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The Alaska Zoo: A Fun and Historical visit

Do you ever have one of those amazing days that just comes out of the blue?  Yes, that happened to me on Friday.  My daughter has been asking for months to visit the Alaska Zoo.  However, I unfortunately do not have fond memories of the only real zoo I ever visited as a young child.  It was the Jacksonville, Florida zoo.  I can’t say the animals weren’t interesting back then, but I can say the weather was hot, my clothes were drenched in sweat by the end, and the gnats were eating me alive.  Thus, my 1980s zoo trip wasn’t the fondest.

When my daughter asked me to take her to the zoo, I was hesitant for a while.  However, Friday was expected to be a beautiful weather day.  One thing I have learned about Alaska is if the weather is nice, you must be outside.  If your house is dirty, who cares?  If you work from home like me, take it outside.  Basically, do anything to be outside. I figured… what better day to go to the zoo?  The weather is nice and my daughter and I can build a fun memory together.  I thought the opportunity was priceless.

Upon arrival at the Alaska Zoo, we met a nice older couple who just exited.  They were extremely excited about their visit, which actually made me excited.  They were visiting from Colorado and made Alaska their home in a rental R.V. for a solid month. The gentleman was so excited about his Alaskan vacation.  He bragged about how renting his R.V. back in October 2017 actually helped him save about $200.00 on his daily rental purchase.  I thought that was fantastic considered he stayed for about 30 days.  Yes, do the math, he did save a ton of money! (You can’t say I have never given you anything.  That was a HUGE tip on savings!)

Now, we had no idea what to expect because my daughter said she saw about 9 animals on the website.  However, after we purchased our tickets , we received a map and there were many more animals at the zoo than we anticipated.  This was going to be spectacular!  We made a vow to visit each one of the animals and not to rush the experience.

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The first animal we saw was a polar bear.  He (or she) was sleeping soundly and wasn’t very active.  After that, we saw the following: a porcupine, alpaca, camel, caribou, brown bear, snow leopard, black bear, yak, bald eagle, trumpeter swan, Amur tiger, wolves, moose, and much more.  Below are a few pictures we took.

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The Brown Bear Exhibit was our favorite.  There were three of them and we watched them for about 20 minutes.
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I am checking out my map beside the Moose exhibit.
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Trumpeter Swan
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Caris is pointing at a Mountain Goat.
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A black baby seal relaxing in the sunshine
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This is a Bactrian camel with two humps.  They come from African and Arabia. Camel humps store fat, not water.  (This is a major misconception that camels store water in their humps.)

 

After viewing the cute animals, we stopped by the Discovery Center.  It was essentially a brief historical journey of the zoo.  I discovered the Alaska Zoo was created by accident.  Annabelle was an 18 month old elephant who was won in a sales promotion by an Anchorage grocer named Jack Snyder in the late 1960s. Jack chose the elephant as his prize (versus $3000.00) to dazzle the community at the already planned event, “The Centennial Commission.” It was the 100th celebration of Alaska’s purchase from Russia.    A Centennial Zoo was already planned but what Jack did not know was the zoo wasn’t going to get approved due to lack of votes.

While Jack was figuring out what to do, Sammye Seawell, a serious, yet perfect-looking 1950’s housewife (see her photo below), offered a heated horse stall to Annabelle at her ranch. She and Jack eventually spoke of what to do with Annabelle. Sammye jumped at the chance to keep the baby elephant.  After all, she had fallen in love with her. Children wanted to meet Annabelle and the community was excited about her.  Of course, the Alaska Zoo was created with Annabelle being the first animal and the main attraction. The neatest thing I learned about this elephant is she became famous.  Many people, even celebrities, visited the zoo to get a glimpse of her.  She even began painting in 1991 and created pretty pieces that became t-shirts.  These t-shirts were sold all over the world.  There are many awesome photos of Annabelle at the Discovery Center but I will tease you with at least one board from the center called, “How we Began.”

