Seward, Alaska & The Kenai Fjords National Park

On March 30, 1867, the United States reached an agreement to purchase Alaska from Russia for a price of $7.2 million. The Treaty with Russia was negotiated and signed by Secretary of State William Seward and Russian Minister to the United States Edouard de Stoeckl. Today the price would be $140,647,621.62

What are fjords and how were they formed? “The fjords were formed by the giant glacier tongues that through several ice ages have shaped the landscape. A fjord is thus a U-shaped undersea valley, and on the west coast, this valley is often surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. At the edge of the Kenai Peninsula lies a land where the ice age lingers. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords’ crowning feature. Wildlife thrives in icy waters and lush forests around this vast expanse of ice. “

Last month I took a beautiful trip to Seward, Alaska. Each morning at 7:30 am we would board our boat and head out into the wild blue yonder, sort of. The mornings were cool and crisp, covered by a light, beautiful fog. By noon time the fog had burnt off and we were basking in the Alaskan sun. This trip was marketed as a wildlife photography tour, but the landscapes of Alaska were a gimme. Most of you know I have a hard time with scenery, I was completely out of my comfort zone.

Our Captain knew just where to take us. Above is a bird sanctuary where thousands of birds congregate. There is an abundance of Black Legged Kittiwake. These birds are a member of the gull family, much like our seagulls that soar our parking lots … only smaller. Another popular bird that is nestled in the rocks are the Puffins. Puffins are smaller birds also,  they can flap their wings up to 400 beats per minute, reaching speeds of 55 mph. Photographing those little devils was no easy feat …

A Tufted Puffin

No, I did not photograph the top two in the wild, I caught those birds at the Wildlife Center. There was no escaping my lens there… is that cheating? Yes, but that’s OK! I did, however, manage to get a live shot of a Puffin skipping away on Ressurection Bay. The bay is a fjord on the Kenai Peninsula.

There was an abundance of sea life everywhere. Seals, sea lions, sea otters, Orcas and Humpbacks. The blubber land and sea mammals were an easy target, the whales, not so much.

As the morning slipped away, so did the fog. The beautiful blue skies of Alaska were stunning, the weather was perfect, and God is good!

This is a glacier
another view of the same glacier

The killer whales, the Orcas, were everywhere. Our last day on the boat we must have come across 40 different pods. You would hear them blow, ready, aim, fire ….. Well, not so fast. By the time I was in position there was only a fin to shoot. I have many fin shots, but here a a few others that made my day.

an Orca and her calf

Halibut and Salmon are synonymous with Alaska. We saw a halibut that weighed in at 141pds. That fish is not a pretty site, but the taste is delicious!

Halibut

That’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed my trip …. Would I go back? You bet I would!

Scottish Highland Cows

It all started in a conversation between Owen and Ahna, two of our family members at Big Bills.

“Do you think Michelle would like to photograph our cows?”

Heck yes! A date was set and I showed up! Before I begin I’d like to give you some background on this breed.

“Aptly named, Scottish Highland cows originated from Scotland and were commonly seen in the Highland region.

This area was known for harsher weather and other conditions where the cattle had to adapt quickly. That caused the region to be hard to survive in, so only the strongest of the bunch survived. There were originally multiple variations of this cattle, and because of this the breed has many unique characteristics.”

“The genetic makeup of the Scottish Highland breed is tough and has become even stronger over time. They have evolved to deal with tougher conditions and to fight off sickness.

Susanna, Ahna’s mother who gave me the Queens tour, is fearless. These cows are her pets, her babies. I followed her over the fence and into the pen. There I was, in the midst of these large docile animals and no further away than an arms length, and at times a body.

This breed of cattle tends to be very friendly with people, they are well behaved and like to have your attention. An exception to this is when they feel that their young are in danger. If that is the case beware. Highlanders are very smart animals and can actually be trained in many ways that other breeds do not have the capacity for. Though they possess horns, they tend to be very easy to work with.

This bull was in the pen with us also. He stayed a distance away, but always had his eyes on me (I think). You can distinguish a bull by the shape of their horns which suggest masculinity and strength.

Their horns are level with the ground and curve slightly forward. They may rise slightly towards the tip but nothing more.

The female Highlanders horns suggest majesty and femininity. They are narrower at the base than those of the bull, longer and finer at the tip, and should always rise after exiting the head.

The bull usually weighs in around 1,800 pounds, and the cow is close to 1,100 pounds when fully matured.

What are these cows raised for? I’ll let google tell you:

“The cattle beef has a marbled effect that makes it unique. It also has a savory flavor that is distinct from other beef dishes and is lower in cholesterol. Use it in stews with potatoes, peas, and carrots during the winter for a hearty meal.

