Wednesday, June 30

Wasting More Time

Well...here I go again! I read a post by Jill the other day who referred to a post by Cheri about the photo editing site Picnik so I had to go try it out. What fun! Soooo much easier than PhotoShop which I am still trying to teach myself. Of course there are free parts of Picnik and parts that cost. I played around with the free stuff...here's what I did!

original image

1960's effect

vignette effect

color focus effect

cross processing effect

Now...off to teach myself how to do these sorts of things in Photoshop!

More Art

This is Kelsey's masterpiece of the week. Look closely...it's night in the picture and the yellow under the black are stars in the night sky. And there's grass along the bottom with flowers. If you look closely you can also see a personish figure. The artist reports that the person is sleeping!


I love to watch these skills develop...hope you're having a much fun as I am!

Tuesday, June 29

Clamming on Saturday


Saturday morning we got up and headed south toward the clams. We had heard of two places that were popular, Clam Gulch and Ninilchik. We got going a little earlier than we had planned (thanks to the girls getting up at 5!) so we had plenty of time. Clam Gulch is about 2o miles south of where we were staying (near Kenai), so we pulled in there first. It's a state recreation (DNR) area and campground. You can camp or park, and then walk down to the beach. It's a short walk for an adult, but for a tired preschooler (to sleep at 10pm, up at 5!) it would be quite a trek, especially on the way back. Since we had time, we decided to head 15 miles farther south to Ninilchik and check it out.

Ninilchik worked out beautifully. There's a nice parking area that's right on the beach, so the walk was easier. We piled out of the car and donned rain gear and headed down the beach. It wasn't raining, but of course the sand is wet, wet, wet. Or "gooshy" as Stacy described it. We started right in and learned as we went. One of the big lessons we learned was to keep a closer eye on the kids! It seemed that no sooner had we dug a clam then one of the girls would step into the hole. Stacy didn't last long. As soon as her foot got wet she was done! She and I hung out at the car for the next hour or so. Kelsey stuck it out with dad, helping him spot good 'clam holes' to dig. When they arrived back at the car, she was wet to the knee on both legs and cold. But she had a good time!



The girls napped in the car while we had the clams cleaned and Scott learned how to for the next batch. Then we headed back north to Kenai. We spent the afternoon in Kenai, visiting their Wal-Mart (new thigh waders for Scott), farmer's market, park, and McDonald's with a playland. Then we headed back to the hotel for a shower and unwinding in a desperate attempt to get the girls to sleep a bit earlier. Success! They were both asleep by 8:30. Scott and I lasted until at least 8:45!

Monday, June 28

Fishing the Russian River

This past weekend, we took a little trip. We headed out Friday afternoon, with our final destination being a former cannery (now a place to stay) near Kenai. Along the way we stopped at the confluence of the Russian River and the Kenai River. What an experience! Think 'combat fishing'!


The area is managed by the US Forest Service, although it's run by a private contractor. You pay to park and then you pay to take the ferry across to fish. Once you're on the other side you see that you didn't have to pay for the ferry, you could have fished on the opposite bank, but you couldn't see that until crossing to the other side. No biggie, as the ferry was a high point for the girls. If it's a boat and we get to ride in it, it's a hit around our house!


Both shores are lined with fisherfolks about 4-5 feet apart. You cast and pull in, cast and pull in. More like fly fishing than 'cast and reel' fishing. From what I observed, getting tangled in your neighbor's gear is expected. The two of you untangle and then resume the cast and pull routine. If you're Scott, a big fish jumps right in front of you while you're untangling. Frustrating!


The girls and I picnicked, watched, and played with cones (not pine, not fir...what are they Dad?) while Scott fished. We left the river with tired smiles and and experience, but no fish.


As usual, more pics over on Fotki if you're interested!

Sunday, June 27

A Portrait of Stacy's Baby

I'll start by explaining that Kelsey is my large motor girl. She's never met a hill she doesn't want to climb, or a walk she doesn't want to take. She loves to GO!! When Kelsey sits down to craft she cuts, glues, tapes, wraps, etc.

