Monday, November 13, 2017

Alaska (Part 2) + Video!

Okay, we've been back from Alaska for three months already and are just now getting around to sharing part 2 of our adventures. If you missed part 1, make sure to read it first! To catch you up, Nick and I visited Alaska to visit my best friend Bethany and her now-husband Scott for a long weekend. We're picking up right where we left off, so here we go!

Day 3

We woke up early on Saturday morning, excited for the biggest day of our trip thus far. Bethany and Scott had been dying to stay in the yurts in Shearwater Cove and we are beyond thrilled that we got to experience this with them!

Shearwater Cove is, well, a cove tucked into Resurrection Bay, about 10 miles from Seward. It literally looks like something out of a movie. It's only accessible by boat, so after waking up in our cabin we booked it down to the harbor to meet our hosts and hop in their water taxi to get us to the cove.

The boat ride itself was spectacular. In every direction you're surrounded by the most incredible tree-lined, rocky views. The water is the prettiest blue-green. We even saw an otter! In the trees off in the distance, our host pointed out the white heads of the bald eagle families that live there. Seriously - we could have stayed on that boat all day just absorbing the sheer beauty of it all.

Finally, we arrived in Shearwater Cove and checked out the yurt were calling home for a night. Nick and I have never stayed in a yurt before, but it was an awesome experience. It's like camping, but elevated. Our yurt had the comfiest bed ever, a futon, table and chairs, a stove, sink, etc. Outside of the yurt was our bathroom, which had a composting toilet and shower. It's cooler than it sounds. I give a little 'Cribs'-style tour of the yurt in our video below, so check that out if you want to see more.

After settling into the yurt and getting the lay of the land (and water) from our hosts, we hiked up the mountain trail for some incredible views. This was the toughest hike of the trip, so Nick and I held back about halfway up while Bethany and Scott went all the way to the very top. Regardless, the views in every direction were amazing.

It started to rain throughout the afternoon so we spent a few hours in the yurt cooking grilled cheese, playing Boggle, and skimming through the design books that were stocked for guests. In case you didn't know, Bethany and I both love Boggle and are both pretty great, so there was some stiff competition.

Once the rain cleared, we decided to hop in the kayaks and paddle our way around the bay to see the cove where a TON (I mean, a TON) of salmon go to lay their eggs at the base of this huge waterfall. This was insane and kind of disgusting, but awesome at the same time. I've never seen so many fish in my lifetime, or that closely. We were kayaking right through thousands of salmon, and practically stepping on them as we docked for photos. Salmon are pretty nasty up close - they have gross toothy mouths and so many of them were fighting to get upstream to breed, so they were biting chunks out of each other. It was crazy. In addition to the salmon, we also saw river otters walking up the mountains, lots of jellyfish, starfish along the rocks, and the goodest doggo named Annie.

We kayaked back to Shearwater Cove in the early evening and when we arrived at the dock, Nick and Scott decided they were going to jump in. The water was about 50 degrees and I'm not an insane person, so I happily stayed on the dock. It was a pretty epic way to end the day though. We cooked dinner together and hit the hay pretty early, ending what was our best day in Alaska yet. I'll let Nick take over for our final day...

Day 4
After an incredible, cozy night's sleep in our yurt, and some quick early morning coffee, we were back onto the boat headed toward Seward. The boat ride back was a lot more difficult than the boat ride out. We were headed straight into the north winds, and it made for a bit of a precarious (and extremely cold) journey. Nonetheless, we returned safe and sound (and hungry.) Time for breakfast.

We stopped by a little place right in Seward called Zudy's for a delicious hot breakfast and coffee before hitting the road out of town. Our next stop would be one of our last hikes/scenic experiences of the trip: Exit Glacier.

Of all the things we had experienced thus far on the trip, Exit Glacier was probably the most crowded and most touristy. The hike up to the glacier itself was fun, though pretty full of people, all doing what we were doing. Of course, the glacier itself was spectacular. It's so hard to get good photos of things that are so massive, capturing the scale of the scene is next to impossible, so a photo never does it justice. My favorite part of this place though was being able to walk out to the glacial river bed below the glacier itself. Here, we were able to hold glacier ice in our hands. Millions of years of history, melting away in our fingers. It was pretty wild.

Finally, we started the long ride back into Anchorage, with unforgettable views in every direction for the entire ride. If you ever find yourself in Anchorage, take the time to drive the scenic Seward Highway, it's so worth it.

Once back in Anchorage, we got it in our heads that we wanted to see a moose, so Scott dutifully sets off to the most likely stops and we spend a good hour or more driving around looking for some, but we come up short. With our last night in Alaska coming to an end, we didn't want to spend too much time in the car. We had a last meal to take care of, and one final view to take in.

After a quick stop back at Bethany and Scott's to freshen up and change for dinner, it was back into the city to hunt for a few gifts for family and friends at the Anchorage Market, and some incredible beer and food at 49th State Brewing. Unfortunately, now that 3 months have passed since this meal, I can't remember exactly what I had, but I do remember sharing this mac n' cheese with Sarah, and that it was fantastic, as was the beer.

Next, one last mountain was calling our name: Flat Top Mountain. This place affords the best views of the city and the bay. It was sort of our unspoken mission the entire trip to enjoy the best beers at the tops of the best mountains, so we stopped off to grab a couple of big beers to take with us up the mountain for a final toast to Alaska.

Flat Top Mountain was so gorgeous. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to Alaska. Again, scale is impossible to capture in a photo. There were mountains in the distance, identified by a plaque as volcanoes more than 130 miles away (::Gasp:: emoji). The beers on Flat Top Mountain were definitely the sweetest of trip, enjoyed in the most beautiful setting. We didn't take any photos on Flat Top, it was just for us to soak in and enjoy in the moment.

