Summer Time

😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

I’ve discovered something.

Teachers are more excited about summer than the kids are.

Fact.

Or at least that’s been the case with me! I’m SO excited! Today is our last full day in Pilot Point. We’ll be flying out tomorrow, (it’s the bush so it’s almost obligatory to add: weather permitting) right after we send the kids home for their summer vacation!

Here are the things I’m most excited for in heading back to the lower 48:

  • Family! Famiiiiiiily! Faaaaaaaaaaaamily! Famillllllllllyyyy!!! No explanation necessary. It’s just good to be around people you love and who love you back.
  • Food. Things I want in my mouth as soon as possible include but are not limited to: ice cold lemonade, watermelon, this Our Best Bites Thai Peanut Salad and Dressing (I do it without the noodles), my mom’s spring rolls, my dad’s cheesy potatoes, and just about any Chinese food I can get my hands on.
  • Sunshine. Something like 5 weeks ago we started having days here where we were like “Spring’s going to be here soon!” Buuuuuuut that kinda never really happened. This weekend was we had 2 absolutely gorgeous days here in PIP. For the first time since getting here, I ran in a short sleeve tee! It was awesome! However, the weather is back to blustery cold where I felt chilly in even my winter coat. My skin is in need of some vitamin D and I plan on soaking up some serious rays, please and thank you.
  • Options. Truthfully, Ben and I aren’t the most happening people in the world, but we still appreciate availability! You know…running to the store when you’re out of an ingredient…or going to see a movie if you don’t have anything else to do…or going out to eat because you just don’t feel like cooking, darn it! All this equals delicious option-y music to my ears.

Everyone says that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m sure, after we leave, I’ll pinpoint a huge handful of things I miss about PIP. But right up front, here are things I know I’ll miss once we’re gone:

  • The nature-y-ness of the bush. Do you guys know that vibe you get in the morning during a camping trip? The one you get after rolling out of your sleeping bag and stepping out of your tent into nature? It’s so serene and fresh and birds are chirping in the background and it’s pretty much one of the best things ever? That’s what it’s like all the time in the bush! It’s kind of magical.
  • Not having to be wary of traffic while running. Everywhere else that I’ve lived, I’ve had to be hyper-diligent in watching out for cars while I’m running so as not to get smooshed. But out here…I basically don’t see anyone else while I’m out for a run. And on the off chance that I do cross paths with a vehicle, more likely than not it’s a 4 wheeler and takes up only a little bit more of the road than I do. It’s pretty sweet.
  • The small town kinda pace. I have some relatives who live in this teeny tiny town near Bryce Canyon National Park and I’ve always wondered how they live in a town that is so minuscule. But living out here totally makes me see the benefits. Especially because in the Lower 48, you can drive x amount of time and be back in civilization! I’m not saying I’m signing up for small town life from here on out. I’m just saying that I could rock a small town and I’d like it!
  • Time. I know I’ve complained about having too much of it….but it really has, for the most part, been a good balance. I work, get off by 4, and have plenty of time to do other stuff. It’s nice being able to get stuff done. It’s nice being able to not get stuff done (ha!). And I especially love all the time Ben and I get to spend with each other (and Jaeger Dog). For the record: I’m not sick of either of them!

So here we go! Utah (by way of Anchorage to Seattle to SLC) or bust!

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Same and Different: If The Browns do the Bush Again

Ben and I are coming very close to finishing our time out here in the bush! We aren’t coming back to teach next school year because Ben is going to grad school!

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My awesome husband. Always finding new adventures for us.

He’s been accepted to Northern Arizona University and will be working towards a Masters of Arts in Teaching Spanish (phew! It’s a mouthful!). Not only that, but he has also been awarded an assistantship-so he’ll actually be teaching lower division Spanish classes on campus- and that comes with a tuition waiver and a small stipend.

This is actually the third time Ben has applied for grad school and everything fell into place so perfectly that we knew we had found the right match. We are STOKED to move to Flagstaff at the end of the summer!

Anyhow, this time we have spent living in the bush we have learned A LOT! I don’t know if we’ll ever come to live in bush Alaska again, but if we do, here are some things I’d change up as well as things I’d do exactly the same.

***Keep in mind that this is my very first bush experience and that I’ve only been out here for 5 months, which in no way makes me an expert! Also, not all of these things work for every person/lifestyle-if you’re here for tips, be sure to cater to your own likes 👍.

SAME

Don’t Pack Your Favorite Clothes- When packing for the bush, I was totally ready to bring out some of my favorite business casual clothes to look semi-professional in the work place. Ben set me on the right track and I totally swapped and just brought out some nice-ish casual clothes and I’m so glad I made the change! The water out here reacts differently when washing clothing so I’m glad I didn’t bring anything I’m super attached to (although, I’m sure putting that shirt through a few cycles of regularly plumbed water will get it back into shape). Also, I’m totally planning on throwing/giving away a handful of the shirts I brought out, which will free up some space on our return trip.

