Thursday, March 3, 2016

Like Dogs? Love the Iditarod!

Dog Sledding - Wikipedia

Several years ago, we published the story behind the Iditarod.  It is worth reading again, and understanding what gave rise to this amazing dog sledding event. In 2016, Anchorage is bringing in snow by train to cover the streets where the ceremonial opening takes place, and people are joking about outfitting the sleds with hover boards to keep them in action.  But all kidding aside, this event is a big deal.

Take the kids and friends downtown to cheer on the dogs this Saturday morning.  Between now and then, there is still time to register for Running of the Reindeer, and to get a little culture. And, visit the Carnival by night to see  Anchorage in a whole new way.

There is plenty to do indoors and out, and restaurants for every taste. See our AABBA Associate/Travel Partners for excellent suggestions. If you would like a printable guide, here is the 2016 Fur Rhondy version!

And if you still need a place to stay, consider calling the B&B Hotline at 907-272-5909 or visiting the AABBA website where you will find roughly 30 local B&Bs along with a calendar  indicating who has room. Then you can check pictures, description,  and reviews to see if one matches your needs. What's different about these B&Bs? They are 'inspected & approved', meaning they meet requirements beyond getting a business license and permit.  You will find high calibre hospitality, cleanliness, and professionalism with these innkeepers! Visitors often pick these places for the safety, the privacy and quietude, and the locations.  You will find AABBA inns from Chugiak to Indian and can get some rest and relaxation away from the crowds.

And these B&Bs are truly Alaskan, run by Anchorage residents.

Pack your skates and end your Saturday with the Family Skate at Westcheser Lagoon. It is free! There is still more to see and do on Sunday, so you might want to stay to Monday and catch all the fun. 

 Mary M Rydesky runs Jarvi Homestay and is one of the Innkeepers of  Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Alaska Travel - 3 Tips to Making It Real!

As a traveler coming to Alaska, you know that choosing a place to stay can make or break the enjoyment your trip provides: a safe, quiet, and welcoming accommodation offering a good night’s sleep is key! As a B&B host for nearly ten years and traveler myself, I have that desire wherever I travel, and recently, I found two articles featuring guidelines for picking where to stay.

Telegraph Traveler’s destination expert, Tim Jepson, suggests in his Alaska Travel Guide that confining yourself to the waters by cruising prevents you from experiencing many of Alaska’s wonders. He offers tips for high season, shoulder season, and winter travel from North America and Europe, providing recommendations related to daylight, snow, and temperatures. Most importantly, he suggests booking well in advance for accommodations and vehicle rental. His mention of downloading the GPS-driven Alaska App, which is free from iTunes, will guide you to travel information you can carry with you.

Downtown Anchorage
Courtesy VisitAnchorage 
The Anchorage area bed & breakfasts have a professional association (AABBA) that offers peer review of the inns, resulting in a group of about 30 that are inspected & approved through the process of checking business practices, cleanliness and hygiene, safety, and amenities. Speaking on the topic of what’s different about staying at B&Bs in Alaska, the Association offers tips such as looking for inns with room-darkening window coverings for the summer’s lengthy daylight hours and making your reservations well in advance. B&Bs here are, by local regulation, located within the structure of the inn keeper’s home but are separate from the owner’s living space. Everyone is unique and private.

Three Tips for Travelers

Experience ‘real’ Alaska – to get the flavor of Anchorage, stay at a local bed and Breakfast (B&B). You can stay in one that bears the ‘inspected and approved’ award by checking the AABBA online or by calling the Hotline at 907-272-5909. You open the opportunity to stay in areas where moose roam, where hillside views over Turnagain Arm waters can’t be beat, and where chatting with the B&B host will help you decide which tour or feature you might select for the day.

Customize your selection of activities - Talk with your B&B host both before and during your stay. Ask about various trails, sights, cruises, restaurants – because we live here, we have enjoyed them ourselves, and we know the people who run the shops and services. They are our Associate/Travel Partners. With the frame of reference of long term experience and working relationships, we can help you customize your own selection of where to go and what to do. Want the off-the-beaten-path choices? Prefer the well-traveled selections? Let us know.

Set up your reservations and transportation in advance – In the high season, the cost of accommodations and vehicle rentals is astounding. B&Bs offer a good value with breakfast included.  And some B&Bs offer special services or amenities that you might seek, such as hot tub, freezer space for your fish, or the ‘going green’ commitment to the environment. Ask your B&B host about this.

Anchorage is best seen when you have private transportation. Having a rental car is by far the best way to see it, from Flattop Mountain to downtown museums, from whale watching to boarding the train for a day on the rails. Stay at an inspected & approved B&B to learn about Alaska by meeting its residents.  Check the AABBA website for photos and more information on B&Bs and the companies and restaurants known as Associate/Travel Partners. We work together to build great memories of your Alaska travels!