Stacy on the other hand, is more likely to sit in one place and play. She's the one who likes Fisher Price Little People at our house. When Stacy sits to craft, she draws. Then she cuts, tapes, etc!

And I love *everything* she draws! Each one makes me smile! Here's a picture she drew of her baby on Friday:

I love it...I hope it makes you smile, too!

This Weekend by the Numbers

I'll post all about our weekend soon, I promise! Here are a few numbers to pique your interest in the meantime!

nights the girls stayed up longer than Mommy--1
moose spotted alongside the road--3
moose calves spotted alongside the road--1
bald eagles sighted--more than 10
llamas on the side of the road--1! Nope, it wasn't in a fence!
bears seen--0
loads of laundry generated--3
trips out to dig clams--2
hours spent in the car--8+
hours girls spent napping in the car--4
trips across the Russian River on a ferry--1 over, 1 back
times a fish jumped *right in front* of Scott while he was untangling his line--1
sandwiches consumed by the Korbe family--17
drenched little girl socks--3 (2 Kelsey, 1 Stacy)
trips to McDonald's--1
clams dug by Andrea--1
clams dug by Scott--104
hours spent by Scott cleaning half of the clams--1.5 (we paid to have the other 1/2 done!)
pounds of sand brought home--???

We had fun!!

Friday, June 25

This Week's Recipe--Mocha Frappuccino

I *love* Starbucks!

Problem is...I'm 50 or so miles from the nearest one. And they're expensive. And I'm cheap. While watching TV the other day I saw a commercial for their Frappuccinos. I started to drool. I wanted one. BAD!! (I guess that advertising worked!) But the girls were asleep, and there's the whole 50 miles thing so I turned to my best friend, Google. Most of the recipes Google returned were for the blended frapp, but since the household blender I have doesn't like to blend ice, those recipes were destined to fail. I chose to try to replicate their bottled version instead.

Here's what I came up with!

The Recipe
I sort of took all the recipes I read and put them together, and then experimented and tweaked. It's still 'under construction' (tweaking the amount of sugar & chocolate), but Scott and I are happy with it at the moment!

3/4 cup strong coffee
1 cup milk
2 t sugar
2T chocolate syrup (I make my own using this recipe)

Mix it all together, chill, enjoy!

Of course, if you like your sweeter or not as sweet you can monkey around with the quantities. I was using 3T chocolate syrup, but that seemed like too much, so now we're trying 2T.

The Verdict
Well, I guess I already covered that! Scott and I like it...a lot! As for the girls...well...no caffeine needed! I need the caffeine to keep up with them as they are. If they started on caffeine, I'd really be in trouble!

Wednesday, June 23

Checking In

Back in April, I posted about 10 things I wanted to do this summer. At some point I updated the list, but I can't seem to find the darn post!

Anyway, here's the original list, with the items crossed off that we've done (or will have done after this weekend!):

1. Visit Palmer and the Colony House Museum. Maybe even during Colony Days!
2. Ride somewhere on the Alaska Railroad.
3. Ride somewhere on the Alaska Marine Highway.
4. Visit the city of Kenai.
5. Visit the city of Homer.
6. Visit Soldotna.
7. Go to the Alaska State Fair.
8. Spend a few hours at the Anchorage Saturday Market.
9. Take a glacier cruise (maybe with these folks or these folks).
10. Take the kids to Seward to the Alaska Sealife Center.

Not too bad so far! Of course, we've also done some things and visited some places that didn't make the list.

While my dad was here we visited Hope where we happened upon an excellent museum and a dedicated volunteer who delighted in showing us around. We also visited Crow Creek Mine where you can still pan for gold.

This weekend, we're planning to visit Kenai and Soldotna, as well as do some clamming at Clam Gulch. Hopefully we'll come home with a big bagful of clams, some great pictures, and some happy memories!

Monday, June 21

Happy Summer Solstice!

I've experienced 30 or so summer solstices in my life. Never before has it been a big deal, but this year after surviving my first winter in Alaska it's a *big* deal!

