27 September 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 49

Linking up with Jen and all, on time this week!

Sick toddler again this week, so I've accomplished very little. It's been a strange cold: he's had the sniffles and trouble sleeping since Tuesday, and on Wednesday--and only Wednesday--he had a fever around 101 F for just about 24 hours. Hopefully the rest of the symptoms clear up soon; he was up every 20-30 minutes all night last night, and we are all exhausted.

This week's suppers worked out remarkably well despite having a sick child clinging to me and fussing--it's funny what actually sitting down on the weekend and planning out the week's menu will do to make that happen. Last week, we made a couple of pizzas (homemade, at least, but still) because I didn't have my act together. This week, though, I've actually managed real food like chicken pie and moose roast and goulash. A nice halibut fillet is thawing in the sink for tonight, and if Little Bear cooperates there will be peach muffins going in the oven soon.


Little Bear has discovered dancing. A very enthusiastic polka was playing last night, and he got all excited and started bouncing and twisting and head banging... I'm pretty sure most people don't picture Schubert when they think of head banging, but if that's the music he wants to dance to, I'm not complaining.

I keep meaning to write about our thoughts on child spacing and such, because I've taken a lot of flak for it recently, but I never seem able to muster up the time/brain cells/nerve to write it out. So here, enjoy the quote I'd been saving from my eloquent husband on the people who mock me for hoping to have another child:

"Pfft, they're just silly. Ignore them. If they were like, You should play on the freeway!, you'd say, Pfft, you're silly. Right? So ignore them. They're silly."

Sunday night, I made a loaf of banana bread for my husband to take to work for breakfasts. Then he wound up working a funny schedule and having enough time to make egg sandwiches for breakfast most days. This afternoon, I realized that I was eating the last slice of the loaf. How did that happen? Yes, it's been a hard week, but did I really eat the whole thing without realizing it? I hope Matt had some of it and just never said anything about it... no wonder the scale hasn't been happy with me this week.

I'm almost done making Little Bear's mittens! I know, I know, there's been snow on the ground here for how long now? But I have the inner layers of felted wool done, and just need to sew Velcro onto the wrist strap of the outer fleece layers. I'm making it easy on all of us by not bothering to give him thumbs and just making them dog bootie style; it's not like he needs to hold onto anything when he's playing out in the snow, and these will stay on him better. I'll post photos when they are finished!

One of the local microbreweries just started serving their seasonal Oktoberfest lager, and we swung by their taproom yesterday evening to fill a growler of it to accompany the German supper my mother made last night (hence the Schubert polka). It wasn't bad, possibly my favorite of the beers I've had from that particular brewery. Lighter but definitely not pale, and it complemented the Wiener schnitzel nicely. It's fun to be able to try local craft beers like that, and since recycling is much less popular/feasible here, I love that breweries and increasingly liquor stores with taprooms will refill the reusable growlers so we don't have to buy and throw away new glass bottles.

25 September 2013

Watch & Learn

I have enough younger siblings to know that kids learn by watching and imitating others, but I'd definitely forgotten how darn cute and hilarious that can be:

- one morning while I was putting up my hair, Little Bear took my toothbrush and the (closed) tube of toothpaste off the counter and sat on the floor. He tapped the toothbrush on the toothpaste cap, stuck it in his mouth, took it out and tapped it on the cap again, and put in back in his mouth and grinned at me.

- yesterday as he was helping me unload the dishwasher, Little Bear pulled out a frying pan and set it on the floor. He took a small, round Tupperware lid and put it into the frying pan, and stirred it around and around with a spatula.

- trying to put off bedtime by making us laugh, last night he grabbed his own nose and said "honk!"

- he's enjoyed knocking over towers of blocks for a couple of months now, but just this week he's really learned how to stack blocks to make his own towers. The other evening he and I were sitting on the floor with the blocks and he started stacking them, pausing after each one to clap (and grin at me, making sure I clapped for him too!). After his towers got four or five blocks high, he started taking off the top block and putting it back on, applauding each time.

- "smell this!" doesn't mean anything to kids for a fair while; you're putting something up by my mouth, so I should eat it, right? How do you expect me to eat it with my nose? You're silly, Mama. But I think Little Bear's figured it out--the other day I smelled a nectarine to see if it was ripe yet, and he grabbed it from me and smashed it into his nose, handing it back and crinkling his nose up in a big grin before asking for it back.