 

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You must visit the Alaska Zoo for the full exhibit!  What a cutie…
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One of Annabelle’s originals

Did you think I was finished?  Nope, not yet… There was a cute seal named Onyx there. We saw Onyx pushing on the glass when we first arrived at her pool.  One of the employees told us that Onyx was orphaned very young and didn’t get enough time with her mother.  As a result, the little cutie spends some time suckling the glass every afternoon to sooth herself.  She then goes about her business playing, eating, and swimming.  She was adorable!

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Onyx, the cute baby seal suckling the glass…

We hoped you enjoyed our visit.  Now, go out and make your own memories at The Alaska Zoo.

XOXO,

Mel

Mel’s Chocolate-Goodness Zucchini Loaf

If you have read this blog at all, you know one thing about me.  I love dark chocolate. I eat it daily for breakfast (after my two boiled eggs) because it satisfies my sweet tooth. However, on occasion, I want something different so bingo, Mel’s Chocolate-Goodness Zucchini Loaf to the rescue!

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In fact, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to “Healthy, Healthy, Healthy” and this recipe is resting there immediately after I post.  While it isn’t gluten-free, or keto-friendly, it is considered healthy in my book and certainly very delicious.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Hershey’s powdered cocoa

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

2 large organic eggs

3 small shredded zucchini (after peeling… I used small shredder.)

1/4 cup of olive oil (yes, olive oil!)

1/4 cup of low carb yogurt (I used Carbmaster, Cinnamon Roll flavor)

1/4 cup of Stevia in the Raw

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Canola non-stick spray

Berries for slices

Shred zucchini after peeling. Spray a small loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.  Then, pour into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour (based on oven differences.)

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Small shredded zucchini
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This is the type of yogurt I use for my baking loafs.
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The final slice of yummy!
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These two love smelling the loaf baking.

Cool for approximately 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with your favorite berry.

Enjoy,

Mel

 

 

 

 

The little things DO matter. PROOF!

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Have you ever walked by someone and avoided all eye contact because you didn’t want to have any type of personal exchange?  Come on, admit you’ve done this once or twice at least.  Well, if you haven’t, you are probably one of only a few people in that category.  I have done this in my youth because I didn’t want another person (probably a cute guy) to see me without makeup or nice clothes.  As I have grown older, I realize no one cares if I wear makeup or designer clothes.  However, people will remember my smile, a nice compliment, or a kind gesture.

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Who wouldn’t remember my daughter’s sweet smile?

I know… I know… I am sure you have heard that people remember the negative more than the positive.  This does happen.  We all know gossiping people exist who love a sad or tragic story to share. However, in the end, people make mistakes.  People are not perfect.  There will be another poor soul on the gossip stage soon enough.  In the end, we are all going to leave this beautiful earth and what will it matter?  So, don’t get caught up in the gossip and negativity.  I challenge you to this!  If you take the high road, you’ll probably rest better at night.

Oddly enough, I was recently reading the book, “The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age” by Cammy Bean.  Of all the books I have read, I never really thought a book about Instructional Design would include this, but it did.  In fact, Bean (2014) says, “… we seem to remember the bad things about people we meet more than the good” (p. 136). She goes on to say we learn from mistakes and this is why she added this to her book about e-learning.  (Designers can use stories about mistakes to teach lessons.)

Thus, the reason I decided to discuss this today is because I feel strongly that reading about the usefulness of negativity (through mistakes) combined with what I am about to share is no coincidence. Earlier today, I received a kind message from a former Starbucks Barista in Georgia that I barely knew.  She was always pleasant and a great Barista, but I only knew her briefly.  Six years ago, she was pregnant.  I told her wonderful things about being pregnant and positive things I learned while pregnant.  She reached out to me today to let me know how big of an impact this had on her and her son.  She emailed me the following.

… Idk if you remember but when I was pregnant with my son you were so excited about that kid even though we didn’t really know each other! That love you showed, believe it or not, has shown through that kid! I wish you could meet him just to see the love he gives off! Everybody falls in love with that kid! Believe it or not, he’s six now.

