Saturday, January 31, 2015

Overnight in Valdez

Jeff was down in Valdez for a training class this week.  I had never heard of Valdez until 1989 when the Exxon Valdez spill happened.  I am happy to report that it's all cleaned up!  I saw for myself!

I decided to join Jeff on Thursday for a little get away from home, and to see what new there was to see.  Unfortunately, I chose the one bad weather day to drive down there.  Yikes!  Lots of snow!  And since it's dry snow, lots of blowing snow!  I had the GPS on, and every time I saw a vehicle headed towards me, I would check to see if the road ahead of me was straight and if anyone was behind me, because I knew I was in for a white out!

It's about 115 miles from here to Valdez, so not a bad drive.  Almost at the end of the drive, with about 30 miles left, you go through Thompson Pass.  I remember driving through there in June and the amazing expansive view, so was sad that the snow meant there was no view at all.

Luckily when I got into Keystone Canyon, just a few miles past, the wind was nil and the clouds had stopped sprinkling the white stuff.  Suffice it to say that I hadn't seen the "Avalanche Area" sign before I pulled over to take these photo:
Bridal Veil Falls

Keystone Canyon

Finally got to the hotel where I ran in to the most feared and dangerous wildlife that Alaska has to offer:

He just hopped right up.  I probably could have picked him up if I had wanted to!  But I remember from when we had a bunny (oh, Bunn Bunn, you were cute, even if you did poop & pee on the floor when we would bring you into the house) that they bite.  And, no, I don't know if it was actually a he.  I wasn't going to get that personal.

Our room was on the side of the hotel facing the Coast Guard dock.

I might have been enamored with that ship.

A little bit.

I also saw a couple of otters, but knew that if I tried to find my camera, I would miss it, so I just enjoyed them.  I mean, how cute are otters?  They just float around on their backs all cute like.  Love those guys!

Luckily, Day 2 was a much better day!  Beautiful, clear, and blue skies!  The drive home was much more enjoyable.
panoramic view a couple miles outside of Valdez

A big shout out to the DOT guys who put the pull-offs all over the place in Alaska.  Seems like there is always a safe place to pull off of the road up here.
Keystone Canyon

There's this one hair pin turn just south of Thompson Pass, and there are 3 scenic pull-offs on that one turn alone!

so, Colleen, when are you coming up to go heli-skiing?

For the most part, I got out of the car to take photos.  The weather wasn't too bad.  But in Thompson Pass...
you probably can't tell how hard the wind was blowing...

Yikes!  No way!  I stayed in the car because the wind was just so strong!  The radio said that they were having wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour.  Well, I'll tell ya, the wind was so strong it was hard to get a photo, the car was being shaken so much.  I stayed in my car for that one.

It was nice to have a night away with my honey, but even nicer to be back home where we can sleep in our own comfy bed tonight.  I was greeted by 6 new inches of snow when I got home.  All within 24 hours....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cake with Strawberries & Chocolate Chips

Back in, I don't know, October maybe, on one of our big shopping trips to the valley, Jeff & I bought a huge bag of strawberries.  I grabbed for the normal size bag, and Jeff went for the huge bag.  I've been trying to work on using things from our freezer - I've bought very little at the store since we were last in the valley on December 31st - and came across the bag.

Back in Wisconsin, we were on the Fellowship team for church, so every 10 weeks I would make a bunch of treats.  I liked it because I could try recipes without having all this food in the house!  Well, up here, there is a pot-luck lunch after every church service.  So I pulled out my handy-dandy "Berries & Cherries" board from Pinterest, and got inspired.  We won't talk about the huge mess I made defrosting those strawberries...  Lets just say that using a cooling rack with nothing underneath is not the best option...

Many of the recipes I looked at called for a pan I didn't have - springform pan, 9x13 glass pan - so I decided to just stick with what I know and grabbed a good old box cake mix.  I mixed the box mix up like normal and put it into the pan.  I took the (huge) defrosted strawberries and set them into the cake mix, fairly close together.  Once that was done, I thought "what the heck" and threw couple handfuls of chocolate chips over the top (I have small hands).
before baking...

I baked the cake per the box mix instructions, and even with all the moisture of the added strawberries, the toothpick came out clean at the appropriate time.
...after baking

Soon as I took it out, I used the sifter to put a healthy dose of powdered sugar over the top.

I did all this about 90 minutes before we had to leave for church.  I was worried what would happen to the cake when I put the lid on for transport, but luckily the church is very close and it was fine.

And you know what?  The cake was good!  I would definitely cut the strawberries into pieces next time, or just plain put them in the blender and make it a real strawberry cake, but the taste was good and it was nice and moist.  And you know what, I think that powdered sugar over the top of a hot cake makes a way better topping than canned frosting.  Holy cow, I might not like canned frosting anymore...  My life will never be the same...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Recent photos

Alaska must have been getting her beauty sleep, because she's been gorgeous the last couple of days!