- he has also learned the word "tickle"! If one of us tells Little Bear to go tickle the other, he will run over laughing and tickle us. And he fully expects to be tickled back.

23 September 2013

Skirtember: Week 3

Well, I fell off the bandwagon pretty thoroughly last week: jeans on Monday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon! Back in the saddle today with one of my go-to denim skirts, which still kind of feels like cheating... There's only one week left of September, though, so I'll give this one more shot.

I think I wind up in jeans so often for a couple of reasons. First, it's been cold out. Snow-all-over-the-place cold. Shorter skirts just aren't warm enough right now, and long skirts make it difficult to crawl around on the floor playing with Little Bear. Jeans just solve both of those problems so easily, without having to deal with constricting tights or leggings. Relatedly, most of my long/warm skirts have stretchy waists, and got stretched out somewhat while I was pregnant; now that I've lost all of that weight, I panic every time Little Bear grabs my skirt for support as he stands up because I feel it start to slip! And then there's the fact that I tend to have trouble being creative with outfits. I've had many of the long skirts in my closet for five to ten years, and while I know that styling them differently would make me feel better about how I look and more enthusiastic about wearing them, it's hard to see past pairing them with the same blah tee over and over again.

Mm, one other thing. Most of the people I hear supporting the idea of women wearing only skirts, or at least more skirts, are adamant that "your husband will thank you," that men find women in skirts to be more feminine, modest, and attractive. Really? So I asked my husband, who rolled his eyes and told me to wear whatever I wanted to, but that he honestly finds me most attractive when I wear cargo pants. Too bad I've shrunk too much post-baby to fit the only pair I have!

Skirtember's been an interesting challenge, just for the sake of seeing if I could do it. I do like skirts, but feeling obligated to wear them for an entire month has honestly made me feel less like wearing them. On my next trip to the thrift store, I'll definitely be bypassing the skirt section entirely and checking out the cargo pants.

22 September 2013

Seven Quick Sunday Takes

I think the linkup over at Conversion Diary is still open a few more hours...

Goodness, I'm late this week. All of my blogging time recently has been absorbed by a freelance writing project that's due tomorrow, but I'm finally finished! Little Bear loves to bang on the keyboard, so it was pretty much impossible to get anything done unless there was someone else to play with him. Matt and my family helped out a lot, though, and there were also the times when he fell asleep in the car; I took to carrying my notes everywhere I went, so I could just sit in the driveway or the grocery store parking lot and write until he woke up.

Friday afternoon at Mass we learned that our diocese will be getting a new bishop. Our current bishop has been reassigned to St Cloud, Minnesota. We will certainly be praying for him in his transition, and praying for whomever our new bishop will be! Hopefully our diocese won't be shepherdless for too long; it seems like the last time we lost a bishop it was more than a year before a new bishop was installed.

No WIWS this week; as soon as we got home from Mass this morning I changed out of church clothes to go bake rhubarb coconut bars for the dessert contest at my family's parish's harvest festival this afternoon. I don't actually know what the contest results were, since we had to leave early for Little Bear to take a nap, but it was gratifying to see the pan empty when we picked it up to head home! 

The spring equinox really gets short shrift here: Summer solstice gets a street fair, midnight baseball game, and late-night 10k run; winter solstice gets a fireworks show and other activities depending on whether or not it's -50F; and the autumn equinox gets our annual marathon and ultra marathon. Even when it's snowing, like it was yesterday. We watched part of the finish, cheering people on as they came in down the last hill, and couldn't help but notice that this is probably one of the only marathons where you see some of the runners in heavy sweatshirts and coats.

Yes, it's snowing. Not sticking yet, thankfully! We woke up to a half inch or so on the ground Wednesday morning, but it was gone by early afternoon and since then the daily snowfalls haven't really lasted. It's cold, though; definitely weather for spending more time inside with hot cocoa and afghans, pumpkin spice baked goods and Rachmaninov. Why Rachmaninov? I don't know; his music just seems appropriate right now. And Little Bear likes it, too, so I can always claim it's for his brain development or something.

