Thursday, September 30

She's sewing again...

In another post I'll tell you about fall around here (both days of it!) and why it makes me want to curl up with a book for at least a month. But I have kids. So any curling up with books happens during their naptime, which soon turns into my naptime! I decided to sew instead.

I dug into my stash and came up with the fabrics and I'm off. It's going to be a Disappearing 9 Patch, so these blocks will be chopped and reassembled. Don't worry...I flopped that green and blue on the left so that the layout makes more sense!


It's for someone special. That's all I'm saying right now! :-)

Wednesday, September 29

Riding the Ferry

While Moo Grandma was here last week we decided to take advantage of the school inservice days on Thursday and Friday and we took the girls across on the ferry to Valdez. We left here at 12:45pm on Thursday and returned on Friday around 2:30, so it was a whirlwind trip! We didn't have time to see much of Valdez, save the half mile between the ferry and the hotel. I had called ahead to check the distance, but apparently my idea of 3 blocks and their idea of 3 blocks don't *quite* align!

Regardless of the lengthy walk (and howling winds on Friday) we had a good time! Stacy has been enamored with the ferries all summer. She knows the names of all 3 that service Whittier and keeps an eye out for their comings and goings. The prospect of a ferry ride was especially exciting for her!

heading down to the Whittier ferry terminal

heading down to the Whittier ferry terminal

excited Stacy as we get ready to push off from Whittier

our wake--Whittier in the distance

glacial ice near Naked Island

The ferry we took (both ways) was the Chenega. Now that we're into the winter schedule, the Chenega is our daily ferry. Over the summer we also saw the Aurora and the Kennicot. (Vessel profiles available here for those interested) Chenega is known as the "fast ferry" cruising at about 32 knots compared to Aurora's 14 knots. The trip to and from Valdez takes about 2 1/2 hours.

Kelsey riding a halibut near the Valdez ferry terminal

Stacy riding a halibut near the Valdez ferry terminal

In Valdez we toured the small boat harbor and played in the leaves. The leaves were a big hit--here in Whittier the leaves either blow away before you can play in them, or stay on the tree and then drop off in the dead of winter.



As we were getting ready to leave Valdez, Kelsey spotted this sea lion off the stern. It was fun to watch him for a few minutes before the engines fired up!


The girls were thrilled with the rides! Both of them slept most of the way each time, but that didn't seem to hamper their enthusiasm!

And I'm a sucker and bought ferry toys for them...so after the ferries took a bath, Stacy slept with hers on Friday night!


Such fun!

Monday, September 27

A Road Trip to Denali


Sheesh! We took this trip over a week ago and I'm finally sitting down to write about it. We've been pretty busy around here!

Moo Grandma (Scott's mom, Penny) arrived here on 9/16. As usual (since she flies standby as a former airline employee) we didn't tell the kids she was on the way until she was in the sky. Stacy and I went and picked her up and surprised Kelsey after school...lots of smiles, all the way around!

On Saturday, Scott and I headed out for Denali National Park. We stopped along the way and bought a new camera. The drive to the park was beautiful! We were blessed with fantastic Indian summer weather for the whole weekend.

As with many national parks, you can't drive all the way into the park. You can go as far as Savage Creek (15 miles in) any day with no pass. To go beyond (the other 77 unpaved miles) you need to take a bus. The one exception is a 4 day weekend in late September when they hold the road lottery. You pay to enter the drawing and if you're chosen you can buy a road permit to enter the park. We didn't enter, but some friends of ours did and won. Then they were kind enough to invite us along. Denali is about 4 hours out of Anchorage (without kids!), so we asked Moo Grandma to time her visit so that she could stay with the girls while we went.

I'm sure there are many theories and strategies among veteran road lottery winners, but our strategy was to drive all the way in to Kantishna (the end of the road) and then meander back. It worked out pretty well! We left the hotel at 5:15 and got to the Savage River just before 6am, so we didn't have to wait long to begin the drive, as they don't let you off the pavement until 6am Along the way we saw a mama grizzly and her two cubs, four wolves, some sheep, and some birds. On the way home the next day we saw a bull and a cow moose as well. Not to mention that we watched the sun come up on Mt. McKinley!

