Category Archives: Going Somewhere?

Travels, Trips & Outings

Influence – Meet and Greet

Hello lonely dusty blog…

It has been a couple of months since I began my bloggy break. I busted in here once to chat about our big move, but for the most part have spent my summer being busy and getting my blogging fix from other people’s voices. I have also spent a considerable amount of time being a compulsive over-thinker when it comes to writing in this little space. I want to write more about all of this later, but the gist of it all is trying to find balance. (Whew! For a moment there, I thought I forgot how to insert a link…we are back in business…)

I first heard about the Influence Conference from Hayley, when it was still just a seed of an idea – a big dream for women to connect with a purpose. And then Kacia and Courtney got me excited about it. After months of sitting on this, I want to take the plunge. I’m excited to connect with people who get as crazy inspired by blogging as I do. And I want a whole weekend to listen to wise words and think more about things like ‘balance’ and ‘purpose’ – I’m a verbal processor – who’s ready to chat this out?

This week the Influence Conference is hosting a meet and greet, because the idea of heading off to a weekend full of new faces is a bit intimidating…

3 get-to-know-me things…

  1. I love cheese. Obviously, a defining characteristic.
  2. I’m a self-identified idea collector. I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with some good friends about how people are creative in different ways. Some people can create genius out of the air, some people re-invent good ideas. I hoard them. Pinterest is exactly the way that my brain likes to work. I love collecting and combining ideas. I get inspired by other people’s inspiration. Did I mention I was a verbal processor?
  3. Laughing at myself when I do ridiculous things kind of cracks me up.

2 things I am looking forward to about the conference…

  1. I kind of skipped ahead and shared these already…but I’m excited (and super nervous) to spend time with people who love blogs. Want to be friends?
  2. I hope it’s a weekend that encourages and challenges me. I hope I come away with a fresh dose of perspective and some Truth to think about. I want balance and a sense of purpose about what I’m writing here, but I think what I really need is more Jesus. I’m hoping the weekend is a chance to refocus on what matters.

one thing I can’t leave home without…

  1. Most definitely – chapstick. Love it. I tried to take the plunge and buy red lipstick this week. I didn’t quite get there, but I’m working towards it.

Well…there it is. All I have to do now is actually sign up!

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Alaska…part three

Read about the rest of our trip: Part 1 & Part 2

This final installment of our Alaskan vacation slide show includes pictures from our favorite part of the trip. I so wish that our pictures were able to do it justice – but we unfortunately lack the skills for a task of that magnitude (prepare yourself for lots of superlatives in this post).

From Juneau, we headed to a little town called Skagway. Prior to our trip, the entire family had submitted votes for each of our port excursions. For our trip to Skagway, however, my in-laws informed us that we were going on a highly recommended train-ride. We were all pretty convinced that a three-hour ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway was bound to be semi-entertaining at best, but so far Alaska hadn’t failed to disappoint us, so with books and a deck of cards stowed in our backpacks, we boarded the train.

Words (and our pictures) fail to express how wrong we all were. The railroad, built during the Klondike Gold Rush, runs over some gorgeous mountains and up into British Columbia. We spent the entire three hours with our faces pressed against the windows, not wanting to miss a single moment. They even allowed us to stand on the platforms in between the rail cars – giving us a full view of the incredible landscape.

We learned all about the gold rush and the treacherous journey faced by gold seekers (who were racing to the Klondike by foot while the railroad was being built). If you are interested in that sort of thing – you can read all about it here.

For those who aren’t interested in history, here are some photos:

It honestly made me want to cry at times, it was so beautiful. We loved every second of that train ride. And the deck of cards stayed in our backpack for the duration of the trip.

By the time we arrived back in the town of Skagway, we were hooked on the history of the place, and spent a couple of hours wandering in and out of gold rush museums.

At one point, Sean and Audra tried to blend into the scenery:

Encouraged by the idea, our crew got a bit overzealous and tried to stack themselves four-high on top of Evan’s back.

Evan suffered some minor injuries, and a different approach was used for their final, successful attempt:

We re-boarded the ship and spent the next couple of days at sea. But Alaska doesn’t need ports to amaze and entertain you – Alaska has glaciers!

Our first stop was Glacier Bay National Park, home of the famous Margerie Glacier, as well as a number of other glaciers. Our ship spent the better part of the day sailing around the bay – giving us plenty of opportunity to stand and stare. At this point in the trip, the weather had gotten quite a bit chillier, but we were content to bundle in our layers and lean against the rails, looking out at the massive views surrounding us.