Officially our sunrise today was at 4:21am and our sunset will be at 11:35. Officially. Technically that's 19 hours and 14 minutes of daylight. Unofficially I can tell you that it doesn't get dark here anymore, and hasn't for several weeks. What we have between "sunset" and "sunrise" is bright twilight. It's like having the hour after sunset all night long. It's been an adjustment, but after awhile we're all pretty used to it. It's hard to go to bed, especially on sunny nights. But overall, we're pretty used to it--thanks to room-darkening shades for bedtime!

On the flip side, on December 21 the sun will officially rise at 10:05am and set at 3:41pm. Officially that will be 5 hours and 36 minutes of daylight. Actually it will rise a little later and set a little sooner, thanks to our location at the northern base of a mountain. We won't see direct sun between November and February.

But today, instead of thinking about the shortening days ahead, we're going to celebrate the daylight and sun we've been blessed with today! We're headed up to BBQ at the Salmon Run this afternoon with friends...as long as we've got it, we might as well take advantage of it!

Happy Father's Day!

I'm late posting this, but the wishes are still sincere! Happy Father's Day to all the men out there who are lucky enough to be called "Dad". And special wishes to my three favorite dads!



Friday, June 18

This Week's Recipe--Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

Picnic season is here! One of my favorite "go-to" picnic dishes is Suddenly Salad. Pretty pathetic, huh?? I love 'em! And down south I could stock up on them at 99 cents a box in the beginning of summer and we'd be good to go. Not here. And besides...it's really just pasta and some seasonings. I should be able to do this! So off Googling I went!

The Recipe
I found this over at AllRecipes. Some of the 300 or so reviews (I'm not kidding!) mentioned how much people liked it, even better than Suddenly Salad...sounded good to me!

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package uncooked tri-color rotini pasta (3 c. macaroni)
  • 10 slices bacon
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons dry ranch salad dressing mix (2T)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup milk, or as needed
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1 (4.25 ounce) can sliced black olives (omitted)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Stir in rotini pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until evenly brown. Drain and chop.
  3. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, ranch dressing mix, garlic powder, and garlic pepper. Stir in milk until smooth. Place bacon, tomato, black olives and cheese in bowl and toss to coat with dressing. Cover and chill at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Toss with additional milk if the salad seems a little dry.
Andrea's Kitchen
Of course I needed it for a picnic that night, so I needed to make it with pantry ingredients. My changes are above in green.

The Verdict
It was a hit! It really turned out well and got lots of compliments at the picnic. Even Stacy asked for more of it...twice!

So go ahead, try it out! And happy picnicking!

Monday, June 14

Our First Boat Ride

What a day Sunday was! The girls and I got to go on our first Alaskan boat ride. Fishie Grandpa (my dad) is in town, so it was his first boat ride in our great state as well. The girls have been anxiously awaiting a ride, so they really enjoyed themselves.

The purpose of the trip out was to release 150,000 or so Chinook salmon from the fish pen. They've been penned up for several weeks, imprinting here. Yesterday we were part of the release. The whole thing has been managed by a group of charter fisherman here in town and Scott has been volunteering his time to help them. Here he is, working to release the fish from the pen.

We were in the 'Eye of the Storm' piloted by Dave Goldstein, owner and captain of Prince William Sound Eco-Charters. It's also the same boat that Scott went on his charter trip on a few weeks ago.

After the fish were released, Dave was VERY kind and took us on a ride up to Blackstone Bay. Along the way we got to see a whale, some sea otters, and a few eagles as well as numerous waterfalls and glaciers. Words cannot describe the beauty! Pictures cannot do it justice, but here's one of my favorite landscapes from the trip.

Of course, the mom in me also appreciates shots like these!





When we returned to shore we spent a little time on the harbor, taking in the "Walk in Whittier" which had been put together by the Whittier Chamber of Commerce. The girls were exhausted from such a big day, but certainly enjoyed the entire experience!

Hope you all enjoyed your weekends, too!

Friday, June 11

The Making of a Quilt--Day ??