Overall it was a very fun trip...the scenery was breathtaking! I'd love to visit in the summer and see it all green...since it was already cold up there (23 degrees the day we drove in) all of the plant life had already died--it had a very desert look to it.

I'll spare you from posting the hundreds of photos I took here...if you'd like to look at them you can check out the drive up to Denali, the drive in the park, and the drive home over on Fotki.

Soooo...it was fun and I want to go back! And *many* thanks to Moo Grandma for staying with the little ladies so we could make the trip in 3 days instead of a week! :-)

Saturday, September 25

Introducing...


image from www.usa.canon.com

I'd like to introduce you to my new friend, a Canon T2i! It's my first foray into the world of digital SLRs and I'm having *lots* of fun! At 18 megapixels though, I have to be ruthlessly deleting bad pictures while also shopping for a new hard drive! :-)

We purchased her on the way to Denali last weekend (I'm sure you're not supposed to head into a National Park for the first time with a camera you've never used...but it turned out pretty well, I think!) and she also came along to Valdez this week.

You can check out her work over on Fotki. I'm slowly figuring her out...thankfully her manual is both useful and readable! In the meantime I find myself still falling back on my old friend (Canon S3is) for photos in some situations where I know exactly what I want and exactly how to get it using S3.

So bear with me...you might be seeing a few too many pictures as I play around this winter!

{this moment}

{this moment} - A weekly ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.



Friday, September 24

This Week's Recipe--Strawberry Ice Cream

image from goodhousekeeping.com

Funny how things work! The other day a friend of mine knocked on the door and offered me one of these. I had made yogurt before when the kids were really little, but when I went back to work I started buying again and hadn't done it again since we moved up here. I used to use the heating pad and stock pot method that I learned about here. It always turned out OK, but not great. So back to the yogurt maker. I tried it out and it worked really well! The best yogurt I've ever made, by far!

But then I wanted ice cream. I remembered I had torn out a recipe from Good Housekeeping for Strawberry Ice Cream. The recipe used Greek yogurt, something I've never bought before but I have read that you can make it yourself. So off I went!

The greek yogurt turned out to be amazingly delicious! Sprinkled with a tiny bit of sugar it seemed more like a dessert than plain old yogurt...mmmm!

The Recipe
To make greek yogurt just take plain yogurt (store bought or homemade) and strain it. Some people use a strainer lined with a coffee filter. I have used a clean dishtowel and a jelly bag hung from my cabinet. You need about 2 cups of yogurt to make 1 cup of Greek yogurt.

Strawberry Ice Cream
1lb frozen strawberries
1 c. Greek yogurt
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

In a food processor or blender, pulse strawberries until finely chopped. Transfer chopped berries to large metal bowl.

In food processor or blender puree yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and remaining strawberries until smooth. Transfer to a metal bowl with strawberries; stir until well combined. Cover and freeze about 1 hour, until firm but not hard.

The Verdict
Before I get to the verdict, let me point out the obvious flaw in this recipe. You *have* to lick the spatula that you use to remove this sweet mess from the blender. And then you have to wait an entire hour (or more!) to eat more!?!?! Good luck! I've made this 3 times and finally the 3rd time I was able to let it actually freeze!

It's delicious! It doesn't freeze quite a creamily as Good Housekeeping would lead you to believe, but it tastes so wonderfully yummy that it didn't really matter to me. Or Scott! Also, if you transfer the mixture to a metal 9x13 pan it spreads out thinner and freezes quicker.

Mmmmm...now I want more, but we're out of strawberries! Peaches, maybe??