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Pretty much all the clothes I packed out here (not pictured are under-things and running clothes). Five of these shirts are for sure not going to make it back to the lower 48. A couple of others I’m still debating on😉

Also, the truth is that people really do not give a crap about looks out here. Fashion isn’t really a thing. I’ve met one person here in PIP who was totally trendy and cute, but overall, you’ll look professional enough if you’ve got clean clothes. Promise.

Plan Food (including quantities)-When we got going on doing our online shopping a week or two before flying out, as well as shopping in Anchorage for freeze and fresh, I was SO glad (SO SO SO glad!) that I’m kind of a freak and over plan everything and make crazy lists. Yes, that’s me. And it was incredibly helpful to not have to sit and figure out how many bags of flour we should have shipped, because I had already done the math and figured it out.

Do Your Research (then do some more…)- There is quite a bit of information on living in the bush-just know that every village is different. And time (even a short amount of time) can really change things for the bush. 

Take Stuff to Do- As one might assume, the bush is not the most happening place you can live. Anyone who lives in the bush will find a whole new meaning to lazy weekends. At first I was like, “Wait…I don’t have work/deep cleaning/grocery shopping/other errands to attend to this weekend???” And I struggled. Then I kind of started loving it. Then I started hating it. It’s nice to lounge and sleep in…but at the same time you kinda wish you had something more going on. I did try to plan for the boredom (sewing, reading, blogging), but sometimes I did wish for a bit more variety.

Buy as Much as You Can Online- Pretty much anything we could buy online, we did. Anything from food to toiletries can just be bought online and shipped so that you can free up luggage space. I packed travel size toiletries and just knew that bigger versions would make it out to our house within a week or two of us arriving. We bought almost everything on Walmart.com because they do free shipping on orders over $50. I don’t love their packaging but their customer service really is super slick. If we let them know we hadn’t received something, they reshipped it within a day or two. Once I told them to just cancel an item and they refunded the money back into our account asap. We also bought stuff on Vitacost.com and their shipping to Alaska is a flat $9.95- but their packaging is so impressive that it’s absolutely worth it.

As Soon as You’re in the Bush, Start making a List for Your Next Online Purchase- And, well, this is pretty self explanatory. Just write down anything you realize you need and after your list gets big (in our case, when it was around $50 or more), we made an order. We made 3 big online orders while being out here (I think…) and stopped ordering things in early-mid April.

Budget for Extras- I’m totally a cheapskate, but I learned in China that sometimes it’s okay to spend money (imagine that!)! Sometimes you gotta spend some dough to get out of your routine, to try something new! It’s okay and it’s worth it. So. Go online and get yourself a new shirt, a new book, a new nail polish, anything to change things up.

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Ben and I love food…so when word got around that the store got a shipment of ice cream (ice cream, people!!!), you can bet your butt that we ran over there and got ourselves some Ben and Jerry’s even though one pint sized carton cost $8.50 😳😁 (that’s bush living for you, folks!). For the record: worth it.

DIFFERENT

Buy More Freeze Than You Think- Even with how crazy I was with planning our food, I did not foresee how much I wish we’d have stocked up on freezer foods. Pretty much, I miss fruits and veggies a lot. And while the frozen versions of these are not ideal, they are a far cry better than not having them. The diet out here in the bush is VERY meat and protein centered. When planning our meals, I basically just looked for options that would work with pantry staples (dry beans, rice and canned goods). Oh how I wish I’d incorporated more meals with less…protein! And for anyone who’s worried-Anchorage is very bush-life friendly. I think most hotels have large freezers for guests to store food in until they fly out. And the bigger bush airlines will also be able to keep frozen things frozen en route.

Buy Quick/Fun Dinner Options- Obviously, since lots of our meals are centered on beans and/or brown rice, we didn’t plan for many quick dinner options. But there are plenty occasions where we wish we had more of those. I mean, we could always make a quick tuna sandwich or bean burrito, but options are scarce out in the bush…unless you make them not scarce (?…Ha! Hopefully that makes sense). Also, we’ve hit occasional cravings for like Panda Express or Fiesta Ole (okay, that one’s just me…) and it would’ve been nice if I could’ve been like “Oh hey, remember, I bought some Kung Pao Chicken and Crab Rangoons at Costco!” And it will not be the same but it will be something🙂.

