3-fer Thursdays

Three More Of Our Adventures in Alaska

We had so many great adventures in Alaska!  
Here are three more . . . 


1 - We went kayaking!

Ketchikan was our first Alaskan port, and after spending the morning exploring Ketchikan (and eating the first of many fish-and-chips-for-lunch meals) (because fish-and-chips in Alaska is amazing), Tom and I spent the afternoon on a guided kayaking expedition around the Tatoosh Islands (just north of Ketchikan).


The setting was absolutely lovely.  I wish I could share more photos of this most beautiful place and our adventure with you, but . . . I was busy paddling.


Although the water looks pretty calm, it was . . . the sea.  There were waves (which did freak me out a bit) (because although I do a lot of kayaking on our lake, there are never any waves).  And it was a windy day.  So every now and then, we would come around an island and . . . whoa!  Waves!  But for the most part, it was pretty easy paddling.  We saw deer and lots of eagles on our paddle -- including one that landed on a tree very close to us.  

It was exhilarating to be out in the kayaks.  I'm so glad we spent our afternoon on the water.

2 - We saw bears!

Although we kept our eyes open for bear sightings throughout our trip, while we were in Sitka we visited Fortress of the Bear, a sanctuary for orphaned bears in Alaska.  And there?  We saw bears!


This is just an awesome bear sanctuary.  Very well done and well maintained -- run by animal behaviorists who are passionate about their work.  It is just a beautiful spot for these bears - who would otherwise have been euthanized.

We watched 3 black bears . . . 


(I know . . . there are only 2 in my photo.  But there were 3.)

And several groups of brown bears.


It was such a treat to see the bears doing their regular bear activities:  foraging for food, climbing trees, frolicking, swimming.  We really enjoyed our time at this beautiful sanctuary.  (We never did see any bears in the wild during our trip.)

3 - We took a walk through the rainforest!

Before our trip, I didn't fully realize that we'd be in a rainforest the whole time.  I thought about mountains and glaciers and water . . . but I just didn't get the rainforest part.  In fact, for our entire trip, we were in the Tongass National Forest - part of the Pacific temperate rainforest ecoregion.

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The contrast between the forest and the water and the mountains is just stunning.  And I especially loved all the foliage and trees.


I wish my computer had a scratch-and-sniff feature for you.  Since it doesn't, you'll just have to imagine the fresh, earthy smell of the forest for yourself.


Alaska is just an amazing place -- and I'm so glad we went on this most excellent adventure!



It's a Bonus Day

When you visit the jury duty reporting website and find this message . . . 


it means Bonus Day!

I woke up this morning filled with gratitude.  I have a day in front of me that has been blocked out in my calendar for 6 weeks.  And now that day is . . .
Completely MINE.



What am I going to do with this wide-open, fresh-and-clear day?

  1. I'm heading to the gym for an early class that I thought I'd have to miss.
  2. I'm running a couple of errands.  (Hello new print cartridges!)
  3. I'm catching up on a big chunk of paperwork for a volunteer commitment.

And I'll probably putter around in the garden, too.  
Because where else would I want to be on a Bonus Day!


What are YOU doing today?


Glaciers Really are Blue

. . . and other things I've learned about glaciers.  
(Three things, in fact.) (Because Thursday.)

Just a tiny section of the face of the Hubbard Glacier.

When Tom and I were trying to decide just where we might want to go to commemorate our 60th birthdays, we had a lot of ideas.  Italy?  Iceland?  London?  Alaska?  So many places we want to go!  But we ended up choosing Alaska.  It seemed appropriate:  We were turning 60; Alaska was celebrating 60 years of statehood.  Although Tom has been to Alaska several times before for fishing trips, he'd always wanted to see the Inside Passage, and I've always wanted to see the glaciers (before they melt) (sad, but totally true).

So.  North to Alaska!

And we certainly did see glaciers!  Today I'll share some of our adventures -- along with three things we learned about glaciers along the way.

Thing One:   Glaciers are constantly changing.  They truly are "rivers of ice," and although they move quite slowly, they are constantly melting, advancing, receding.  (Although I learned this long ago in geology classes, SEEING it makes it so much more . . .  comprehensible.)


My view . . . from the cockpit of a helicopter.


Best view of glaciers ever!  (Highly, highly recommend a helicopter trek.)