Monday, September 20

10 Signs that Summer's Ending

It was bound to happen! We've had a stretch of weather that makes you mourn the end of summer, but I'm taking careful notes and here's what I've noticed:
  1. School started.
  2. Restaurants are closing up.
  3. The Kayak Center is closed.
  4. The ferry schedule is slowing down.
  5. The boats are leaving the seasonal pay-to-park lot.
  6. It's dark when we get up.
  7. We're getting closer and closer to Oct. 1 when the winter tunnel hours go into effect.
  8. The last cruise ship was here this past weekend.
  9. The wind blows from a winterly direction...and it's getting chilly at night!
  10. The calendar says so.
So I guess it must be true!

Saturday, September 18

{this moment}

{this moment} - A weekly ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.



Friday, September 17

This Week's Recipe--Beef Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

So remember my beef challenge? Another of the packages in the freezer was beef tenderloin. This scared me because I know tenderloin is a good cut of meat...so I didn't want to screw it up!

The Recipe
After some Googling, I found this recipe which looked very good to me. Of course, I didn't have everything they called for, so here's what I did!

4-6 tenderloins (mine were pretty thin...maybe 1/2 inch thick)
olive oil
fresh ground pepper or seasoning salt
1/4 c. Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
1/3 c. milk
2 T. butter
1 T. dijon mustard

Heat oven to 350. Heat skillet over medium heat until very hot. Spread pepper over both sides of meat. The girls and I aren't big pepper people, so I used pepper on Scott's and Johnny's Seasoning Salt on ours. Drizzle olive oil in the pan and add meat. Sear for 5 minutes, flip and sear for 5 minutes more.

Transfer meat from the skillet to the oven to finish cooking, about 8 minutes. Pour rum into the skillet and stir/scrape to deglaze the pan. Reduce until the liquid in the pan is about 1 tablespoon. Add mustard, milk, and butter and whisk over medium heat until thickened.

Remove steak from oven and let it rest (tent with foil) for about 5 minutes. Serve with mustard sauce.

The Verdict
Holy steak knives! This was a.w.e.s.o.m.e! The sauce was delicious and the tenderloins turned out perfectly medium rare. It tasted like fancy restaurant food! The girls both sampled the sauce, but abandoned it for their favorite...ketchup. A sin on tenderloin, I know! But more mustard sauce for me!!! Scott liked it too, asking that I add the recipe to the "do over" pile. A sure sign of success!

You owe it to yourself to try this...you won't be sorry!

Wednesday, September 15

For Posterity


I printed this out yesterday...I think I might frame it!!

Look closely...that's a weather forecast for Whittier. Alaska. And there's *no* precipitation of any sort forecasted.

Don't worry...we're making the most of every minute of it!

Tuesday, September 14

One Year Ago

A year ago today the girls and flew out of Portland and into Anchorage...how time flies!

Monday, September 13

Growing Pains

Ahhh...as we started our second week of school today I reflected on all of the growing the girls did last week. There was the obvious: school for Kelsey, no school for Stacy. But there were also more subtle changes: learning that Kelsey does some things at school that Stacy doesn't get to do and vice versa, Stacy learning how to take advantage of some alone play time, mama learning to make the most of time alone with Stacy both in spending quality time with Stacy, and also getting chores done. Slowly but surely we're adjusting to our new routine.

One of the things I've come to treasure is our afternoons...it's the three of us, unhurried (usually!). Today we headed to the head of the bay. We'd been there Sunday night for a picnic and it had been sunny and warm (and buggy! very buggy!). The girls had a blast in the water. So this afternoon we headed back down and I let them wear their swimsuits and sandals. What fun they had!



And for those of you who are wondering, it was about 68 degrees here today...:-) And the water in Prince William Sound...well, it's certainly not warm!

Saturday, September 11

{this moment}

{this moment} - A weekly ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.


Friday, September 10

This Week's Recipe--Slow Cooked Short Ribs

image from Taste of Home

Recently I went through my freezer and pulled out some stuff that *really* needed to be used up. I had a few misc. cuts of beef from our 1/2 beef in '07 that needed to be eaten. Of course I had never cooked it because I didn't know what to do with it. Enter my friend, Google!

