Winter Wonderland Adventure

This is our fourth winter in Alaska and it’s what I’d call our first true Alaskan winter. Our first three winters were very mild (in the eyes of a North Dakota native) with barely any snow. However, this year has been full of frost covered trees, very cold temps, and lots of snow.

The girls love playing outside in the cold and snow. Lillian’s been begging me to take them ice skating for a few months now. I’ve been putting it off because I wanted to make sure the ice was good and solid. Also, it’s been hard to get out when we’ve had few days above even 10 degrees.

A couple of weeks ago we finally had a day where we could get out without immediately freezing. I decided to take them to Reflections Lake. I knew it’d be perfect because it’s a tiny lake that I was actually comfortable letting them “ice skate” on (in their boots as they don’t have skates). There’s a nice trail around the lake with lots of trees and mountain views. It’s a great place to explore year-round.

The setting was beautiful and the girls had so much fun. Lillian kept calling it a winter wonderland adventure. And it really was.

I took the last four pictures ↓ with my phone so the quality isn’t great. But I wanted to include them because they show how beautiful the trees are. In some areas they’re like this almost all winter and I just can’t get over it. It’s magical.

In other news, Hazie Girl turns TWO next week. How can that be?! I’m still undecided on what to do for her party. She’s our Super Bowl baby and it’s just easier to combine her birthday party with a Super Bowl party. Is that mean? I feel like she’s still young enough to not care. But at the same time I feel a little guilty and like it’s very second child of us to not let her have her own day. We’ll see.

Hope everyone has a great week.

xo,
Briana

 

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Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take a break from the new toys, coffee, lounging around, scattered boxes & wrapping paper, leftover cookies, dirty dishes, and all the day after Christmas chaos to wish our family and friends a Merry Christmas. We hope you enjoyed the day loving your people and remembering the real reason for the season. We sure did! Love you all!!

 

 

Ramblings & A Fall Hike

Happy Thanksgiving week! We just returned from a trip to Montana where we were visiting family. We all had so much fun, especially the girls. Blake’s brother lives there and his house/yard is like a petting zoo. The girls loved playing outside with all the cats and dogs, chasing wild turkeys every day, and watching “big bucks” come into the yard. Lillian was pretty sad to leave and told us numerous times during our flight home that she wanted to sell the house and move in with Uncle Brandon.

We’re busy catching up and getting back into a routine this week. Thanksgiving kinda snuck up on us and we’re pretty unprepared. Right now it’s looking like we’ll be at home cuddled up on the couch, watching the parade and football, ordering pizza, snacking on a few Thanksgiving themed appetizers, and finishing off the day with pie or cheesecake (I haven’t decided yet). That’s about all I can handle this year. We had turkey and all the fixings last weekend in Montana so I don’t even feel bad.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to share some fall photos from last month. The fall season is beautiful here but so short. It seems like the leaves change overnight and are gone within a week or two. I really wanted to make a point to get out with the girls and enjoy a nice hike before the leaves disappeared. I’m so glad we went when we did because a huge wind/rain storm moved in days later and that was the end of the beautiful fall colors.

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Hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!

xo,
Briana

 

 

First Snow

This morning we woke up to tons of fresh snow on the ground. The girls were so excited and Lillian kept screaming that it’s finally wintertime. For me, it was a little exciting and a little depressing. I can’t decide yet where I lean.

Listen, I’m the first to admit that I don’t love fall. I love winter even less. It’s not that I don’t like them or don’t enjoy them, because most of the time I do. I just love summer a lot and I hate to see it go. I don’t like being cold. And most of all, I DREAD putting coats/hats/gloves/warm layers/snow pants/boots/fuzzy socks/scarves/more warm layers on my kids. It’s the worst. And in case you didn’t know, they’re not supposed to wear coats in their car seats. Obviously, I’ll do anything to make sure my kids are safe, so I oblige. But I don’t like it. I’d rather just never leave the house. ;)

Thankfully, the summer here makes all the other stuff worth it. I’m gonna try to be more positive about the colder seasons and embrace them this year. Besides, how can I hate winter (because that’s where we are now, winter) when my kids look this happy and cute while enjoying it? Hazel was happy, I swear. She just inherited my resting bitch face.

