Tuesday, December 30, 2014


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Monday, December 29, 2014

Instagram - Top 5 of 2014

It's no surprise that my top 5 posts to Instagram are from Alaska.  It just has more of a draw than, oh, Wisconsin.

If you want to follow me on Instagram, you can do that here.  My username is KSBH1009.  See ya on IG!

Looking south along the Copper River, just north of Copper Center. 

Willow Lake with Mt. Drum in the distance.
Glenn Highway, facing east, about 10 miles west of Glennallen.
Mt. Drum overlooking its kingdom...
Airplanes at the airstrip north of Glennallen, Mt. Drum in the background.
This image was heavily edited using Google Photos.
#1:  My most popular Instagram post this year:
Richardson Highway, south of the Old Rich.
This sunset was very pretty, so I pulled to the side of the road to take a quick photo with my new phone.
The camera on my new LG G3 is so much better than my old phone...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I made tortillas the other night...

...like, honest to goodness, homemade, they-were-just-ingredients-a-couple-hours-ago, tortillas.

I know, I'm surprised too.

It's something I've thought about ever since Tina got a recipe years ago from our uncle's relative.  And she's never made them.  I don't blame her because, think about it, the thought of making tortillas at your house sounds kind of daunting, doesn't it?

But, like I said, I'd been thinking about it.  And I had purchased a cast iron tortilla press from Target.  And I had bought a pastry cutter, so, well, I figured I better try it.  Plus, the tortillas that the local IGA carries really are awful, and I wanted fajitas.

I used a recipe that I found on Pinterest - a recipe from the Pioneer Woman - and went to town.  And by "went to town," I mean that I got busy making them.

Homemade Flour Tortillas


  • 2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 cup Hot Water

Preparation Instructions

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large wooden bowl. Stir together.
Add spoonfuls of lard or shortening (use 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons), then use a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients. Cut mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour in hot water, stirring to bring mixture together. Lightly knead dough 30 to 40 times, or until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough and is less sticky. Cover with a tea towel and allow dough to rest for at least an hour.
Roll into ping pong size balls, place on a tray, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
When you're ready to make the tortillas, head a dark or cast iron griddle to medium/medium-high heat. One by one, roll out balls of dough until very, very thin. Throw tortillas (one by one) onto the griddle. Cook on each side for 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots. Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a container. To warm, nuke tortillas in the microwave, or wrap in foil and warm in the oven.
Helpful tips:
* Make sure the water you pour in is very warm.
* Allow the dough to rest, both after kneading and after forming into balls.
* Roll out very thin.
* Get the heat right on your stove: Too hot, and the tortilla will burn in spots. Not hot enough, and the tortilla will begin to crisp before you can get it to brown. I get my stove between medium and medium high heat; that seems to do the trick.
* Use a dark griddle or cast iron skillet to brown the tortillas.
* Cook just long enough to lightly brown the tortilla in spots; don't cook too long or tortillas will crisp. You want them to be soft and pliable when you serve them.
* Finally: Have fun! And enjoy them. They're absolutely scrumptious.

Okay, first of all, I'm not a big fan of how the Pioneer Woman writes.  I don't follow her blog.  But I have tried a couple of her recipes and had success.  So I pulled out the big green Tupperware bowl - you know the kind you would take a taco salad to a big pot-luck in - because I wanted to be able to knead the dough in the bowl.  I don't know why the recipe calls for using a big wooden bowl.  I do not own one of those.

While I worked the Crisco (I used Crisco*) into the dry ingredients, I warmed the water in the microwave (because we have non-potable water, or else I would have just used hot water from the tap).  And so then the water was able to cool a little while I finished with the pastry cutter, because you're not supposed to use boiling water.

Okay, here's the deal.  She said to cover the mixture with a tea towel to rest.  Is it supposed to actually touch the dough?  Because as my dough rested for an hour, it dried out except for where it was touching the bowl.  I would love to know the answer.

Based on other recipes I read while my dough was resting, I did not shape all the dough and then let it rest again.  Lots of recipes don't ask you to rest the dough at all, so I figured it would be okay.  It was.

I assembled and cleaned my handy-dandy tortilla press, cut the two pieces of parchment paper so that the dough didn't actually touch the cast iron (as per instructions), and set my griddle to heat.

Within the body of her blog, the Pioneer Woman said that the first few tortillas won't turn out, and you'll get frustrated, but to just keep at it.  This is true.  I found it hard to find the perfect temperature (I'm still getting used to using a gas stove (a very old one, at that) after so so many years of an electric stove).  But I kept at it, noticed that I had to make the dough balls a bit larger, and kept making tortillas.  The first 2-3 were just not right - not really cooked in the center, but it got better.  And I was able to offer fresh hot tortillas to my husband when he got home, just like when you get seated at Pedro's.  And Jeff said that they taste just like Pedro's, which is definitely a compliment.

Once we sat down to dinner, and he had eaten part of a fajita, Jeff turned to me and said, "Don't ever buy tortillas again.  These just melt in your mouth like butter."