The Recipe
I started with this recipe from the Taste of Home website. Of course, I didn't have some of the stuff, so after reading the reviews I modified it a little. Here's what I did:

4-4 1/2 pounds short ribs
1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 c. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 packed brown sugar
1/2 c. bottled bbq sauce
1/2 c. ketchup
2T prepared mustard
3 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 t chili powder
1 T dried onion

Whisk the above ingredients together in the crock pot. Add beef and cook on high for 4 hours.

The Results
Pretty good! I didn't have 4 lbs of ribs, probably closer to 2 lbs. It wasn't really enough for all 4 of us, but I wasn't eating at home so it didn't matter...I just snitched a bite to taste it! Since I only cooked about half the ribs I had waaaay too much liquid in there...my ribs were more boiled than braised. But they were good and the kids ate it, so that's what really counts right?!?!

Overall, if I found myself with short ribs again for some reason I'd make it again. However, since I threw away at least as much fat and bones as there was meats it reminded me why ribs aren't on my regular cooking rotation!

Tuesday, September 7

Perspective

Soooo...here's what the girls have to say about today!

Stacy's picture shows the school (tilt your head to the right--the green part is the roof). Stacy says "My favorite part was going to get Kelsey and Brycon."


Kelsey's picture shows Ms. Mandy (yellow hair) and Kelsey (pink hair) on the reading carpet. Kelsey says "My favorite part of school was sitting on the reading carpet."

My favorite part? Having both my kiddos at home again this afternoon! Even if they are a bit tired and grumpy! :-)

Firsts


I know it sounds trite, but how time flies! It seems like just yesterday that Scott and I brought home our first little bundle and today I left that same little bundle at school for her first day of school. I feel sort of like that dream everyone has in college where you show up for the final and realize you didn't ever go to class. Totally unprepared!

I find myself a bit lost at the prospect of having a child in school. This world that I know so well from the teacher angle, yet I have no idea how to navigate it as a parent. I'm not ready to hand over my sweet girl to the influences of the outside world. There are so many things I want for her and hope for her, and yet so many things I know she'll learn at school that I wish I could keep from her. And yet I know I can't and shouldn't shelter her...it's all part of life. I have no qualms talking to my children about life and death, but the prospect of learning words like "stupid" and the difficulties interpersonal relationships make me want to hold them close forever.

Apparently we're doing an OK job at least. Kelsey was very excited about going to school. She's been looking forward to it for over a week. She's been worried about Stacy and I and a bit for herself as well. When the rubber hit the road today though, and it was time for us to go she joined right in with her class. After a brief look of terror she took the big step into the classroom. When I picked her up she was elated! Quite proud of herself and rightly so.

Stacy and I survived as well. We played here at home, then visited some friends for a tea party. To say that Stacy enjoyed being the center of attention would be the understatement of the century. I know this time with just the two of us will be great for her as well. I look forward to watching her grow this year and learn how to have fun without her sister around for a bit.

I'm proud of these children we're raising, and I hope one day they'll understand just how much joy it brings me to be their mother. Even on days like these when I'm crying almost as much as I'm smiling!

Saturday, September 4

On the Sewing Front

I mentioned in an earlier post that Kelsey starts preschool on Tuesday. She's quite excited and was in need of a new backpack for the occasion. Inspired by this pattern from Made by Rae I drafted my own pattern and went for it. If you're thinking that you recognize the fabric, you're right! It's a sheet that I also used to make the new beanbag cover a while back.

I think it turned out pretty cute and Kelsey likes it, so that's good! What do you think?



Here's my latest inspiration/obsession! I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble that was burning a hole in my pocket. I finally made a decision and ordered these books off of my wish list. I've flipped through them all and I'm loving them! Especially the pattern making book. I have to make one more backpack for little sister and then watch out...perfect t-shirt for me, here I come!


On Summer

Wow! As fast as Whittier swelled in May, it deflated this week! Great Pacific (our local seafood processor) ran out of fish at the end of last week, so most of their workforce packed up and moved on Tuesday and Wednesday. We have had 'fish workers' as the girls call them for neighbors on both sides this summer. So far one group has moved out and the apartment was cleaned yesterday...it appeared to be either a thorough cleaning or just a slow cleaning, taking the better part of the day!