Buy Some Drink Mixes- Ha! This one’s totally probably just me…but the water out here…is…not the best…I mean, when it’s filtered it really isn’t bad. But I sometimes get sick of drinking it, which is saying something because I’ve always been a die-hard water lover. I wish I’d have brought or ordered some True Lemon drink mixes (yum and yum). But I didn’t and so I’ve been drinking lots more of what I did think to bring/what the last teacher who lived here left behind: tea, more tea, and suddenly Airborne is a drink of choice (whaaaa???…yeah…I know).

Take Some Movies- Ben and I are not big movie people. Even so, there were some weekends we were just like, “Man, I wish we had something to watch!” We downloaded a few times and then the Internet turned to crap… 

Wait till You’re in the Bush to Buy Anything You’re Not Totally Sure You’ll Need- There were about five billion things I was ready to have shipped out to PIP (kitchen supplies, bedding, bathroom supplies), but Ben encouraged me to wait on most of it. I partly listened and partly didn’t. But I wish I had. Turns out most the stuff I was certain we needed, we totally didn’t. And anything we did need could’ve waited a few weeks after buying it online. Plus, if you wait, you’ll have a better idea for exactly what you need.

Think About the Seasons– I felt certain that I needed some leather/rubber duck boots for coming out here and Ben kept telling me to just get some Wellies (except, let’s be real-the man didn’t call them Wellies-he just called them rubber boots) and I stupidly  did not listen to him. When I got out here I realized that I’d only be out here for a little bit of winter (and winters in PIP are very mild compared to lots of other places in Alaska) and the boots I had chosen would soon be waaaaay too hot to wear regularly. Bad call, Kim. Truthfully, I should’ve followed the above suggestion and just ordered something when we got out here. Think all weather and think layers.

 

As usual, I’ve gone on for much longer than I intended…and I kept thinking of things to add to the list! Ha! But hopefully this’ll help out anyone who’s bush-bound (ourselves included…possibly…although probably not for at least 2 to 4 years…hello, grad school!) in the future!

 

Our House Here in the Bush

Here’s a tour of our house for anyone who’s curious!

Now, I think it used to be a thing in the bush that teachers didn’t have to pay for their housing. And that’s not really the case any more…at least not anywhere I’ve seen. We do pay rent, but it’s a pretty good deal and we don’t have to pay utilities (which is good because it seems our thermostat doesn’t really respond…).

There are three places for teachers to live here in PIP.

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The biggest building in the above picture is the school. The building directly in front of the school has 2 apartments. One is a 2 bedroom (which I’ve never seen inside), and the other is a teeny one bedroom (that’s where Ben lived when he was out here before Christmas!). The one bedroom is mostly just used for people visiting from the school district (i.e. The principal, maintenance workers, tech people, etc.). We live in the house to the right.

Our house is a four bedroom/2 bathroom. Ben and I seem to have a tendency to live in places that are much bigger than our needs and we’ve become very good at spreading out (ha!). This particular house used to be a duplex but some time ago they morphed it into one unit…but the duplex roots are pretty obvious in the layout of the house.

The very first room you walk into is a mud room of sorts with a coat rack, dresser and a big stand-up freezer. I opted not to take a picture of that room because Ben is currently drying his pelts from trapping and I know not everyone is down with checking out crusty fox flesh…so just imagine it best you can and then we’ll walk in the front door…

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And right when you walk in, you can pretty much see the whole house. To the left is the family/living room. With a lovely, chunky, old tv! We’ve used it like…twice!

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Two of the bedrooms are on this side of the house. When we first moved in, we claimed this bedroom as the one to sleep in (only two of the bedrooms have full sized beds and one bedroom has a twin). So we unpacked all of our stuff here. But after like 2 weeks of this room we swapped to the room on the other side of the house. The house is very unevenly heated and in this bedroom we roasted! The other bedroom has been much less sweat-inducing!

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Here’s the smaller bathroom.

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And this is the last bedroom that has no bed. We put food storage here and then I shamelessly claimed the rest of the room for sewing.

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Here’s our laundry room.

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Now going back to the front door, this is what you see if you look to the right. I hope everyone who’s reading this has a Benjamin to make them pancakes for breakfast and a Jack Russel to sniff their trash!

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Straight ahead we’ve got bathroom #2! Wait a second…that doesn’t really sound right…the bigger bathroom! Is that better?

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And here’s the kitchen. Now, our house came fully furnished and stocked with necessary cooking equipment, dishes and utensils. However, nowhere in this kitchen is there an electric pressure cooker, a KitchenAid, a Ninja blender or a mom-sewn apron. I told Ben that when we get back to Idaho, I’m going to pull out all my favorite kitchen gear, plop it into bed by me, and snuggle it all night long because I’ve missed it so. Yes, I’m spoiled rotten…

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This is the bedroom we sleep in! And goodness gracious have I been grateful for those darker curtains! It hasn’t been getting totally dark until after 11! I pretty much never want to go to sleep since it’s so light outside.