They truly were the best fajitas I had ever made, and I did nothing different to the veggies or chicken.

A couple of side notes:  Based on some other recipes I've read since making these on Friday, it looks like this recipe is heavy on the fat.  And the tortillas were very, um, buttery.  You definitely had to wipe your hands after eating a tortilla.  I would not make a drastic change, but probably decrease amount of Crisco used by one tablespoon each time until I felt it was the right amount for us.

*I think next time I buy it, I will get butter flavored Crisco, to help give the tortillas a little more taste.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year

When I was still living in the Lower 48, there were a lot of work days where I got to work in the dark and I left work in the dark.  If we didn't leave work for lunch, we would not see the sun at all.  That's what happens when the window in your office faces the hallway, and no one in your department has a window to the out of doors.

And that's why I think the short hours of sun each day have not yet affected me negatively.

Today, December 21, is the shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere.  The farther north you are, the shorter the day.  The good folks up in Barrow Alaska haven't see a sunrise in a month or so, so the fact that I will have five hours and six minutes of "sun" today is a good thing!

Don't get me wrong.  We don't get a full on view of the sun those 5 hours.  There are a lot of trees to our south (which is where the sun is) and we are directly east of a ridge, which means our sunset at this particular address is earlier than those who live higher.

Our trees do get a pretty good view of the sun, though.

the trees to the South

the trees on the North of the yard, facing North.
Look at that pretty blue sky...

Let's take a look at how much daylight there was on important days in this little Alaskan adventure of ours:

  • June 15 we arrive in Glennallen for Jeff's interviews: 19 hours 44 minutes 35 seconds
  • July 15 Jeff arrives in Glennallen with the UHaul:  18 hours 46 minutes 08 seconds
  • September 21 I arrive in Glennallen, finally:  12 hours 21 minutes 07 seconds
  • December 21, Winter Solstice and our shortest day:  5 hours 6 minutes 13 seconds
And so, each day for the next 6 months will gain more daylight from today!  We will start by gaining seconds of daylight each day, then a minute, and around Spring Equinox we will be gaining 5+ minutes of sunlight a day!

click to enlarge

Saturday, December 20, 2014


We went shopping last weekend.  It was nice because we didn't need to go shopping, we just went to go.  It was just a day trip, and just down to Wasilla.

We left before the sun was up, and got to see the sunrise.  The sunrise was to the south, of course!  Getting to the valley, it was overcast.

And that was the day that I figured out why our trees are continuously covered in snow.

You see, it was windy over there in Wasilla!  It was in the upper 20's, but it felt so cold with that wind!  And I realized, we don't have wind at home!  The trees, and bushes, and road signs, and wires all hold so much snow because it doesn't get blown off!  How did I not realize that before?

You remember when I saw that dog at Costco?  Well, I guess taking your pet to the store is normal up here!  I was sitting at the WalMart waiting as Jeff talked to someone about his glasses, and I saw this woman, and I thought, "No, it can't be!"  But it was...
And yet, it was.  She had a kitty.  In WalMart.  She was buying cat food.  I don't know if she thought that she had to have proof of cat ownership in order to buy it, or if the cat was helping to pick it out, or what.  All I could think was "Who brings a cat to the store!"

Friday, December 19, 2014

What a diva!

Mt. Drum has been very sassy lately, hiding for days a time.  Then, when the mountain is out, by the time you get to a good place for photos, it's hiding again!  WTF!?!?

December 15:
Let's take Monday, for example.  I drove up to the road, got a glimpse, and thought, "Yes!  I'll get some great photos today!"  By the time I got to a place for photos, those clouds had rolled in.

December 17:

And then this, two days later.  Come on, Mt. Drum!  The comb-over is not fooling anyone!  We know it's you!

But that wasn't the kicker.  On Thursday all the mountains were visible from Glennallen.  It was beautiful!  I didn't get any pictures, though, because I figured I would stop somewhere to get some really good shots.  Only a few miles south and the mountain was completely gone, hidden by a wall of clouds, as if the mountain had said, "Too late!  I'm putting my hood back up!"  And I did say, out loud, "You little stinker!"  Okay, I might have used a different word that starts with that same letter...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pinterest Review: Chicken Picado (Like Carlos O' Kelly's)

We were watching TV a while ago - one of my cooking shows that I like - and they said something about Chicken Piccata, and Jeff's ears perked up.  But then he saw what they were talking about, and said that's not right.  Well, he was thinking about Chicken Picado, from Carlos O'Kelly's.  He loves Carlos O'Kelly's but we haven't lived near one in a long long time.

So I searched on Pinterest and came up with this:

Chicken Picado (Like Carlos O' Kelly's)

For the picado sauce:

1 cup milk
1 8oz. container sour cream
1 1/2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
Corn starch mix to thicken sauce (2 tsp corn starch mixed with 2 tsp water)
1 tomato, diced & drained (save juice)

For the chicken:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
6-10 green onions, sliced thin (whites from greens after slicing)
1 green pepper, diced

Also needed:
16 oz. shredded monterrey jack cheese
1 package small flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in saute pan over medium heat. Saute the white portions of the green onions, bell pepper, and chicken. Cover & cook until chicken is completely white. Set aside.

