Alaska Pictures Part 2

I’ve got some more pictures from alaska to share.  The first group (which you can find here) is from my week in Anchorage, and the ones where I’m on a boat are taken from a harbor wildlife cruse I took that was based out of Seward, AK on the Kenai Peninsula.  For all of these pictures, I was halibut fishing near Seward, AK.  I also have gotten my first taste of the fish (I grilled a fillet last week) and it was soooo gooood.

This first group is from the halibut fishing trip.  You may have seen my posts about halibut fishing on twitter and what a hassle it was to get my halibut home from Alaska, but the trip was awesome.  Here’s a view from the boat as we are steaming out of resurrection bay around sunrise (8am-ish)

Even though I am a terrible photographer and have a terrible camera,  I still think this one turned out really good.  It’s the same 3 glacier area that I posted some pictures of from the other boat.

This next shot is a view from the boat after we have exited the bay and were out in the open ocean.  The water was quite choppy, so much so that the whole group almost didnt go out because of it.  I was still ok during this part – I didn’t start to feel like donating last nights dinner and that mornings breakfast to the fish until much later in the ride.

Those snow covered peaks in the very back of the shot are from Kenai Fjords National Park. I wanted to spend some time in the park, but it’s not really accessible by car.

When I was on the halibut boat I was wearing my wyoming hat, and a guy walked on the boat with a wyoming hat.  He quickly sat down next to me and we started chatting.  Turns out, the guy lives where I used to live in wyoming and knows both of H’s parents!  I absolutely couldnt believe it.  It’s such a small world sometimes.

These are all the fish caught by everyone on the boat.  Alaska has a daily bag limit of 2, so that’s the maximum that you can catch.  Everyone on the boat caught that many, and after that we were steaming back to the harbor.

I didnt sit down in the cabin of the boat at all, and rarely went in there because it made me feel sea sick. (note to guys: if it’s a choppy sea and you need to go to the bathroom, dont waste your time peeing in the bathroom.  I got thrown around so many times and hit my head on the wall and had water splashing me in the face from the porthole window that I had regretted my decision even before I was finished – Just go off the side of the boat.) So as I was sitting outside watching the deck hand toss all the fish out of the box and onto the deck, I waited for mine (marked with orange zip ties around the tail) to come out.  The first one I saw flew out of the box, and on to the deck, where it washed right out the deck drain!  I told the deck hand and he chuckled (because it was sorta funny) and he said they had another one for me.  I probably got the better end of that – the one they gave me was probably bigger.  S

That’s the deck hand cutting up one of the fish I caught.

Some of you have probably seen this, others probably have no idea what it is.  It’s a coal tipple, and one reason that I took a picture of it was because I thought it looked really awesome in front of the mountain.  The tipple is there because this is the only port in alaska that doesnt freeze over for the whole year, so most of the coal mined in central Alaska is taken by train to a facility near this tipple, processed, and then sent to this tipple for loading on a boat.

More in a Day…

This past weekend was the financial bloggers conference for just about everyone in PF blogosphere.  While it was the weekend of the financial bloggers conference for me, it was a few other things.  The first was that plans that had been months in the making would finally be executed, and the other would {hopefully} be that my life would get way more awesome.  As many of you know, I’ve got a girlfriend, H, and we’ve been dating for quite some time.  At first, she didnt want me to talk about her on the site, so I left her out or referred to her in some other fashion.  Once she decided she didnt mind being mentioned she was given a name for the blog and comes up more now.  Anyway, back to the story, and I’ll start from the beginning.

Spring

This spring was quite busy for the both of us.  I got a new job much closer to where I live and H did some traveling.  She went to Belize and Las Vegas with a friend.  I had finally gotten quite a bit of debt paid off and decided it was time to get busy planning the future.  Of course, since I wanted this all to be a surprise I had to act stealthily and tackle problems one at a time.  The first was to determine the size of a ring and then find some spare time to go buy it without her noticing.  For the first, I figured that I’d just swipe an old ring she already had and take that in and let the store do the rest.  For a while I paid attention to which rings she had on her finger, but that proved fruitless, so while she was traveling to Belize I got on her computer  and looked through more than 3,000 pictures from the last 3 years to see if there was any of her with a ring on.  After looking through them all I found a picture that was only a few weeks old (and would have gotten deleted if it were on my computer) that worked.It had her wearing a ring. I marked it in my memory and waited until a few days before she left for Vegas and I rifled through the jewelry box, found the ring, and hid it to make sure she didn’t take it along.  After that I simply went to the jewelry store and purchased what I wanted using her own ring as a size reference.  I did already have  a style and a budget set in mind, so that made things quick and relatively painless.  Unfortunately, I purchased at the top end of my budget and ended up going over because I paid a much higher sales tax than I’m used to paying (or that I personally think is necessary).  That concluded phase one.