The Sojourner asked, last week, what it is we're looking for in a house, as I keep writing about some of the different houses we have looked at. I've been trying to come up with a good answer all week, but the most accurate answer is one that really doesn't answer the question: we're looking for the right house. I know, I know. But I can't say we're looking for one with a normal pad foundation, even though that's our preference, because some post-and-pad places weren't rejected because of the foundation. I can't say three bedrooms, because a place with two could wind up being better depending on the floorplan. We want a house where the floors are level, the doorframes straight, the kitchen cabinets installed properly, no fixtures have gaping holes where they enter the wall... and you'd think those would all be givens, but they aren't here, not in our price range. A house with triple-pane windows, to keep the cold out and the heat in; with a well, ideally, or at least a buried water holding tank instead of one sprayed with yellow foam and stuck right next to the window as a fifteen-hundred-gallon eyesore. A house with a short enough driveway that I can shovel it alone in no more than an hour and a half. With a bigger kitchen, and in a perfect world, a garage... but we know we can't really afford anything with a garage. And all this in a safe area, where no neighbors have yards full of broken-down school busses and tractors. We are, unfortunately, delusional to think that we can afford such a house. But we'll keep looking, anyway.

Thanks to all of the media mis-coverage of Pope Francis, our pastor has designated one of the bulletin boards in the social hall the "what did Pope Francis really say?" board: he's posting the full text of any address, interview, etc. which comes along and gets twisted and misreported and sends everyone into a tizzy, so that everyone can go read what the pope said for themselves instead of fretting about doctrines changing right and left. It's a good idea, and I hope others find it helpful too! I wonder if there's a website that does this? It would certainly be a helpful resource!

Have a lovely week!

16 September 2013

Lingonberries Below Freezing

It doesn't make any sense to me to write my weekly Skirtember recap sitting here in stained jeans, so... maybe tomorrow.

This morning, Little Bear and I bundled up to go pick lingonberries with a friend and her three kids. It was maaaaaybe 25 degrees, but gorgeously clear and sunny, and we'd already made the plans and prepared the kids, and we decided to just go for it. I wasn't about to pull out the brand new snowgear for a snow-less tromp through the woods and have it get all stained and ripped up, so Little Bear wore:

- socks
- a flannel shirt
- fleece footie pajamas
- my wool socks, pulled up to his hips
- heavy jeans
- a hooded sweatshirt
- two pairs of socks on his hands
- a not-hooded sweatshirt

That's three to four good layers, in case anyone's worrying about him. He was very warm. Also less mobile than usual, but hey, you can't have everything. I wore:

- t-shirt
- hoodie
- jeans
- wool socks
- xtratufs

I was also plenty warm, although picking frozen berries does make your fingers a little chilly. (Thus the socks on his hands.)

The morning was lovely: crisp air, huge berries, golden leaves flashing in the sun, Little Bear hitting bushes and yelling in frustration because he couldn't crawl around like he did on Friday... We finally found a clearing with berries around the edges, and he was very happy crawling around between stumps on the ground while I picked nearby. His early histrionics meant I didn't get to pick nearly as much as I'd hoped--and it was so painful to leave all of those great big beautiful berries untouched!--but we wound up having a good time and getting about a quart of berries.

He was happy to shed the extra layers and nurse when we got back to the car, and he fell asleep before I even started driving home! That wound up being a good thing, because I made a wrong turn and added at least ten minutes to our drive, but I got to enjoy the lovely fall colors while he napped. I decided not to change out of my jeans, stained from kneeling on berries, when we got home on the off chance that I'd make it back out into the woods closer to home to pick some more this afternoon. It doesn't look likely now, but anything's possible.

After we got home and Little Bear woke up, he "painted" the kitchen floor with a bowl of water and a basting brush while I hurried to clean the berries and stick them in the freezer. It's such a good feeling to see the freezer filling up, especially as winter keeps reminding us that it's almost here!

15 September 2013

What I Wore Sunday {30}

Linking up (on time this time!) with Fine Linen and Purple!

So. I woke up this morning and checked the weather, and the temperature was 26 F. That's a nice temperature, I thought, totally not processing the numbers on the screen as I went and picked out a summery skirt. It is autumn, so I pulled on tights out of habit, but didn't really think about it as I slipped into my fun sandals... and then we were heading out the door, and Matt was commenting on how he could see his breath, and there was heavy frost all over the grass, and it suddenly clicked that oh my gosh it's 26. 26 is below freezing. It is freezing outside!

Y'all, I can't even blame this on baby brain. And I actually got sleep last night. I don't know what's wrong with me.

But yes, frost and cold and leaves and other harbingers of winter. At least it's beautiful and sunny out. My sandals are officially retiring until next summer anyway, though.