Our helicopter landed on the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, and we were met by a scene that looked like an Arctic expedition or something.  (Freaked out much, Kym?)


No worries, though.  By that time, I was fully outfitted for my expedition. . . including hiking gear, special boots, a helmet, extra-tough gloves, and crampons (talk about footwear I never thought I'd wear!) -- and I was on my way to pick up my ice axe when Tom took this photo.


Yes, my friends!  Tom and I were about to set off for a 2-hour (guided) hike on the Mendenhall Glacier!

Thing Two:  The surface of a glacier is much like broken glass -- sharp pieces of ice of varying sizes and consistency.  The terrain varies constantly -- steep uphills, sharp drop-offs, cliffs, holes, little streams of water, canyons, caves, moulins.  The ice is actually blue, too -- because it is super dense from years of compression (like . . . we're talking hundreds, thousands of years).  The air pockets between crystals has been forced out, making the ice appear blue.  (And that's as scientific an explanation you'll get from me, folks!)

Thus . . . the crampons, helmet, and extra-tough gloves!


Our guide (who looked amazingly like a young and fit Yukon Cornelius) quickly taught our group of 6 how to walk, climb up, and (most freaky of all) climb down.  (If you're a skier, you have to forget EVERYTHING you ever learned about leaning into the slope and digging in your edges, because if you do that in crampons?  Not. Good.)  (And I was reminded - over and over again - of the power of muscle memory!)

And because we were a well-guided, adventurous group . . . we had a long way to come down!

(See the helicopter and tent . . . way down there?)

But the amazing things we saw!


This was just an AWESOME experience.  I'm so happy to have seen a mountain glacier . . . up close and personal!

We also saw a tidewater glacier, which leads me to . . . 

Thing Three:  Icebergs are pieces of glacier that have broken off into the water. Icebergs are actually called different things, depending on their size and how much they rise out of the water.   "Icebergs" rise out of the water over 14 ft.  "Bergy bits" are smaller (or melting) icebergs that rise out of the water between 3-14 ft.  And "growlers" are the smallest yet -- any glacial ice chunks under 3 ft.

It's slightly unnerving to wake up to see mini-icebergs floating past your cruise ship!  But that's exactly what happened the morning we arrived in Disenchantment Bay to see the Hubbard Glacier.  (We actually got on an even smaller boat that morning, so we'd be able to get even closer to the glacier.)

That's our cruise ship, as seen from our glacier sightseeing vessel.

It's hard to imagine how BIG this advancing, tidewater glacier really IS until you see it (or try to fit it into a photograph).


The face of the glacier is 400 feet tall (most of that is under water), and it's over 75 miles long!


There was lots of ice in the bay -- mostly "growlers" and a few "bergy bits."  We were 1/2 mile away from the face of the glacier that day, and there was a lot of "calving" activity (when the ice breaks off from the face and crashes into the water) going on.  It was . . . Very Cool.  You can hear the loud cracking and booming thunder when the ice calves.  It's amazing!  (I'm sure there were big icebergs nearer the face).

If you look at the bottom of this photo, you can see some calving going on.  (An accidental, lucky shot -- because I didn't take many photos while we were at the glacier. )

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One more thing I learned?  Glaciers.  Are.  Awesome.



Mackinac Magic . . . And About That Dress Code

Last week, my sister and I spent a few days on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan.  Mackinac is truly a Michigan treasure.  (I have never met another Michigander who doesn't sigh and nod when you tell them you're headed to Mackinac . . . and then say, "I love that place.")  (And - just so you know - it's pronounced Mack-i-NAW.  You just ignore that "c." )  (Trust me.)

There really is something magical about the place.  Maybe it's the bridge . . . 


The island offers clear views of the 5-mile Mackinac Bridge joining Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas.  (You can reach the island by ferry from either peninsula.)

Maybe it's the lack of cars . . . 


Motor vehicles are prohibited on the island.  (No cars.  No trucks.  Period.)  You walk or ride a bike -- or take a horse-drawn carriage.  Even deliveries are handled by horse drawn freight carriage.  It's very quiet, except for the clopping of horses.  (But you do have to watch where you step.)

Maybe it's the fudge . . . 