--written by Mary M Rydesky, host of Jarvi Homestay Bed & Breakfast and president of AABBA. Mary samples the day cruises, train rides, glacier tours, walking & hiking trails - oh, and the restaurants, too! Just ask what Anchorage can offer you! Follow her Anchorage travel suggestions on Facebook.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 2016: A Good Time to Visit Alaska?

Lucas loves the snow-no white toys though!
Sure it is! Plan now for the Iditarod - we are counting the days and hoping for snow. The history of the Iditarod is told well in a book, The Cruelest Miles, or you can get a quick report when you visit the event site.  Here's the thing: planning ahead is imperative if you want a place to get some sleep.   Anchorage fills up, and posts along the trail through Alaska do too.  Try the 'inspected and approved' B&Bs of Alaska for clean, safe, pleasant places where you will be well taken care off.  Want to know what more there is to do at this time of year? Check Winter Events for ideas!

There are great places to eat in Anchorage - every visitor must go to Mooses Tooth for amazing pizza and the micro-brewery favorites. They have a sister restaurant with a different menu, called Bear Tooth. Restaurants are not all downtown: try Torchon for some amazing entrees!  And Southside Bistro in south Anchorage (that will mean all of about six miles driving) is top shelf (and near several B&Bs that are inspected & approved.)

Anchorage has a trademark: the drive through coffee kiosks.  Try them all - drive up, get a fresh pull at what ever strength you like - you may never go into a nation-wide-label coffee shop again.  Just try to count all the coffee kiosks you see in a square mile. 

You won't lack for things to do, and you will want a nice place for the night.  Some B&Bs feature fireplaces and hot tubs along with hospitality, privacy, and peacefulness.  With the 'inspected & approved' label you get assurance of professional business practices, licensing, permitting, and insurance that might otherwise be hit or miss.  And you will get innkeepers who know the city and the state so when you want a recommendation, you have your own expert.

Want to make a choice based on particular amenities? Or by geographic areas so that you are staying near your old roommate, cousin, or friends?

When you are ready to tour the state, we can guide you to good B&Bs outside of Anchorage - just ask!

Mary M Rydesky, AABBA President, is one of the Innkeepers with  Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association. She operates Jarvi Homestay.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sixth Annual Awards Presented to AABBA Associate/Travel Partners

Sixth Annual AABBA Awards
Another Alaskan summer has passed, and earlier this week the Anchorage Alaska Bed and Breakfast Association (AABBA) celebrated by honoring and showing gratitude to all of our Associate / Travel Partners at the 6th annual Associate Travel Partner (ATP) Appreciation and Awards Ceremony!  

The purpose of this event is to thank each and every ATP for the great service and Alaskan experiences they provide to our guests. 

Each year the event is accompanied with a spread of homemade foods, good conversation, stories and camaraderie.  We always learn something new about the goods, services, and travel opportunities available to our guests.  This year, we learned that Once in a Blue Moose has been a family owned Alaskan business since 1969, with now three generations of Alaskans bringing unique gifts and souvenirs to Alaska's Visitors.  And Ascending Path has extended its tour repertoire to appeal to families and elders, with new adventures to come in 2016! What great stories and plans!  

Patrick receives award for
Kenai Fjords Tours
from VP Mary M Rydesky
AABBA’s Associate / Travel Partners offer a variety of services and goods that provide and create a quality, enjoyable, memorable experience for leisure visitors and business travelers.   It is always so difficult to choose the annual winners from among 50+ Associate / Travel Partners representing restaurants, museums, cultural centers, theaters, land, sea and air tours, marketing, lodging, and other types of support services. 

Awards were presented in the following categories for the 2015 season:

Best Alaska Experience - Alaska Native Heritage Center
Best Dining Experience  Glacier Brewhouse, Haute Quarter Grill, and Orso Restaurant
Innovative Approach to Making Guests Feel Special -  Kenai Fjord Tours, Orso Restaurant
Best Business to Business Service in Support of Tourism The Alaska App, Sam Wasson Photography
Rookie of the Year, New Member - South Restaurant & Coffeehouse
Advocacy for Bed & Breakfasts in Tourism - Visit Anchorage!

If you happen to visit any of these businesses, join us in thanking them for their service and dedication by congratulating them on their 2015 recognition.  We would also love to hear any feedback you might have on some of your own Alaskan experiences and memories made possible by one of our Associate / Travel Partners! 