It's done!!!

I've chronicled the making of this quilt on the blog as I've gone along.

Step One
Step Two
Step Three
Step Four
Step Five

And for too long it's been sitting next to the couch, waiting for me to hand stitch the binding. Well I got with it the last few days and here it is! Part of this big experiement was that I didn't pre-shrink any of the fabric like I usually do. So here's the completed quilt before I washed it.

And here it is after I washed it.


Overall, I'm very pleased with the results! I like how it shrunk up and looks a little more 'vintage'. The effect works well with the fabrics and is an effect I like. Now...what to do with it???

Choices for Mom

On Monday I posted the layout my mom had chosen for her quilt. Then she asked if I had tried other layouts. Well I hadn't, but I sure did! I had thought about it on Sunday when I took the pictures, but the girls got up from nap before I got it done! It's fascinating to me how you can lay it out on the floor and it looks like mumbo-jumbo, but when you look at it through the viewfinder of your camera it looks totally different!

So here's the layout Mom originally requested:


Here are the layouts I tested, in no particular order:

So...what do you think, Mom? And everyone else?

This Week's Recipe--Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

image from americastestkitchen.com

Mmmmm! Pork chops! I had some thawed out the other day and felt like trying something new. You know me...

The Recipe
This recipe comes to us from America's Test Kitchen. Apparently this episode aired sometime in 2008 and was also published in their magazine, Cook's Country. If you don't mind giving them your email address and getting a bunch of emails, you can find the recipe on America's Test Kitchen's website here. If you'd rather not be flooded by zillions of emails, you can just keep right on reading!

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 4

CI notes: This recipe was developed using natural pork, but enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution) will work as well. If using enhanced pork, eliminate the brining in step 1. The bread crumb mixture can be prepared through step 2 up to 3 days in advance. The breaded chops can be frozen for up to 1 week. They don’t need to be thawed before baking; simply increase the cooking time in step 5 to 35 to 40 minutes.

Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley.

3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined; add remaining 6 tablespoons flour and whisk until almost smooth, with pea-sized lumps remaining.

4. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.

5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 150 degrees, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.


Andrea's Kitchen
I did a few little things differently. When making the breading, I didn't have the shallots, fresh thyme or fresh parsley. I did have dried thyme so I used that and skipped shallots and parsley. The other change I made was to the egg-mustard-flour mix. After I had whisked it all mine was really thick. Too thick to dip things into, so I added a splash of milk to thin it down a tad. I also didn't serve them with lemon wedges. Sorry--I'm fresh out of lemon wedges!

The Verdict
YUM! I loved how baking them on the cooling racks on the cookie sheet made them really crusty. I also loved the little bit of tang from the mustard. Mmmm! Everyone liked them! Of course, the girls ate theirs with ketchup, but still...:-) We'll certainly be enjoying these again soon!

Wednesday, June 9

Late on Wednesday

Sheesh! Usually I'm a morning poster but not today I guess! I wish I could say I was doing something really great, but I can't. Just a regular morning around here.

Anyway...I do have a few photos from our walk this morning to share.

We've been enjoying mostly sunny weather lately--the kind of days that make people want to move here in droves! OK...maybe not droves...but it is really pretty here!



And then I also wanted to share this link. This is a blog that I enjoy reading on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays they try out recipes. But not recipes that sound wonderful...nooooo! They read cookbooks from the 50's and 60's, pick the craziest sounding recipes and give them a whirl. Up this week...Ham Banana Casserole. The other main ingredient...mustard. Ummm...YUCK!!! It's so funny, though! I love to read about their adventures in the kitchen with "mid-century" (as they call them) recipes. Very entertaining!

Monday, June 7

Look what I did, Mom!


This is a quilt for my mom. She picked the fabric a while back and when I offered to put it together for her she took me up on the offer. The fabric arrive a while back and I've been plugging away at it. Today I finished up the blocks and then laid them out in the arrangement she had selected.


So...how do you like it, Mom?

Saturday, June 5

Recipe Updates

I thought I would share a few updates I've made to a few of the recipes I've blogged about over the last few months.