So, in the end, people do remember the nice things. Even though it may be beneficial to create a humorous story about a goofy, mistake-prone character to teach a lesson online, in the real world, kindness must prevail.   I may never have heard that story, but I did hear it at the perfect time.  I had to share it with you as proof that small things do matter.  Small things can turn into big things!  (After all, she made me smile 6 years later and thousands of miles from the original place where I shared my love and warmth with her.) I CHALLENGE you to avoid the negative and embrace the positive each and every day. It will make a difference.

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Remember: Keep on Smiling!  (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

Hugs and Kindness,

Mel

Reference:

Bean, C. (2014). The accidental instructional designer: Learning design for the digital age. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Eklutna Lake Beauty: Family Fun in Alaska

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Just last week, we had friends visit us from Jacksonville.  They stayed for 7 days.  During these 7 days, we packed in as much adventure as we could with one day dedicated to riding 4-wheelers on Eklutna Lake.  This lake is a seven-mile-long lake with trails built beside it which are perfect for ATVs, while other nearby trails are specifically designed for bicycles. Bicycle trails would have been our path to the end if it weren’t for our neighbors.  Our amazing neighbors let us use their “toys” since we don’t personally own any ATVs or even a trailer to haul them.  Thus, as always, they are some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet (if you are lucky enough to meet them).  They let us use their well-maintained 4-wheelers for a faster, less challenging path.  I know everyone appreciated it and felt like superheroes.

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Getting ready for a cruise beside the lake…

While on the drive, we saw beautiful flowers, amazing creeks under bridges, and a perfect mirror image of the mountain on the lake because of the calm day.  I would recommend taking this trip with 1) water, 2) food for a picnic, 3) sunblock, 4) bear spray, and 5) mosquito repellent. You could also kayak on the lake but since the lake supplies Anchorage with drinking water, there are no motorboats allowed.

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After the picnic, we are ready to make the final drive to the trail end. (Yes, I personally picked up that water bottle!)

Here are some images for you to enjoy!  I hope to add another blog soon with our other adventures.

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Connor snapped this cool image of me enjoying the lake.
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Caris is enjoying our friends on a bridge located about mid-trail.
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Caris and I waited while the others hiked a steep hill.  We decided to relax near the water at the trail’s end, but I had the bear spray and they had other protection.  (Always be bear aware!)
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Micah is heading down the steep hill.
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The water was gorgeous.  My phone camera doesn’t do this scene justice.
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The snow capped mountains never get old.
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Mini flowers picked by yours truly.
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More flowers…
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More beauty…

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and consider making this a wonderful day trip.  You could hike it, bike it, ATV it, or even kayak it! Whatever you desire…

XOXO,

Mel

Summer Solstice in Anchorage

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The longest day of the year was last week.  There was even a festival called the Downtown Summer Solstice Festival in downtown Anchorage to celebrate the event, even though every day after June 21 was a little shorter than the day before.  Since one of our friends also had a birthday, we had a birthday event too.  Saturday was full of activities on one of the most beautiful days of the year.

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Connor is relaxing in downtown Anchorage.
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Children’s area at the festival
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Chalk drawings are everywhere.

During the day, my family walked around to see the displays and events, eventually arriving at 49th State Brewing Company to have appetizers and claim a spot on the rooftop (our friends were joining us within the hour for a birthday dinner.)  The beer there is okay (I am not that big of a beer drinker but King Street has some really good beer if you are into that sort of thing.)  The rooftop and food at 49th State are both great though.  In fact, I had the Seafood Artichoke dip and I highly recommend it.  The rooftop is a winner when the weather is great because the views are fantastic.

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Caris was avoiding the camera so no photos of her on the rooftop of 49th State.
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What  a view!
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We had a great seat – corner spot on the rooftop.
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This was our server at 49th.  JOKING! This little spider was hanging out and since all things deserve to live, I left it alone and hoped it wouldn’t hop on us.
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Beautiful flowers downtown
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Beautiful flowers downtown

After we left the restaurant, all of us (the three couples) went to Williwaw and a few other places.  There are three floors in this cool bar.  The bottom floor is a dance floor/concert floor.  The middle floor is a lounge.  The top floor is a rooftop bar.  On the way down, Micah took a picture  of the three ladies. (Don’t we look like we are on a Theater set?)