--Innkeeper Krista Walker, Alaska House of Jade, is a member of the
 Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The 2015 Tour of B&Bs: A Review

Reflection Lake B&B -on the deck
Have you ever had one of those lovely Sunday afternoons that you didn’t want to end?  That happened to me last Sunday.  The Anchorage Alaska Bed and Breakfast Association (AABBA) held a progressive dinner.  Bed and Breakfast hosts in our association contributed appetizers, main dishes, salads and desserts.  Three bed and breakfasts were selected to host the various ‘courses.’

The event started at 3:00 PM with appetizers at the home of a new AABBA member, Reflection Lake Bed and Breakfast.  Hosts Annie and Jason Zeng opened their entire home for us to enjoy and view.  Seeing the care and quality they have given to their home really makes me proud to have them join our association.  One of the loveliest parts of their home is a deck that goes from the dining room out towards the lake.  We had our appetizers while sitting, visiting and enjoying the peaceful surroundings and looking at reflections dancing on the lake.  Their guests enjoy this space surely as much as we did. 

Calla House B&B
Our next stop was at Sam Penney’s, Calla House Bed and Breakfast.  Sam has been an active member of AABBA for a very long time.  She is really skilled in the art of hosting.  Her home shows the same detail and attention and care Sam gives to her many guests.  The Calla House is set in a peaceful neighborhood with views out back.  Sitting on the swing outback, several members commented about the visiting birds who flew close to us while gathering their own choice bites from feeders – they added to the ambiance. Here we had salads and main dishes and lots of visiting.  There was plenty to eat and eat we did! 

Judy's A Touch of Class B&B
Our last stop was at Judy and Jim Powell’s, Judy’s A Touch of Class Bed and Breakfast.  Since dessert is my favorite, I was most happy to enter this large lovely home that has many Alaskan touches gathered over the many years the Powells have live in Alaska Their home backs up to a green belt area full of beautiful natural trees and vegetation. When you look out their back windows you forget you are still in the city. Their large dining room table quickly filled with pies and cakes brought by our members. A quick association meeting was held after we all filled our plates and settled into seats in Judy’s kitchen/family room area. Some people continued to go back to the dinning room table for seconds and thirds but who’s counting.  At the end of our meeting I noticed there was nothing left to eat … just empty pans and plates that looked licked clean.

During the meeting, people were encouraged to share thoughts, experiences and ideas for the future of our businesses.  Our biggest laughs came from people sharing some of the silly and not so silly things that has happened during the summer experience of hosting people from all over the world. When our meeting ended, people just stuck around and continued to visit. No one seemed in a hurry to get home.   All in all it was a lovely Sunday full of great food, conversations, and new ideas. 

I was asked to share the recipe for my Sourdough Carrot Cake.  This recipe comes from a recipe book called Simply Sourdough-The Alaska Way- by Kathy Doogan.

Sourdough Carrot Cake

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup sourdough started
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon backing soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Anchorage Walkabout Town Hosts
Mix together oil and sugar. Add starter and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Fold in pineapple, carrots, nuts, coconut and vanilla.  Shift together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon: add to the starter mixture and blend well.  Pour batter into greased and floured 9”x13” pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool and frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound confectioner’s sugar (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth.

Bake, cool, frost, and enjoy!

Sandy is a member of AABBA and treated all guests to a taste of the Sourdough Carrot Cake.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Birds in Alaska: A Birdwatcher's Paradise

Hello there, birdwatcher! 

Does the thought of flying aloft on high currents strike your romantic side? Does a quick call and flutter of wings have you looking for the culprit? Do you maintain a bird bath or bird feeder? 

Welcome to the ranks of over 60 million 'birders' who actively watch birds, and the millions more who enjoy seeing them from day-to-day who never think of themselves as avid “birdwatchers”!

Birds delight through their beautiful plumage, amusing songs, and their ability to fly. It’s no wonder humans have such an interest! It may be that birding is the least expensive hobby a person can get into. Aside from your eyes and ears, all that you need to bird watch is paper and pencil to track your finds. From there, like many other hobbies and sports, it depends on what you want to make of it. Binoculars and field guides are the next logical step to help you see and identify bird species better. Some go as far as high-powered scopes and sound amplification devises to make sure they can catch sight of the birds they seek. Whether you are an active birdwatcher for sport, or simply love the sight and sounds of birds going about their daily routine, member inns of the AABBA invite you to enjoy a bird watching vacation with us.

In Alaska,  wide-open spaces and expansive natural habitat provide the perfect setting for bird watching. And when you choose a bed and breakfast lodging option, the setting is even more perfect, as most are set away from the more populated areas. Really, are you more likely to spot birds in downtown areas where the hotels are, or the outlying communities that are home to our bed and breakfasts, where the lakes and nature are only a short walk away? Do hotels provide porches and gardens from which to actively watch area birds? Isn’t the ability to step outside your cozy inn, straight into the natural surroundings more supportive of birding than stepping outside a hotel into the urban bustle? Try Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary, on the south side of Anchorage en route to the Kenai for a viewing adventure!

