I’M BACK

I’m not 100% sure where I left off… I think I drew the elephant before I went to Alaska so I’ll start there.

I got lucky enough to go to Anchorage to represent my job at the National Congress of American Indians’ Mid-Year Conference.  Once we realized that we’d have time to do a little sight seeing we quickly picked a 6hr cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours out of Seward.  It was about $165ish and it was amazing – totally worth the money.  They provide a pretty good lunch, a bunch of free apples, and offer a refillable mug (water, coffee, tea, soda) for about $7.

Some tips:

  • don’t worry about getting there – it was a beautiful, easy drive from Anchorage that really only took about 2 hours.  You have to get there an hour before the cruise starts, so keep that in mind.  Your GPS might tell you it will take longer, but I PROMISE IT IS LYING.
  • If you get there early there is a decent diner right down the street.
  • Board early and claim some good inside seats to leave your stuff at.  Maybe near an outlet if you’re worried about needing to charge something.  This way you can always have a place to warm up if needed.  The seats outside are NOT  comfortable.
  • Wear layers – we got a better deal by going on the early cruise and it was really cold.  and windy.  Wear a hat, maybe bring gloves.  I had on a cami, shirt, down vest, heavy wool sweater, and a rain jacket and was still a little chilly at times.
  • Bring the big kid camera or binoculars or both.  The animals you see will not be that close and you’ll appreciate the ability to get a closer look.
  • Ask people to take photos with you in them.  It’s great to have photos of the glacier, but you need to be in them to prove you didn’t just copy/paste from google images.

General Anchorage suggestions:

  • On the way home, stop at Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria and brewery – it’s on the edge on Anchorage and you’ll pass it on the way back into town.  SO SO DELICIOUS.  I brought a growler of their hefeweizen back with me to give my Dad for Father’s Day.  (I kept it on ice in my hotel room for two days and then packed it in my checked luggage!)
  • Take the free trolley down to the Ulu Factory, bypass the Ulu “factory” (aka large gift shop), and walk behind it to watch the fisherman catch salmon.  It was crazy!
  • You can skip the LONG LONG wait at Glacier Brewhouse by sitting at the bar – they have great food and you get the same service sitting at the high tops.  I highly recommend their home brewed root beer!
  • Dark Horse Coffee Company (across from the Convention Center) makes a MEAN breakfast sandwich.
  • Go to a liquor store and check out the weird SMOKED SALMON vodka!  So strange.  Maybe good in a bloody mary?
  • The weird farmer/flea market near the Hilton is definitely worth a walk through.
  • The tiny grocery store is so expensive, but it’s worth it to grab some snacks if you’re going to be sticking around for awhile.
  • EAT A REINDEER HOT DOG.  TRUST ME.  AND BRING ONE BACK FOR ME.

And here’s photographic evidence of my trip in no specific order whatsoever:

Sea lion (not a seal. They are different.)

Sea lion (not a seal. They are different.)

The bear again :)

The bear again 🙂

I want to kiss his face

I want to kiss his face

BEAR LOVE

BEAR LOVE

I tried to lure him onto the boat so I could bring him home.

I tried to lure him onto the boat so I could bring him home.

That kid is about to club that fish.

That kid is about to club that fish.

When a glacier calves, huge chunks fall into the ocean - this is normal.  I was worried that is was climate change happening before my eyes, but everything was fine.

When a glacier calves, huge chunks fall into the ocean – this is normal. I was worried that is was climate change happening before my eyes, but everything was fine.

#AlaskaSelfie

#AlaskaSelfie

Told you it was a thing!

Told you it was a thing!

Humpback whale

Humpback whale

This is Sammy, Eunice's pet salmon.

This is Sammy, Eunice’s pet salmon.

I can't help myself. #GoGators

I can’t help myself. #GoGators

Pretending to be paparazzi.

Pretending to be paparazzi.

BOOM. FIRST BEAR OF THE SEASON

BOOM. FIRST BEAR OF THE SEASON

 

 

Tostones

My husband is Puerto Rican and therefore loves plantains. I am not Puerto Rican (in case you couldn’t tell) and therefore think plantains are super weird. “Ew-I-thought-that-was-a-banana” weird. This starchy, less sweet, cruel joke of a banana can made into super delicious tostones in about 10 minutes. ONLY 10 MINUTES PEOPLE.