You can also brown the meat and serve it as a main dish, stir fry it with vegetables, or fry it and serve with cheesy potatoes or mac n’ cheese for a special occasion. There are many other ways to cook and eat their meat, and they have recipes made specifically for cooking and serving it.”

Milk is another choice:

Highland Scottish cows produce up to two gallons of milk each day. People don’t typically raise them solely for their milk producing capabilities as production cows produce more milk.

However, one Highland cow will produce more than enough milk for a family. Their milk has a high butterfat content which can be used for drinking, baking, and cooking. For instance, the butterfat from the fresh milk will help make your stews thick and filling.

Not only were there Highlanders on this farm, I petted a Turkey, I petted a chicken, I rubbed noses with a horse and had it not been a chilly morning, I could have taken a dip in their crystal clear pond!

Thank you Susanna for a very fun morning!

INTRODUCING ……

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Mr. and Mrs. Ward

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Kevin and Lizzie Ward

June 20, 2020

Springtime, from my lens to yours …

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Other than the colors of Spring being spectacular I have never been a fan. Why you ask?

 Well, I like to say that Spring is our coldest season … and it is.  In the Winter time one dresses for the weather, but in the Spring season the temperatures can range from hot to down right cold  … and my coats are no where to be found.

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But this year is different. This year I have enjoyed every day, rain or shine, snow or sleet. I have become one with nature, another silver lining in this bizarre and peculiar time.

  With this virus controlled economy, and the state of being, I have had more time on my hands than necessary.

The upside? I have been out and about.  Fortunately, I live in a small community that has allowed its citizens to enjoy Gods ‘green’ earth.

Spring is the season of new beginnings, the buds are in bloom, critters are out and about, and the earth seems to rejoice once again.  However, if you blink you will miss it.

This is where I come in …

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How fortunate am I to have enjoyed, and loving, every minute I can of this cold, yet exquisite time of year.

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I am optimistic about life today.

This beauty, this metaphor,

 cannot be overshadowed, beaten down, or destroyed by a few more than necessary naysayers.

Good will prevail!

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The definition of Optimism:

* a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

* the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.

* the belief that goodness pervades reality.

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Let’s enjoy this very awkward time that will never, God willing, happen again.  Count your blessings, enjoy your family and friends, take walks with the appropriate distance, wear a mask if required, or stay 6 feet away. Most importantly, don’t succumb to fear.

If you do, you lose.

Keep your head together, be your own best advocate, educate yourself, read both sides of the coin, check the facts, be safe and keep positive.  It’s a slippery slope when one gives up.  We must keep our wits about us, we must not stop living 

God Bless !

 

 

The Quaren-tini-tail

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    I hope you are well, safe, and staying positive. This pandemic has tossed us around, shook us up, and is now pouring us out …. out of our comfort zone.

Conversations have come to a crawl …  there is nothing to write home about.  But that doesn’t mean we need to stop living.  As dire as your mood may be, the silver linings are abundant … you just have to look.

My days include long walks, inhaling the colors, the sounds, and the new growth that is rich. Sharing a meal with my boys is not a thing of the past, and one on one with a friend is priceless.

Our list of projects have been started, but more importantly finished.  I have been enjoying my kitchen and cooking once again, sharing my soups and passing out biscuits. Giving back has been the most rewarding …

  Those are just a few of my blessings, there are plenty more …

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Now that I have had my say, let’s get to the bottom of this   …   or is it bottoms up ??   

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The Cherry Quaren-tini

  • ounces vodka
  • ounce kirsch
  • ounce cherry brandy
  • 1 ounce cherry juice … and a few Maraschino Cherries 

 

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The Limoncello Quaren-cocktail

  •  1 shot of Limoncello
  •  2 shots of Sanpellegrino
  •  3 shots of Prosecco
  •  lemon for garnish
  • sprig of mint for garnish that I forgot

 

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The Jalapeno Vodka Quaren-cocktail

  •  Jalapeno vodka
  •  Jalapeno for garnish
  •  hold the vermouth!

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….  and my favorite Quaren-cocktail of choice

The Dirty Gin Quaren-tini-tail

  •  Bombay Sapphire Gin
  •  Garlic stuffed large Olives
  •  some juice from the Olives

 

This post kept me busy. My sister planted the seed, and I watered it. Another lining rimmed with silver keeping my skills honed, my imagination vivid, and my whistle wet.

There needs to be an ‘Un-Quaren-tini-tail’  Party … keep me in the loop, I want to join in the celebration.   Hoping soon to see the smiles and hearing the laughter of friends and family from not so long ago …

Stay safe and enjoy life !

CIN CIN   or cheers!