Sunday, September 27, 2009


Because sometimes the prettiness of our new area still gets to me, and because I want to share that with all of you, please sit back and enjoy some random gratuitous pretty. Click any photo to enlarge it. Some of the photos were taken earlier this summer, and some within the last few days.

This is Mt. Redoubt, taken just yesterday. Best day for mountain viewing that I may have ever seen. It seemed like there were mountains everywhere and all of them seemed so near.

The fall colors are reflected in our back yard lake.

James took this picture of a private plane flying high in the foreground with Mt. Redoubt in the background, behind a fishery on the Kenai River Flats.

When the reflections in the lake are so pristine like this, it makes me want to stare at them.

As the winter approaches, little nuthatches are scoping out the area bird feeders. This one is on our balcony.

Oh yeah, I'm definitely getting a second bird feeder.

Mt. Spurr as seen from the Swanson River bridge in Captain Cook State Park.

Moonrise over our lake.

This gorgeous fog was so breathtaking. I'm starting to love the lake fog.

That, my friends, is an eagle's nest on a power pole. The thing is about the size of a 55-gallon drum.

Best. Cloud. Ever. On the highway going to Anchorage in July.

A busy bee fills her pollen baskets in the front flower beds.

It's not too early to book your flights to come see all this for yourself next summer. The guest room is waiting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

James takes a turn stocking the larder

Today was rainy, chilly, and yucky. Sounds like a good time to spend the day in the kitchen cooking, doesn't it? Yep, I thought so, too. But I wasn't necessarily in the mood to be in there all day alone, and under the guise of making sure James knows how to provide for himself should he come back to Alaska after finishing college, I decided to teach him how to can.

The recent frosts mean the highbush cranberries are ready for picking. Highbush cranberries are a relative of the honeysuckle, and are not true cranberries, so no bogs for us! Yesterday I picked quite a few cranberries and rose hips, but not enough cranberries to make spiced cranberry "ketchup," a thick cranberry sauce that goes well with white meats and wild game. James headed out into the woody area near our house to finish picking the berries we needed to make the sauce for our Thanksgiving dinner:

And the fruits (literally) of our labor:

After simmering the cranberries long enough to make them soft, James ran them through his Great Grandma Ammenheuser's fruit strainer to extract the lentil-like seeds from the juice and pulp.

Cooking down the cranberry and flavorings takes a couple hours, so in the meantime, James started on strawberry kiwi jam. The cranberry ketchup is boiling down on the back burner while James stirs the jam on the front. (Yes, a wardrobe change has taken place. Do not squish cranberries needlessly unless you want to end up wearing the juice. 'Nuff said.)

Jam is pretty much an instant-gratification project. It doesn't take long, it isn't hard to make, and since he was stuck in the kitchen stirring the cranberry reduction anyway, he might as well work on something else, right? Here he is, using Uncle Dan's vintage jar lifter to load the canner with his jars of jam.

Once the jam was out of the canner and the cranberries sufficiently reduced, James ladled the ketchup into jars for its turn in the canner.

We've now got five jars of strawberry kiwi jam, plus some in the fridge for immediate eating, and three jars of spiced cranberry ketchup. We didn't have a really good way to photograph the ketchup, so you'll have to take our word for it that it's delish. But take a look at that jam!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"It Cold."

Yes, actually, it is cold. We had our first hard freeze last night and had to scrape the windows on the truck before I left for the tea-making class this morning (more on that later). The truck pictured above is one we saw at Home Depot and I just couldn't resist getting a pic of it. Alaskans have a quirky sense of humor. I just wish I'd thought of that license plate first; I'd probably have bought it!

Soooo, anyway, it got down to 28 degrees last night and we're expecting more of the same tonight. The nights have been chilly up 'til now, but this time it didn't get so warm during the day, and I wore a light jacket when I went out to pick berries this afternoon. I forgot, but I think the high was around 43. Is that right? I don't remember, but it was something like that. And yet, it still doesn't feel as cold as "43" sounds. Dallas was a good twenty degrees warmer today, but I imagine it felt much the same outdoors there as it did here.

On the bright side, the frost meant I could, guilt-free, pick the highbush cranberries and rose hips that grow wild here. They have a bit better flavor after they've withstood a frost. So, this afternoon I gathered up my colanders and out I went. Tomorrow I hope to get the cranberries and hips ready for juicing and drying. It's good for me to have something constructive to do, otherwise I spend way too much time online or subjecting poor Moya to earigami:

The air seems to be so clear for the past few days. The mountains loom in every direction. I think Mt. Spurr is probably my favorite, and rounding this corner on the Kenai Spur Highway is one of my favorite ways to see it. Enlarge this one and see all the snow already on the mountain!

