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

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

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

Kauai, Hawaii – The Views and Colors

Visiting the State of Hawaii has always been on my bucket list.  I’ve been to many beautiful beaches, like St. Martin, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and many places in Florida.  Although, Hawaii was always on my mind but out of reach for various reasons.  Recently, Micah and I were able to visit Kauai.  Before going, I learned Kauai was one of many islands in the Hawaiian Archipelago. In fact, Sprout & Sprout (2010) mention in the center of the Pacific Ocean, “is the Hawaiian Archipelago, some 132 islands strung in line for about 1,600 miles, all part of the State of Hawaii” p. 8.  As far as populated places, Kauai is the northernmost of all those.

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I would love to share with you some of our wonderful visits on this lovely island, which is why I took a lot of pictures.  From the moment we flew into Lihue Airport, the air was fresh and temperature mild, which was perfect after leaving 0 to 10 degree temperatures in Alaska.  I bet the beauty of the island erased at least one wrinkle formed from years of contemplation and hard work.

For starters, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Wailua Bay (on the eastern side of the island.) It was a pretty place with an open-air lobby and restaurant.  I really liked it!  We never did swim at the hotel because it rained for several days. However, they apparently had two pools and a hot tub.  When the rain cleared, we figured it a better use of time to go snorkeling.  Micah and went snorkeling on a Poipu Beach beside a restaurant where we had a light lunch and a fancy cocktail.   It was a lovely day and we did see some colorful, unique fish.

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Hilton Garden Inn Lobby
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Hilton Garden Inn Lobby Restaurant
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Hilton Garden Inn Front Desk
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There are Roosters and Chickens everywhere on this island.
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Our hang out behind the restaurant…
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Snorkeling Images
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Snorkeling Images
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Snorkeling Images
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Snorkeling Images

Furthermore, there were many beautiful scenes and pull off areas.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of all these places but all of these are easily accessible from the main road.  The main roadway where the tourists travel have many areas to stop, get out, and enjoy the scenery.  Although, one of my favorite places on the island was the beautiful, breath-taking Waimea Canyon Lookout.

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Micah, do you know you have some beautiful water behind you?
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Yes, I am enjoying the scenery. Life is good!
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A cave beside the beach

 

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Where is David Hasselhoff?
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Exposed Roots… Sorry, Alice Merton, there are roots- literally and figuratively.

 

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Waimea Canyon
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Waimea Canyon
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Waimea Canyon Rainbow

All-in-all, this was a great visit, regardless of work (Micah and I had to work some) and the rain.  Micah worked (at a conference) at the Grand Hyatt Poipu, which was a resort quality hotel.  It was absolutely fantastic too even though I didn’t spend much time there.

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Grand Hyatt – Day and Night – Photos taken by Micah
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I feel so lucky to have been able to go on the trip and see a place that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.  I hope you enjoyed the images of this beautiful place.

Hugs and Happiness,

Mel

Reference:

Sprout, J. & Sprout, J. (2010). Kauai trailblazer. Kilauea, HI: Diamond Valley Company Publishers.

Put down the Wallet. Cherish your Family.

Time is such a valuable commodity. We don’t know how much of it we have left and yet, many times, we don’t stop to appreciate and process this very important fact. The holidays are especially a time when we don’t truly think about the concept of time. You probably know why, but let me explain. Christmas is tough for some people because of worries about getting the perfect gift. However, this should not be positioned as the most important activity. The most important thing you can do is cherish your family and make memories that will live long after the toys have broken or grown old. After all, we never know what tomorrow will bring. In fact, I truly wish some of my loved ones who have already left this earth could be here for me to share a conversation and squeeze in an endearing hug. Without a doubt, I decided long ago that every moment of this holiday would be spent enjoying people and promoting the reason for the season.

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PJs and Snow (A Christmas Family Picture)
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The Eve of Christmas Eve…
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Look at the Smile on this Sleepy Face!
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Sleepy Face #2. There are no clothing rules for Christmas Day morning.  Anything goes!
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Caris, Micah, and Connor all enjoyed the new sled from Grandma Pat.
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Go Micah!

In fact, Christmas Eve kicked off with a Candlelight Service at a local church. Then, when Connor got home, we played games and snacked. Afterwards, we watched a Christmas movie and crashed because we know Christmas Day is always packed with activity after activity.

As usual, Christmas Day started with our annual breakfast of pigs-in-a-blanket and a tall mug of freshly made coffee. We then opened presents and made calls and texts to family and friends. The evening closed down playing games and watching a family movie with some of our friends. Overall, it was such a wonderful day. I will end the day with this. I hope your day was wonderful and that you cherished those people in your life on this joyous day that only comes once a year.

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“See” you next year!

Merry Christmas,

Mel

Ice Fishing for the First Time

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Does this magically appear? No way… learn as I learn.

As I have already said before, I have some awesome neighbors! Early last week, my neighbors invited us and a few other families to go ice fishing on Saturday with them. It ended up being a spectacular time! The place where we went fishing wasn’t too far from our home which was even better. When we woke up, we realized the day was going to be warmer than usual at around 35 degrees. (That seems funny to say especially coming from over 100 degrees in the summer with the heat index factor.)

We loaded the truck and headed toward the lake. Once we arrived, everyone loaded up their sleds and transported all of their goods from the parking lot to our claimed spot on the lake. On the way down, I decided to FaceTime mom and dad so they could see some of the ice fishing adventure too. They even got to meet my neighbors. Super cool… In fact, Micah took a picture of me holding up my phone showing them around (shown below.) Also, since Caris hurt her knee the night before, we pulled her to our camp location on the sled. She liked the sled as most children do.