Mackinac Island is America's "fudge capital," and there are fudge shops up and down Main Street.  So. Many. Fudge. Shops.  (Seriously, you can't walk 10 steps without finding ANOTHER fudge shop.)  It's good.  It's tradition.  You visit Mackinac Island, you come home with fudge.

Maybe it's the island itself . . . 


There's just something fascinating about being on an island.  And especially an island you can walk or bike around in a manageable 8.2 miles.  (My sister and I opted to walk.)

Or maybe it's the magic of the Grand Hotel . . . 


Totally living up to it's name, the historic Grand Hotel is, well. . . pretty darn grand!  We splurged by staying at the Grand Hotel for our time on Mackinac.  Here's a little peek inside:

The lobby . . . 


The Cupola Bar . . . 


Our room . . . 


(We squealed when we saw the canopy beds.  We always wanted canopy beds when we were little girls . . . )

All VERY . . . Grand!  So in the spirit of Three on Thursday, here are Three Things About the Grand Hotel:

1 - The Porch


The porch of the Grand Hotel is truly fabulous.  Guests of the hotel can sit in the rockers and sip a drink while enjoying some of  the most spectacular views on the island.  It is such a treat.  (Folks who aren't staying at the Grand Hotel can enjoy the porch, too.  But they have to pay to enter the hotel.)  Personally, the porch at the Grand Hotel is my favorite thing about Mackinac Island.

2 -- The Geraniums


The red geranium is the official flower of the Grand Hotel -- and you find it everywhere . . . in planters, in flower boxes, on the carpets, in each room, on stationery, in the lotion and shampoo in the bathrooms.  Everywhere!  (Maybe next week I'll do a post on all the geranium carpets I found in the hotel.)

3 -- The Dress Code


Yep.  There it is.  You must "dress" for the evening at the Grand Hotel.  Or . . . you can't eat dinner there or hang around in the main areas of the hotel after 6pm.  (You really do kind of feel like you've stepped back in time . . . with the clopping of horses and the dressing for dinner.)  It's pretentious and off-putting . . . and pretty lame.  (Because, trust me, just because you slap on a tie and wear a jacket . . . or put on a dress . . . doesn't mean you're more presentable than my sister and I in our "slacks.")  Anyway, we got around it by not eating dinner at the Grand Hotel, and then we just hung around in the Cupola Bar (which is not included in the dress code) or our room after eating dinner elsewhere on the island.  It's weird.  But I will trade the dress code nonsense for the porch any day.

So.  What do you think?  Have I sold you on the magic of Mackinac?


Be sure to head over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday posts today!



Sticking With It

I used to be addicted to my snooze bar when it came to waking up.  Like . . . I used to purposefully set my alarm for an hour or more before I actually needed to wake up . . . just so I could hit the snooze - repeatedly - before finally dragging my sorry a$$ out of bed in the morning.

It was getting ridiculous.  (Especially because I got out of the habit of paying attention to my alarm, and sometimes didn't even "notice" it anymore.)

So I decided to break myself of the habit.  I got a new alarm clock with a new and highly annoying alarm.  I moved it across the room so I would have to actually get out of bed when it went off.  And I made a commitment to myself to keep moving once I got up and shut off the alarm.

It's been 18 months now.  And it's working!


It was hard for those first couple of weeks.  I SO wanted to just hit the snooze bar and head back to my bed.  But I didn't!  I have trained myself to be an early riser (I am not, by nature, an early riser), and I'm finding that I actually like it.  I've discovered a few benefits to consistently getting up early (three, in fact!):

First, I've developed a nice, quiet routine for myself in the morning.  I let the dogs out and feed them, grab a cup of coffee, knit a few rows.  Once I feel awake, I usually meditate -- which all helps me start the day relaxed and centered.

Next, I'm more ready (as in alert and aware) to get started with my day.  Allowing myself the time to wake up gradually and mindfully means I'm not feeling stressed and rushed when it is time to get going . . . with whatever I've got going.

Finally, after 18 months of getting up early (and without a snooze bar fest), I've gotten to the point where I barely need an alarm clock anymore.  I just naturally. . . wake up . . . at the same time every morning.  I'm also sleeping better at night.  

There are still mornings where I'm tempted to crawl back in bed.  But I don't.  And once I'm up . . . I'm up.  This is one of those habits I'm really happy to be sticking with!