Imagine waking to a delicious breakfast at your chosen bed and breakfast, stepping outside to observe the bird activities of the morning, attending the local birding festival, and then returning to your chosen inn to walk the grounds or the area to find even more species that are native to Alaska. No matter what time of day or year, a B & B lodging option is the perfect place from which to enjoy your bird-watching activities.

Alaska is also home to some great Bird Festivals for all bird-watching interests. Whether you enjoy the sport in general, or have interest in a single species, we have a gathering for you. Each festival is located close to some of our member inns. Whether you come for the festival only, or extend your Alaskan vacation to view birds native to the area, a bed and breakfast is the ideal lodging option to support your bird watching fun!

We offer the following list of birding events to help you coordinate your Alaskan birding vacation. We invite you to select your lodging from the Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association's inspected and approved inns.

April, 2015 (all month):  Alaska Hummingbird Festival -Ketchikan, AK

April heralds the return of Hummingbirds to Alaska. This celebration at the Southeast Alaska Discover Center includes kid’s activities, hikes, art, and more.

April 30 - May 3, 2015:  Stikine River Birding Festival -Wrangell, AK
Celebrating the birds (including bald eagles) that come to the River each year to feed on the ‘hooligan’. Take part in seminars and activities for the whole family.

May, 2015 (TBA):  Upper Tanana Migratory Bird Festival - Tok, AK
A single day of celebration at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge including activities, art competition, live bird presentation, and a morning bird tour.

May 7-10, 2015:  Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival - Cordova, AK
A week-long celebration during the migratory birds' stopover in Cordova.  Enjoy seeing the birds, hiking, talks, and more.

May, 2015 (TBA):  Spring Migration Celebration - Fairbanks, AK (Call 907-459-7301)
Another celebration of the spring migration at the Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.  A free event with games, crafts, birding, and more for the whole family, sponsored by five Alaskan and US birding and wildlife organizations.

May 7-10, 2015:  
Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival -Homer, AK

Celebrating of the avian stopover to Kachemak Bay. See a wide variety of bird species including puffins, terns, curlew, stint, and more. Activities for the whole family will be available.

May 14-17, 2015:  Kenai Birding Festival - Kenai, AK
A family-friendly event to celebrate the migration. Kids’ activities, guided tours, and more.

May 28- 31, 2015:  Yakutat Tern Festival - Yakutat, AK
See one of the most populous Aleutian Tern breeding colonies in the US and enjoy guided tours, cultural events, art, talks, and kids’ activities.

August 28-30, 2015:  Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival - Fairbanks, AK
Celebrating the fall migration of the Sandhill Crane. A family-friendly event featuring seminars, nature walks, photography workshops, banding demonstration, and more.

November 9-15, 2015:  Alaska Bald Eagle Festival - Haines, AK near Glacier Bay
This time of year sees thousands of Bald Eagles feeding on late-running salmon at the Alaska Bald Eagle Preserve.  Activities include photography workshops, cultural tours, demonstrations, speakers, entertainment, banquets, and more!

Reposted and edited courtesy of the statewide Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association. Events updated for 2015
On behalf of the Innkeepers o  Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seasons of Change

We are in a changing world and we have to reinvest ourselves to succeed in a world of change.  The Swiss Efficiency and other members of the AABBA  offer accommodations that range from classic Bed & Breakfast to modern...the signs of change!  With the growing demand of the traveling public, we like to grow and accommodate the guests needs.  As one of the world's great philosophers of change once said:  Survival belongs not to the strongest, or to the smartest, but to the most adaptable.

In today's world, it is important to do research about the reputation of the place you will stay.  Are they licensed? Do they participate in a peer inspection and review program? Are they solid, intending to stay in business? Is the place known to the local community (and in a positive light?)

Having organizational membership such as in the AABBA is important to our B&Bs. It indicates that we uphold a code of ethics, maintain hygienic, safe standards for guests, and we accept inspections both scheduled and impromptu. We meet with other B&B owners to share new strategies for improving our hospitality. We are accountable to one another....not just to the office of business licensing!

Why ask? Because you want to know the B&B will be in business when you arrive, and that it will be safe, clean, and enjoyable. You want to know the breakfast will meet your needs and maybe even thrill you with locally grown specialties. And you want to know you are experiencing Alaska in a way franchises can't offer: with the personal conversation of a local resident/host. 

So how will you set your standards? What research will you do? How will you know you have positioned yourself for a glorious trip? Start with the Hotline at 907-272-5909 or visit the website, checking the information on 'inspected and improved'. It will help your decision making anywhere you go!

Verena Kaeppele of Swiss Efficiency is one of the Innkeepers in  Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association