And this beauty is the Margerie Glacier:

I took a video of this glacier, hoping that it would give some idea of how impressive it was. I’m not sure if I was successful:

One of the greatest things about watching the Margerie Glacier, is that we got to witness the glacier calving. Periodically, a huge chunk of the melting glacier breaks off and falls into the ocean. The sound that it makes is like thunder. I have a video of this as well, but the clicking of the camera next to me sounds louder than the glacier. You can get a sense of how great it was by how enthusiastic we all were about it. I promise – it was impressive.

(I was beyond glad that I had a zoom lens on this trip).

As all good things come to an end, we had to leave Margerie behind. Thankfully, we had another full afternoon in College Fjord ahead of us – a valley of dozens of glaciers named for American colleges. It was a bit foggy when we arrived (as it apparently always is), but we got a good view of some of the glaciers anyways.

I know, my husband is unbelievably attractive.

At some point after all these glaciers, Sean was completely overcome by how awesome the trip was and randomly broke out into this lively display:

And it’s true – we do love our Alaska!

After College Fjord, our ship headed to its final destination, Anchorage – where we grabbed some local beers and a quick lunch before boarding our plane to fly back to the boring old Continental United States.

Somehow, life has gone on.

But we miss Alaska.

Dan and Chris – We cannot thank you enough for taking us on this dream vacation. We loved every second of it. It was such a blessing to have so much time with family and to be able to share so many amazing memories. We love looking back on these pictures, and I think we might still be full from all the good food we ate. Thank you for bringing us along and for your incredible generosity. We loved our trip to Alaska + we love you both very much!

Blog Readers: You did it! Thanks for sticking by me through all 3 parts of this vacation slide show. It was important to us to have all these memories written down. And if you haven’t been to Alaska yet – are you at least a bit convinced that you should add it to your bucket list?

Alaska…part two

You thought six months was long enough to escape it – but you were wrong. It would be a crime to not document the rest of our summer vacation in Alaska, and so here it is: the second installment of our vacation slide show.

After boarding the ship in Vancouver, we had four more ports to look forward to exploring. The first of these was Ketchikan on the 4th of July. We were only scheduled to be in Ketchikan for a few hours, so my adventurous in-laws (husband included) decided that it would be a great chance to scare me half to death with a zip-line tour of the rainforest. We were surprised to find ourselves amidst a rainforest in Alaska, but due to the amount of rain-fall (160+ inches per year!) this part of the state receives, they have a lush temperate rainforest.

We took a bus to the zip-line lodge where we boarded a giant all-terrain vehicle (via ladder). Given that we were first-time Alaskan tourists at this point in our trip, you can imagine our delight at seeing this guy on top of the building:

The canopy vehicle climbed up into the rainforest (in the rain, of course) and dropped us off at the top of a mountain where we would begin our zipping. As we suited up I was feeling incredibly terrified, but I smiled for a picture as we were asked to place all of our valuable belongings inside a plastic container. I probably would have tucked myself safely in there if I had fit.

We received about 5 minutes of training before we were pronounced ‘Ready to Zip.’ Then, they introduced us to our guides for the day. Leading the charge was this cheerful fellow:

Were you as thrown off by his obvious hang-over as we were? It only took me less than one pass on the zip-line to get on his bad side. After being asked – “How did that go?” I replied with an honest, “Ok, this isn’t really my favorite” – which was apparently far too much girl drama for his killer headache. I received a long eye-roll and the equivalent of “Get over it” before he zipped off.

The zip-line consisted of 10+ platforms, as well as a few suspension bridges. We were 150 feet in the air and got to see some pretty amazing sights. The rainforest below was breathtaking, and we all loved getting to rush through the trees while taking it all in (even me).

I did have considerable amount of trouble on the platforms. While the rest of the family was hanging around and enjoying the views…

…I was quietly standing, arms wrapped around the tree trunk, with my eyes closed. I could do the zip-line part. It was the standing and looking down business that I was really struggling with. I tried to be a good sport about it, but somewhere around this monster…

…our guide showed dramatic recovery/multiple personalities, and I transformed from ‘large pain in his neck’ to ‘reality show contestant’ – a reality show in which he, as my trainer, helped me to conquer my greatest fear. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had been up high a number of times, with my fear remaining constant and true. Somehow, my stoic push through the course had measured as ‘insufficient enthusiasm’ in his sudden burst of philanthropic spirit, and so I was forced to walk the length of this bridge with my hands in the air while he jumped up and down on the bridge behind me. It was truly a transformative moment, as you might guess.

