some that work like a vacuum bag and let you press out extra air, while also keeping your clothes dry. I’m trying out a new roof bag carrier instead of packing everything in the car. It’ll cost a bit of gas mileage but I think will help out in giving us more room inside the car and that will be worth it.
Trying to pack for a two-week moving trip in a smaller car is definitely a challenge so I’m trying to also choose clothing items that are breathable and adaptable to different climates. I’ll probably be wearing mostly Oiselle and Soas clothing for a few weeks, which is more than fine by me.

Have Bike Trainer, Will Travel (Indoors)

My indoor bike trainer came in and after some hemming and hawing and trying to ship it and my bike down early as unaccompanied baggage, I finally got around to setting it up after the nice people at transportation told me the day before I had scheduled the movers to come that I wasn’t going to get unaccompanied baggage after all. Since I wasn’t going to be able to ship it out early, I figured I might as well set it up after all.

I was going to keep it in the garage but decided to bring it inside for a couple of reasons: 1) we’re getting ready to move and rent our house out so the garage is messy; 2) if I’m in a messy room for any length of time, I will start cleaning it; 3) if I’m cleaning, I’m not working out; 4) P gets all huffy when I put things away and not where he left them last; 5) the TV is inside the house.

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Sad-eyed dog was sad because I moved the couch to plug in the trainer behind it

It’s a little crowded because I have a tiny house (not a Tiny House, just a tiny, 850 sq-ft house with two adults, two dogs, and one cat) but it’s only for a few weeks.

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I settled on the Tacx Vortex Smart because it had pretty good reviews on DC Rainmaker’s recommendations for bike trainers(and was pretty, I admit that was a tie-breaker). I liked that it had Bluetooth and I can control the wattage from my phone.

It was pretty easy to set up and calibrate though I think the app could use a little work. It’s not as intuitive as I think it could be, but overall not bad for a free app. Tax has a program you can buy to pre-create workouts but it’s only available for PCs and I have a Mac so if I want a pre-designed workout I’d have to use TrainerRoad or Swift.

Overall I’m pretty happy with it. My biggest challenge now is trying to find something decently interesting to watch on Netflix.

 

Run Fast, Eat Delicious Food

I finally bought a copy of Run Fast, Eat Slow after seeing so many rave reviews online and I am so glad that I did. I’m a pretty good cook and so is my husband and as a result we eat in most of the time, but I’m always game for new healthy recipes.

I’ve made a few recipes from the book now and two things stand out each time:

  1. The food actually looks like the photographs in the cookbook. No fancy plating needed, it actually looks like the pictures. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I was surprised and impressed.
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This was the picture in the cookbook

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Before baking. I used chocolate chips and chopped dates this time.

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And finished muffins

2. The food actually tastes good. Like, really good. This is mostly surprising because I often things that taste good are not actually good for you. See Figure 1.1 below

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Fig 1.1

I even made adjustments like swapping out coconut oil for regular oil and all purpose flour for whole wheat flour or almond meal and the recipes came out delicious. It may be the first cookbook that I haven’t had a single bland recipe from.  P even likes the recipes and has been happily devouring them as fast as I can make them, they’re that good. I’m looking forward to cooking my way through the book and adding more delicious (and healthy) food to our lives.

 

 

 

 

Shifting Gears

You want to see a sad picture? My poor bike has been living in my garage for the past year and a half lonely and hung up.

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Sad bike is sad

The last time I rode it was to and from work the summer P moved up here and we had one car to share until his arrived. Then I deployed and it got hung up. Then I redeployed and I was just gone all the time and it sat there patiently. I’d look at her sitting in the corner sadly and feel guilty, but not quite guilty enough to want to brave the rain and then snow and now the extreme cold and snow (plus her tires are too skinny for the icy roads.)

One of the things I miss most about living somewhere more temperate is being able to ride (or do everything, really) outside more than a couple weeks out of the year (okay, I still run outside now but it’s a process and my eyelashes freeze over) and now that I’m moving back south, I’m already starting to think about riding and running outside again.

So with that, I tentatively signed up for my first triathlon since my first triathlon four years ago (does that mean I’m still a novice?) and that means I’m taking the bike down, pumping her tires back up, and remembering how to ride it again. Until the roads get better or until I get somewhere with better roads (probably the latter) I’m going to be riding indoors, which should be lots of fun for P to try to hear the TV over.