Step -1: buy green plantains. At least that’s what my husband said I should get. NOT the yellow/brown ones.

Step 1: peel plantain. Harder than it sounds. Cute the ends off and hope that you don’t accidentally shove the peel under your nail because it is sharp and stiff.

Step 2: cut the plantain into about one inch pieces. If you’re lazy use this:

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The Hutzler 571. READ THE REVIEWS. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.

Step 3: fry the pieces in a pan of oil. Use coconut oil if you’re working on your Whole30! Fry each side for about 2-3 minutes until they turn golden and slightly crispy.

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Step 4: remove from oil and rinse the slices in water. Why? Who knows.

Step 5: flatten the pieces with the bottom of a glass.

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Step 4: return the pieces to the oil for about a minute.

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Step 5: remove the tostones and place them on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Step 6: sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Step 7: take a photo so your mother-in-law will be proud of you!

Chalkboard Update: The Elephant that was clearly beyond my skill level.

Good luck. It’s a long one.  There’s a few seconds where basically nothing happens and it’s because I’m getting a snack aka finally eating dinner.  This elephant was wayyyy too hard.  It took basically forever and my arm is literally sore from drawing it.  Definitely headed back to words next time.

Whole30: Week 2

Week 2 was almost harder than Week 1 because the novelty of this thing has officially worn off.  I’m a good bit into Week 3 and I just kind of feel over it.  Nothing is really exciting about it anymore and 30 days is starting to feel like a loooongggg time.  That being said, I’m still 98% committed to Whole30 (the once a week glass of wine is non-negotiable. sorryI’mnotsorry) and I have seen improvements in my skin, sleep patterns – confirmed by my FitBit’s sleep tracker, weight, and body shape.  I’m headed to a conference in Alaska soon and I’m a half concerned I’ll miss out on a rare treat and half terrified to reintroduce the restricted foods.  I’m committed to doing my best, but if there is some crazy amazing can-only-get-it-in-Alaska dessert, I’m going to eat it.  Hopefully there is just mountains of seafood being handed out by the Deadliest Catch guys.  That’s what I’m expecting, Alaska, so you better not disappoint!

In other news I hosted book club this week and thankfully several other ladies are grain/dairy free or paleo or working  on their own Whole30.  I STRESSED over what to make because very technically appetizers shouldn’t be eaten during Whole30 – they aren’t part of a meal, you eat them mindlessly, and (usually/hopefully/deliciously) they are covered in cheese.

After extensive Pinterest-ing, I just decided to get plantain chips (technically compliant), guacamole, salsa, cut up veggies, and strawberries and then make two little apps that just tiny meals really:  BLT Bites and Sausage stuffed mushrooms.

You can see the BLT bites below:  just halved grape tomatoes with a little romaine lettuce and a generous square of bacon.  (It is HARD to find compliant bacon.  Try looking for packages that say “uncured” or “no sugar cure.”  Those are your safest bet.)  They took about 20 minutes to make and were delicious.  They looked so cute too – I definitely would bring them to a party even if I wasn’t doing Whole30.

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I forgot to take a picture of the the mushrooms before A) they were mostly gone and B) all the good light was gone.  Sorry they kind of look gross here, but they were also very delicious and very very easy.  I just removed the stems from button mushrooms, cooked them in the oven at 375 while I browned the sausage (spicy Italian from the farmer’s market!  One of my favorite compliant foods because it is packed with flavor) with some chopped onions and the chopped mushroom stems.  When the sausage was almost cooked I just pulled the pan of mushrooms out of the oven, scooped in the sausage mixture, and then pooped it all back in the over for maybe 15? 20? minutes.  Into everything was brown and delicious looking.  I would normally top them with parmesan or nutritional yeast, but they were delicious as is.