Many local businesses are posting September 19 as their last day for the season. Last year we were lucky that the Lazy Otter stayed open all winter. This year they'll be closing with the rest. The latest rumor is that The Inn at Whittier is planning to stay open. Of course the Anchor Inn and the liquor store are open year round as well.

I am trying to pretend that summer's not coming to an end, but I'm afraid it's a futile effort! On our way to town on Thursday I noticed leaves turning on the trees and falling at the park. School has already started (Kelsey's first day of preschool is Tuesday...she's quite excited!) and Labor Day Weekend marks the end of the Anchorage Market on weekends. The mid-week Wednesday market will continue until the end of the produce.

And so, as we approach one year in Alaska we say goodbye to all things summer and hello to the quieter, slower pace of fall and winter.

{this moment}

{this moment} - A weekly ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama.


Friday, September 3

This Week's Recipe--Whole Wheat Crackers

When Scott's sister visited in May, she brought us a copy of Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for MORE Food. It's all about baking. And in the interest of accuracy (or so he says!) the recipes are all weights. So for my birthday my mama got me a digital kitchen scale. Of course I was itchin' to try it out, so I flipped through the book and found the recipe for Whole Wheat Crackers. I've tried crackers before with mixed success...some have flopped and others have become favorites.

The Recipe
Sheesh! I couldn't find this recipe anywhere online, so I had to type it up myself...goodness! That's why there's no mouth watering picture, either...sorry!

5oz (1 c.) whole wheat flour
4.75 oz (1 c.) all purpose flour
1.75 oz (1/3 c.) sugar
4T unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
melted butter for brushing the tops of the crackers, kosher salt to sprinkle on crackers

Preheat oven to 325.

Sift all dry ingredients together. Grate butter into the dry ingredients. Allow butter to sit for a few minutes, then rub into the flour until about half of the butter disappears.

Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Quickly mix together.

Turn onto a well-floured surface and roll 1/16 inch thick (He recommends using rolling pin bands of differing thicknesses. I happened to have some so I used them...next time I'll roll it in smaller batches as I still had difficulty getting the thickness right.). Cut into squares and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes, cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

Andrea's Kitchen
I pretty much followed the directions above!

The Verdict
I like them! Some of the thinner ones were crispier, so I'll work to roll them thinner next time. Kelsey loves them, too. Stacy refuses to try them. But she did willingly try oysters last night...go figure!

There's also a recipe in this book titled A Superior Saltine. Not sure if I'm going to try that one or not...

Thursday, September 2

Busy

Yesterday was a bit busy as we shared our day with our favorite 14 month old, Austin. The girls had a great time, and Austin must have too...he wrapped up his day at our house taking a 3 hour nap!

Today the girls and I headed into town for our last weekday all-day trip for awhile. With Kelsey starting school on Tuesday we'll have to stick to weekends until June! So many little things I've gotten accustomed to and spoiled by as a stay at home mom!

Anyway, after our requisite errands, we stopped by the Museum of Natural History which turned out to be pretty cool. It's located in a former warehouse and is a bit dark, but you can touch almost everything in the place! That's a great thing for little girls who are interested in *everything*. The staff was very kind and welcoming. As we wandered around and I answered the refrain "Can I touch this?" repeatedly we were followed by a gentle Newfoundland. We saw (and touched!) many of the things that capture our attention of late: rocks, bones, and fur.

Yes, she's kissing the skeleton's hand!


When we got home, Scott came in with a bag of fresh oysters someone had given him. The girls were delighted to watch him shuck them and played with oyster shells in the bathtub while he cooked them up. Then we had oysters for a bedtime snack. Does it get much more Alaskan than that?

PS...I am very busy right now pretending that I did not notice signs of fall on the other side of the tunnel. I am sure that I did *NOT* see leaves changing color or leaves on the ground. I am sure of it.