Monday, my soap-making neighbor Elizabeth invited me over to her house to make salves and harvest supplies for the Back To Basics group's tea making class. So I went over there and helped her get in the last of her potatoes, and then we headed into the woods to pick wormwood (antiseptic), yarrow (topical analgesic), devil's club root (Tlinkit aspirin) and spruce tips (extremely high in vitamin C and good for sore throats). Elizabeth is a wealth of knowledge wrapped up in just one person, and I will be sorry when she moves away this winter. Even as we walked around, she was pointing to this plant and that, saying "Eat some. It's good for such-and-such." She's probably forgotten more about medicinal plants than I will ever know. She ordered in pizza and we ate that while we talked, and then I helped her make calendula and plantain salve for chapped skin. Okay, I admit my help was very minimal since she'd already done the majority of the work weeks ago when she made the oils from the herbs. I did not smell so good when I got home - although my hands were quite soft - and the dogs were extremely interested in where I'd been and what I had rubbed on my hands!

So, anyway, the tea class... It was different than I thought it would be, but that's okay. I learned stuff. Elizabeth spoke on medicinal teas for the majority of the class time, and pictured below are some of the herbs she brought for us to experiment with in making our own tea blends. It's hard to tell in the picture, but those are huge pickle jars about a foot tall. She had everything from bull kelp to raspberry leaves to pineapple weed.

After Elizabeth spoke (she's seated, dressed in black), Koleen spoke on sipping teas, our neighbor Linda (seated in pink and gray) spoke on spice blends. Then we sampled herb butters made from Linda's spices, and drank teas made from Elizabeth's herbs and Koleen's fruits.

We got to make tea bags if we wanted to, and here's one of the attendees ironing shut a tea bag. I'm intrigued by the heat-sealing tea bags and have ordered myself some.
In other news:
Last week we took all three dogs in the car together for the first time so that they could go to the vet for their shots. It went well, much to our surprise, and we decided to take them to the beach. Tate's first trip to see the ocean... My majestic salty dog.

Jim and Belle:

And James with Moya the Beach Hound:

Also in other news, James had his first close encounter with a moose while driving home from his bluegrass session on Thursday. He came around the corner onto our street and a cow moose stepped out of the woods in front of him. He swerved and missed it, and came on home to get us and we went out to see it. It was dark, so we took flashlights, and when we saw where the moose had gone, we left it alone and headed back home. Moose are really big and nobody wanted to spook one in the dark!

Furthermore in other news, James and I headed off to Fred Meyer for long underwear this afternoon. Gee, is there a captive market for longies up here or what? And my, but they're ugly. So, after picking us all out a couple utilitarian sets to get us started, I passed by the women's sleepwear department and couldn't help but notice that the thermal weave sleep shirts looked very similar to the blah longies in packages in my cart - except the jammies were cute. They only had one pretty color in my size (curses, ample chest!) but now that I've figured out the jammies angle, I'll be checking back there before I head over to the long johns display next time.

Well, I suppose I've talked your ear off long enough and I should head off to bed. But maybe I should type up my notes from tea class first......

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Ahoy, all ye mateys! Be ye knowin' what today be? It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! So I don't want to hear any of ye speakin' the King's English, ya hear? No proper pirate be loyal to the King!

'Twas a foggy morning on the Lake of Wik....

When Cap'n Jim and the Salty Dawgs gathered on the poop deck. What mayhem might them bilge-sucking scallywags be a-plottin'?

Avast! The scurvy dawgs have the glow of the sea witch in thar eyes!

Them bad eggs 'ave set the First Mate adrift in a rowboat with nary a bit of vittles but that thar bear! How long kin he last on such meager fare an' not even a piece of eight to trade fer his fill? 'Tisn't fer a good pirate to worry on them thoughts....

Appears the cabin pup has pity in her landlubbin' heart fer the Mate an' sends a rescue to the rocky shore whar he be landed.

A happy endin' fer the First Mate, and a happy TLAPD to ye landlubbers. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cookies, Soap, and stuff like that

Hello, everybody!

Well, much to my dismay, I have to admit that fall really is here. There are yellow leaves all over the yard and the evenings have a decidedly chilly overtone. On the bright side, the varying shades of green, yellow, and a bit of red in the trees is actually quite pretty. On the down side, the lovely red highbush cranberries and rosehips won't be ready to pick until after the first frost - meaning the anxiously-awaited pickings will be accompanied by cool-weather clothing and chilly fingers. Not exactly having my cake and eating it too, huh?

Speaking of cake, I haven't found a casual excuse to bake and decorate any cakes since we've been here, but I did decide to decorate some cookies for a Homemaker's Club potluck for the firefighters last week. I got this awesome folk art bear cookie cutter in Homer last month, and had been itching for a good reason to use it. So, I made polar bears and piped on Eskimo-style hummingbirds. Not bad, but a lot of work:

After doing a few, I switched to quicker silly bears instead. The one on the left is blue with cold. ;^)

In other news, James has been going to the Mt. Redoubt Baptist Church for the past couple Sunday nights to play music with some guys who gather for a bluegrass jam. He's been helping Jim put up the portable garage for when Little Sweetie comes home, switching out faucets, and stuff like that, as well as his Small Business Management class at Kenai Peninsula College. Jim is looking into buying some metal stairs to make getting down to the lake shore easier. That'll make getting ready for kayaking go quicker and make sitting out on Brad's dock a more appealing idea.