Top: thrifted
Skirt: thrifted
Tights: Walmart
Sandals: Fred Meyers

After Little Bear's low-sleep day yesterday, I caved and let him sleep in again this morning; he and Daddy kept sawing logs while I got up to work on a freelance writing project with a looming deadline, and I got sucked into writing and didn't notice the time until Little Bear was fussing and it was past time to leave for our normal Mass. We wound up at the university parish again, and got to hear a great homily from the new priest on loan to our diocese from Poland. 

Homilies about today's Gospel tend to irk me a little, because no one ever seems to question Christ's words that seem to take for granted that these actions are normal: What man would not go look for the lost sheep? What woman would not carefully sweep her house to find the coin? And Father, reflecting on these questions, answered the way I think a lot of us honestly would today: um, no one would do that! I think of just last night, when the three of us were sitting on the floor building towers of blocks before bedtime. When it was time to clean up, we discovered that Little Bear's enthusiastic demolition efforts had managed to lose one of the blocks. We did a quick search, but when it didn't turn up, we didn't launch a full-scale effort; we went to bed and trusted that it'd turn up in the morning.

But God is not like us, Father pointed out. These parables aren't trying to illustrate normative behavior, not necessarily even an ideal that we are measured against. They are illustrating the beyond-normal, beyond-all-expectations, love that God has for each person and willingness to go to incredible lengths to bring us back to Him.

13 September 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 47

Linking up late this week, but I made it eventually.

Little Bear and I have had rough nights all week long, ever since his very unpleasant visit with the pediatric urologist Monday afternoon. Doctors who deal with crying children all day must have boatloads of extra graces; I can't even imagine how stressful and saddening that must become. Poor Little Bear is old enough now to remember that the clinic is where he gets vaccines, and he started the wailing and clinging to me before the nurse even weighed him. It was a trying afternoon for everyone, and there's been a good deal of crying since.

We made it through Mass pretty well yesterday, though. Happy belated feast of St John Chrysostom! I was so glad we went; after the past week, I felt as though the collect was speaking very much to me: "...grant us, we pray, that, having been instructed by his teachings, we may be strengthened through the example of his invincible patience." Invincible patience.

After Mass, Little Bear and I accompanied my mom and siblings cranberry picking along the trails of the borough cross-country ski area. It was in the high 40s with a light rain falling, so Little Bear got all bundled up: two sweatshirts, an extra pair of my old socks pulled up to his knees, and a pair of socks over his hands. (Making mittens this week!) Our usual spot had been picked over, but we came into good berries a little farther along and Little Bear laughed and crawled around through the woods and up and down the muddy trail with my youngest sister while the rest of us kept an eye on them and picked. When he was worn out, I put Little Bear on my back in the ergo while I kept picking; he was asleep in minutes, and I got another half quart before my back was all done being held at an awkward angle with a 22.5-LB child sprawled across it. I'm so glad we were able to go! I hadn't gotten cranberries (lingonberries) since moving back to Alaska after college, and they are so good!

Maybe you've heard the productivity theory for SAHMs that says that you'll get more done if you start the day off by getting all the way dressed right away, shoes, makeup, et al? It's always sounded ridiculous to me, but after a week of not sleeping at night and wrangling a fussy toddler during the day, with a mile-long to-do list before I could go berry picking, I decided it couldn't hurt to try. Did I feel absurd vacuuming the apartment in lipstick and heels, pencil skirt and chignon? Yes, yes I did; but the vacuuming did get done, which is more than I can say for my attempts earlier this week. 

Our house-hunting continues. We saw two houses today, and goodness, they were different! The first was built within the last ten years, bright, well-kept; three bed, two bath, with a lovely kitchen and dining area. It sat on about an acre of land with a fair number of small trees, but not so many that you couldn't see the neighbors. The heating system was interesting: a toyo stove (oil-burning) sits in the large kitchen/dining/sitting area, and a fan system draws the excess hot air up through a vent and pumps it through ductwork to the bedrooms and bathrooms. The current owners haul water to fill the underground holding tank, although having it delivered is also an option. We liked the place quite a bit, but without a garage, they were asking more than we really felt it was worth.

The second was built in the 1960s, and being log, it did show. Not that it was in terrible condition, but if you've been in old log structures, you can just tell when they are starting to feel their age... It sat on almost two acres of largely uncleared land, and had two small bedrooms, one bath (with no "bath," just a large shower), as well as a loft/bedroom up a steep ladder from the living room. The kitchen had been completely redone in 2009, and was beautiful! The crawlspace walls held a lot of unenclosed wiring, though, and there were bulbs hanging in odd places in the shed and detached garage, and it just left an overall impression of being old and in need of a good bit of fixing up. At this point we really aren't looking for that much of a project; who knows how many more concerns an engineer's report might find, if we spotted enough to make us leery of it?