Back to Bethany and Scott's to pack up for the airport then BAM! A MOOSE. Got it. Saw one, (saw two actually) so now we can call the trip: complete.

We compiled Sarah's Instagram stories and other videos to put together this little video diary of our trip. It's a little long (10 ish minutes), but we hope you enjoy. Scott - The Lumineers accompaniment is for you.

Thank you again one million times to Bethany and Scott for being our gracious hosts and guides on this trip. We said it in our last post but we'll say it again - it was truly once in a lifetime and it wouldn't have been the same without them. Love you guys!

Sarah & Nick

Monday, November 6, 2017

#MeetTheMeowburgs: Getting Healthy

Photo by Bethany Barton
I was debating on whether or not to write this post. It's a little more personal than we usually go around here, so you may even think it's TMI. We've been sharing bits and pieces of preparing for our upcoming wedding, and our health has become a huge part of that, so ultimately I'm deciding to share. (It's pretty word heavy too, so buckle up.)

As of today, we are two months out from #MeetTheMeowburgs, which is practically no time at all, but enough to improve our overall health at least a little bit. I'm not talking just working out/losing weight, but other things that have been on the back-burner for far too long. Raise your hand if you're in your late 20s and struggle to make your health a priority... Nick and I both have hands raised, so maybe you do too.

But the thing is... getting married is a huge life event. Even if you take out the love and commitment part of it, it's likely the one time in our lives where we are going to be the center of attention for a full 24 hours. It's only going to happen once. The significance of it has made me stop and think, "Hey, you should really focus on taking care of yourself" more than anything else has in five years or longer.

So for starters, we're going to the dentist. I will shamefully admit that we haven't been in at least five years. We never found a dentist since moving to Pittsburgh. I KNOW that is stupid and irresponsible, but like I said... I'm a person in my late 20s that has struggled to make my health a priority. And I'm getting MARRIED like a real adult, so this is the time to go. I actually went recently and found out that I have two cavities and am going back today to have them filled. These are my first cavities EVER, so it sucks, but at the same time I can feel the teensiest bit of weight being lifted off my shoulders knowing that I'm getting this taken care of. Plus, now that I have a dentist, I will start going regularly.

We're also going to the eye doctor. We actually haven't been as bad about this (we both wear contacts/glasses) but we're overdue for new prescriptions and I actually want to see Nick clearly (and his sparkly clean teeth!) on our wedding day. So we're getting our eyes checked too, and likely new glasses/contacts to boot. And all it's taken is this one little major event to make me schedule some appointments!

So besides our eyes and teeth, I am talking about the other kind of getting healthy too: the losing weight, eating a clean diet, working out part. You'll hear people use the phrase "shredding for the wedding" when talking about getting in shape for their wedding day. I honestly hate that phrase, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't compelled to lose weight, tone up, get healthy, etc. Like I said, this day is only happening once and there are going to be photos on photos on photos to remember it by. I want to feel happy and confident with the way I look, and I don't want to feel any shame knowing that I could have tried harder to make changes.

Now, as we mentioned above, we realize that 8 weeks is not a lot of time to make such significant changes to ourselves, but it's not nothing. Earlier in the year we set some health goals, but as the year went on they faded. Now we just want to buckle down and be more consistent. These next 8 weeks aren't JUST about the wedding day, but also to hopefully establish some healthy routines and habits with which to start off our new married lives together. That is to say, the wedding is not the end goal, our continued health is.

I personally have never been very active or enjoyed working out. After college I got into a pretty steady gym routine and lost about 20 pounds of college weight, but when we moved to Pittsburgh, working out became nonexistent and the majority of the weight came back and has fluctuated over the past five years. Long story short, we bought a treadmill last year after I assured Nick that I would use one if we had it (isn't that what they all say?) but SURPRISE - I DO USE IT! Or at least I did, nearly every single morning for the first 7 months of 2017. Then we went to Alaska and I think that's where I left my motivation.

I actually really enjoy the treadmill (it's where I binge watch shows, read, or watch Insta stories), so I need to get back into it. I have a Fitbit that I monitor pretty religiously, but I work a sedentary job, so unless I make an effort to get an hour on the treadmill every day, I'll never hit my step goal. Nick, on the other hand, moves a lot while teaching and can generally hit his step goal during the work day. While hitting a step goal alone isn't exactly what most people would describe as "working out" it's a relatively small thing that makes a huge impact in my life when I'm sticking to it (more on that below.)

As far as food... I would describe our diet as "moderately healthy" on the weekdays and "eats like a monster" on the weekends. I really do think we eat more pizza than anyone I know. The cheese addiction is real (look it up) and we have next to no willpower. We usually plan and prepare healthy, plant-based meals every weeknight, but when Friday night rolls around, it's like our entire week's healthy eating has been demolished with a single order on GrubHub. We are certainly capable of giving up dairy (we did it once for a year) but haven't mustered the willpower to do it again, as much as we'd like to.

So while we're not setting goals of losing x amount of pounds, inches, etc. we are instituting the following health goals from now til wedding day:

1. No dairy (don't even LOOK at us, Pizza Fiesta!)
2. Hit our step goal every weekday
3. Try one new plant-based recipe every weekend (and cook it together!)
4. Stretch for ten minutes every day
6. Journal every day (in the past we've found that this helps us stay on track)

So now I want to hear from you! Was this post interesting to you? Do you want us to keep you updated on our goals? Do you want to be accountability partners? Are you interested in seeing the new recipes we try? I know this isn't a traditional Common Room post, but it's pretty much where our life is at right now so we wanted to keep you in the loop. We'd love your feedback, so let us know!

xo, Sarah (& Nick)