Combine milk, sour cream, 1 stick of butter, salt, pepper, and minced garlic in skillet over medium heat. Stir and heat till sauce starts to boil. Transfer sauce to blender & puree until smooth. Transfer back to skillet. Continue to heat till boiling. Add cornstarch mixture & stir. Add tomato juice from diced tomatoes & stir. Transfer back to blender & puree. Cover and set aside. 

In a glass baking dish (I use an 8x8) put the chicken, peppers & onions mixture in the bottom of the pan, & cover with picado sauce puree. Top with LOTS of monterrey jack cheese, the green onion & diced tomato, & bake in the oven until cheese is melted, & the sauce is golden & bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes.

Verdict:  It was really liquidy.  I did add in the cornstarch, but I guess it wasn't enough.  I also think there is way more butter in this dish than truly necessary.  I have never had the dish that Jeff was talking about, so I don't know if the taste was right on, but I did think that it had that kind of taste you get at at Mexican restaurante.  I will try to make this again, but maybe it needs to be made like the old creamy chicken & rice dishes, where you put the uncooked rice in the dish before you bake it.  Maybe that would help...

If you've made this, do you have any suggestions?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Photos from our last trip to Anchorage

The weekend before Thanksgiving we made a trip in to Anchorage.  It was a two day affair, because I knew that we would not have time to get everything done in one day.  It was, after all, our last opportunity to do some Christmas shopping.

Since our route takes us West, the sun was always either in our eyes from the South (not climbing high enough for the visor to be of any use), or behind mountains, like in the photos above.  It's amazing to think that if you build North of mountains, you could end up with months of no direct sunlight each winter...  Duly noted.

Since it was a Christmas gift shopping trip as much as a grocery/supply shopping trip, I don't have too many photos.  I can tell you that it was exhausting, not only the actual trip, but also the prep.  Looking through the cupboard to see what all we needed, coming up with meal ideas, looking at the ingredients, making a shopping list based on that.  And then finding all those items at the stores!  Well, let's just say that I did not get the full grocery list...  And by the time we were done, I really didn't care, either.

We did get to see the worlds largest chocolate fountain.  I mean, there's not designation from Guinness or anything, but they say it's the largest.  And it was pretty impressive - a 2-story chocolate fountain!

And we definitely pushed the limits of the car.  The photo above was before we even went to the grocery store...  Jeff said that the car rode a good 4 inches lower all loaded down from our trip.  I was quite happy that we never needed the spare tire.  We really would have had a time unloading the trunk for that...

Putting away the groceries gave us a full pantry, but it's still not organized...  And since it's been two weeks, I guess it's time to get on that...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Willow Lake

We took a drive last weekend, hoping to see the mountains, and we headed south since I have only headed north on the Richardson since I got here.

The clouds wanted to keep the mountains all to themselves.  You can see the top of Mt. Drum.  That's Willow Lake, and a nice looking cabin right there on the lake front.

That place would probably offer some pretty views all year long...

There are so many turn-off areas in Alaska so that people have a place to pull off and take photos.  There is such a place at Willow Lake.  This is the view if you keep heading south.

The colors kept changing because it was mid-afternoon, aka sunset...

Closer view of the top of Mt. Drum.

Another beautiful view of the mountain, cabin, and lake...
And my favorite of the day, with the purples & pinks of sunset.

Recently - Around Glennallen

I try to take my camera with me when I leave the house, just in case there is anything interesting to photograph.  Here are some of the results.

Buildings on the tundra have to disperse their heat away from the ground.  Your building could melt the permafrost and then you're left sinking into the ground!  Zoinks!  Different buildings accomplish this different ways.

This building is up above the ground.

Same building.  See how it's so high that you can see all the way underneath?   Also notice that red truck is plugged in to the buiding...  pretty much a must around here so you know your vehicle starts when work is over.  And it hasn't even gotten "cold" yet...

This photo was taken at the medical clinic.  This building is built directly on the ground.  So it has this system that cools the ground underneath.  This is almost like a chimney - but that long top portion almost looks like a bottle brush; it's not a solid tube.  I have no idea how it works, but it allows the medical clinic to not have stairs.  Pretty important.

I don't know if you can tell, but the truck has a large water tank in the back end.  I thought he was headed to the well, like where we get our water, but no, he kept on heading north.  I'm glad we don't have to get that much water...

Imagine my surprise when I saw this sporty little thing at the post office.  Does not look like the kind of car an Alaskan would be driving in the winter, but hey, it's meteorologically still fall, right?  Maybe they were out for one last spin before putting it away for the season.