Summer

Honestly not much happened here – there was quite a bit of planning and decisions, phone calls, and discussions with friends.  Nothing too much though.

The Day

So, as I mentioned, I went to the conference and decided that the Sunday after Fincon11 was over would be the day.  One of the reasons was because when we first started dating we had a really fun trip to Chicago so I figured it would be fun to go back and do the same things that we did that first trip.  So, my day started at around 1am at my buddies house, confirming tomorrow’s plans after a last minute change because the train didn’t run as late as I’d hoped.

I left early from the conference and hopped on the train at the station.  While I was at the conference, H was getting manicures with some friends and heading to an art show.  PS – totally stole the manicure idea from Ninja.  My buddy picked me up at the train station and we headed to the hotel where H and I would be spending the night in the loop (she thought we were staying with friends), and he gave me the ring.  I had forgotten how large the box was and I couldn’t put it in the pocket of my jeans, so I put it in the pocket of my jacket and zipped the pocket up (I was given some good advice by a friend. He said to not  be constantly checking my pocket to make sure it was still there.  Instead, I carried my jacket around as it was too warm anyway and occasionally brushed it against my leg to make sure I had not somewhere/somehow lost the largest single purchase I’ve ever made).  After this, my friend and I met H and his girlfriend and had a very late lunch.  After lunch my friends left to “run Sunday errands” (that I asked them to).   H wasnt sure why they didn’t want to hang out anymore, but they sent us on to the train to the loop.

H and I had a great afternoon strolling around Millennium/Grant Park area.  It was the first time I’d seen Buckingham fountain actually turned on, and the weather was perfect for it.  There was a guy making really gigantic bubbles with what looked like some string and 2 sticks, though unfortunately for me my phone was dying, and given all the communication I needed to make (and fake) at that point I suggested we go to a coffee shop for a sit down and some tea and orange juice.  I was able to charge my phone to almost full and we headed off to see the Bean and wander the park.  At this point my friend suggested we meet at the Hancock building for drinks before dinner (totally a ruse because they weren’t coming to dinner with us at all and I made reservations there about 6 weeks ago).  We went up the the 95th floor to “get drinks” and  I checked in and we were seated.

After arriving at a table for two when I had told her there would be four people there she asked why there were only two. I just said that I wanted to spend some time with her after being gone for so long.  That eased the question and after our white wine (H) and pumpkin manhattan (me) arrived, we ordered our dinner.  I kept talking about getting desert (even though I was so full and my stomach hurt the thought of it made me sick) because if she didn’t get desert my whole plan would come apart at the seams (though I do think the restaurant remedies this with a “complimentary dessert from the chef” or some nonsense).  After some prodding and a great dessert menu it was time.  She left for the restroom and the waiter confirmed plans with me. They brought out her plate first.  As he was setting it down, I got down on 1 knee and got the ring out of my pocket:

To say that she was shocked would probably be the understatement of the year.  After asking if it was a joke, she quickly accepted and put the ring on.  Unfortunately, it was too small!  I was 1/4 size off, so she forced it on for the time being and I told her we could take it to the store when we got back the next day and get it taken care of.  After dessert, I told her my friends were in the area at a nearby bar and wanted to have a beer before we left.

I had long ago arranged to get as many people here as possibly, but because of many different things I had a feeling it would be tough – it was, but I didn’t care.  As we walked in she saw a few of our friends, and finally her sister that had driven up for the day from Indiana.  She was very excited (to say the least) and we had a few beers and went back to the hotel.

One thing I can say is that although I don’t feel any different  I’m excited and can’t wait for the rest of my life to get here 🙂

Update: H edited this, and there were quite a few gasps and “I was wondering how you did that’s” when she was reading it.  Thanks for editing!

Alaska Pictures Part 1

As you all know, I was fortunate enough to have my job send me to Alaska.  I was arrived on a sunday (around 6pm, after traveling for 12 hours) and was on the job until that friday at around 1pm.  After that, I decided to stay and use that as a bit of my vacation.  The conference was in Anchorage, and after it ended I basically just hung out around the hotel.  I was pretty beat from a week of super long days, and couldn’t muster the energy to go much of anywhere, especially given the fact that I had to be ready to go at 8am the next morning to meet a shuttle down to Seward, where I’d take a wildlife cruise and go halibut fishing, then spend a few days.

