Exploring Portage Valley, AK

One of our favorite spots to explore and play it out in Portage Valley. Located just 45 minutes outside of Anchorage, it winds back into heavy woods to offer secluded campsites, access to Portage Glacier, Portage River, and one the of the longest tunnels (2.5 miles of enclosed highway) in North America to open up to the small seaside city of Whittier and surrounding Prince William Sound.

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In addition to the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center, there are numerous trails to hike as well with guided boat and hiking tours. Whether a full-fledged adventurer or a newbie, there is something for everyone and that is what we love the most!

The dogs always have a great time running themselves silly, and we get in a nice hike and fresh air ourselves 🙂

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Exploring Portage Valley, AK

Taking steps to reduce my social media footprint

This past year has really shown me that it is necessary for there to be a separation between my life, our lives, and our (okay, my) social media footprint. The older I get, the more private I get. Sure, I’ll share pictures of our adventures and our pets – most likely after they happen.

Our engagement taught me this lesson the hard way. In our excitement and sheer joy, D lovingly pestered me to share our happy moment online ASAP because his friends and family were waiting for the announcement. After sharing the news and attempting to call numerous family members I posted a picture we liked online, only to realize we hadn’t told a few more people that we love dearly before putting it on social media. Oops. Etiquette fail. It’s a hard truth of this generation that we are all about sharing the highs and sometimes the lows, without thinking twice before hitting, “post.” We (unfairly, just I) received some harsh backlash. The mistake was ours, that is true and we’ll not shy away from that. At the same time, I recognize how much social media can be a blessing and a curse.

These happy moments shared are all about the two people who are experiencing them and sharing with the people who love and support them. This is the world we live in today and bashing others for choosing how and what to share is just ridiculous to me. So I get it, I hear ya, but come on. Let people live their lives and celebrate the way they want to. Lesson learned and ultimately I want this life to be lived for me and us, not anyone else.

When it comes to media, everyone has a different stance and I don’t think anyone is wrong. We’re all just using it in the ways we are most comfortable. Facebook is more about the funny pictures, articles, and supporting other people’s happy life events. So you’ll mainly find me on The Gram and that’s about it! Now, I wait until the evenings, or sometimes even days, weeks, or months to share our days because once those moments are released online they’re not ours anymore. And that just doesn’t always jive with me.

Just a little mind musing,
H

Taking steps to reduce my social media footprint

A mini vacation in downtown Seattle

On a whim, we decided we needed a break from Alaska, so we hopped over to Seattle to celebrate my birthday. It’s funny how you can leave your neighborhood, walk into someone else’s, and it feels like a vacation.

Personally, I blame Groupon. They sent me one of those Getaway emails that had a beautiful hotel in downtown Seattle as a special. I was hooked and it was booked!

The Roosevelt Hotel didn’t disappoint, it was welcoming, clean, and our room was incredible! Fully updated with extra credits allotted to the room, a fun view, and such a comfortable bed. This trip was two months ago and I’m still thinking about those crisp white sheets. With the Groupon deal, we also had a complimentary breakfast delivered swiftly to our room comprised of a banana, greek yogurt, a very large muffin, and juice. It was the perfect early-bird start to our day downtown.

We didn’t want to rent a car and fuss with parking, so we committed to walking everywhere to really soak up what Seattle had to offer. Luckily, Seattle was hovering between 40-50 degrees (a heatwave for us coming from Alaska) and sunny! We spent the morning window shopping and browsing through Pike Place Market, and the gum wall! We hit Local Color Coffee for mid-morning (and late afternoon) pick-me-ups as well as the Pike and Western Wine Shop for birthday wine to share that evening back at the hotel.

When lunchtime rolled around, we were half starved. Mama’s Cantina was the perfect spot to sip margaritas, crunch on chips and salsa, and enjoy hot enchiladas. It was a laid back and quirky place, it’s definitely on the list next time we hit Seattle.

After a lot more exploring and shopping, we committed to the whispered about Underground Tour. I had done this same tour 10 years prior, and let me tell you this was an entirely revamped version. Where you purchase your tickets is conveniently located in a bar, so we hopped over to grab something to sip for the tour. The introduction was hilarious, the tour itself entertaining and engaging, and we left feeling pretty stoked that we had chosen to do it. Next time? We’re thinking about the haunted pub tour.