And this week I went and got my Alaska driver's license!  Woo Hoo!  First time in more than 20 years that I had to take a test to get my license, but that's state law.  I am happy to report that I passed and am now an Alaskan!  Also, do you see how small that DMV office is?  So tiny!  But I can't complain; at least we have a DMV here in Glennallen!

And yes, I did get all dolled up to go and get my license.  I have had the worst drivers license photo since I had to get my new one in July, and I figured I was due a good license photo!  I was so happy to relinquish that Wisconsin license; it was embarrassing to show it...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Recipe: Coke Salad (you asked for it!)

I was probably legally old enough to drive before I found out that "normal*" people don't know what Coke Salad is.  Or that if you try to find the recipe, "normal" people call it Bing Cherry Salad.

pfffttt...  "normal people".......

Some fun facts about Coke Salad, as far as our family** goes:

  • It's at almost all holidays, and if it's not there, you're going to find some disappointed people (my husband).  
  • Each branch of the family probably knows who makes it best (an un-named source has said that Tina makes the best Coke Salad).  
  • There is disagreement over whether or not it should be girl Coke Salad or boy Coke Salad.  At my house, we don't add nuts, so it's girl Coke Salad.  I hear that Loretta puts finely chopped walnuts in her Coke Salad (slowly shaking head in disgrace).
  • There's also the subtle nuances of which Jell-o to use (cherry vs black cherry) and which cola to use (Coke vs Pepsi vs Dr. Pepper; regular vs diet; regular vs cherry), and of course, pineapple tidbits vs crushed pineapple (Tina says tidbits, so that's what I use).  
  • Many of us have attempted to spread the Coke Salad phenomenon to our in-laws with varying degrees of success.  Tina's nephew is a Coke Salad junkie, but when I brought it to an event for Jeff's family, no one even commented on it.  I was dumbfounded...
  • And, as I've recently found out, it's not at all photogenic.

So, what is Coke Salad?  Here's the recipe for this Jell-o salad from Heaven:

Coke Salad

1 large box of cherry Jell-o
1 can dark cherries; retain juice
1 can pineapple tidbits (or crushed, or I guess even chunks, but I used tidbits); retain juice
1 block cream cheese
2 cups cold cola of your choice - if you're traditional, use Coke

  • Open your cans of fruit and pour the juices out - you'll need 2 cups total.  If you're using crushed pineapple, I find it's helpful to set a colander on the 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup/bowl, pour in the pineapple, and smoosh it down with a potato masher, to get all the juice out. If you end up with less than 2 cups, just add enough water to get up to 2 cups.
  • Boil the juices.  But be careful with that because I've boiled the juices over in the microwave more times than I care to admit.  Don't ask...
  • Add the boiling juice to the Jell-o powder, stirring to dissolve.  The box says 2 minutes.
  • Put it in the fridge for a while to let it get a little thicker.  Like 20 minutes or so (I can't actually find my written down recipe; can you tell?).
  • While the Jell-o is chillin' in the fridge, cut the cherries in half.  You can go ahead and cube up the cream cheese too.  Cutting the cream cheese is my least favorite part of this process because it's all sticky and gets soft and argh!
  • When the Jell-o has thickened a little (not set!), add the cola, fruit, and cheese.  
  • Stir.  
  • Refrigerate until set.  
  • Enjoy immensely.

Now, there is a fundamental flaw to Coke Salad.  That flaw is that the cream cheese rises to the top, so if you're like, 5th or 6th in line to get Coke Salad, and the people in front of you were greedy, or thoughtless, or, well, me, you'll be left with cream cheese-less Coke Salad, and that is not ideal.  Here's what I do to avoid that:

  • While the Jell-o is chilling, in your serving dish, layer half of your fruit, then half of the cream cheese, the rest of the fruit, and the rest of the cream cheese.  What's nice is that the weight of the layers will hold half of the cream cheese towards the bottom!  And then don't stir it,  It's worked well in the few times I've done that. 
So, what do you think?  Sound good?  If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Coke Salad, taking over the world one family at a time...

*True story:  If you ask the members of my family, most of us will admit that we're really not "normal."  We have our own brand of craziness (i.e. humor) that really intensifies the more of us that gather.  In fact, there have been times when we were in public, and I think if I'd asked others around us, they would have thought we were drunk (never).  And there was at least once that I honestly thought we were going to get thrown out of a restaurant for being rowdy***.
**And for the purpose of this blog post, "our family" refers to my Mom's side of the family tree.
***It was when Loretta & Andy & the kids were traveling to West Virginia.  Lunch at a place right by the Oglesby off-ramp.  It was them, me, Sharon, Susana, Marcos, & Marcos Alan.  And we were seated at a big table in the middle of the dining room.  All the other diners kept looking at us, and the manager was basically circling our table.  I was having as much fun hanging out with them as I was watching everyone else.  Funniest thing ever.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 - What I'm thankful for

1.)  Health.  While I'm sure that medical professionals would say that most Americans, including us, are only in "fair" health, we are doing well.  No injuries or bad illnesses.  And there is an Urgent Care in Glennallen, just in case.