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I chose The Fault in Our Stars by John Green mostly because I had already read and loved it.  Plus, most of the ladies are busy mamas so a shorter book without a seriously complicated story was most likely to actually be read/finished.  We all agreed it was worth the read  and even worth the price of a movie ticket .  We’ll be headed to see it in theaters in a week or two – after all the crying teens see it.  (SN:  If I was rich I’d rent out the whole theater so that I could see a movie with a few people.  Nothing grinds my gears like a noisy/messy/inconsiderate theater-goer.)  It’s gotten phenomenal reviews, so I’m really excited.  I expected most critics to pan it as a teenage cry-fest, but it’s looking more and more like the next Notebook.

 

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Photo update on Bee life!

So far our hives seem to be doing wonderfully.  They quickly lost interest in the 1:1 sugar syrup we were offering them, barely finishing the 1/2 gallons we gave them right after install.  I put new brood supers on both hives about 10 days again and then did a quick check to make sure they had found their way up to the new foundation.  They seem to be happy, healthy, and pest free (KNOCK ON WOOD.)  I did have to scrape of some burr comb (comb they built in the wrong place) that was full of nearly capped honey.  Obviously I cheated on my Whole30 challenge a little bit to taste it – I’m probably a little biased but it was basically the best honey ever.

Anyways, here’s a timeline of photos from my big kid camera now that I’m bored enough to actually do something with them.  Hank isn’t quite as good of company as Luis is 😉

 

Here’s my cute parents right before we picked up the bees!

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With our baby nuts in their boxes.  We had to select our nuts from those that our supplier deemed “ready.”  It was really intimidating because I had NO idea what I was really supposed to looking for besides good brood patterns and no pests.

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You can kind of see the bag sugar syrup.  This is probably my hive – I definitely spilled it as I propped it open.  I also have read that some berks lay it totally flat under the inner cover, but that seemed to take a certain amount of finesse that I definitely lack.  I just set them on top of the inner cover with an empty super around it for protection and added ventilation.  This what they did in my first bee class and it seemed to work really well.

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To install the nuts we just set up our hive bodies and transferred over the frames, one by one, in the same order.  Then we simply shook as many bees as possibly into the hives before shutting them up.  We left the nut boxes on the ground, tilted towards the hives to help encourage any confused bees to head into their new house.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my nuc had a bunch of wonky comb so I tied it into a frame.  They totally ate all the way through the twine and reestablished all that comb on the frame.  The only problem is that it’s not totally straight and they’ve built two over lapping pieces now.  I think I’m going to have to break it down into two frames and rubber band it in place.

 

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That’s a pretty good brood pattern there.  The photo below shows capped brood aka bee larva that is growing and will hatch soon.

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Just another look inside the hive.  I think that these photos were taken after the first week.

 

 

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The white capped comb is honey!  Did you know that capped honey can NEVER go bad?  Archaeologists ate the honey found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians and it was still good.

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If you follow me on Instagram (@gator_rach) you may have already seen this photo, but it’s a nice shot of the queen in the Florida hive.  (I named her Gainesville.)  You can identify her by the faint green dot on her back and her big butt.  She’s much easier to spot in the insta after this photo.

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Her majesty.   My sister and I spotted her while adding the second brood supers.

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And that’s all folks!  We shouldn’t go back into the hives for at least a week or two.  It is very difficult to find a balance between getting to know your bees and their habits as a new beekeeper and not bothering the bees so that they can do their work.  We check to make sure that they’re active and I love watching the foragers come back with full pollen packets.

 

 

 

Andddddd before I forget this is what that delicious, honey filled buy comb looked like.

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Whole30: Week 1

The idea that I can’t do something usually immediately results in my desire to do that thing. I’m not sure why I wasn’t a more rebellious child/teenager. I looked at the Whole30 and assumed it would be too hard, too restrictive, too lonely. If you’re not familiar with the program it’s based eating three healthy meals, limiting snacks, and eliminating soy, sugar, grains, dairy, and alcohol. I read everything they offer on their website Whole30.com, including the very helpful “But can I have…” FAQ page. I decided what I agreed with and what I wanted to amend (yes to the occasional glass of wine and fresh corn, no to strictly keeping to three meals) and declared the pizza I was eating while reading to be my last for THIRTY WHOLE DAYS.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not really fun or easy. I got the “carb flu” – look it up it’s a real thing. I had to BYO snacks and drink to the movies (the new Xmen was SUPER good) and my coffee has coconut milk or nothing in it. My delicious ice cream is just chilling in the freezer and cinnamon toast crunch boxes sit unopened in the pantry. BUT I am glad that I’m doing it. It’s only been a week but I can see positive changes in my body and sleep. (You’re not supposed to weigh yourself but I needed the extra motivation.) It’s not a diet – it’s a challenge that will hopefully create healthy habits. Here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned so far:

1. Get a buddy. Either have your spouse commit to eating compliantly when with you or convince a friend that they should do it with you. I’m the primary when it comes to making dinner (he’s the primary for dishes 😉) so that part wasn’t hard. He can eat whatever he wants at work, but when we’re together he’s eating what I eat. Notable exception was the movies, but he made sure I was happy with what I had to eat too! I also have a good friend who just started and my sister starts in June. This also helps you to discuss the program in a constructive manner instead of complaining all. The. Time. Which you will probably do anyways because you want carbs and sugar and milk in your coffee.

2. Follow Whole30 and Whole30Recipes and other healthy food bloggers/bakers/cooks on Instagram. The added motivation and inspiration is so helpful. So many of them post the recipes right there and you’ll quickly find yourself saying “I have all those ingredients!” Also get a Pinterest board up and running. Here’s mine!

3. Prep your kitchen. DON’T throw non-compliant food away. Give it away, put it in a box, do whatever, just don’t throw it away. I HATE how many paleo/Whole30/healthy eating blogs said STEP ONE GET OUT THE GARBAGE CAN. What I mean is stock your fridge with fresh fruits and veggies, tons of avocados, interesting proteins, coconut milk, and almond butter. LARABARS ARE ON SALE AT TARGET RIGHT NOW

4. Figure out how to handle social situations with food. Check menus before making plans, call and ask what the ingredients are, suggest Whole30 friendly restaurants. Be prepared to eat a lot of eggs and salads and to take the buns and cheese off everything. I brought a can of seltzer and apple and plantain chips with me to the movies. Technically that’s compliant, but not in the true spirit of Whole30.  But I’m a spirited person so it’s fine.

5. When cooking and prepping double recipes/amounts so you’ll have extra food and ingredients for tomorrow’s lunch or to be frozen and used later. This makes everything easier and you’re less likely to give up because you don’t have time to pack a lunch or cook dinner. Whenever I adopted an “eff this, it’s too hard” attitude, I was a mean combination of hungry, tired, and lazy. Making a PBJ is easier than making a whole compliant meal, but more difficult than just heating up leftovers. MAKE IT EASY.

And here’s some photos of what I’ve been eating:

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FXBG SUP

Second anniversaries aren’t exciting like the first but they are pretty darn validating. You are solidly out of the “newlywed” phase which was actually a great phase – even though people like to smugly say stuff like “Oooooh, they’re neeeewlyywedddssss.” Ugh, gross. Get over yourself.

Anyway, we had a limited amount if time to celebrate our second anniversary so I decided we should try something new and fun. My 2014 goals include developing a couple decent hobbies and being engaged in life down in Stafford – but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. We’re pretty active, like to be outdoors, and won’t drive too far unless it’s for an amazing hike or vineyard. I was googling around as one does, literally browsing the internet, looking for something that would maybe meet my goals and those three requirements. My search history looked like this:

Fredericksburg hikes
Fredericksburg fun things to do
Fredericksburg festivals
Fredericksburg vineyard
Fredericksburg swimming
Fredericksburg kayaking
Fredericksburg paddle boarding

BOOM. JACKPOT. The cool way to abbreviate Fredericksburg is FXBG. It’s like a little bid between businesses where they acknowledge their up-and-coming-ness. So when I found FXBG SUP I knew I was on to something. They offer lessons, board rentals, tours, and more. I loved their website – easy to navigate, tons of great information, and a great online booking system. (I hate our online store at work so I ALWAYS make note of awesome sites that could be an alternative.)