There is another bedroom on this side of the house that has a twin size bed…but it’s filled with empty boxes right now and looks disgraceful, so y’all will just have to imagine that too.

So that’s our place! Not super exciting…but we like it! It’s been very comfortable for us!

La Passacaglia: My Sewing Project

La Passacaglia (la pass-uh-cal-yuh). A.k.a. My sewing project. A.k.a. My sewing project that just might take me 10 years to complete.

But I’m loving it!

Truthfully🙂

**Long Post Warning: scroll through if you just want to see the pics:)

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I first saw the La Passacaglia quilt on Pinterest and I totally fell in love 😍. Seriously! My mom is a master quilter and an incredible seamstress so when I saw it, I immediately called her up and had her look it up online. We oohed and aaahed over it. It was obvious it was going to be a difficult project as well as kind of expensive and very time consuming, so I bookmarked it to do “someday.”

Lucky for me, a good start for the project came up sooner rather than later. When we signed on for the bush, I knew that I’d have some extra time to fill. Ben and I spent 4 months teaching in China and the hardest part for me during that experience was filling all the extra time we had. I wasn’t prepared and hadn’t taken many projects to work on or things to do and I really struggled with boredom.

Lesson learned. I packed pretty light this time around and dedicated half of my suitcase to sewing stuff.

La Passa (that’s what I’m going to call it, because it’s easier to type) is quite a project. It is from a book called Millefiori Quilts by Dutch quilter Willyne Hammerstein. The projects in her book are gorgeous…and they all use a method called English Paper Piecing-everything is done by hand!

Since this is such an intensive project, I knew I needed a plan of action!

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I started by choosing a color palette. The first picture in the post is Hammerstein’s original La Passa. The La Passa (I know I’m saying the the) I fell in love with on Pinterest had brighter colors, which is more my style.

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The quilt is made of 5 different shapes. The metal cutouts in the middle of the above picture weren’t totally necessary but I saw someone selling them on Etsy and I thought it’d be a good idea to have them (I use the inside to trace paper and the outside-for seam allowance-to trace the fabric I cut). Lucky for me, my brother has a metal cutting machine and was willing to cut them out for me (it turned into like a 3hour project as he tried to get the dimensions right. Thanks, Eric! I still owe you one…). My mom and I copied all the shapes onto card stock and my mom’s fancy Cut and Sew/Cricut type machine cut out all the big hexagon papers. Unfortunately, it jammed with the smaller ones, so I’ve just been cutting those out by hand. But the machine still saved me a TON of time! (You can purchase all the paper pieces for the project but it’s more than $100 and I just chose the cheaper albeit more time intensive route).

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I enlisted the help of my mom and sisters in choosing a big selection of fabric. I just got 1/4 yard of how ever many fabrics are up there. When I finish the project, I’ll let you know if this was a good call or not. I think the ladies at the cutting counter kind of hated me 😁…

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So… The process! This isn’t meant to be a tutorial or anything-it’s just meant to give an idea of the process for anyone who’s not familiar with English Paper Piecing. First (following the pattern), I choose a fabric and trace my metal shape on the back side (again, on the outside of the shape to give room for seam allowance). And then I cut my shapes out.

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Then I put a card stock shape on the back side of the fabric and finger press around the edges. I use a basting stitch to secure the fabric around the shape. You can see in the background an already basted shape-when the shapes are all sewn together, the basting stitch is taken out and the card stock is removed…so, you know, the finished product won’t have random ugly thread and crunchy paper pieces throughout😉.

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Then the pieces are placed right sides together and I stitch them up as best I can. The process requires a lot of snipping and knotting thread-much like embroidery-but it will make for a more secure top when it’s finished.

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Many can attest that I have some OCD tendencies (like, I can’t stop playing the piano in the middle of a song-it must be finished!). I love that on the La Passa, each row is kind of like a miniature finish. And each rosette is too! It makes this very long process feel like it has a pace and is moving along.

 

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Here’s a close up where you can see that I’m not the best seamstress (hello, very obvious stitches!) but I’m coming along (hello, seams that look almost stitchless:)!

And now, some of the finished rosettes (yes, I’ve been in the bush 15 weeks and I only have 3 rosettes to show for it)!

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Small gray for a neutral.

 

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Yellow. Lots of people who make the La Passa go ga-ga over fussy cutting (cutting a specific pattern out of each fabric) and make it look super cool. I have not found my fussy cutting niche but you can see my attempts in the middle of this rosette.

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And the huge purple one! The quilt consists of 4 large rosettes and let me just say that this one took forever for me to finish! It’s about 2 feet across and each row just took more and more time. But I do love how it turned out.

