ALASKA: OUR NEW FRONTIER

I keep waiting for reality to set in.  To wake up from this dream where I’m surrounded by mountains, living with my family in a beautiful place filled with adventure, amazing people, and the things we value the most in life.  But this isn’t a dream–its now MY reality.  I get to live, breathe, and be what I’ve always wanted, longed for, and worked for.  After a full year of living full-time in our sweet, little town of Cordova in coastal Alaska I’ve had the chance to look back at how far we have come, as a family and me, as a mom, wife, and woman.

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The boys and I, heading on a jet plane to Alaska!

A year ago we packed up all of our belongings (after getting rid of so much stuff!) into a 6x6x12 trailer and headed for Alaska, the Last Frontier.  My husband, Jason, drove up our minivan packed with our first month’s essentials and made the 3000 mile journey in less than 5 days.  Needless to say, he drove like a mad man while  I traveled with the 2 boys on an airplane.  WORST.  FLIGHT.  EVER.  Little did I know that we all were sick with Influenza (me too while I was already waist deep in morning sickness) and when we got off our plane and to our hotel, we were all miserable.  After 2 nights in Anchorage and a 7 hour ferry ride we finally arrived to our rental home for the summer and I couldn’t have been more relieved.  Cue sleeping in bed for a full week to recover from sickness, sickness, and moving!

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That first month flew by in a haze of pouring rain that came from all directions, net mending at all hours of the night, and explorations led by the youngest two–they were the ones that kept on going.  I spent most of my days laid up in bed sick as can be but after I passed that 18 week mark I felt as if I rose out of my grave and came back to life!  We were lucky to have a visit from my in-laws and with them came ALL OUR STUFF!  They drove our trailer up from MN and after 1000+ miles and 7 ferry rides, they made it!  Now it felt like we could finally move in and claim this place as our home–well, at least for a few months.

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Fishing season came a little too fast and it came on hard.  During the first few weeks my husband is usually gone for two, 12-24 hour openers a week (more like 2-3 days and home for 6 hours and so on…) but the fishing season started with one 12 hour opener and then BOOM!  36 hour, 48 hour, 48 hour, and so on!  We barely got to see each other and that romantic notion that somehow making the move to live in the town where he worked so we could see each other MORE quickly faded away.  It left me feeling quite drained and a bit dismayed.  The upside was that I had a brother and 2 friends in town for fishing so we had some company to break up the monotony of me solo parenting the boys ALL day and ALL night.  Family and friends are such a blessing!

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After I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to embrace this life we had chosen for ourselves, the summer was amazing!  The warm weather was endless, the sand and dirt pits always entertained, the berry and mushroom foraging was epic, and the lake even warmed up enough for us to swim.  It was the quintessential “Minnesota Summer” but here in Alaska where the night slipped in for a few hours and the energy of the town seemed endless (sunsets and sunrises were only spaced apart by a few hours of darkened skies).  Although we didn’t get to see “Poppa” much, with a concerted effort to change our attitudes, we never felt closer to living our dream.

The thing with dreams though is they are hardly ever easy–they require work!  My husband and I spent 3 years remodeling a home while living in it with 2 small children (even birthing one in our home, Merrik) and those days got so long.  We would feel defeated at times but it always helped us keep perspective if we reminded ourselves of the WHY? CORDOVA.  FAMILY.  MOUNTAINS.  That was our “why?”.  We wanted to live here while the kids were still young in a community that valued the outdoors, that played in the mud, wind, rain, sand, sunshine, and anything in between, and valued helping each other out.  The close knit community that is Cordova has truly been such a blessing–they have become our new, extended family.  We celebrate together, we share laughter, we share tears, and you can always count on someone to come through for you.  We needed that.  I NEEDED THAT.  That sense of belonging, that sense of purpose, and the sense that someone needed me too.  Cordova gave us the breath of life we had been searching for, longing for.

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While Cordova has been our “home” back and forth for many years as we traveled up for the first month of fishing season, it never truly felt like home until we boarded the ferry back to Cordova after birthing Marabelle (the newest addition) last November.  There are no options to birth in town unless you want to do so unassisted.  While most everyone defaults to Anchorage for birthing we decided to deviate from the norm and head to the much more slow paced and seaside community of Homer, AK.  We had to be there for 5 weeks (I had required some closer monitoring with my heart so we were there longer AND baby girl decided to cook an extra week)  and it felt so long to wait and wait and wait for Marabelle to come–I just wanted to meet her already!  Apparently she was waiting for the super moon (just like her brother) and then bam!, our world changed once again.  We could finally go back to our new house that we had closed on just weeks before her birth and finally, FINALLY settle into our Alaska dream home.