Me, I've got raspberry jelly in the cupboard now and am thinking this week I'll put up either an apple maple jam or something else apple-y. Yesterday I took a cold-process soap making class. Reading up beforehand on cold-process soap making, it sounded scary and dangerous, so I'm glad a near neighbor teaches workshops on it. Turns out it wasn't so bad at all, just as long as you're careful and take your logical precautions. I split my batch of soap into lavender and patchouli scented bars with an oatmeal exfoliant, and wintergreen and peppermint scented bars with glacier silt exfoliant. They have to cure for six weeks before we can use them, but I can hardly wait. They smell SO GOOD.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Hello there. Just another chatty update...

If you read this blog a couple days ago, you probably noticed that Little Sweetie went to the body shop. Perhaps you also noticed the update that we're having some... issues... with the first shipper's insurance company. So the repairs are on hold until at least after the long weekend.

Jim and James went fishing this morning with neighbor Lee. The photo below is where they went. You should really enlarge this picture so you can see the mountain. The guys missed seeing the black bears that were there, too, but some of the other people fishing off the same bridge saw two, including one that walked across the road behind them. Never let it be said that my guys don't concentrate on the task at hand, huh? Jane, if you're reading this, they went fishing off that bridge just before you get into the Captain Cook State Recreation Area, not far inside the State Park.

This is their catch. Yes, James' silver salmon is larger than Jim's. I almost typed in "much larger" but decided that marital harmony was not worth sacrificing to point that out. ;^)

And my big adventure today was my first kayaking lesson. I did not take to it immediately, but after a while I warmed up to it. Jim's a good teacher. The lake was so pretty and smooth tonight. Notice some golden on the trees?

James got this pic of a woodpecker working on a tree out back. I wonder if it was the same one that was trying to peck a hole in the house this afternoon?

And in other miscellaneous news, we've been eating salad from the Aerogarden and peas and potatoes grown by a neighbor across the main road. Strawberry leaves are dried for tea for the winter, since it will help with eczema, which Jim gets on his upper arms during cold weather. Peach freezer jam is in the freezer (obviously) and today's salmon catch will be in there soon, too. The ladies I meet are having an endlessly fun time asking me to define what I mean when I say "fall." Mentioning that I'd be willing to teach a cookie-decorating class "in the fall" so that the knowledge is fresh in their minds for making their Christmas goodie baskets got me some funny looks, I assure you. For me, in my mind, fall comes in October or November. For the locals, fall is pretty much this week and winter is next month. Although I've been told we may be having an Indian summer. Nooooooo, this should be REAL summer for at least a couple more months, right? Right?

I guess that's about it for this evening. It's getting late, and I'd still like to get some knitting done before bed. See you all later!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Get well soon, Little Sweetie!

I am happy to report that the movers have come through with a check to pay for Little Sweetie's repairs. Hallelujah. I was mentally prepared for a battle to get more than the 60 cents per pound that would have been the least they could offer, but they ponied up for the whole amount of the estimate. In my previous post when the damage occurred, I did not tell the names of the umbrella shipping company who organized the move, nor did I tell the name of the subcontracted shipping company who ruined the car. I do not know at this point if the responsible party has paid for the damage, but the main shipper, Alison's Relocation in Anchorage, paid it up front and is waiting to be reimbursed by the other company. Thanks, Alison.

So, today, we met Denny of Denny's Auto Body at the warehouse to pick up the Met. Of course he had to joke that he might need to go back and get his bigger wrecker. Nobody ever gets tired of making those jokes. (And I admit I think most of them are funny, too.)

I sort of like this picture because it's the only one I have, and probably the only one I'll ever take, where Little Sweetie looks big:

Uuuuuuuup onto the wrecker. Notice Denny's got latex gloves on. I know that's to keep oil or whatever off his own hands so he doesn't get grease monkey fingers, but what it means to me is that he's neat and clean - meaning my car will probably stay neat and clean, too.

And off he goes. I don't know when the work will be done, but I know the new headliner has to come out of Dallas from Kip Motor Company, where Little Sweetie got fixed up in the first place. And that will take some time. I figure I've got no less than three weeks to be without the car, but that's just a guess and certainly the soonest I could expect to have it back.

As for the shipper who did the damage in the first place, well, I decided not to say who that was. I don't want to get in trouble for libel or something, because they supposedly are in the process of paying Alison's back. But if you really want to know, these pics are enlarge-able and the guy who did it is wearing the light blue company-logo shirt.

We just got a letter from [on Jim's advice not to be snarky, I've taken out the name]'s insurance company saying not to do any repairs on the car until they've had a chance to review the claim. Three days after being paid by Alison's and one day after having the garage pick up the car. So we had to call and put the Met's work on hold until the relevant parties get back from long Labor Day weekend. This is NOT my happy face.