2.)  Happiness.  I can say we are truly happy up here.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am much more happy and content than I was a year ago.  Our lives have completely changed, and while some of those changes bring us pain (being so far from family), the sum of all the changes = happiness.

3.)  Freedom.  We live in 'Merica.  We have the freedom to celebrate Thanksgiving, freedom to worship and celebrate God, freedom to write about what we want to write about or talk about what we want to talk about.  That's something that I will never be able to fully appreciate because I don't know what it's like to not have freedom.  Big thank you to all of our veterans for making Thanksgiving and all of our celebrations a possibility!

4.)  A good internet connection.  Hey, they couldn't all be deep, right?  I don't know if I could have moved so far from family if it wasn't for technology.  Being able to surf the web makes me feel closer to the world.  I can talk to people whenever I want to.  And even though we haven't tried it out yet, we have the computer all set up to Skype!

5.)  Plenty.  We have plenty.  Plenty of heat, plenty of water (even though we have to run and get it), plenty of food, plenty of coziness, and if we run out of anything, we have the capability to get more.

6.)  Family.  We've obviously had a lot of change over the past year, and while our moving has changed our lives so much, it's changed our families' lives as well.  I thank everyone for the encouragement and love during the last 6 months, because without that, without you, we wouldn't be the people we are.

7.)  Coke Salad.  If you've ever had Coke Salad, you know why it's on the list.  I am also thankful that I am too far away for Loretta to actually kill me for giving the recipe to the sample lady at Costco...

8.)  Love.  My love for my husband has grown in leaps and bounds in the last couple of months.  He is my rock.  He is here to celebrate with me, to laugh with me, to hold me when I cry, and to just be near each other in the evenings.

The list doesn't end there.  For all that is good, I am thankful!  So, on this Thanksgiving 2014, please know that as you're saying Grace over your Thanksgiving meal, whether it's the traditional meal or KFC, we are thankful for and praying for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lots to do for Thanksgiving & Christmas

Whew.  I have a lot of stuff I need to do.

Today I'm going to work on as much stuff as possible to get ready for Thanksgiving.  This is the first time that I'm having Thanksgiving with just Jeff, and I think only the second time that I won't be with my family (we had turkey at his sister's house a few years ago).

While it's just us, I still feel like there is a lot to be done!  We aren't skimping on the menu...  We're having:

  • Roasted Turkey Breast (let's all hope it's not dry...)
  • Gravy (hopefully homemade, but I bought a jar, just in case)
  • Stuffing (Pepperidge Farm)
  • Candied Yams (like Mom makes)
  • Mashed Potatoes (more for the leftovers than for anything else)
  • a veggie, from the freezer
  • Coke Salad (ancient family recipe)
  • Pumpkin Pie (again, like Mom makes)
  • Cranberry Jelly (canned)

Yes, we will have lots of leftovers.  But I have my Pinterest board all ready with leftover recipes.  And I plan on making turkey & potato soup, using this recipe as a base.  I send soup in a thermos to work with Jeff everyday (it's a Stanley thermos and he said it's always hot when it's lunch time), so I figure if I make the soup, I could freeze some for later for lunches.

Also, the Coke Salad will NOT last long.  Which reminds me, I gave the recipe to a sample lady at Costco this weekend!  How funny is that?  She was in the aisle near the cream cheese, and Jeff asked if we needed any, and then started razzing me that I haven't yet made the Coke Salad that I said I'd make a month ago (true story), and the sample lady asked what Coke Salad is.  I verbally told her, and she pulled out a piece of paper and asked me to write it down!  I sure hope I remembered it correctly, and that her family likes it!

I'm considering making pinwheels to take to church on Sunday.  They have a lunch after every service.  And I figured if I put some turkey, cranberry jelly, craisens, and cream cheese on tortillas, roll them up, and slice, that would be pretty darn yummy...

So today I need to finish putting away the groceries from this weekend's shopping trip (it was a 2-day event and the car was so loaded down that Jeff said that the car raised up 4 inches when we unloaded it).  I need to do dishes, then make pumpkin pie, then do dishes, then make Coke Salad, then do dishes, then cut the veggies that I'll use tomorrow, then do dishes, then make dinner.  And I currently plan on doing dishes before going to  bed so that I have a clean kitchen to start in tomorrow.

Why do I need to do dishes so often?  We don't have a dishwasher, at least not one that isn't human.  And I have a tendency to dirty a LOT of dishes when I cook.  And I hate dirty dish water.  And I also don't really care for drying dishes, so if I do them in batches, they are more likely to air dry in between batches.

I figure if I get all the veggies cut that I will need for tomorrow, it will make my life easier.  I'm also considering making the mashed potatoes ahead of time; does that work?  Is that a thing?  I don't know, so maybe I'll text Tina and ask.