So here we are again, busy getting ready for the fishing season after a productive winter of a garage addition, plenty of outdoor hiking, skiing, and family time, as well as moments of complete exhaustion due to the life that is YOUNG CHILDREN.  Our life may not always be perfect, it may never even come close to it but right now, right here, it sure feels like we are finally living the life we were meant to, the life we have longed for, and the life we were MADE for.  Me, as a mother, wife, homemaker, fitness junkie, food maker, food forager, musician, adventurer and my family, as a unit always striving to be better as we are not complacent with GOOD–we want our life to be the BEST.  As we prepare ourselves to once again be Dad: Gone Fishing, and Mom: Full time with 3 kiddos, we have to remind ourselves of why we are here, why we wanted this, and why its all worth it.  To remind ourselves that we need to put in the work in to get the life we want.  To put in the work that turns our simple dreams into our reality.

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Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip ‘Party In A’ Mug Cake [Gluten, Dairy, and Sugar Free and Vegan]

The amount of times I have followed a recipe STRICTLY can be counted with the fingers on my hands in short order. The amount of times I’ve written down an experimental recipe that I nailed first the try can be counted on just one hand… That’s most likely due to my eyeball measurements and the “oh, just a bit more”‘s that I offer during my kitchen raids.  I often feel like Pooh Bear, just digging my hand into that pot of HUNNY.

So tonight, when I had a craving for chocolate chip something “think, think, think” as my cartoon spirit animal would say, I decided to try out a MUG CAKE.  Since I’m trying to eat CLEAN and am currently on an 8 week Tone It Up Bikini Series Challenge or for me, MOVE YOUR BOOTY! challenge, it had to be healthy, not any added sugar, and maybe something I could even share with the husband.

Here it is, your Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan, Clean Eating, mug cake sent from the gods themselves:

1 mug of your choice (I like IKEA’s)
1/2 banana, mashed
2 tsp flax mixes w/ 1 T Hot water
1 T  natural peanut butter
1 tsp Vanilla
Pinch baking soda
2 T coconut flour
1-2 T chocolate chips

Microwave for 1 minute.  Can easily be shared with another human or maybe just consumed all by one very deserving and awesome human such as yourself.  Hum de dum dum dum. IMG_2896

Calories?  I don’t count them so you shan’t find that here!

**If you are wondering “Where does she get her chocolate chips?” just go onto that friendly site called Amazon.com and order yourself some chocolate chips that meet your dietary requirements. I like the Enjoy Life or SunSpire brand that I buy loads when they are on sale.  Seriously, loads.

 

 

 

A Life Lost, A Lifetime Gained

imageI still remember the day.  I had gotten in a fight with my parents, specifically with my dad.  I don’t remember what we had argued about but I defiantly packed a weekend bag to stay over at my boyfriend’s house which was not allowed.  As I walked out the door and down the narrow walkway my dad had built to our house, I heard the door close and looked around to see my father behind me.  He tenderly said, “Grace, I love you.”  The look in his eyes said “I’m sorry, just stay, lets talk about this.”  I responded, mostly as an instinctive reaction than out of deep feeling, “Yeah, I love you too.”  I walked away and drove out of the driveway.  That was the last conversation I ever had with him.

I lasted all but an afternoon at my boyfriends house and after a phone call with my mom telling me that my sister had gone into labor and was at the hospital, I decided to return home.  I can’t remember why I looked in the rear view mirror but on the way home I saw an ambulance behind us.  No lights were flashing. It followed us all the way home, even pulling in behind us in our driveway.  I jumped out of the car and ran inside, fearing the worst–something had happened to my niece while my mom watched her for my laboring sister.  A flood of relief came over me as I saw her being safely bounced in my brother’s arms.  Feeling confused, I looked to my mom for the answer.  She tearfully pronounced, “Grace, your dad is dead…”

The next moments are still a bit blurry  but I remember being knocked to my knees overcome with the weight of the news.  As I heaved through heavy sobs, my mom wrapped her arms around me and tried to offer any comfort she could.  Blinking through my tears and finally coming to, I demanded to see him or “it”, as a spirit no longer occupied my dad’s body.  I was gently ushered outside by my friends dad, an EMT who had been one of the first to respond to the 911 call. There, lying just outside of the woodshed, my dad’s lifeless body, growing cold and starting to get covered with the snow of a fierce blizzard that was only in it’s early hours.  Once again I fell to my knees, completely helpless and overcome by the gravity of the situation.  The EMT kindly helped me up and urged that I get inside.  I was hesitant to leave, knowing that this would be the last time my father and I occupied the same space.  The last time his presence would not just be felt but seen.