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This is not how I’ll arrange them in the finished quilt, but I just thought you guys might want an idea of how all the rosettes are pieced together.

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And a close up of where the rosettes meet.

In the introduction of her book, Hammerstein talks about how she finds no joy in rushing through a project just to complete it-she enjoys every step of the process. I really loved this. When it comes to sewing, I always think, “Okay, I’m going to finish this today!” And then when it takes longer than I anticipate, I get frustrated and quit. With hand sewing, I’ve found that I enjoy the process more and am not just antsy to see the finished product. I think it’s because I know right from the start that it’s going to take me a long time to finish and I’m able to just take it one piece at a time.

I’m not saying I’m giving up my sewing machine, but I totally love the English Paper Piecing!

Now when I finish 3 more rosettes in about a year, I’ll post some more pictures 😉.

A Day in the Life…

I’ve been meaning to do a day in the life post for quite awhile now but I never remember to take pictures during the day! I fail. So finally I decided to just do it with the pictures I do have. As a result, it’s definitely a mod-podge of days, but you get the point!

A few things to know before diving in: the post is a wee bit long…and also, most of the pictures were taken on my older iPhone, whose camera is just so-so. Consider yourselves warned.

Here’s what a day in Pilot Point looks like🙂

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This is our morning walk to work. We are expected to arrive at 8, so we leave at about 8. It works out very well! When we first arrived in PIP, the sun wouldn’t come up until about 10am. This picture was taken a few weeks ago, but already the sun is almost up when we head to work (and doesn’t set until close to 10!).

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A couple weeks ago, we had a special guest visit us at PIP. He came from the Alaska Sea Life Center and he brought some really sweet presentations for the kids. This is not a regular occurrence out here and we totally loved it! Above, you can see one of the kids disecting a squid! And below…

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The kids literally got to write a message with the squid’s ink! And that weird plastic looking pen? It also came straight out of the squid! It was totally wild and verrrry interesting. The kids loved it! (I did too!).

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Normally, in the mornings I’m in the younger class. Our school has 11 students and 2 teachers, one of which is Ben. I am an aide in the classroom, so I’m mostly there to be an extra hand where/when needed, especially if some of the kids need one-on-one help. First we have reading and writing. The teacher for the younger kids is really good at incorporating cultural projects into her lesson plans. Above, the kids made masks and wrote legends. They presented their legends to the class, complete with a little skit or interpretive dance of their legend.

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At 10:15 the kids have a break for snack, which is usually some combination of fruit, veggies, crackers, cheese or peanut butter, and, if the kids are lucky, pudding. At 10:30 we start math. When Ben first came to PIP, he really thought that the small group would be easy-but just imagine Ben’s math class. He has 9 students in the class but there are 4 different levels he has to teach. That means that he has 4 different stations he has to manage and create lesson plans for…and that’s just math! It definitely can get a little crazy. I help him out during math with the younger kids, and we also have another aide, a member of the community, who comes in at the start of math and stays through the rest of the day, so that helps to make sure everyone is getting the help they need.

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We have lunch at noon and that is something I never remember to take a picture of! Today we had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Yesterday was potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, pears and a green salad. Just to give you an idea. The food is good and it’s always nice to have a break from what we cook at home! Anyway…

Above! We see foxes all the time! That little guy was just hanging out during Ben’s social studies lesson. Our first two months out here, Ben was always taking the trash out and coming back saying, “I just saw a fox out by the playground braggy, brag, brag!” I thought I’d never see one! But since the weather has turned more spingish, we see fox (and other critters) everywhere! In fact, last week Jaeger chased a fox down the beach during my run. And, long story short, there were several times where I was only  about 2 feet away from the little guy! Foxes are beautiful! And everywhere out here!

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The afternoons are a little less regular for me, just depending on what the other teachers need help with. I always “teach” PE at 1:30 (because those who can’t teach, teach PE). And sometimes I’ll help more in the classroom (reading, writing, science or art usually), grade papers or organize materials. And if there is not a lot of help needed elsewhere, I work in the library! For how small the school is, I would say the library is very decent and maybe even impressive. Above is the little kids section.

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Above left is young adult fiction, and to the right is non-fiction. I’ve been organizing and labeling new books. I also lexile the books-which is basically just putting a sticker on them to say what level the book is.

imageAfter school I go running! Usually on the beach. If I’m lucky, Ben will come out and meet me and we’ll walk home together. We eat dinner after. Tonight we ate burritos and peach drink (a concoction Ben’s dad made up of frozen peaches, milk and nutmeg-it’s delicious).

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After that I shower. The water out here has high levels of iron in it…and does not taste very good…So we distill all of the water that we drink or cook with using the above filter. It takes about 4 hours to fill the pitcher on the right with distilled water. We try to remember to turn that baby on every night and sometimes more often. Since I have light colored hair and little desire to be a red head, I wash my hair using the distilled water. Ben’s motto is dark hair, don’t care. Which makes me a little bit jealous.