Thankfully, we made it through to the end of the course, and were awarded free hot chocolate, medals, and another bald eagle sighting.

My bravery won me an extra medal. It did not, in fact, win me a conquered fear.

On our ride back to the ship, our bus accidentally became part of an Independence Day parade. Despite the fact that it was raining (of course), the streets were full of families waving to us as we plodded by. I think that most of the parade was composed of outside traffic, but it was neat to feel so far away from home, and yet still be home. I only wished I had a tiny flag to wave back at all my fellow Americans.

Our next port was Juneau, a few days later. The capital city was smaller than one might expect, boasting only one ‘sky-scraper’ and a McDonald’s as the main attractions. We were there for a ‘Bike and Brew’ tour. A very appropriate outing for our family – a 10 mile bike ride, our first glacier, and an Alaskan beer tasting to top it off.

The place where we picked up our bikes had an amazing view of the Mendenhall Glacier that we would be riding towards.

Mendenhall glacier, glacier, AlaskaMendenhall glacier, glacier, AlaskaAfter the photo-op, we got on our bikes and headed off.

Along the way, we biked through the rainforest and were able to get a great up-close look at all the incredible greenery.

Alaska, Alaskan rainforest, rainforestIt started to rain while we rode, and our guides provided us with some one-size-fits-all rain gear to keep us dry and toasty. I loved my look – and believe I was a quite convincing outdoors(wo)man.

The Mendenhall Glacier was definitely the highlight of the excursion.

Mendenhall glacier, glacier, Alaska

glacier iceAt some point, while we were visiting the glacier, I managed to get separated from the rest of the family and chanced to see this little guy run across my path:

Alaska, black bear, bear cub

At the end of the tour, we got to sample a number of Alaskan brews. The men especially enjoyed learning about each one.

This excursion was so much fun for all of us. Since this was our first time seeing a glacier, we were all taken in by the stunning blue color of the ice, as well as the overwhelming massiveness of the view. The Lord’s creation is far beyond my imagination. We loved standing and staring at all of the natural wonders that we saw on this trip. They were incredible testimonies of His greatness and His goodness.

Alaska, Mendenhall glacier, glacier

The wildlife captivated us throughout the trip, as well. Throughout the day, the ship’s naturalist would call over the loudspeaker that a whale or a seal could be seen off the ship’s port side. We would all immediately run to our balconies with binoculars in hand and try to catch a glimpse (as well as a few pictures).

Our favorite were, of course, the whale sightings – even though these mainly consisted of a quick appearance of a tail or a fin. The boys were lucky enough to see a humpback whale breach at one point! In addition to whales, we saw sea otters, seals, dolphins, bald eagles, and a variety of other birds.

whale, Alaskasea otter, Alaskaseal, Alaskawhale, AlaskaOur favorite animal fact from the trip was about sea otters. Apparently, in lieu of hiring a babysitter, otters will wrap their little ones up in seaweed and cast them out on the tide. They will do their daily hunting and then catch up with their babies further down the tide. I loved watching them float by with their babies on their stomachs, and this fact made me laugh every time I saw one.

I think that one of the reasons this was the most amazing vacation any of us have taken before was that there was constantly something amazing to look at. We got to watch wild animals every day. We were constantly riding past the most breath-taking views any of us had ever seen, and each day was different! We didn’t get as much use out of the ship’s constant stream of planned activity, because we simply had too many beautiful things to look at to be bothered with bingo or a shuffleboard tournament.

And with all this fun – we still had two more ports (and lots of glaciers) to go!

I promise to finish these vacation posts in one more installment. And soon! It would be too depressing to still be talking about our fabulous summer vacation in the dead of winter.

Update: Read about the rest of our trip: Part 1 & Part 3

Mini Apple Picking

This year, our small group decided to go apple picking together. We headed to an orchard south of the city that promised we would be able to pick our own apples – straight off the tree. And they weren’t kidding – this orchard had rows and rows of miniature apple trees – no ladders required!

Sean had to go to class that morning, so I ventured out on my own, and spent most of the morning playing photographer (emphasis on playing) for all of the cute kids (only the ones I knew, I promise).