Jeff and I also have a lot that we have to do over the weekend (so excited that he has 4 days off!  Both Thursday & Friday are paid holidays!  At his old job he always had to work the day after...).  We have to put plastic up on the windows, run and get water, and I know that Jeff has some stuff that he wants to knock out this weekend.  I want to start wrapping Christmas presents and working on Christmas cards, along with some un-named Christmas-related stuff that I can't divulge at this time.

Well, I guess there's no time like the present!  Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Some TV Stuff

So, when the president is on TV at 8PM Eastern Time, it really screws with my recording of The Ellen Show.  And it means that I missed Rebel Wilson from yesterday's episode!  Darn you, Mr. President!  Rebel Wilson is so much more entertaining than you!

So I decided to try to find the interview online.  I tried Ellentube.com.  I didn't find what I was looking for, or did I?

Rebellen's new single

You MUST watch this!  Tina, that means you!


Buying Alaska on Destination America this Saturday
This episode will feature a couple of people we met while on our trip up here in June, and it says it'll be focused on Glennallen!  If you want to see more about the town where Jeff works, check your local listings and tune in!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tuesday's moose roast = today's moose stew

The other night we got a call from Jeff's co-worker that he was across the street smoking some caribou and we should stop by.  It was definitely a good idea, because we came home bearing gifts of meat.

One of the things he gave us was a moose roast.  Now, Jeff & I aren't big steak eaters, and I've only made roast a couple times in our 5 years together.  We are much more chicken or ground beef kind of people.  But that's okay, because it was time for roast and I had yet to haul out my crock pot since I got up here.

I have this stuff called Better Than Bullion; it's in a jar, a very thick liquid, and you mix it with water to create stock or broth.  I figured that way I don't have to keep a bunch of broth on hand.  I made some beef stock with that, along with some apple cider (I used two cups of each liquid), for the crock pot liquid.  I seared the roast on all sides before putting it into the crock pot with some onions.  And then I put an envelope of crock pot roast seasoning in.  I wasn't going to settle for a flavorless roast!  Since I had put apple cider in, I chose not to add in an envelope of onion soup mix, or any ranch seasoning.

I cooked it for 2 hours on low, 2 hours on high, and another 2 hours on low (I was limited on time, or else I would have cooked it for 8 hours on low).

When I had two hours left, I added in some bite-size chunks of carrot and potato, because that is my favorite* part of having roast - the veggies that were cooked in the juice and sucked up all the flavor.

*When I was a kid I was the youngest so I was always served first at dinner.  And every time we would have crock pot roast, I would complain that my piece was "hard" (7-year-old word for tough), and everyone else would say "No it's not."  And so I would not enjoy having roast.  Finally, after many years, my Dad tried my piece of roast.  And he said, "It is tough."  Finally!  Vindication!  And probably the reason I don't order steak.  I don't know what Jeff's problem is.

So on Tuesday night we had roast & veggies, and mac n cheese per Jeff's request.  Um, the flavors didn't really go together well, but I did like what the cheese did to the liquid I had in my bowl (I almost always serve my dinner into a bowl.  true story).

Obviously we had leftovers of the roast & veggies because 2 people aren't going to eat the whole thing!  I sliced up more of the roast and fished out the veggies, and put it into a container and filling it with liquid from the crock pot.  I also put about a third of the roast into a freezer bag and popped it into the freezer.  I have plans for that!  Oh, I need to add Ritz crackers to my shopping list...

And today is Thursday.  I didn't make dinner last night.  I thought we had fish or burritos in the freezer so I figured Jeff wouldn't starve.  Ooops.  We didn't have either one.  I guess I should have made dinner.  So today I took that left over roast & veggies and turned it in to stew!  (Don't worry, Jeff ended up having meatballs for dinner)

I stared with the juice.  I had kept a mason jar of it before I emptied the crock pot.  I used it to make a gravy.

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
8 ounces broth/stock

First melt the butter.  Then whisk in the flour, cooking for 2 minutes while you whisk.  Add in the liquid, all while continuing to whisk.  Yes, it's difficult to do both things at once.  But you can do it!

Once you get it all whisked together and heated through, you have gravy!  Mine ended up being very thick, but that was okay, because I wasn't going to use it as gravy.  I put most of that gravy into another container so I could use the same sauce pan for the stew.

I then grabbed that moose roast & veggies in liquid.  I used my Ulu to cut everything to small chunks.

you caught me mid-cut...
I put the meat, veggies, and some liquid into the little bit of gravy that I left in the sauce pan.  Mixed it all around.  Then I added a big more liquid and the rest of the gravy to get it to the consistency that I like my stews to be.  When Jeff gets home I will make either mashed potatoes or rice to serve it with.

Look at me, a real Alaska housewife, making moose for dinner multiple nights in one week...  And Jeff's been have snacks of caribou sausage every once in a while...  You should come visit!

The Copper River

When we went to church on Sunday (in a little Lutheran church in our "subdivision"), Jeff pointed to the edge of the parking lot and said, "That's the river."
Trees on the south edge of the church parking lot.
So of course I had to make my back there with the camera!
These pictures were taken on Wednesday, November 20, 2014, just before 11AM.