I was driving home from Glennallen yesterday (so, headed south), and saw that the sunrise looked just amazing!  I knew the best place to view it would be down by the church, which is on the river, and I hoped to catch it...

I did!  Sometimes the light is fleeting, or just a few miles is enough that it's different.  But I was very lucky to get to see early morning sun (a little after 10AM, that is).

As you can see, the Copper River is not frozen over.  In fact, it's almost like there's less ice now than before.  We have had an unseasonably warm winter this year.  Not too many days have stayed too far below zero.

To show you how important a beautiful sunrise is to a beautiful view, this is the view to the North from that same spot:

What a drab, dreary day we ended up having overhead.  Clouds, everywhere.  One more for good measure...

It really doesn't take long to get the good shot, so I was off to home.  The sky had streaks of pink in it when I got home:

But, again, cloudy.  In the afternoon:

It was obvious that it doesn't matter if there are clouds in the sky, as long as they aren't between you and the sun.  (approx 2:40PM)

It really still floors me that at every corner, there is the possibility of a beautiful vista.  Literally.  This is the corner where I turn north to go to town.  All I need is the right light and bam!  beautiful scenery.

And I just stepped outside today because I saw that it was 30 degrees (above zero, thankyouverymuch), to see the sunlight hitting the trees:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pinterest Review: Homemade Chocolate Pudding (fail)

We needed to use up some milk that was just about to go bad, but I didn't have any boxed pudding mix in the house!  Jeff loves the cook & serve chocolate pudding, and it's a good way to use up some of a half gallon of milk that won't last another 24 hours.  So I decided to try it.  I used this recipe:

Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4 (1/2 cup) portions
  • 2 cups milk
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch.
  2. Turn the heat up to high and continue to whisk as the mixture starts to boil. Do not stop stirring. It takes about 6 minutes to bring to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, continue whisking for another 2 minutes.
  4. Remove pudding from heat. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pudding can be eaten warm or chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours to be eaten later. When chilling, place plastic wrap on the surface if you want to avoid the "skin". Although the "skin" is fine to eat and can be stirred to loosen.
  6. Top the pudding with fresh berries or whipped cream.

Verdict?  Ugh, it was bad.  And I felt so bad for Jeff!  I didn't tell him that it wasn't box mix, so he really had his hopes up for having chocolate pudding.  The texture was thicker, more gelatinous yet still watery, and the taste, ugh, was bad.  Really bad.  We threw out most of it.  I will be putting this in the "Fail" category, and making sure I stock up on the box mix.

It had been a while since I had a Pinterest Fail; I guess I was due.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Copper Basin 300 - and they're off!

Yesterday (Saturday) was the start of the Copper Basin 300 sled dog race.  It's a qualifying race for the Iditarod.  There ended up being 48 teams racing this year - that's a lot of dogs!

We were happy that the weather had warmed up substantially since the middle of the week - it was in the teens above zero when we went to watch the race start at 10 am (much better than the negative 30s we'd been having).

Those doggies were just so excited and so ready to run!

There were 2 minutes in between each team start, and it was fun to see each dog team.  They brought each team across the highway to the starting point, anchored by a four-wheeler.  Had they not been anchored, they would just just been off!

I started to get cold so we stopped at the store for a drink, and headed out of town to see the race  without so many people.

it was very snowy for a while

As we drove North on the Richardson, we saw the teams, and were able to see that there had already been some teams being passed.  When we knew we were in front of all the teams, we found some good places to stop and take pictures.

The finishers should start arriving back in town tomorrow (Monday).  I might keep an eye on the website and head in to town to see a finish or two.  Maybe then I could get some better doggie pictures...

Looking for more info?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Your weather is better than our weather

I was well aware back in November when I said that our weather was better than your weather, that the tables would turn.  And boy, they have!

I've seen the outside temps as low as -34.  That's Fahrenheit...

This is the window in the kitchen, the only one we didn't put plastic over.
When it's this cold, you just can't stop this from happening.
I mean, it's nearly 100 degrees different from inside to out!
Luckily, it's not windy!  There have been some days with a light breeze, but nothing like the wind in the MidWest.  We lived in a condo on a hill, and every time I would go around the corner to go to the garage, the wind would take my breath away!  Not here.  Here I only have to cover my mouth so it doesn't freeze, not because I can't breath...

Today when I went out to head to town, it didn't feel too cold, but with every breath my nose hairs froze up, so you really can't fool yourself for too long.

When it's this cold out, there aren't any clouds.  Sure, there is the "smoke" or "steam" from exhausts, furnaces, fires, and where there is open water, but the mountains are out.

view from near the airport.
Mt. Sanford & Mt. Drum.

Notice the exhaust coming off the building to the right.

view from the Tok Cutoff.
Mt. Sanford & Mt. Drum, with the Copper River in the foreground.
You can barely see the steam coming off of the open water.

This photo was taken around 1:30PM.
It better shows the steam coming off the river where it's open.
The water is probably 60 degrees warmer than the air.