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The above picture is in no way, shape or form meant to be an indicator of what kind of house cleaner I am. It’s just meant to show that I was not joking about the red hair! Our tubs, sinks, toilets and washer are stained a reddish color from the water. Just check out that shower head!

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And the rest of the evening is spent doing whatever. I’ll either read (the above picture is the stack I’ve read so far out here) or…

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Sew! it’s very glamorous, I know! 💁 The headlamp is so I don’t go blind, and the headphones are so I can listen to the Chronicles of Narnia while I stitch (I have a post coming soon on my sewing project).

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Anyhow, as I’m finishing this post it is 9pm and I ran outside to snap this pic, just so you can all see that I technically should start getting ready for bed soon…but the sunshine kind of makes it hard. And it’s just going to keep getting worse…but that is what a regular ol’ day looks like out here in bush Alaska!

Oh, Alaska

Our little corner of Alaska has been very busy this last week…more specifically the earth in this little corner!

On Monday or Tuesday this last week, I went out for my run to the beach. Right after I hit my turn around point, a very thick ocean mist started rolling in off the sea. Not long after I got home, the mist had completely enveloped Pilot Point in a thick fog.

The next day we found out that it wasn’t just an ocean mist, but that the volcano Pavlof had erupted over the weekend and we were getting remnants of the ash!

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Picture found here.

It was pretty wild. We didn’t see much more ash in the sky, but today on the beach we noticed there’s quite a bit of charcoal-like rocks that must have washed up. Pavlof is farther down on the chain (south west) about 200 miles. It’s crazy to me that it made it this far! But, you know, I’m not really well versed in volcano eruptions…

Aaaaaaand then…

Last night we felt an earthquake! Ben and I were just lounging and reading and the house started shaking. It truthfully wasn’t that bad but I was terrified! I am so grateful for Ben- he stayed level headed and just said, “Well, let’s get outside in case it gets worse.” When we got onto our porch, we paused and I couldn’t tell if the ground was still shaking or not because my legs were shaking so bad! Ha! As far as I could tell, it only lasted about 10 or 15 seconds. You can read more about it here. Alaska, like many other coastal places, has earthquakes fairly often, and one source I found said that there have been over 9,000 earthquakes in Alaska just this year! Alaska is pretty ginormous and all the earthquakes had varying magnitudes, but still very crazy!

Random psychology fact: in one of my college classes we learned about human responses to disasters and crises. In movies, responses to disasters are always portrayed with people running around screaming. In reality, only about 15% of people respond this way. 70% of people will just stay where they are, frozen with fear or just not knowing what they should do. The last 15% are the ones that will actually respond in an effective way.

Apparently, I’m incredibly average. Luckily my husband is a doer and has my back🙂

Running in the Bush

First, I really ought to apologize for hardly ever posting…internet here has been 👎-totally awful. Like a couple weeks ago, we had a couple days off so Ben and I decided to rent a movie online. It took two and a half days…DAYS!!!…to download. Our days off were definitely over by that point so we just saved the movie for the weekend, but yeesh! Hence the hardly posting- I just don’t always have the patience.

Anyhoo…

I love running! That’s not really news. I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this knows. But running in the bush is a little different than what I’ve gotten used to over the years:).

When Ben signed the contract to stay on for the year, one of my first questions was, “Will I feel safe running in Pilot Point?”

To which Ben promptly replied, “Oh, yeah!”

As you consider his answer you’ll want to remember two very important things about my husband:

#1: My husband is not a runner. And

#2: My husband is not a girl.

My first ever run here in PIP was on a Monday morning around 6:30am. We’d been in town less than 24 hours and we had walked the 2 mile loop that goes around, but I was seeing everything for the very first time and not really committing stuff to memory.

And 6:30am is rather dark. Like pitch black. And all I knew about Alaska was that there are lots of wild animals-big ones! Did I mention it was pitch black???

I did have my headlamp with me, but as I swept it from side to side, I imagined bears and wolves hiding in the bushes ready to pounce. Yes, I’m ridiculous. But I was freaked out! I also got kind of turned around (I’ll say it again-so dark!) and ended up going a ways on one of PIP’s very few side roads, which I didn’t remember at all (cause I’d never been on it). Luckily, it had snowed so I just turned around and followed my prints back home.

Never to run again.

Just kidding! For a couple of days I begged Ben to come with me. And he totally did! Like twice. But by the third morning he only got out of bed because I suggested he drive the truck alongside me instead of actually running (the school has a truck for the teachers to use for getting mail and groceries and stuff).

