Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall Means Fair Time!

August was certainly a good time off from work! Vince and I were blessed with some great fall weather, we had a lot of fun with his mom, and I got a few more of my recipes dialed-in. We still had about five days left of our scheduled time off after she left, so I wanted to take him to the fair. The Alaska State Fair is in Palmer every year, but we aren't always off work to be able to go. We picked the day with the best weather and (hopefully) the least amount of people/traffic and headed out to the valley...

We were greeted with some great live music from one of the stages just
past the entrance. The Redhead Express was playing, and they were really talented! I'll be looking them up on iTunes ;)

View of the stage

Yes, the dinosaur and reptile exhibits were "kid zones,"
but it is fun to do kid stuff!!!

A HUGE horned tortoise

Monitor lizard

Baby crocodile

...there were several large snakes as well as this guy- a rescued
alligator that was very well-behaved; he was definitely a hit!

We looked at some of the vendor booths and then headed
over to the turkey leg stand (a reasonable but yummy fair treat)

Meat and more meat- mmm

The next exhibit we looked at was for baking and canning...
I may have to enter sometime if I'm off of work :D

Some of the winners

On to the monster veggies! I am always amazed at how big these get!
The Matanuska Valley is very fertile- even with AK's short growing season

Now that's a Great Pumpkin!

Some beautiful Alaska-grown flowers

Up next- the critters...

Happy little chicks :)

The animal exhibits included cows, sheep, pigs, birds,
rabbits, and goats (my favorite to watch). Babies are always cute

We walked around a bit more, got a few souvenirs,
and decided to head out before the traffic began to pile up.
It was a great way to spend time outside in the sun, and a good
"last excursion" for our time off. Looking forward to the next time already :)

Goodbye Time

Saturday came faster than any of us had expected; Pat's week long visit had flown by! All three of us had a great time catching up, seeing new things, having fun, and just being in each others' company. It was sad knowing she was leaving, but I tried to make Pat's last day in Alaska a good one.

I made a nice breakfast that was enjoyed over coffee at our new dining table (THANK YOU PAT!), we all went to the gym together, and we did a bit more sightseeing.

Alaska Wild Berry Products' main location- always a fun stop 

One of the world's largest chocolate fountains is inside
(We all like chocolate- in both families!!)

I made moose burgers with sauteed veggies for dinner and then it was time for another round of cards. Vince's luck finally turned around and he won- instant card-shark lol. It was a good ending for Pat's trip. We all got some rest, drove to the airport the next morning, and said our goodbyes. It's never fun seeing someone you care about leaving, but she will be back to see us again :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flattop Hike

After our day of relaxing, it was time for all of us to get out and get moving again the next day. We had a nice breakfast, enjoyed our coffee, and set out for the Glen Alps trailhead to Flattop (a popular hike for Anchorage residents and visitors alike). I had hiked there before, but Vince hadn't gone yet, and he was excited to go. The peak boasts a great view of Anchorage, so it would be cool for his mom to see as well.

A little info about the hike (taken from the trailhead)

Pretty good elevation gain!

One of the many cool-looking caterpillars we 
saw scooting around the trail...

Made it to the summit! I couldn't believe how foggy
it was that day; we literally could not see beyond the edges
of the flat part of the peak. I thought the fog would have burned
off by the time we got to the trailhead, but it was stubborn!

Heading back down...

Yay! The fog finally started to lift- here's Pat enjoying the view :)

Fresh air is good for the soul!

We started off our day being healthy, but since her time in AK was
getting short, Vince's mom wanted to squeeze in another trip to Humpy's
for some more halibut. We made it back home, freshened up, and headed
downtown for dinner, a little window-shopping, and a drink at the new Hard
Rock Cafe... all followed by a game of cards (I won hehehe). Great day!

Whale Fat Follies

The day after our return from the Kenai Peninsula was pretty relaxing. We all slept in, went to the gym, checked out the new Bass Pro Outpost, and caught up on misc. errands. That evening, however, was spoken for. After hearing a lot of good things about a local comedy show, I got us all tickets to the Whale Fat Follies and I am glad I did; it was a hoot!