We found so many little treasures over this corner of the city, fun bookstores, map stores, and lots of shopping centers that we just don’t have in Alaska. It was a day well spent.

On our last day we experienced typical drizzly PNW weather and were thrilled by it. D and I spent the early morning trekking to a new part of town to have breakfast at Biscuit Bitch. I wish I had a picture of our bitchin’ selections but it just didn’t stay plated long enough. Might I suggest the Nutty Bitch, for my Nutella lovers out there? We spent the rest of the day hitting the market one more time and it was even more vibrant than the day before. One of our favorite shops is called All Things Lavender and we will definitely be repeat customers online. Their beard balms and oils are to DIE for.

We cruised along the Alaskan Way and ended back up near our hotel for a quick lunch to warm us up at the Cheesecake Factory. Then it was back to the airport and home we went! It was the perfect way to spend my 27th and I’m grateful to have had such a fun time with D. Our touristy Seattle weekend was a great get-away and we’re excited to go back in August!

Let me know your fav spots for our next trip!
H

A mini vacation in downtown Seattle

Why I’m childfree (for now).

An interesting thing happens the moment you get engaged, well-intentioned people start casually inquiring about your reproductive habits and plans. Which is funny when you think about it longer than half a second, but we’re all slightly guilty of this faux pas, aren’t we? First, comes love, then comes marriage; we all know what is supposed to happen next and I think we’ve all asked with an edge of excitement, “soo when are you planning your family?”

I have never given this a second thought until I became friends with a woman in college who at a young age understood her expectations and plans for her future did not include children. At that time I was inspired by her knowing her own mind and it was disheartening to hear people tell her, “you’ll change your mind.” Sure, maybe, but why is that anyone else’s concern? Why is it taboo for a woman to know she doesn’t want to raise a child? Or at least not want to procreate in the near future? Admittedly, her decision wasn’t something I was able to personally relate to at that time but heck it is one I supported!

I have always wanted to experience motherhood; so much so that I have considered adoption options and have worked to ensure my career is molded into one that had the potential for a WAHM situation so I could stay at home for the first few years to soak up all that baby goodness. For the past 10 years, I have volunteered at my local NICU, nannied for three wonderful families (such happy years), and am currently a court advocate for foster children – please understand I believe children are a wonderful gift and bring so much joy, there’s no question. Up to a year ago, honestly less, we were firmly ready to start a family of our own.

That said, now that we’re three months from the wedding, that desire has changed. We’ve assessed our life, our values, and circumstances and coupled with me hitting my 27th-year, realized there are things I still want to do for me. As a woman, as an individual, as a wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I am just settling into a happy and rewarding career. D and I are in a great place and enjoying our little life with our furkids. We’re finally in a position to plan trips we’ve been talking about for years: Iceland, Ireland, Argentina … we have the freedom to spend time with our friends with zero notice, see professional sporting games, schedule vacations. We’re so freaking happy right now and I simply don’t feel the need to add to our family yet. Just, not yet. It is empowering to have this choice.

It’s interesting when you slowly start sharing that you’re not ready to be a parent (because those well-meaning people ask, and ask, and ask) how folks respond. Some react with support, some disappointment, and others are just plain floored – these are all valid emotions. When the time comes, though, we will voluntarily decide to add to our family not to provide grandchildren or playmates, but because there isn’t anything else that we want more.

Just a few responses to common questions and comments I’ve heard:

What are you waiting for?
Personally, I want to want a baby more than other experiences

But you can travel with a child
This is absolutely true – when we’re ready we will be thrilled and humbled to share the world with a Tiny T. See? He or she already has a nickname!

Isn’t your life kind of meaningless or lonely? 
Not at all, we’re tremendously happy and fulfilled with our chosen activities and lifestyle.

You really don’t know what tired is/ I never sleep anymore
Let’s not one-up here: tired is tired, work is work – we are all doing our best.