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Have a great weekend!

Briana

 

Papa’s Pumpkin Patch

We just arrived home from a week long trip to North Dakota. It was a great time but we’re tired. We are usually so busy every time we go back to visit. It seems we always have a packed schedule with lots of places to go and people to see. We spend two entire days on planes and in airports and most of the trip in a car driving all over the state. It gets to be a lot, especially for the girls. They never really get settled. We wanted this trip to be different. This time we wanted it to be relaxing and a lot more low-key. And it was. We decided to spend the entire week at my mom and dads and just stay put. Next month we’ll be heading down to Montana to spend a week with Blake’s family. I’m really glad we planned it like we did and that we’ll get to spend quality time with both of our families.

On our short list of North Dakota must-dos was a visit to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch. I haven’t been since I was a kid. Every fall season I see tons of pictures of my friends and their families having so much fun there. And, because I have FOMO, I start to feel sorry for myself. We don’t really have a pumpkin patch up here. Well, we do. It’s a reindeer farm where a new set of pumpkins is laid out each morning in a field for visitors to choose from. Guessing they come from Costco. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine for what it is and we’ll probably go this weekend, BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME. Anyway, as if the endless pictures aren’t enough, the Travel Channel just named Papa’s as one of the top 10 pumpkin patches in the country. I insisted we go and I was pumped!

*insert Blake rolling eyes*

We went on a Tuesday afternoon and it was still pretty packed. Just know, if you go during the week some of the attractions are not open. It wasn’t a big deal to us because the girls were too little for most of them anyway. There were plenty of other things to do. This place is huge! It was a little overwhelming but a lot of fun.

Hazel is obsessed with slides so Papa’s was her heaven. So many slides! She also loved the horses, which she called moose during our entire stay in North Dakota. #alaskakid But her favorite was pulling a wagon around and filling it with pumpkins. Lillian was feeling a little under the weather and wasn’t her normal self. We could tell she was still trying to have fun though. Poor thing. Her favorite was the corn crib and wee zip-line.

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We could’ve done without the North Dakota wind and Lillian being sick, but we really enjoyed our day at Papa’s. Right before it was time to leave Lillian announced she was exhausted. Blake took her to the truck while Mom and I put back the 102 pumpkins Hazel gathered. We let her pick out two small ones to take home and she was happy.

Hope everyone is having a great fall. The temps are rapidly dropping here, there’s a lot less daylight, and the leaves are nearly gone. We’re trying to enjoy the short season as much as we can before winter arrives. I have a feeling it’s right around the corner.

xo,
Briana

 

 

Matanuska Glacier

One of my favorite places to visit here in Alaska is the Matanuska Glacier. This place is breathtaking. It makes me feel free and happy and alive and so small. I feel like I’m in another world. It’s hard to explain, but it’s amazing.

If you’re a local and have not been, go. At mile 101 of the Glenn Highway is the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site. This is a great place to stop and view the glacier from afar. You’re able to see how far back it goes (not entirely) and get an idea of just how large it is, 4 miles wide and 27 miles long. However, it does not offer direct access to the glacier. At mile 102 you will come to a road that will lead you to Glacier Park, which offers access to the glacier by foot.

Every time we visit, our hike out to the glacier is so different. It melts so much between visits, it’s shocking and a little eery. The girls really enjoyed this visit. Last time we were on the glacier Hazel was just a baby, so it was exciting to see her walk on it during this trip. Lillian had fun using her hiking poles and thought she was pretty cool every time someone passed us and mentioned them. Some of the pictures I took on this trip are some of my all time favorites. There’s one of Lillian crying that is classic. I can’t even remember what happened, that’s just our normal. There’s also one of Hazel being tossed in the air that I love. We did that last year with Lillian, so it’s fun to have one of each of them like that. And the one of them sitting together and smiling at the camera is priceless… because that never happens. ♥

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This place is beautiful. I can’t wait for our next visit.

xo,
Briana

 

 

Gone Fishin’

It’s that time of year here in AK… fishing season! Blake and I like to get out as much as we can each summer. A couple good trips will fill our freezers with enough halibut and salmon for the year. However, the girls haven’t done a lot of fishing with us, mostly because a lot of the fishing we do is on open water or along fast-moving rivers or streams. It’s just too dangerous for them. Yesterday we went out on a mission to change that.