See the steam coming off the river?  It was about 19 degrees out when I took these photos.
Do you see how low the sun is in the sky?!?!  
It's almost noon, and the sun is just getting above the tree line.

I only stood outside taking pictures for about 6 minutes - it was kinda chilly...
Don't worry, I wasn't too close to the river.  It's down probably 15 feet below the "bluff."

Facing North, where the Copper River is coming from.  Mt. Drum is behind the bluffs on the other side of the river.
And while there is a lot of ice on the river, frozen on the edges and then "slushy" in the channel, it's still a very loud river, flowing fast!

Now if I could only get another beautiful pink sunset, I could run down and take some really amazing shots of the Copper River!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mailbag - answering a couple questions about moving to and living in Alaska

I received a comment on the post with the

Whew, where was I?  Oh, yes, the comment.  It had questions:

My husband and I are looking into moving to AK from CT. We have been talking about it for years! I am glad I came across your blog, every other one I read is old. I like that yours is current. What does your husband do that you can afford to not work? We would love to have that same situation but always find we cant afford to live on one income. Any advice on housing and making that huge of a move? 

Okay, well, first of all, Thanks!  I love to find out that someone's reading my blog, especially someone I'm not related to or friends with and therefore "forced" to read it.  Welcome!

Your first question was about what my husband does for work that means I don't have to.  Jeff works for the phone company.  That fact isn't all encompassing of why we don't monetarily need income from me.  We live modestly.  We always have.  We were each raised in families that had to watch their budgets.  To quote an awesome movie* "We don't go to Europe.  We don't own fancy cars.  I don't own expensive jewelry."  So we don't have that expensive lifestyle to have to try to keep up.

Plus, we left a lot of expenses behind.  I was driving 200 miles a week, just to and from work.  Not including any little side trips.  I would go to the store just to go.  I ate out for lunch almost every day.  We ate out as a family entirely too often.  All expenses we don't incur anymore.  Plus, Alaska doesn't have any state sales tax (but some cities do), or individual income tax, and where we live there's no property tax.

Now, If I drive to town, it's less than 25 miles round trip, and it's not every day, more like 2-3 times a week.  I never eat lunch out.  I don't go to the store just cuz I'm bored (oh, Target, Hobby Lobby, Michael's, how I miss you...).  And we go out to eat together once a week, max.

My degree and background are in Human Resources.  To take a job up here, I'd probably be an administrative assistant or bank teller or grocery clerk, which would be great because, you know, less stress, but also, less income.  And if/when I decide to go back to work, I will be spending less time cooking, which means more "easy" meals, which means more processed stuff, convenience foods, which are more expensive.  Or more days when we say "Let's go to the Fireweed" (which costs $25+ for the two of us).  For us, for right now, this works.  Luckily there are enough employers around here that there would be employment opportunities.

Moving on...

You also asked:  Any advice on housing and making that huge of a move?

Wow, that's a big question.

And I've only lived here for less than 2 months.

But here goes.

First off, you really need to get a better idea of what part of the state you want to live in, what kind of a lifestyle you want to have.  Alaska is huge!  You've got the populated areas like Anchorage/Wasilla/etc.  The populated but colder Fairbanks.  The populated but can't drive there from anywhere Juneau.  You've got tons of small towns.  For the small towns, you probably have to figure out how far or how long of a drive you want to be from, well, WalMart.  Girdwood (not that far) or Seward (2.5 hours)?  You've also got the parts of the state where you can't drive, like all those cute little towns on the Inside Passage, or the western part of the state, including Nome, Alakanuk, Unakleet where you have to fly out.

You can also decide on your location based on geographic features.  Live in the rain forest that is the Inside Passage.  Live where temps pretty much stay between 0 and 60 degrees throughout the year down in Homer.  Live in Whittier, where everyone lives in the same building and it rains 187% of the time (slight exaggeration).  Live where there are plenty of mountains and trees, or where there are none.  Lots to choose from.  I moved here from the Midwest where it's flat.  Now, well, you've seen the pictures.

Before May 17, I hadn't even heard of this town Jeff works in.  I always figured we would live somewhere much closer to Anchorage or the MatSu Valley; I was checking out houses in Eagle River.  Somewhere I could run to the drug store, or Target, or whatnot whenever I wanted to.  But we had to consider employment, and this is where the work was, and a good job at that.  We came up for the interview, and it's beautiful.  It took me a while to see the beauty, because people up here live differently than what I was used to.  My eyes have stopped seeing all the abandoned/disabled vehicles and junk in peoples' yards.  I've stopped really seeing that you can have a nice house next to one that looks like it belongs to a hoarder.  Maybe the the early snow this year was God's gift to me to help me get over the difference in lifestyle up here...