Isn’t that kind of selfish? 
I’m unclear on which part of waiting until we’re ready is selfish. I suppose arguably that could be the case, but this is our time to be. We’re under no obligations. When we choose to be parents, Tiny T will consume our time and we want to give that time freely and joyfully.

The love between a parent and child is unlike any other!
I understand. One day that will be a wonderful experience for us. Until then, our life is overflowing with love from family, friends and each other. Love runs deep all around.

What about your biological clock?
My clock is ticking just fine, I’m good – thanks!

I can babysit though! / You two will have such pretty babies! 
Sorry, thank you, but neither is a good enough reason for us to have a child right now

Not everyone wants the same life and the reasons someone may choose to live their lives without a child are varied and personal. Let’s be honest too, our social and political systems aren’t exactly set up for all families to raise educated, happy, and healthy children. Let’s not pity, let’s not judge, and let’s not make assumptions for why a woman or a couple may choose to be childfree whether in the interim or permanently. There just shouldn’t be any room for shaming here on either side of the fence.

Just something that has been on my  mind lately,
H

Why I’m childfree (for now).

Time flies when you’re having fun

When D and I first met, I wasn’t quite in a place to date even though I wanted to be, and we joke that I was trying to friendzone him. There’s a chance that I was, but it didn’t work. We met in late March, maybe very early April. At that time I needed some space emotionally to figure out what I wanted and was urgently checking myself into not rushing things while I plunged into finals. But D was patient and kind with me – always. He saw the best of me and was consistent no matter what. He came to my college graduation and we hadn’t even been on an official date yet.

Things were a whirlwind with him and for some reason unbeknownst to even me, I kept trying to push him away. As if wiggling every single skeleton in my closet at him would finally make him walk out the door with his head shaking. No hard feelings. The stronger the feelings grew, due to his sheer perseverance, the more I fought them, and I’m not talking about a few weeks – it was at least two full months before I decided to inch forward with him.

It was late June when I went on a camping trip with him and his friends several months after meeting each other; I was feeling relaxed, happy, and comfortable. I remember sitting with him by the fire and finally saying I was maybe, kind of, ready to be his girlfriend to which he replied, he was maybe, kind of, ready for that too.

Not that this has been an easy ride since that moment, but it is ours and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are not perfect people, but we complement and challenge each other in ways I couldn’t have expected. This man, this wonderful man, turned my world upside down and helped put me back together again. Spending my life with him is a privilege.

We are just 3 months away from #tennantstietheknot 🙂

Someone pinch me, but not too hard,
H

 

Time flies when you’re having fun

Our very own fixer-upper: Alaska style

I don’t think I have ever felt so thankful, fatigued, frazzled, and overjoyed all at once! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of sawdust and, well dust in general. We have been tested on our ability to be patient, flexible, and handle unforeseen unfortunate events.  We have also been supported and encouraged by family and we are officially, and ever so happily, settling into our new nest!

D and I purchased our first home together back in December and it needed some TLC. Our place is the perfect size to grow together over the next few years and we are so excited to be in this chapter. Buying a house is a great milestone and we’re still over the moon that we are officially homeowners. Pinch me, this can’t be real!

That said, we had a few dreams for this little fixer-upper of ours and enough HGTV marathons under our belt to believe we could tackle them. We decided to stay far below what the bank approved us for and instead put our pennies towards remodeling a sweet space and truly making it ours. I’ll be transparent and share that my dad is an entrepreneur who started Alaska Property Brothers LLC and works as the general contractor on the team. He was willing to teach us how to do a lot of the remodel ourselves, as well as lead the project.

Our downstairs “before,” was small. The kitchen was crammed into space off the garage with simple island seating. We enjoy having friends and family over as much as possible and the available dimensions didn’t serve our need for seating and table space. The layout also cut the kitchen off from the living room and the kitchen itself provided limited storage.

My dad designed two different remodel options and we chose the first which allowed for an open concept floor plan, large island seating, and more kitchen storage than I know what to do with … for now. Over the next three weeks, our walls were torn down, the downstairs closet was removed, soffits removed, sub-floors replaced, electrical and plumbing checked, and a transformation was completed.