We headed out to a nice little lake about 10 minutes from home, Beach Lake. This lake is perfect for fishing with little kids. There’s a nice size dock with plenty of room for them to run around. The water is clean, shallow, and warm. Also, it’s stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The girls had a great time throwing their lines in the water. Lillian is getting so good at casting. It took her awhile to get the hang of using a bobber. She’s used to casting and then reeling her line in right away. We had to explain to her 853 times that you need to leave your line in the water and wait for your bobber to go under. Hazel enjoyed hanging her pole off of the dock. She was so proud of herself and thought she was really accomplishing something, haha. It was fun to watch them get so into it.

We only had one minor meltdown and of course it involved life jackets. Lillian put hers on and went about her day. But Hazel, holy hell. She threw a fit for a solid ten minutes (yes, that’s minor) before she realized it wasn’t coming off no matter how loud or long she screamed. Once she finally gave in, we gave her a couple snacks and a La Croix and she was fine for the rest of the day.

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Forget what I said above. I just remembered that there were two meltdowns. Lillian got a sliver as we were packing up to leave. It’s a miracle her finger didn’t fall off.

We didn’t catch anything but we had great weather, no one fell in the water, and the girls got some good casting practice in. That’s a win in our book.

Until next time,
Briana

Happy 3rd Birthday, Lillian Grace!

Last month we celebrated Lillian’s 3rd birthday. When asked what she wanted to do for her birthday she said, “Let’s go to Kodiak Island!” After we nicely shut that idea down, she suggested that we go camping instead. On the weekend of her birthday we headed to a beautiful campground on the Kenai Peninsula. To make the weekend extra special we packed a cake, some fun birthday snacks (this was a hit with the girls), and loaded our toy hauler full of presents so she would have things to open all weekend long.

On the morning of her birthday she was so excited to wake up and be three. We started the day off with birthday pancakes and then played at the campground playground, hung out by the lake, and went canoeing. We ended the day with cake, presents, and s’mores. It was a good day and she loved every minute of it.

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Since Lillian is getting pretty good at communicating, I thought it’d be fun to do a birthday interview with her this year. I’d say most of her answers are pretty accurate. Here it is:

How old are you? Three.
What is your favorite color? Green.
What is your favorite animal? A cow.
What is your favorite book? The giraffe book. 
What is your favorite tv show? Mickey Mouse.
What is your favorite movie? Minions. 
What is your favorite song? Hunting, Fishing, Loving Every Day.
What is your favorite food? Carrots, corn, and ham, cheese, moose.
What is your favorite drink? A popsicle drink.
What is your favorite snack? Popcorn.
What is your favorite outfit? A dress. My tutu. 
What is your favorite game? Play chase with my friends.
What is your favorite toy? Old McDonald Had a Farm switch toy.
Who is your best friend? Umm, you’re my best friend.
What is your favorite thing to do? Play with you, Mom.
What is your favorite thing to do outside? Running. Playing with sand. 
What is your favorite holiday? Have snow. Make a snowball. 
Where is your favorite place to go? A camping trip.
Where would you like to go on vacation? To Mexico to swim on the beach. 
What makes you happy? Umm, you make me happy.
What makes you sad? Nothing, just nothing makes me sad. 
What is your favorite thing to do with Mom? Dance with you. Lay with you. Sing with you. 
What is your favorite thing to do with Dad? Rake the grass. See animals. See some moose. Dad takes me to the airport. 
What is your favorite thing to do with Hazel? Feed her a bottle. Play with her. Play toys with my little baby. 
What do you want to be when you grow up? Hazie can grow up like me.
What did you do this year on your birthday? Umm, have a birthday cake and party hats, lots of party hats. Open presents.