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I am holding up my phone showing mom and dad the scenery.
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Micah pulled Caris in the sled to our camp location.
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Caris is all bundled up.

Once we pulled all of our goods to our camping area for the day, the holes were already drilled by my neighbor with an auger. We haven’t purchased a sled yet but should definitely put that on our list. We waited until one of the other families finished and borrowed theirs which made it easier to transport.

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After seeing the entire thing go down, I now feel one step closer to going on my own ice fishing adventure. My neighbors also own an Eskimo Portable Ice Shelter and added a heater to it to create a warming tent. It was very comfortable actually. I brought some hot cocoa and we enjoyed that as well. It was definitely one of the coolest things I have done in a while. I think it helped that I caught the first fish of the day, shown below. It was so much fun! Listed at the bottom of this post are some of the major things to consider purchasing to make your first ice fishing experience wonderful. If you are an experienced ice fisher-man or ice fisher-woman, please feel free to comment on some things you think are required for a wonderful (and comfortable) family-fun day adventure.

 

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Check out that small sign. Eek!
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My neighbor and the auger in action…
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The final step before scooping out all the ice.
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Look at my neighbor in the background! She is so full of joy! Oh yeah, and me and the first fish…
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Micah getting ready to fish too!
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The Eskimo Pop-Up Tent rocks! (Do you see the heater on the left?)
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All the children had so much fun!
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Beautiful… and it even snowed while we were there.
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About to pack up and head home… What a fun day!
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One last photo…

 

Things needed for a great ice fishing day:
Tiny shrimp for bait
Small fishing pole rigged with small hook and weight
Eskimo pop-up tent AND a sled
Snacks
Hot cocoa already prepared in a thermos
Portable heater
Great Friends
Music

Best wishes,
Mel

 

 

Denali View via Snowmachine

Micah has been very excited about winter weather in order to break in his new Snow Machine.  Being able to access places that aren’t accessible by any other means, except maybe bush planes, is an exciting way to see some beautiful places in Alaska.  Most recently, he went to Petersville in the Dutch Hills to check out some territory. He said the most awesome thing was being able to go to the foot hills of the Alaska range to get a great look at Denali.   Since it takes some skill to be able to ride the machine, he is getting practice now but the entire family will join him in the future when he becomes more proficient.

The images you see below are from his first Snowmachine journey.

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This isn’t the moon, just the snowy foothills.
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View of Denali
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It was a beautiful day.
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The Alaska Range

Meanwhile, while Micah was gone, Caris and I continued in the Christmas spirit and wrapped a few presents, went shopping, watched movies, and played some games.

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While Micah was gone, Caris and I got into the holiday spirit!
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The pavement is very icy all the time now so just going shopping requires cautious steps. Caris gives the thumbs up for being careful.

 

Hugs,

Mel and Family

Christmas Tree House on a Dime

Christmas Trees

If you didn’t already know, Christmas is my favorite time of year. Well before having my website, I used to create all kinds of fun things for the holidays like fancy cookies, specialty painted signs for our front door (our former home’s front door is shown below), and even handmade gifts for friends and family. However, now that I am chronicling my family adventures, I get to share the behind-the-scenes part of the creativity, which is very exciting to me.

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I painted this Peace and Joy sign for our former house but was only able to bring the small Joy sign with us. (I also painted the Christmas Tree at a painting party with my sister one year.)

As I mentioned in a prior post, we scaled down our Christmas decorations quite a lot this year due to moving. We couldn’t take every item we collected over the past 20+ years or we wouldn’t have had enough room for the necessities like clothes, pots and pans, and furniture. This gave me a goal though. I decided I would create a fabulous Christmas house on a dime. I knew I could do it. After all, I had packed some ribbon, a ruler, red poly mesh, an X-acto knife and had plenty of imagination and heavy cardboard boxes. What more does a lady need?

Even though my husband and I both work, things cost a lot more in Alaska. Thus, if you are like most people, every penny adds up. I didn’t want to sacrifice the Christmas house my family is used to just because I wanted to save a little money. Since I had some boxes and a little time, I sat in the carport brainstorming. The first thing I knew I needed to do was spray paint the boxes green. This was the start of my idea for the Christmas tree theme. You will find the list of items needed below, how to order some of those items, and a photo diary giving the progress from beginning to completion. I hope you enjoy and consider doing for yourself if you need to save some money on decorations this Christmas season!

The total cost of this project was around $5.00 because I had to purchase spray paint and some white poster board for behind the tree box.

Items needed:
Heavy Duty Cardboard Boxes
X-acto knife
Pen/Pencil
Green Spray Paint
Red Poly Mesh Ribbon
White Poster Board
Christmas Lights (optional for lighted tree box)

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Empty boxes and time in the carport was the beginning of this Christmas project
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Green Gloss Spray Paint is needed
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McKinley and I spent some time outside. I sprayed more boxes than I needed. (This was before the first snow day!)
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I used a ruler to make my first tree and then used it as a template.
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Then, just cut, cut, and cut until you have all of your trees cut out.  (The empty box will be used too!)
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It is starting to come together!
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You need poster board unless you leave the tree open and add lights.
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I wasn’t sure if I wanted lights in the box at first.  In the end, I went with a white background.
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I ended up going with the white tree look.
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Wrap the red mesh ribbon around the tree… it will cover any imperfections. Wrap twice.

 

 

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The Christmas trees are my favorite
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The entire look for the fireplace makes me happy.
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Walking from the kitchen to the living room, we have another Christmas “side table.”

Items below if desired:

I sure enjoyed completing this project! I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Joy and Love,
Mel