We chose simple white kitchen cabinets that carried up to the ceiling for added storage as well as a cohesive look that brightened the small space. Since our little nest is a duplex, we decided on a nice Ouro Romano Formica countertop for the sides of the kitchen with a butcher block countertop for the island – handmade by us! The butcher block project took us about 6 hours total to create (not including the two days it sat to dry), including flat planing the wood, strategically pre-drilling, gluing and screwing the pieces together, sanding then fine-sanding, staining and finally sealing.  Our home had a beautiful cherry wood beam that we loved, so we chose a walnut stain for the butcher block countertop as well as warm cherry floors to create contrast within the space.

One of my favorite parts was choosing a paint color for the new space and I settled on Lapland Ice by Sherwin-Williams.  I love it so much more in person! We settled on white trim and painted the dark doors white to compliment the cabinetry and contrast the warm floors. (The front door is next to be replaced this summer!)

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We are thrilled with how this renovation turned out, it completely changed the entire look of our downstairs and is bright, warm and welcoming -exactly what we wanted! We can’t wait for all of the memories that will come in this kitchen: dinners, game nights, dancing, parties, maybe even pitter-pattering feet .. a lot of happy memories will be had here!

Sipping coffee from my new nest,
H

 

 

Our very own fixer-upper: Alaska style

Golden North Klaus: Between a rock and a hard place

When I stop and look at Klaus now, I can’t believe he and I ever had a rough spot. I was watching Marley and Me the other day and you know the scene where Jennifer Aniston has had enough and tells Owen Wilson that she can’t take it anymore and get rid of the dog? It makes me cringe every time because that was me. No, I would never actually get rid of an animal that I pledged to care for, but that defeatist feeling was there. The exhaustion was high and the patience was low and that my friends, is on me.

The first year with Klaus was rough, to say the least. I’m a control freak and he was, well a puppy. Mentally a baby and I felt like every time we took two steps forward, he bounded three steps back. It was a game and not one I wanted to play.

Klaus was rambunctious, he had separation anxiety. He ate two original Harry Potter books. He then ate Cesar Milan and Marley and Me books. A point made there pooch. He chewed D’s college homework and then his W2. He also succeeded in making D’s iPhone his teething toy. He swiped a full plate of sushi. He shredded two of his dog beds, tore our window treatments, chewed our coffee table as well as our bookcase, and destroyed two pairs of Toms, countless hockey shoelaces, holiday decor, and the kitchen drain plug.

That wasn’t enough, he ripped up a significant portion of our carpet that couldn’t be repaired, it had to be replaced. That was bad. The worst, though, was going home sick only to walk in on a demolished couch. Might I add that this was our rookie mistake in purchasing a brand new couch? How naive of us, “Look, we’re grown ups! Look how hard we’re adulting!” Klaus sure showed us, the cushion stuffing was fluffed around the room like a faux-Christmas morning and I can only imagine that he created a game in which he needed to remove the springs from the couch cushion. It was premeditated. It was surgical. There are not enough words to describe how frustrated, discouraged, and helpless I felt some days.

This dog and I were not on loving, understanding, or patient terms back then. Or at least I wasn’t. What I can say is that he was loving, understanding, forgiving, and patient with me and that says a whole lot more about our characters than words ever could. It took a bit of reflection and with consistency, training, love, and a lot of exercise for both of us, Klaus and I spent a year and a half growing up together. They say that dogs have a way of finding the people who need them. I have always thought that Klaus chose D, but now I know that he chose me too. He knew that I needed to unwind, laugh more, live more, and let go of my depression once and for all. Not a day does not go by that I don’t look at him and feel thankful for his mischievous eyes and goofy grin.

It is interesting to me how the soul of a dog saved my own. It is powerful and humbling to say the least. I am happy, D and I are happy, and that directly corresponds to the light Klaus has shined on our lives. He brought responsibility, maturity, and patience to our home and I am grateful for his heart and sweet demeanor every day. As I write this he is sitting beside me surgically removing the fluff from his stuffed animal. I suppose some things don’t change.

xoxo,
H

Golden North Klaus: Between a rock and a hard place