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These ladies are super cool and fun to be around.  (Check out the background outside of Williwaw…)
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I love that Micah and I took a picture together but wish I wasn’t standing so awkwardly.  Too pretty of a background not to post though…

I hope you enjoyed! If you get a chance to participate in Summer Solstice next year, I highly recommend it.

XOXO,

Mel

In Search of Wildflowers

What makes you feel peaceful?  Do you enjoy cooking?  Do you like fishing?  Are you a fan of live music?  Based on my mood, I like different things at different times.  I think this is how most people function and I’m not the only one.  Another thing that I have enjoyed lately is making sure our backyard patio table has a steady supply of fresh wildflowers. When I look outside, I smile because of how lovely it looks.  Since we have a rhubarb plant out back, I decided to learn how to harvest it.  As a bonus, I used the flowers in my arrangement.

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The picnic table arrangement

I will share with you a few tips about the rhubarb and the flowers too.  First of all, make sure you do not eat the leaves because these are poisonous!  I also found out that flowering isn’t desirable and requires more of the plant’s energy so cutting this back is smart.  Since I didn’t know this before today, I decided to make the most of the already existing flowers and use on the patio. I didn’t really like the lack of color though which led McKinley (my schnauzer child) and I on a journey in search of wildflowers.  You know the little things in life can be so much fun.

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McKinley enjoys our trips in search of wildflowers.

Lastly, since the sun goes down around 11:30 p.m. and the sun rises around 4:30 a.m., we have many light hours each day to go exploring. We luckily found some cute purple ones!  While on the road, I thought about how the process of looking for these flowers reminded me of the times when my dad, mom, sister, and I would go riding around in the country looking for wild plums to pick.  This was such a fun activity forever etched in my memories.

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I will leave you with a poem I thought of while out today.

 

IN SEARCH OF WILDFLOWERS

By: Mel on 6/17/2018

 

Fresh air and colors,

Raging waters and wind,

Somewhere out there is a girl on the move, based on a whim.

 

Whatever makes you happy,

Seek and find.

In the end,

We can reminisce about it through rewind.

 

That moment will be gone forever very soon.

Then, we will be happy we made the move.

 

Hugs,

Mel

Adobe Spark is easy to use and helps teachers create great presentations!

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Once upon a time in a far away land, students and teachers used Poster Boards, Overhead Projectors, and/or eventually Microsoft PowerPoint to create dynamic presentations.  Then, some smarty pants created Prezi and Adobe Spark options and the world exploded with creativity! (Smile) Sorry folks, I am a little giddy today since the sun has been shining for days now.  I even went to pick fresh wildflowers yesterday for my backyard picnic table and had happy 1980s music playing.  So, I just had to make a joke while writing this.  On a serious note…

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Do you see the yellow and purple flowers?

Last semester, I had an opportunity to serve as Subject Matter Expert (SME) for a new Social Problems course.  Of course, my home office was transformed.  The huge dry erase board served as my visual for ensuring I had all the assignments and resources for each week covered.  (In fact, my family asked how long the board was going to be used for planning and I said “as long as it takes.”  Side note: I was actually a little sad when I had to erase it.  I digress…)

Since I didn’t serve as the Instructional Designer on this project (my contract was only for the SME), I didn’t need a storyboard. Although, I most certainly DID need dynamic lectures to go along with the Creative Commons textbook.  When a SME chooses to use a Creative Commons textbook to create a course, the students do not have to pay a high price for the textbook.  Textbooks cost a lot and most students do not have endless supplies of money.  Thus, I chose a Creative Commons textbook that is free for the world and readily available to anyone online.  This also meant that I had to create the supplemental items to go with the textbook.  That was a fun part of the process and when I used Adobe Spark, it was super easy to add additional websites for viewing statistics and facts. The program was easy to use and more streamlined than Prezi.  (I love Prezi but it can make me a little dizzy if it moves too quickly. That is just my two cents.)