After those few days the guilt of changing Ben’s sleeping schedule got to me…and probably the hassle of trying to pry Ben out of bed…and I just decided to change the time I went running.

So now I go in the afternoons around 4. It’s different and I think I still love running in the morning better but I am just glad that I’m able to go at all! Lots of other bush locations would be too cold and snowy so I’m glad to be here in Pilot Point!

It’s totally 100% light outside when I go, so I don’t feel like I’m going to be eaten, which is nice.

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Most of the time I run on the beach. It’s so gorgeous. Some days I think about switching it up and maybe running the loop instead or one of the other trails, but I know that when we go back to the lower 48 I’ll miss the beach, so I’ve been trying to fill up🙂.

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Jaeger has been my running buddy and lots of the times Ben will walk down and meet us. Jaeger loves the freedom of Alaska. He’s at one with nature here😉

When we packed up our bags to move out here, I clearly remember Ben telling me not to bring a specific running jacket (he denies this). It’s worked out for me, though, because I just ended up buying a lightweight windbreaker (it doesn’t usually get super cold here, but the wind can be totally terrible!) and it’s been the best thing ever!

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There’s my one and only running selfie with my kick-A jacket (seriously, I love it!).

Running in the bush is totally crazy. Nine days out of 10 I don’t see another soul while I’m out running (Ben not included). It’s totally peaceful and quiet. It’s going to be weird going back to the states and actually having to watch out for cars!  I wish every runner could experience a day of running here in PIP! It really is super wonderful (as long as you’re not running when it’s totally pitch black scariness outside:)!

The Browns go to Church

One thing that is very unique about bush life is how we attend church. When we first looked into coming out here, this was a main concern. Church attendance is a huge priority for us and we knew we couldn’t/wouldn’t live in the bush without access to church!

Luckily, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints loves all its members and wants everyone to be able to attend church! It’s just in a very non-traditional way.

So…how we attend church…

Drum roll, please…

………..

………..

Is in our very own home!

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On our verykool phone!

There is only one cell company that gets service in Bush Alaska, so when we came out, we got ourselves one of these bad boys! It has the best kind of texting–where you have to press the 7 key FOUR times to get an ‘S.’ Takes me right back to 2004! Needless to say, we don’t use that guy very much🙂 but we sure are glad we have it on Sundays!

Anyhow, back to church…

Ben’s pretty lucky, because when he came out the first time, he was in Anchorage over  a Sunday, so he’s seen the bush branch operation on both ends.

The Branch President lives in Anchorage and he has a small office in one of the stake centers there. He meets there every Sunday with his wife and anyone who might be traveling and in town for the weekend.

Everyone meets up on a conference call line (via phone) that requires a passcode.

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Jaeger dog loves being able to attend church for once.

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Especially the extra snoozing time…(yes…he’s an absolute fluff ball right now…)

Priesthood meeting is first. Ben calls in for that at 9. It usually ends a little early and they’ll just play some interlude music while they wait until 10 for sacrament meeting to start-and for everyone to join (you know…by calling in). The Branch President is able to see all the numbers that call in, but he doesn’t know how many people are calling in at each number. Since they can’t take attendance visually, we do roll call! President goes down the list of members and calls names and members will say, “We’ve got 5 here in Igiagig!” And when president says, “Do we have the Brown family?” Ben hops on and says, “Two here in Pilot Point!” He’ll also ask if there are any visitors and lots of the time-there are! When Ben was here without me, I would call in so that we could “go to church together.” It was magical😉

During all of church, you are supposed to have your phone on mute because if your dog is barking or if your kids are fighting…everyone can hear you, which can be pretty fun. But during the sacrament they turn the conference call to silent mode-so nobody can be heard.

Worthy priesthood holders can be authorized by the Branch President to administer the emblems of the sacrament to themselves and their family. I’m so grateful that Ben has been authorized to do this each week! The conference call is switched out of silent mode and then they have speakers, just like regular.

A couple weeks ago, Ben and I had to opportunity to give talks!

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That’s my cute husband while he gave his excellent talk^

It was WEIRD giving talks on the phone! I practiced my talk with my phone up to my ear and I was so nervous! Luckily, it wasn’t so bad when I actually gave the talk, but it was still a different experience…you have no way of knowing how the members are responding! And since everyone’s phone is on mute, any jokes you make are responded to with crickets! Ha-it was fun! But I guess a pretty sweet part was that my Mom and sister Leslie were able to join the call and listen to our talks-all the way down in Utah!

After Sacrament meeting, they split lines. Kids and anyone called to help in Primary join a conference call on a different line. Sunday School stays on the main line.  It’s very much like regular church-there’s a teacher and the teacher expects participation. My first time attending the Sunday School via phone, I was really apprehensive during pauses in the conversations. They seemed long and a little more uncomfortable since I couldn’t see if someone was getting ready to respond or if the teacher was preparing something. The vibe in the Bush Branch is definitely more lax and I think I’m getting used to it.