How about you?  Are you an early riser . . . or not so much?  What habits are you trying to stick with?


Be sure to check out more Three on Thursday posts over at Carole's!

Reading Along

It's Three on Thursday, and I'm in the midst of a busy and emotional day.  So let's talk about something easy . . . 



Here are three things I'm reading today:

  1. Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker -- one of the books on the short list for the Women's Prize for Fiction this year.  This award is one I always pay attention to because the books tend to match up very well with my taste in reading.  While my goal is always to read all the books on (at least) the short list before the award is announced, I usually can't because of differing publication dates between the US and the UK.  But this year?  When I finish Silence of the Girls, I'll have read all the books on the short list!  The winner will be announced on June 5 this year.  (My favorites?  Either Circe or Milkman. I loved them both.)
  2. This essay from The Atlantic about Mary Oliver and the distractions of technology.   Really worth a read.  (I'm not actually reading Upstream today.  But I needed a placeholder in my photo . . .  and it works.)  (But now that I've got it out . . . well. . . I might read a few pages.)
  3. A travel book about Coastal Alaska.  Because Tom and I are headed there in July!  After finalizing all the details for our trip yesterday, it's time for the educational part.  (Our trip is part of our 60-for-6o celebration.  You know . . . we're turning 60, Alaska is turning 60.  Of course we'll head there!)

How about YOU?  Reading anything interesting today?


Speaking of books . . . Mary is hosting Summer Book Bingo again this year!  Click here for the scoop.


Don't forget to check out this month's Stash Giveaway.  Comment by Friday at 5pm EST if you're interested!

Turn it Around


I got back from my trip to Wyoming and Colorado on Monday night.  And then . . . immediately fell into a funk.  Partly "re-entry" from my trip.  Partly the exhaustion of travel.  Partly just some unpleasant stuff to deal with.  Partly . . . weeds.  (So many damn weeds.)

I'm in a funk.  Feeling cranky.  Slogging through my days.  Definitely . . . out of balance.

It's time to turn it around, my friends.  So I'm reaching for those things that help me feel balanced:

  1. Meditation.
  2. Movement.
  3. Creativity.

You know what else I'm going to do today?


I'm going to focus on the flowers . . . 
instead of the weeds!






It's May!

New month, new "bucket" list . . . 


3 highlights from my list:

  1. Paint Bathroom.  The wallpaper is mostly gone.  I know what color I want to paint.  Tom is willing.  
  2. Something Boulder-y.  We're headed to Boulder for Lauren's graduation from law school next week.  It will be our last trip to Boulder (for maybe . . . ever) because (drum roll) Brian and Lauren are moving back to Michigan this summer.  (I'm over the moon, I'm telling you.)
  3. New Mattress.  Because ours is at least a decade past time-ro-replace.  (Any tips for mattress shopping out there?)

How about YOU?  What's on your list for May?


Be sure to hop over to Carole's for more 3-on-Thursday posts.)


And be sure to come back tomorrow . . . for my first ever Asking Questions post -- occassional interviews with interesting people doing interesting things.  Join me tomorrow to hear from my first guest:  Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops fame -- knitwear designer, mystery-maker, and overall big thinker!

All It Takes

. . . is a bit of sunshine and a couple of warmer days to get things popping in my garden!  

A couple of years ago, I planted a big bag of "mixed daffodils," not really sure what I'd end up with when spring came around.  Now, I love the variety -- and I also love that they bloom in waves.  (Some are early-bloomers, some are late-bloomers.)  Here are three different types that are blooming in my garden today:


I just love them!  And I love their glorious steadfastness, too -- standing straight and tall through heavy rains and roller-coaster temperatures.  (Those spring bulbs are tough!)

What's blooming in your garden today?


Greeting Spring In My Garden

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden."
                    --- Ruth Stout

Spring is fickle, to be sure. 

But it's also. . .  here.  (Finally.)  
And Ruth Stout is right: I will always choose to greet it in my garden.  
Which is definitely coming back to life!

Sweet crocus are blooming.


My hellebores are waking up.


And my larch tree is greening up again.


My garden is the perfect place to greet the spring!
(Even though it's cold and windy today.)  (But, hey.  No snow.)


Head over to Carole's today for more Three on Thursday.