We ended up being able to schedule a 12:30 lesson at Curtis Park just 25 minutes from our house. Shawn had emailed me a confirmation and reassured me that my very tall, athletic husband would be totally fine on their boards. It was SO easy to figure out where we were going because all I did was open up their website on my phone and click on “Directions to Curtis Lake” which then popped open my google maps app with the location. It couldn’t be more idiot proof.

The weather was amazing – a warm with a cool breeze and beautifully mostly-sunny. I wore hot yoga capris and just a work out tee, but Luis decided to wear a bathing suit. (I was NOT going to fall into the water but my clothes would’ve quickly dried if needed.) We threw some apples and water bottles in the car as well some towels, just in case. When we got to the lake Shawn was already all set up and had a little paperwork for us to sign. It asked about injuries and joint issues so Shawn and I had a quick discussion about my shoulder problems. Then we got down to business.

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Shawn showed us how to properly size and hold the paddle, explained the basics, and was just so so encouraging.  We headed down to the water and easily pushed off the boat landing, kneeling and paddling away from the shore.  We spent some  practicing, finding our balance, and just generally learning the basics of control.  Luis and I are both experienced with boats (kayaks, sailing, speed boats) so we understood how momentum and steering works out on the water – this definitely helped.  (Or we’re fast learners… or Shawn is just a super good teacher.)  Eventually Shawn demonstrated how to move from kneeling to standing and kneeling again.  Some where soon after Luis was “testing the board” and ended falling in.  I never did 🙂

I wish I had more photos – when we go next time I’ll borrow a life proof case for my iPhone.  Shawn brings a GoPro Camera that is attached to his paddle board and towards the end we paddled up to take a photo.  The photo was the NICEST touch to the lesson – a sweet little souvenir for such a fun day.

 

I really can’t say enough about how wonderful Shawn was.  I’ve already recommended FXBG SUP to everyone who will sit still long enough for me to get all the praise out and now I’m recommending them to you.<

Nuc pick up!

WE’RE OFFICIALLY BEEKEEPERS!   I’ve been dying to pick up our nucs so that I could officially say this.  We’ve got our ladies safely at home and in their new hives.  (I have more photos of the pick up and install on my big kid camera, so here’s a quick iPhone dump.)

After dealing with some really crappy weather, we got the go ahead from Jerry from Rock Hill Honey Bee Farms to come and pick up our nucs Sunday evening.  My dad and brother were brave enough to come with us (though I don’t think that my brother really thought through the fact that there would be bees with him in the car. )

All the nuc’s at Jerry’s farm were buzzing and growing and beautiful!  We went through a few so we could pick out our favorites, mark the queen (our preference), and strap them closed for transfer.  He also stapled mesh over the openings before helping us load them into our car.  I ended up with the nuc we checked out during our class in April which I took to be a good omen.

We had an uneventful ride home.  Thankfully.  I’m sure there are horror stories about improperly secured nucs creating chaos in the car.  We left our suits and veils on, just in case.  The boys had to risk it 😉

We got the ladies into the backyard, got the smoker up and running, and moved the fresh frames into their new homes!

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The front hive is my mom’s “Connecticut” and her queen is Wethersfield.  Mine is in the back of the photo above, called “Florida” with a “Gainesville” queen.  We’ve been pretty transient my whole life so this is a fun way to pay homage to our favorite homes!

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Clearly we were REALLY excited.  I don’t think either of us stopped beaming the entire time.  It was such a proud moment and so cool to share it with my mom.  This has been a goal of ours for a long time – surprising totally unrelated and independently established.

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The scariest part was when we realized the my bees had built a pretty good chunk of wonky comb in a the small extra space in their nuc box.  I just cut it out and rubber banded it into a frame without foundation.  It didn’t stay nice and pretty, but I trust my girls to clean it up and get it up and running again.  It was FULL of honey already!

We put 1:1 sugar water in the top supers using the plastic bag method – just a little slit in the bags to give the bees easy access without drowning.  They’ve been eating it up, but we’ve also seen so many bees come and go with full pollen packets that we’re not too worried about it at this point.

Once I download photos from my camera, I’ll be sure to get them up here right away with an update after we check the hive this weekend, hopefully with some great close ups of our girls.