Relief Society is last, so Ben leaves at this point. They do roll call again and have a regular lesson-teacher led discussion. And that’s that! They end with a prayer and a “have a good week, sisters!” And we all hang up!

Church for me is about 30 minutes shorter than the normal 3 hour block. The branch covers all of rural Alaska. When you call in, it will say how many other lines are called in and there are usually around 30-40 other callers (although, like I said, some lines have one person and some lines have 5 people). We do dress up for church, although I admit that I don’t dress quite as nicely…I only brought 1 dress and 1 skirt, so I don’t have much variety. And…since I’m not seeing anyone…I usually go without make-up! Ha! Cause I’m lazy🙂

It’s definitely a different experience, but I am so grateful that we have access to the Church even way out here where we are the only members (and as far as I can tell, the only people who are religious). When Ben and I lived in China, we skyped into church…and just for comparison sake-I like calling in better. The connection is much more reliable!  We love Sundays!

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Fiber Faves

As I mentioned in another post, we don’t have a ton of access for getting fresh produce here in Bush Alaska.

There certainly are options. For example, the local store here gets some of the sturdier fruits and vegetables (think potatoes and onions) every once in awhile. Also, word on the street is that if you contact one of the ladies who works for Lake Clark Air, she’ll go to Costco for you and have your items shipped out that day or the day after (it’s very expensive to do this…and we haven’t gotten desperate enough yet…but the day just might come;).

Also, the school always has freshness for snack and lunch time, so we really aren’t going totally without.

However, I try to cook with as much fiber as possible, and I don’t think I need to tell y’all why😉

First off, I try to use whole grain and unprocessed ingredients. So I use whole wheat flour, brown rice, stuff like that. And I also try to incorporate beans and lentils into as much stuff as I can (random side note-I found this recipe on Pinterest for lentil bolognese. It made for a totally delicious chunky pasta sauce-you hardly notice the lentils at all. Why didn’t I think of that?). Also, herbs aiding in digestion have become my good friends.

And then I’ve found some totally awesome fiber filled products that I love to use-especially here in the Bush!

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In no specific order…

Papa Pita’s Thinwich: Ben bought these when he first came out to the Bush because they had less of a chance of getting squished in transit than a loaf of bread-but man, am I glad he found these! They’ve got 5 grams of fiber and they taste super good. They make great hamburger buns too!

Ole Xtreme Wellness! Spinach & Herbs Tortilla Wraps: These guys aren’t messing around-they’ve got 9 grams (nine!) of fiber per wrap! The flavor is subtle so you can pair them with pretty much anything. They do have a bit of a grainy texture, but you get used to it and we love them. (Thanks, Heather for introducing us;)

Craisins (Reduced Sugar): I think deep down I’ve always known I was a snacker, but being here in the Bush has made me hyper-aware of it. I snack. A lot. Regular Craisins have a good amount of fiber, but if you get the reduced sugar Craisins, somehow the fiber skyrockets up to 10 grams per serving, which is pretty wild. Craisins. Yum.

Justin’s Peanut Butter: Soooooo…I’m all about being cost effective and I would never buy individually portioned things when you can just buy a big ol’ jar and get a waaaay better deal. However, I buy a lot of stuff through vitacost.com and you can get free shipping if you spend $50 or more. I don’t order very often, so when I do order, getting to $50 isn’t normally a problem. But one time I was a couple dollars short so I threw in some of the individual serving Justin’s Peanut Butter and unfortunately, they got me hooked! It’s natural peanut butter so it’s not sweetened or anything, but it’s totally delicious. I love apples and peanut butter as a snack and it has the perfect amount for the combo. Plus it’s clean! And it has 4 grams of fiber in one packet (which is like double other natural peanut butters). So basically, win-win. Hide all the Justin’s packets for myself.

Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze: I definitely use chia seeds out here (in yogurt and oatmeal and, if I’m feeling wild, baked goods too). But the Mamma Chia Squeezes are unique in and of themselves and we’re in love! It’s basically a fruit juice that’s packed with chia seeds, fruits and flavor (4 grams of fiber each). They kind of make you feel like a kid cause you’re squeezing juice out of a pouch, but, gosh, they’re yummy! We’ve tried lots of the flavors and we like them all, but Blackberry Bliss is our favorite! Also, Wal-Mart (and probably other places) carries Mamma Chia in a glass bottled version that’s a bit less thick and Ben prefers those ones. But I think they’re all good.

 

Anyone have any favorites I need to try out?

 

It’s probably a sad story that I get so darn excited about fiber…oh well!