IMG_0836Life with Lillian is an adventure. She’s such an outgoing, funny, smart, stubborn, and active little girl. She is constantly testing the limits and our patience, but is sure to follow everything up with an “I love you, Mom” or “Dad, you’re my best friend” to be sure she stays out of trouble. Did I mention she’s manipulative? ;)

Happy 3rd birthday, Lillian Grace!! Love you wild, our wild, wild child. ♥

Road Trip!

Last month we headed out on a little weekend road trip. We’ve explored a lot of this state, but mostly in the summer time and mostly south of where we live. And by a lot, I mean as much as we possibly can with small children, a limited road system, and no private plane or boat. For something different we decided to head north and explore some of Interior Alaska.

Day 1: We left the house at 7am and drove almost nonstop for 7 hours, until finally arriving at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Chena is a popular winter destination located about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. I will say, it’s not the fanciest place I’ve ever been, but it’s definitely very Alaskan. The main attractions are hot springs rock lake, the ice museum, and the northern lights. There were people staying from all over the world, all hoping to see the northern lights.

Our favorite attraction was the pool. After grabbing a bite to eat at the resort restaurant, we headed to the pool and spent the rest of the day there. The girls had a blast! Lillian found a friend and was swimming all over the place in her Puddle Jumper. Hazel just chilled out in her floatie with a cute little smile on her face. They weren’t able to sit in the hot springs but could sit in the outdoor hot tub. Pretty cool stuff when you’re one and two years old. ;)

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Day 2: The next morning Lillian and I went to the pool. Again. After we checked out of our room, we took a tour through the ice museum. The ice museum was interesting. Unfortunately, the girls were getting hungry and tired so we kinda rushed through it.

On to The North Pole. I mean, North Pole. North Pole, Alaska. I have been dying to visit North Pole, ideally around Christmas time but I’ll take what I can get. North Pole is a little town south of Fairbanks, where it’s Christmas year-round. We had lunch at a restaurant featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, visited the famous Santa Claus House, and stopped to take pictures in front of the ‘Welcome to North Pole’ sign. There’s not a ton to do in North Pole, but it’s one of those “go there just to say you’ve been there” type places. Personally, I thought it was great. The street lights look like candy canes. How cute is that?

Next up, Skinny Dicks Halfway Inn. Oh my gosh, I feel dumb even typing that. It was a highlight for Blake, so I guess I better mention it. Just like I’ve been dying to visit North Pole, he’s been dying to have a beer at Skinny Dicks. Our first summer in Alaska he and his buddies actually planned an entire motorcycle trip around Skinny Dicks. They ended up running into snow near Denali National Park and had to turn around and head home. He’s been bummed out about that trip for three years. Seriously, three years. He finally got his wish. He and my brother had a beer in the bar and browsed the gift shop. The girls and I had a snack in the car and stretched our legs. Good stuff.

Our last stop on Day 2 was our rental house in Healy. Blake found a nice little place with a great view. We spent the rest of the night eating and watching Netflix. The perfect way to end a busy day.

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Day 3: We had planned to head right home, maybe stopping for lunch along the way. However, we woke up to beautiful weather and decided that we might as well take a drive through Denali National Park. The park entrance is only a short drive from Healy, in the direction we were headed. How could we not? We’ve been through the park a few times, but only in the summer and fall when it’s pretty crowded. It was a treat to be one of the only vehicles on the park road. The highlight (maybe of the entire trip) was when a small herd of caribou crossed the road right in front of our vehicle. Blake spotted them a long way out and could tell that they were looking for a place to cross. So we sat and waited and sure enough, they crossed… right in front of us! Very exciting.