I am including an example of an Adobe Spark presentation which only took about 4 minutes to create.

Click to View My Presentation

Best wishes,

Mel

A Family Fishing Adventure in Seward, Alaska

Last Thursday, we decided to camp in Seward, Alaska.  Connor and I went before my daughter and husband to set up camp at Forest Acres Campground and try fishing at high tide.  My husband discovered from a coworker that the salmon were moving in Seward.  When the salmon are moving, this means they are moving from the ocean to the river.  When you stand at the mouth of the river, fish, and they’re moving (a.k.a. “running”), you are one lucky fisherman or fisherwoman!

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Forest Acres Campground has a playground and fire pits at each campsite 
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The Seward Military Resort is behind the campground.

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When Connor and I fished on the first day, it took us 4 hours to snag 4 fish.  Micah purchased snag hooks at Bass Pro Shops earlier in the week and when the fish are moving, you simply have to throw your snag hook rig, pull steadily to one side, reel the slack, and repeat.  You do this over and over again if you are unlucky.  (Stay with me…)  On the second day, we all went fishing early and didn’t have any luck.  In fact, I thought my technique was broken, flawed, well, you get the picture.  None of us caught anything that morning but we weren’t finished with Seward yet.

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Connor with the Sockeye Salmon after the first day of fishing
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Even McKinley got in the action

Connor left to go to work and the rest of us went to eat lunch.  After lunch, we checked out the harbor and then went to hike Exit Glacier at the Kenai Fjords National Park. The hike didn’t take but about 30 minutes because we went on the shorter “Edge of the Glacier Trail.”  It wasn’t a tough hike but before we reached the top, there were some places that most certainly engaged our leg muscles.

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Harbor view
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Micah and Caris enjoying the sunshine
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Micah did you know you have a glacier behind you?
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I thought you may enjoy some of the details about the glacier.

After the hike, we also visited the Exit Glacier Nature Center.  I took some neat photos of the diminishing glacier to share in my environmental sociology lecture in the future.  (I may share on the blog soon as well.)

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Exit Glacier Nature Center
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Outside the Center

Before we went home, Micah and I decided to try fishing again. I am so glad we did!  We caught 8 fish in only 28 minutes.  We already had 4 in the truck and since Connor left already, we decided to count those as ours to meet the total limit of 12 in possession.  The day was absolutely amazing and thus it was the lucky time of the day because the fish were most certainly everywhere.  All of us felt like we went on a vacation even though this was only a one day mini-getaway.  I love trips like that.

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Fish on! (I am so excited here!)
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There are not a lot of people out there during the week. 
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These two enjoyed themselves.

 

XOXO,

Mel

Chocolate Almond Butter Pudding (Keto-Approved)

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I have been craving chocolate! (Wait, isn’t that every day?) Okay, I crave chocolate every day but today I decided to make a famous-looking dessert cup for dinner. Since I like dark chocolate, this dessert didn’t need much sweetener. However, if you are selecting foods that are dairy-free only (and not worrying about sugar), you could add some agave nectar to this recipe to make it sweeter.

Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
¼ cup Rebbl Maca Mocha
¼ cup Organic coconut milk
½ cup Hershey’s cocoa
2 tsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp Sugar-free maple syrup
1 Tbsp Almond butter
1 tsp Ghee

First, peel avocados, cut, and add to mixing bowl.

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Next, add Hershey’s cocoa, Rebbl Mocha, coconut milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Mash all ingredients together using a potato masher until smooth.

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Then, put ghee and almond butter together and heat for 15-20 seconds and mix together.

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Put avocado mixture in a serving cup and top with peanut butter melt.

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The final product – yummy!

Enjoy!

XoXo,

Mel

Surprise! It’s a glacier!

