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...