When we arrived, the hayride to the ‘pumpkin patch’ was getting ready to depart. Nathan, adamant about getting the full experience, made the driver wait while we took care of some diaper changes so that we could hop on the ride. Why would I put ‘pumpkin patch’ in quotations? – You tell me…

Hilarious. It was like the grocery store. But with some grass.

There was a ring system for measuring the cost of the pumpkins: There were various colored rings – each corresponding to a different sized pumpkin. They had placed a giant sign in the field to communicate this. Problematically, they were not clear with punctuation, leading us to question if the yellow ring-sized pumpkins cost $3.00 or $300. We took our best guess…

The kiddos were pretty into picking out their own pumpkins, which was pretty fun considering that last year James was just a little guy.

After we picked our pumpkins, we headed to the orchard for the main event. They had over a dozen varieties, but I tried to be realistic with the amount of apples that I actually brought home. I definitely could have gone crazy, with high hopes of homemade pies, breads, etc…

I loved that the trees were me-sized. Although they produced comparable-sized apples, it was fun to be able to pluck them right off the trees without it turning into an athletic event. The only real downside I saw was that the apple trees did not match the image I have in my head – I used to love climbing up into my Grandpa’s apple trees to read a book when I was little. These trees weren’t really cozy – just convenient. (Insert comment about modern society here).I was reveling in the beautiful weather. It would be fabulous if we got to live in this degree of sunshine all year long. I could do just fine without winter thank-you-very-much.

I believe that this lady owes me a delicious apple pie…I didn’t win a bet or anything, she just likes making yummy food for people.I was definitely sad that Sean had to miss the trip to the orchard, but he definitely reaped the benefits of all the apples I brought home. I tackled a realistic recipe with all those red goodies…and thankfully my sister-in-law was there to save me from certain disaster as I tried something new…

…any guesses about what we made?

Lucky Ducks…and other animals…

Turns out that a trip to the zoo runs you about $30 for two people…or you give them a juice box, and they call it even.

Confused?

We were as well.

Last Sunday, I found out it was Elephant Day at the zoo. Not sure what that meant, but adamant about not missing it, I dragged the hubs off to the zoo. When we got there, most of the gates were open, but none of them had a line in front of them. We approached one that was being run by a high school age guy (I’m assuming this based on his less-than-exuberant zest for his job).  After both silently recognizing that the zoo was really out to get the public these days with some radical prices, we asked for two adult tickets. High schooler Greg (Assumed name)  leaned towards us covertly, and mumbled under his breath, “I will give you two for one if you get me one of those”. Greg gave a less-than-informative nod in the direction of a large truck parked in front of the zoo, and then, having put forth his challenge, slouched backwards in his chair.

Needless to say, we had no idea what Greg was referring to, but since he was offering two newlyweds a chance to save some cash – we decided to head in the direction of the truck. We found a guy around the back, busy unloading large crates of juice boxes. He quickly explained that the truck was there to give away free juice and that he was in the process of getting his booth set up.  He asked us to come back later and asked us (not in so many words) to stop being so lame while he was trying to do his job. (We learned later that impatient people crowd him all the time for pre-booth free juice).

With money on the line – we explained our situation: “We realize that you have to cater to the mob all the time. But Greg in the booth is going to give us a free ticket in exchange for the juice.” Then I smiled really big.

Won over by the smile, he took pity on us and gave us 4 juice boxes. At some point during this exchange a zoo security officer had come over and stood next to the back of the truck. But apparently, this whole juice box deal is a secret zoo policy, because he didn’t seem to have a problem with it.

We returned to the booth (to Greg) and held out half of the goods. Greg motioned for us to come to the side door, took his juice, and then with another one of his famous nods, said “Have a nice day”…I imagine he has a history working for the Mafia.

Utterly confused, but excited about our random good fortune – we then spent the rest of the day remarking about all the things we were doing for free. A remark that instantly makes everything more fun.

In any event, it was a great day to go to the zoo. The weather was perfect and it wasn’t too crowded. We spent the afternoon leisurely walking and looking at all the animals (for free!)

How hilarious is this guy posing for photos?

I honestly could have watched this guy all day…

…when I wasn’t visiting the stars of the day…

Sean and I raced to see the elephants as soon as we arrived, and spent a while watching them. We couldn’t resist swinging by their home again before we left. At the end of the day we were the only ones there, and it was the highlight of my day to just sit and marvel at them for a while.