I love the Christmas holiday season. It is one of my favorite times of the year.  Recently, my parents came to visit us from Georgia and although it was only April, it felt like Christmas-time.  During the holidays, my family laughs a little, eats a lot, and plays tons of games.  This is the same thing we did, and more, while they visited.
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I can’t wait to share the amazing sights from our journey with you.  Just as the gift of giving at Christmas is so satisfying, the gift of showing them the amazing scenery in Alaska was also satisfying.  I hope you enjoy the highlights of their two-week vacation with us.  We didn’t let the rainier than usual weather cause complications in our plans.  In fact, nothing could dampen our spirits during this joyful occasion.

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I love these two.  Happy to have you visit…

One of our first visits was to Talkeetna, Alaska.  This town has charm.  In fact, the Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce have a great website where you can download a visitor’s guide, if interested.  While we were there, it snowed quite a lot.  Although, the snow didn’t stay around long due to the temperatures being warmer than freezing, it was still a lovely sight.  If you visit this town, I highly recommend a stop at Twister Creek restaurant.  I always enjoy it.

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One of our first stops: Talkeetna, Alaska at Twister Creek
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Smiles all around… Happy and no longer hungry

During the week, we made mini trips near by.  We drove to the top of the mountain in Eagle River where a breathtaking view is easier to reach.  If the sky is clear, you can see Denali.  Unfortunately, with all the rain, we didn’t have a great view of the mountain range, but the view was still pretty.

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This is a view on top of Skyline Drive in Eagle River, Alaska. The sky wasn’t clear or you could see Denali and the other mountains at a distance.
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We went hiking on the easiest route at Thunderbird Falls.
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Mom checking out the falls…
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On another trip, Mom and I stopped to walk out to Beluga Point. Beluga Point is located on the Seward Highway. It is on the way to Girdwood from Anchorage.
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Great view behind you, mom!
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Mom, in Girdwood, Alaska, enjoying the left-over snow.
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I told daddy to look afraid of the gift shop bear at the Alyeska resort.  My sister did a great job of editing the trees in the background.  I love this and thankfully it was only a stuffed bear. He could win the biggest award for acting scared!
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My dad collecting glacier water at Mile 109 on the Seward Highway
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I am collecting water too.  It tastes amazing.

We decided to plan a cruise on the 26 Glaciers Cruise where we saw sea otters, eagles, mountain goats, a humpback whale, dolphins, and beautiful birds.  It departed from Whittier, Alaska.  Mom and dad enjoyed the visit immensely.  We even made a few stops for pictures on the way there too.

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Connor and I decided to “say cheese” too.
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My parents are so cute!
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Mama is such a great actress.  We haven’t even left for the cruise but my request for her to look amazed was taken seriously. “And the newcomer’s acting award goes to…”
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Hanging out at Surprise Glacier, which was the main attraction of this cruise
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Some of the crew collected a huge chunk of glacier ice to bring on board.
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The captain announced photo props on deck and these two didn’t let the opportunity go to waste.
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Mom hanging out in front of Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers…
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Further away from the glacier trio (Cascade, Barry, and Coxe), I take a moment to smile for the camera.
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Ice chunks galore…
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Connor, did you know there is a surprise (glacier) behind you?

Enjoy the video below from the end of the cruise.

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On the way out of Whittier… The sun was so bright, you had to wear shades.

Next, we decided to take an early morning hike at the Eagle River Nature Center. It was great! We were avoiding bears by making a lot of noise on this walk. The bears are waking up and are likely to be looking around for food. We didn’t want to tempt them.

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The men enjoying the hike…
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Just another day in the AK…

We decided to take in a few indoor scenes too.  Thus, we visited the First Friday at the Anchorage Museum.  There were lots to see and even a Cinco de Mayo event going on.  Mom and I couldn’t wait to check it out.

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Mom, wait, I am running to join you!
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After we left the museum, we went to eat at Simon and Seafort’s restaurant.  I wish I could show you the beautiful sunset that day, but any photo wouldn’t do it justice.
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McKinley will miss you guys until she sees you again! Adios and Good-Bye…

We were sad to see my parents leave, but knew they had to go.  We can’t wait to see you two again soon.

XOXO,

Mel