I got to hike quite a bit around on the trip, and was able to see some amazing things.  Anchorage has what they call the coastal trail, which is just what it sounds like – a trail along the coast.  This is a bike/multi use trail that runs along the coast.  I headed here 3 of the nights I was in anchorage, to get in my daily workout.  There are some great views of the Knik arm and downtown Anchorage, and I got a few pictures.That’s what they call the sleeping lady.  If you look at it right, it looks like a woman sleeping.  I can see it sometimes, though this photo doesn’t really show it.  There was also a very close and very quick hike up flat top mountain.  I didn’t really plan to do this, but saw it on a whim in a guide book and decided to get it in before my conference started.  Great hike, very quick and I was able to run down the last 2 miles.

That’s a view from the top of the mountain (it was somewhere around 3500 feet – nothing that big) and a good, quick hike.  Those were basically all the pictures I got in anchorage – I was working a lot, and I didnt have much time outside of the conference to do anything other than eat and head to the conference.  I did visit a lot of microbreweries, and if you’re really curious, you can email me and I’ll show you pictures from them.  After Anchorage came Seward. I got a lot of great pictures there, and did a lot of things.  There was a lot of walking (I probably walked across town 10+ times) and a lot of fun to be had.

I went on a wildlife cruise, a fishing trip for halibut (more on that later) and did quite a few hikes, one which has a long back-story.  Before I left I warned H that if I came back engaged to a glacier, she shouldn’t take it personal and that it was just the way that things had to be.  She said she understood, but I’m not so sure she meant it – who can be OK with getting left for a large sheet of ice (aside from me)?

You can see the glaciers rather easy in this photo – they are cirque glaciers, and not attached to any larger ice sheets. I also saw a whole rock full of lazy sea lions.  All these guys do all day is lay on that rock, sun and make tons of noise – sounds like a professional blogger (j/k!).

The bear glacier – this thing was huge and when we got near it, you could feel the effects that it had on the local temperature – it got cold.

That is all the pictures that I’ll share for now – there’s still quite a bit more from the fishing trips, the hiking and just the general walking around.  I took about 400 pictures in total (2 of them have people in them) and I’ve got a few more posts to put together with more of the pictures.

Readers – have you ever been to Alaska?  Did you enjoy it?  Where did you go and what did you do?  Why did you go there?  

Also, this will be the first of two or three posts – I’ll probably post them all on Wednesdays.

Year End Goals Review

It’s the end of the year, and it’s normally a good time to review the goals that you set for yourself at different points in the year and see how you progressed.  I’ve got a post that details my financial progress throughout the year and how I fared against the financial goals that I put up on my goals page in June, so this will just be a quick review of the other goals that I had listed on the page (sparse, I know).  If you’d like to read my 9 month review, head here.

Health Goals:

I don’t know if I’d call this an epic failure, but I failed at this.  I was able to join the gym, and after 3 months, It wasn’t looking good.  I got onto this big project at work and ended up not going to the gym for almost a month.  After that, I got back on track though, and have been making it at least 2 times a week, although most weeks it’s more.  It’s not the 4/5 times that I had hoped for, but it will work for now.

Environment Goals:

These seem to have fared slightly better.  My first goal was to walk to do more things around town.  During my 9 month review, I was skeptical of the progress I’d be able to make for this because of the winter snow.  I’m happy to report that there has been hardly any snow (thus far) this year.  I havent been walking as much as I was, but I’ve been riding my bike to meet friends and whatnot, so I’ll consider this one a success.  I’d like to keep this up for next year, as well.

The next goal was my compost heap.  There was very little progress made on this goal at all, and while I can say I now know you can toss almost anything in there, I still dont know how to make it work faster/better.

How did you do on your goals from last year?  Where would you like to improve for next year?

How to be Poor and Environmentally Conscious

The following is a guest post from Kyle over at 21andbroke.  Kyle writes about life and advice for the real world. This is a site for current students, recent graduates, and other young people who are in that strange phase of life where everyone expects them to suddenly be adults.  I know the feeling and the group of people that Kyle is trying to reach, because I am one.  Enjoy!