One of my favorite successes was homemade bagels. Check the updated post for what I've learned from making them a few times.

image from kraftfoods.com

Another recipe I've made over and over is the omelet rolls. It's a quick and easy breakfast that everyone will eat! I've updated that post with the new mixing method that's much quicker and easier.

image from tasteofhome.com

Finally, cheeseburger cupcakes! This is another one that's made its way onto our table regularly. I've also tried making breakfast cupcakes this way with excellent results! I've outlined my methods in the original post.

Friday, June 4

This Week's Recipe--Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe intrigued me because it's so much like the old standard I usually make, but it had just a few different ingredients that I'd never thought of as being part of macaroni and cheese--mustard and an egg!

The Recipe
This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman Cooks which I now own! You can also get the recipe for free over on her website here and at the very bottom there's a printable copy.

Andrea's Kitchen
I followed this recipe as written...almost! I didn't have dry mustard, so after Googling I found that you can substitute 1T prepared mustard for 1t dry mustard. I also used nonfat milk because it's what I had on hand. And just to save you some Googling if you (like me!) don't have a kitchen scale, 1lb grated cheddar is about equal to 4c.

The Verdict
MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!! The mustard is my favorite ingredient. It adds some tang without being overpowering. I made it for dinner when some friends were over and everyone liked it, particularly her son. He ate two heaping platefuls! I'll bet you will, too....

Wednesday, June 2

Fun Visit

WARNING: This is a L-O-N-G post, so grab a cup of coffee or a can of Pepsi before diving in!


Wow! What a busy and fun-filled Memorial Day weekend we had! Scott's sister (aka Auntie Shelly or Auntie Jelly) was here, so we made the most of it!

Saturday
We all took the 7am tunnel to go pick Shelly up on Saturday morning. It was a sunny and wonderful day in Anchorage, so we stopped by the Anchorage Market and said hello to our friends at Glacier Fudge and Espresso (Steph and Josh). The girls bought themselves some ice cream and we adults had treats, too. We strolled the market and took it all in. We're at the beginning of our growing season here in Alaska, so there wasn't much in the way of fruits or veggies yet, but lots of neat handmade stuff.

From there we took a driving tour of downtown Anchorage and then headed out to everyone's favorite--McDonald's. We all ate and the kids played, napping on the way home.

Saturday afternoon we stopped by Portage Glacier. Apparently it's been doing lots of calving during our spring melt--there were lots of chunks of ice in the lake.



Then we toured Whittier (5 minutes), and then hung out at home for a bit before heading up to the Salmon Run for our first BBQ of 2010, complete with roasting marshmallows!

Sunday
On Sunday we had coffee & hot chocolate at the Lazy Otter and the girls helped decorate the sidewalks of Whittier.
Sunday afternoon we headed out. We picnicked at the Wildlife Conservancy Center. The famed Alaskan mosquito showed up in droves (uninvited!) at our picnic, so we scarfed our lunch down and viewed the animals from the truck.

Once in Seward, we took the kids to their city park. What fun! They ran, climbed, jumped, slid, swung, and dug to their hearts' content. There was even a preschooler-sized set of monkey bars which is right up Kelsey's alley!


Monday
Monday morning we walked to the SeaLife Center across the street. There was plenty to see and do there. We were occupied with looking, watching, touching, and listening until lunch!


We headed back North after lunch--the kids and I napped on the way! Since it was a gorgeous day we headed to Girdwood to take Shelly up the tram. The view was very nice, and it was *much* warmer at the top than it was in April when we went with Scott's mom! Of course, the chair lift "swing" was a big hit with the girls again!

Tuesday
Tuesday we just hung out in Whittier. We were all pooped from our go-go-go weekend! Shelly and I did visit the Prince William Sound Museum which is an outstanding museum here in town. It's really a nicely done museum for such a tiny town.

After all that fun, we it was time to say good-bye to Aunt Shelly. I'm sure she must have slept well on the airplane--the girls kept her busy, that's for sure!