When we reached the turnaround point of the road we got out to take a short hike. There are few things in life Lillian loves more than hiking. She’s such a little explorer. She’s always leading the way and sprinting down the trail. At one point she wanted to go down by some water. Of course, Uncle volunteered to take her down. The rest of us stayed on the trail and watched. When they got back she said, “Mom, it’s pretty dangerous down there. You gotta stay here. You can’t go down there. It’s too dangerous for you.” Ooooook, Lillian. Got it. ;)

On the drive home we had bluebird views of Denali, maybe the clearest I’ve ever seen. It was breathtaking. We did make one last stop in Trapper Creek for lunch before heading home.

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IMG_4788Traveling with kids is an adventure in itself. The girls are pretty good travelers, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about how they’d handle all the driving, sleeping in weird places, and getting in and out of their car seats so much. They did so great! I packed a ton of food and books to keep them entertained. We didn’t even have to bust out an electronic device until the last half hour from Chena and from home. Proud mama right here! Towards the end of the trip Lillian was actually excited to get back in the car because that meant we were headed to a new and exciting place. When we buckled them in after our final stop for lunch she said, “Where we going now guys?!?!” We felt bad telling her that we were headed home.

Until next time,
Briana

p.s. I did a quick calculation and we traveled about 850 miles in 3 days. Not bad.

 

Camping | Seward Waterfront Park

Last weekend we went on our first camping trip of the season. We’ve been eager to get out after a long 9 month hiatus. This trip was worth the wait.

We’ve never camped in Seward before because 1) we normally prefer more secluded/rustic camping and 2) Waterfront Park is first come first serve and always fills up fast. We hoped that if we headed to Seward before tourist season we could get a waterfront site offering views of Resurrection Bay that would trump almost all the rustic/secluded camping we’ve ever done. Our plan worked. We pulled into the park late Friday afternoon and had our choice of waterfront sites. Although, it did fill up hours after we arrived. Pretty sure everyone had the same idea we did.

We spent the rest of the day and night setting up, eating, throwing rocks, picking dandelions, and relaxing around the campfire. All the flowers in the pictures are dandelions. Lillian kept saying, “Mom, look at these beautiful daffodils I picked for you. Wanna smell them?!” and Hazel’s nose and mouth were yellow the entire trip from huffing them. Kids are the best.

Bedtime was a little shaky. It usually takes a couple of weeks to figure out what sleep arrangements work best in the camper. Also, IT’S SO LIGHT OUT!! But we all slept in until 9 the next morning, so it wasn’t that bad.

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IMG_6770On Saturday morning we woke up to gorgeous weather. We had breakfast outside and then went for a walk. Just a short walk down the bike path from our campsite was a great playground. It was nice to sit in the sun with Blake, enjoy a cup of coffee, and watch the girls run around the playground. They had so much fun.

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In the afternoon we went for a drive out to Exit Glacier located in Kenai Fjords National Park. We didn’t do any hiking or glacier exploring. The main reason for the drive was so Hazel could nap in the truck as we wanted her to take a good nap after the night before. When she woke up we headed back to town to get gelato at Sweet Darlings. Lillian was so excited to pick out her own flavor. She went with strawberry and it’s all she could talk about for at least an hour. Hazie Girl and I shared the pistachio. It’s the best!

That night was another relaxing one around the fire, yelling at Lillian to stay close. She is so outgoing and social and wants to be best friends with everyone she sees. She’ll run up to random kids and hug them and introduce herself. One dad hanging by the water with his son said she told them “I’m Lillian, on vacation from Eagle River.” Luckily all of our neighbors and passersby were so nice. There were plenty of kids and dogs that didn’t mind her company.

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Casting lesson - proud dad!

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Major Fail: Forgot the roasting sticks. ↓

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Before heading home on Sunday we had breakfast, walked the beach, picked more dandelions, and then made a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center. It was the first time we’ve ever been there. The touch tanks were a hit with Hazel and both of the girls (and Blake, too) loved watching the seals and sea lions.

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On the way home, Lillian thanked both Blake and I multiple times for taking her camping. That made all the planning, packing, setting up, lack of sleep, taking down, and unpacking worth it. And although Hazel can’t verbally express her gratitude, she did sleep most of the way home, which is like the best ‘thank you’ we could ask for.

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xo,
Briana