A. H. Allyn Mansion by cliff1066™.
[Image Credit: Cliff1066 on Flickr]
After my newfound friend Jeff and I decided to swap guest posts this week I was left with the classic blogger’s dilemma. An empty, white, and very blank word processor taunting me. What was I going to write that was both sustainable and relevant to poor college students? That’s when it hit me. College and early adulthood can be the most sustainable times of your life. In fact, being frugal often leads to increased sustainability without even trying.
Think for a moment about all the reasons Americans are chastised for not being “Green”. That big SUV driving from the suburbs to the strip mall, endless rows of McMansions costing thousands just to heat, massive boats, and the list goes on. Students don’t normally have these things because they can’t afford them. Many students don’t drive at all, choosing instead to walk to class or work. And you might knock it for the comfort, but few things are as efficient as cramming 20 students down a dorm room hallway. That meal of ramen they had earlier this week? It didn’t put out nearly as much CO2 as that five-course steak dinner being served for the business executives downtown.
I’m not trying to say that the key to sustainable living is eating noodles every night. There’s no need to “rough it”. After all, I wouldn’t want to spend my whole life living in a dorm. But if more people thought like starving students the world could be better off. Okay, maybe not thinking like the students who have the front yard-turned-landfill every Sunday morning. I’m talking about these hypothetical smart and sustainable students. Thinking like one of these students can save the planet and your pocketbook.
Think of all the ways you can be frugal and sustainable. Pretend you don’t have a car and take the bus. You’ll save on gas. Stop buying paper plates and do some dishes. You’ll save that cost too. Use those thin plastic bags, buy only the living space you truly need, cut back on the Coke and drink a little more water. That last one could even help your health. It just keeps getting better. By cutting life back to the essentials the most important things become abundantly clear.
If you’re a student right now, try to avoid the lifestyle creep that so often comes with that first job after graduation. So often people’s expenses will raise evenly with their income but this doesn’t have to always be the case. There’s no need to go out and buy a new car right away or upgrade to a fancy apartment. Treat yourself, then take that extra income and save it. Put it towards retirement. Pay off that student debt early. Buy some stocks. Live well within your means and you won’t regret. A few years of living life on the cheap now can pay off huge dividends down the line.
While your friends are paying off their credit card debt, their boats, their giant homes, and just beginning to worry about retirement you’ll be well on your way to financial freedom. All this because you took a little time to think like a student.
For more ways to “save like a student” be sure to visit 21andBroke.

October Budget

I hope that you all had a safe haloween and a prosperous October.  Mine fared pretty well, with me only going over budget in 2 categories, by a total of less than $15.  Here’s the breakdown.

I was $1 over on my fast food, and $12 over on my restaurant budget.

I also realized that I way over allocated for gas last month, which is a relief.  I have lowered it from a high of $300 recently to $170.  Lets hope it stays here, although I was supposed to have 2 extra days of work that would have resulted in an extra tank of gas that got snowed out, and I didnt need the gas. AWESOME!

I was also able to begin a separate savings account for a home, and have set up automatic funding for that for $50/month! I hope to up the contribution at the start of next year when I will have more free income due to lack of debt.

September Budget Review

Well, the month is finally over, and now it’s time to review how I did on my budget for the month of September.

Everything was going great as far as my budget goes until I had car trouble last weekend.  You can read about it Here.

That being said, I was able to keep on my budget in every other part, and if I can sell the car soon (as planned) everything will be nice and rosy.

For now, my net worth took a hit and my monthly budget was consumed mostly by car stuff (eek).  See the graph below.

September Budget
September Budget

All of this is pretty self explanatory as far as categories go, and I only went over in 1 category.

Mortgage & Rent: 375  This amount wont change for a while.  It’s for the roof over my head.

Gas: 302 of 320 – I dont like one bit that I have to spend this much per month on fuel.  My car gets ~23 miles to the gallon, so Im not wasting, I just have a 50 mile (1 way) commute.

Groceries: 80 of 120: This is just for food used to cook at home

Fees: 62 of 70: Interest on credit cards

Mobile Phone $52 of 52 – Cost I pay to verizon every month

Auto Insurance: 33 of 33 – To keep me safe in accidents

Fast food: 40 of $25   I blew this one, or maybe my fast food budget is too low?  I’ll have to look into this for next month.  For now, Im thinking of an increase to $35 per month

That’s all she wrote folks.  The reason that auto took up 60 some percent was because I had to put the new car on a charge card.  As soon as the car sells, pay off the card and rest easy.