Looking back, I can’t imagine what my mom went through as she was the one who discovered my dad in the woodshed, the place he had chosen to end a near 20 year battle of pain and suffering with a simple tie of a rope.  She solicited the help of my brother as his body was much too large for my mom’s small frame.  I won’t go into detail about what happened exactly but the bravery and courage of my mom and brother at this time still strikes me today.

At just 17 years old and a few months away from my high school graduation, my father’s suicide hit me hard.  I numbly finished up my high school career and managed to finish at the top of my class–only by the help of some gracious teachers and a few diligent friends.  The next year of my life was a blur and difficult, to say the least.  I remember feeling bitter, lonely, angry, sad, and at a complete loss for what to do, who to be, and where I should be headed.  I don’t know what pulled me out of that dark, grey period  but I can only credit my loving family and my Heavenly Father for getting me through that much needed time of grief, however destructive it may have been.

10 years later and with a family of my own, it feels like this day was a lifetime ago.  A lifetime of grief, doubt, pain, anguish, and the deepest sadness but through it all, growth.  The growth of love between a family that has gone through hell and back together.  The growth of my character, resilience, determination, and long suffering.  The growth of my strength of a woman, daughter, sister, friend and now wife, mother.  The growth of a person who hardly recognizes her 17 year old self.  10 years ago I was just a tiny seed, waiting for that abrasion that is required to bring forth the beautiful blossoms we stop and admire. I could never have become the person I am today without the trials and struggles that ensued after that day.

We can’t control what happens in life but we can determine our reaction.  Your life, Dad, brought about more than you could ever know but your death, Dad, shaped me to become who I am today.  And for that I am grateful.  I love you. I will see you again, soon.  Until then, lets keep up the work.

Clean Eating Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bars

imageRemember that one time a naive mom of three young ones, including a 3 month old in some serious need of sleep/nap training, and two rooms full of boxes still waiting to be unpacked as well as recycling stacked high, boots strewn about, and art supplies scattered everywhere said “HEY! Who wants this yummy recipe asap?”  Do you remember that??? My memory is a bit rusty because that was almost a week ago and I’m finally getting around to writing it out to share.  SO BEAR WITH ME PLEASE!  Or can I cry HELP???!

Let’s get to it!  These Energy Bars or Irregular Energy Planets as we call them are every bit delicious as they are GOOD to eat!  Gluten, diary, and refined sugar free, these are sure to please even the pickiest of little kid eaters and satisfy those hangry moments during the day (mine usually last between 8am-9pm).

Loaded with hemp hearts, ground flax seed, shredded coconut flakes, oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips, these pack a nutritive punch and give you that satisfactory chocolate taste.  This recipe can be replaced with just about anything you have lying around–chia seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins, nuts, etc.  Get creative and try things out!  Maybe even create your own recipe?

I will note that these “bars” can just as easy be rolled into convenient little balls/bites or cut up and stored in wax paper or plastic wrap for an on-the-go granola bar.  I just keep them in the fridge during the summer so they don’t melt during our expeditions.

Clean Eating Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bars

You will need: glass or plastic bowl, sturdy spoon, 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish

16 0z jar or 2 cups peanut butter (we like to use Adam’s brand w/ no added oils or sugar)

2/3 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup hemp hearts

2 cups old fashioned oatmeal (quick oats should work too)

1 cup chocolate chips

Combine peanut butter and honey in a bowl.  Heat  in microwave for 30 to 40 seconds or with a glass bowl, you can use a double boiler (makes it way easier for the natural peanut butter to mix up if its a little soft).  Add vanilla, coconut flakes, ground flax seed, hemp hearts and stir thoroughly. Add in oatmeal and chocolate chips, stirring until all the oats and chips are mixed into the giant clump.

Either roll the “dough” into 1 TBSP sized balls and roll around in ground flax seed OR sprinkle ground flax seed onto bottom of baking dish, add mixture and spread/flatten down evenly and sprinkle more ground flax seed on top, patting it in to make sure it doesn’t just fall off when eaten.  The ground flax seed coating will help so your fingers won’t get sticky (parents of little kids, you are welcome!).  Store in the fridge or a cool place.  Enjoy!

Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake

As a child I had many loves–one of them was books, one of them was chocolate.  From an early age this was apparent in my love of all things Roald Dahl.  So in second grade when I stumbled upon “Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes”, I was hooked (as you can see by the library card–yes, we still had those back then).  I was gifted the book a few years ago by my elementary school librarian–a testament to both the thoughtfulness of my librarian and to the deep love I had for the book and the recipes it held. I would scour that book and dream of owning my own bakery some day with the key feature being BRUCE BOGTROTTER’S CAKE.  If you don’t know the story, go read it.  I ain’t got time for that! (cue sarcasm)

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Is this cake every bit as delicious as you would expect? Yes!  Can it still taste good without butter, cream, and flour? Yes!  Is it healthy and should I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Probably not but one day won’t hurt you.

Let’s get down to business.  I have included pictures of the original recipe and the written one includes my changes.

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Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake

4 oz semisweet chocolate

4 oz unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup coconut oil

1 cup unrefined coconut sugar

1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour

6 large eggs, separated

Icing:

4 oz semisweet chocolate

4 oz unsweetened chocolate

8 oz coconut milk

Dash of sea salt

Using a double boiler, melt chocolate.  Whisk in coconut oil.  Add sugar, flour, and the eggs, lightly beaten.  Beat egg whites until stiff, folding  half of them into cake mixture at a time.  Pour into 8×8 cake pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 26-28 minutes. The cake might be kind of soft but it shouldn’t be wiggly when removed.  IMPORTANT: when the cake is cool enough to handle, flip upside down on plate or stand and cool completely.

Make icing by melting chocolate on a double boiler and mixing in coconut milk and salt.  Cover cooled cake with icing and don’t wait too long to dig in! Enjoy!

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**This cake is VERY dark chocolate tasting.  If you want a less dark version, use all semisweet chocolate.

Where It Began

For as long as I can remember, I have been writing in a journal.  In my childhood I would report on the weather or comment on the size of brook trout I caught in our small stream in Northern Minnesota.  As I grew, so did my vocabulary and length of my entries.  I began to talk about friendships, boys, church, work, and anything that seemed pertinent to my day–like how many times my crush glanced my way on the school bus, you know, the important details.  When I entered the societal marked age of adulthood, 18, my journals became more of an outlet, a therapy almost.  I didn’t just write about my life but I tried to work through my feelings and really understand where they were coming from.  Or sometimes I would just rant and rage about the injustice I was experiencing.  I would just write and write until I felt better.

Journaling became a habit, something I did without even thinking.  Almost as habitual as my daily chocolate consumption.   However, I felt that my writing lacked some sort of direction, a focus.  I didn’t feel the same pull to journal as I had before, especially in this digital age where hand writing your thoughts was replaced with social media posts and blog entries.  With the ability to reach an audience other than my Composition notebooks, I saw it as an opportunity to grow, get out of my comfort zone, and make my mindless banter into something more meaningful.   I guess that is what inspired me to bring my pen and paper habit into the digital age: a blog.

I remember chatting with a close friend a couple years ago about the prospect of starting a blog and she was very encouraging.  I didn’t know what my “theme” or “concept” would be because if you know me I like ALL THE THINGS.  I just remember thinking that I wanted to be able to talk about anything that interests me and really get the full picture–not just some crafted blog made to “brand” myself.  Thus, 360, full circle, the whole picture.  No edits, no frills, and certainly no cropped, filtered image of a perfect life–its far from it.  I want to be real.  I want to connect.  I want to share.  I want to inspire.

That desire, that longing, its always been there.  I have always felt a calling in life to be more than just me.  And now, more than just a mom or a wife.  I got a glimpse of what it felt like to help change someones life during my years personal training.  The small changes, the encouragement, the open conversation–it felt good.  And now its time to start somewhere and see where it takes me.  Maybe its sharing a recipe for a treat someone has been craving but because they are on a restricted diet they no longer thought they could eat that and BOOM! they see I have been concocting a delectable dairy free caramel that is just as tasty as it is healthy.  Or maybe someone has been struggling with motivation for exercise or has a colicky baby that just wont stop crying.  Whatever it may be, I hope that through my experiences I might be able to help someone.  Because what is our purpose if it isn’t to raise one another up?