Arriving at the venue

Vince and Pat heading inside...

The place was packed- I am glad I scored us a table!

One of the stars of the show

Hilarious skit about Martha Stewart… done by a guy hehe.
It was a great way to spend the evening! I am looking forward 
to their "Christmas in Spenard" show!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Return From Homer

Our first evening in Homer was great: the weather was sunny, the skies were blue, and we had a great time walking along the spit. That said, we had arrived a bit late in the day to check out several of the shops, so we decided to get up the next day, have breakfast, and do a little more browsing…

Our breakfast spot of choice: the Fresh Sourdough
Express. Almost everything (if not everything) is locally-
sourced and organic. Pretty cool AND delicious!

We checked out the shops, scored a few good souvenirs,
and stopped by the Seafarer's Memorial

Aw- great pic of Vince and his mom by the beach :)
Time to head back home...

…but not without a surprise stop to the Double Musky in Girdwood
for dinner; a definite "must" for anyone's Alaskan vacation!!!

The service, atmosphere, and food were are excellent as
usual- I had the peppered beef kebabs (these are AK kebabs!),
Vince had the Cajun BBQ prawns, and Pat had jambalaya- yum!

We were all pretty full after dinner, so I thought it would be fun to show
Pat around Girdwood before heading home. It was a beautiful evening.

YAY! I was so happy the mountain goats were out! These guys
can sometimes be seen from the road between Girdwood and Anchorage,
and they just happened to be out that day. Great opportunity for our visitor
to see more wildlife. Another amazing end to another amazing day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Peninsula Trip

After a few days of relaxing in Anchorage, it was time to hit the road. Vince's mom was excited to see Soldotna (where I grew up) and we were excited to surprise her with her birthday present: a bear-viewing trip! The weather was beautiful on the morning we set out, so our plan was looking good!

We made it to town and headed down Funny River Road
to the small airport to find our crew at Natron Air...

One of our destinations: Silver Salmon Creek
(note the tips on bear safety!!)

Vince lookin' good in his headphones :)

Pat got the pleasure of being in the co-pilot's seat- pretty cool!!

Off we went...


After a few scans, our pilot spotted a bear and touched
down on the beach so we could get a closer look… Not only
were his landing skills impressive (he made it look easy!), but we 
actually got a lot closer to this guy than this picture; he just moved
too fast for me to get a close-up (and he stuck to the tall grass
after he saw us… pretty amazing experience though :D

We headed back to the sky and were blessed with 
a few more bear-spottings- sweet!

Next up: a little more sight-seeing… this is Mount Iliamna

Some gorgeous glacier-fed lakes

Wow! My first close-up of Mount Redoubt. I grew up
seeing it on a daily basis from across the inlet in Soldotna, 
so it was awesome to see it up close! Not to mention the
fact that we got to see steam coming from the top!! 

Amazing glacier shots! Our pilot really gave us a treat. With our
trip complete, we spent some time driving around my home town
so I could show Pat where I grew up (and to let our stomachs settle!).
We hit up GNC and Kaladi Brothers (the local coffee shop) for a little
boost and then headed out to our next destination: Homer

SO happy the weather was amazing! I got a great pic of Vince
and his mom at the overlook near Homer before we headed into town

We checked into our hotel, walked around a bit, and
went to the restaurant at Land's End for dinner

Excellent view from our seats near the porch! It was
great watching the action in the bay. Between the kids, the
birds, and several sea otters, we had an very entertaining meal.

Our next stop: the infamous Salty Dawg Saloon. For my
non-Alaskan readers, this is a true Alaskan institution. You can't visit
Homer without a trip here or it's just wrong!! It has the best Bloody Marys
in the state, and the interior (and the patrons) are always fun to check out ;)

Pat got to leave her mark on one of the walls- which are covered
with signed dollar bills from all the guests. Great ending to a great day!