Also, when deciding where you want to live, you have to also think about how you want to live.  Many people live just like they would anywhere else in the US, with regular utilities and running water, like we do.  You could decide you want to live very far away from other people, or right in town in an apartment complex.  You could decide you want to live in a dry cabin (no running water, no way Jose!).  Or maybe you want to be so remote you can't even drive anywhere close to your humble little abode, with no neighbors for miles and miles.

So, you know, lots to think about.

As far as housing goes, in our neck of the woods, one of the pieces of advice Jeff heard from many many people during the trip up here for the interview was to rent for the first year.  And that's what we're doing.  What's nice is that we're in a house without a commitment.  We can explore and figure out what our needs and wants are up here.  What different areas there are to live in.  Where we can be on the town water or at least have potable water from a well so we don't have to go and get water.  We can see what the winter driving conditions are on different roads, and get a better feel of how far of a commute we are willing to take on.

This next idea is not for me, as I am not a camper, but I think is probably the best idea for a couple that likes camping.  Sell all your crap, except what you can comfortably live with in a camper or RV.  Selling all your stuff gives you money to live off of.  And then drive up here and explore.  Maybe drive up here, get a job, and explore.  Whatever you're comfortable with.  Up here you can pretty much pull off and camp almost anywhere.  There was a couple who were camped out in their camper in the scenic lookout when we were up for the interview.  Of course they were camped out there because they had mechanical problems on their way south for the summer to see family, but you get the idea.  Also, selling all your stuff means you don't have to either hire a moving company or drive a UHaul up the ALCAN.  Which Jeff did.  He did not enjoy it.  Maybe if he'd had enough time to drive at a leisurely pace...

Which really brings me to the next thing:  The cost of moving to Alaska.

Let's face it, there is always going to be expenses when you move, even when you are lucky enough to have relocation paid by your employer.  If nothing else, you know you're going to have to buy a new toilet bowl brush and plunger.  Because, really, don't move those, that's gross.  And when you're making this big of a move, you're going to have to buy new kitchen stuff like salad dressing.  Do you have any idea how much salad dressing got thrown out when I finally made the move up here?  It was a lot.  And window coverings.  And maybe a new bookshelf.  And oh, wouldn't that be a nice (fill in the blank) to put on the wall in the living room?  And utilities and phone service and satellite TV, all have "connection fees."  So, you know, moving expenses.

If you wait to make the move until you can afford it, you might never move.  Earlier this year I had told Jeff that we could financially afford to move to Alaska in 5 years.  And I'm so happy that we took the opportunity that presented itself, even if we hadn't hit what I would consider being "financially ready."

But how do you really actually physically move to Alaska?

Well, that depends on the part of Alaska you're moving to.  If you can drive to where you're moving to, do the RV thing like I wrote about above.  Or drive a UHaul like my husband did.  Or hire a moving company (which apparently takes a month or more to get your stuff).
If you're going to live somewhere you have to fly to (the entire Western half of the state, basically), you don't have those options.  I've read blogs (from a lot of teachers & their families) who have moved via the USPS.  That's right, the post office.  Someone has to move your stuff, so why not trust the people who have been moving stuff for pretty much ever?  I have mailed my share of Priority Mail boxes, and I also mailed a tote.  In fact, I raced my tote up here.  I took it to the post office in Illinois right before my sister and I took off to drive to Seattle (here, here, and here).  I then picked it up about two weeks later at the post office, somewhat worse for wear, but intact.
I also read a blog from someone who moved to Juneau to teach.  She sold almost all her stuff, packed her car as full as possible, and drove to the west coast.  She caught the ferry from Bellingham WA up to Juneau.  And she also had some stuff mailed to her.

So, what else do you want to know?  I'd love to try to help out if you have questions, even though I am by no means an expert.  I just have recent experience.

And if you're looking for other Alaska blogs, I read:
Alaskan at Heart
At Home on the Last Frontier
Our Wild and Precious Life
The Cunningham Family in Bush Alaska

Hopefully that helps.

*Have you figured out what movie?  Father of the Bride.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

pictures at the airport ~ squirrel! ~ trees & clouds

It was another beautiful day on Thursday.  And I knew exactly where I wanted to go to take a few pictures - the airport!

Unfortunately, with this camera I'm using, I don't really know the camera yet.  So I started off in Panoramic mode, without realizing it...  Yikes!

I love this photo, but I wished that the red on the plane stood out more.  So I doctored it up in Google photos to give you this:
And I love it!

Next time I'm going to be a little more brave as I take photos.  But I was not sure if I was allowed to be where I was, and I didn't want to get in trouble.  Plus, I didn't want to walk too far because I had left the car running.  I like the fact that we still have the Wisconsin plates on the car, so if someone asks what I'm doing or why I'm somewhere I'm not supposed to be, and I just feign ignorance.  :-)

I also stopped off at the little spot just north of where the Old Rich veers off of the Richardson Highway.  I was so happy to see a couple of little squirrels playing!  I wasn't able to get this guy's friend - a ginger - but this guy was quite the little model.

And when I got home, the trees and the clouds looked so cool, I just couldn't resist.