After we all lazed in bed until after 8 this morning, Little Bear fought sleep for the rest of the day; he finally napped for a scant hour just before we had to leave to see the first house, and refused through all of the time in the car, all my attempts to get him to bed early, everything. See if Mama lets you sleep in again soon, little munchkin. We were very grateful that he went down at the usual time without a fuss!

11 September 2013

Playing Cinderella

Little Bear's had a rough week so far, with a lingering cough and stuffy nose that keeps waking him up and a very unpleasant trip to the doctor on Monday. Much of the time he's been fussy and clingy, and I certainly can't fault him for it, so we are doing our best to comfort him and make him happy. The times he's been happy all on his own seem few and far between just now, but they're all the more appreciated for it!

Yesterday, the highlight of his day was definitely digging carrots in my family's garden with my youngest siblings. They pulled carrots and broke the tops off, making a pile of carrots for him to drop into the five-gallon bucket. He would try to sneak handfuls of dirt into the buckets as well, laughing and laughing when they caught him. He was covered with dirt by the time the finished, but so happy.

This morning as I was contemplating skirts in my closet, Little Bear wriggled around the air purifier and into the closet and sat down on the floor, tumbling my dress shoes into a pile. He seemed content enough, so I let him stay there while I dressed. A moment later, he crawled out holding up one of my sandals. "This? This?" He set it on the floor in front of my foot. I laughed and stuck my foot in it, and he sat and looked at it for a moment, then pulled it off my foot and turned back to the closet for another one. Over the next five minutes, I probably tried on most of my shoes for the little fashion critic, who eventually became bored with the shiny shoes and crawled off down the hall to pile up all of the running shoes and boots by the front door.

09 September 2013

Skirtember: Week 1

How is your Skirtember going? I didn't manage to get a single photo this past week so I can't join the linkup at Scattered Seashells, but do check out the other lovely ladies' outfits!

My week started off well, with several days of fun outfits that I really liked... and then it was cold, and raining, and we all got sick again, and I got frustrated with feeling like I couldn't wear jeans even if I wanted to (which I know isn't true, but I wanted to be able to actually do this, right?) and I kind of gave up and slipped into just alternating between two denim skirts with different tops. They're very different skirts, if that makes it any better: a low-riding straight cut knee-length skirt in a dark, heavy denim, and a very high-waisted, almost ankle-length A-line in a lightweight sky blue. So the outfits haven't nearly been the same every day, but still.

Our rapid decent into winter is just generally frustrating me these days, and trying to wear skirts every day is forcing me to confront the reality of it a good deal more than I'd like to. I spent several mornings looking into my closet and saying, oh, I like that skirt, but I will freeze, or I can't wear that; it'll cling to leggings too badly. It seems crazy that many friends Outside are still regularly turning on the AC, while I'm already incorporating layers upon layers into my outfits to stay warm. I dearly miss autumns Outside, with their several months of comfortably cool weather and beautiful colors. This morning it took nearly ten minutes to warm the car enough that I could see clearly out all of the windows; I'm going to have to start bringing a dishtowel out in the mornings to dry the windows and mirrors so that it will go faster! Still, that alone means I oughtn't complain: if I can dry them off, it isn't hard frosting every night. Yet.

I'm going to keep plugging along at Skirtember--at this point it's more out of sheer stubbornness that I said I was going to do this thing, so I'm going to do it--and see if I can't find a way to have a better attitude about it by the end of this week. Maybe looking at it as a challenge, one of coming up with creative, warm AND cute outfits, will help.

06 September 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 45

Linking up as always with Conversion Diary!

On Wednesday afternoon, my father got a call from his Canadian distributor asking if he would be able to go pick up a group of six international adventurers who were stranded 130 miles north of town, where the van that picked them up after their 64-day wilderness trip across the continental divide and down the Yukon River had had its transmission go out. He brought them home for supper, and I wish we had been there to hear their stories! We heard some of them second-hand, and it sounds like it was just incredible. At one point they portaged their canoes 95 miles through the mountains, for crying out loud. I hope we eventually get to see the documentary they are making!

Pretty much anything else I can come up with will be small potatoes after that, but we do have some exciting news: Little Bear is really walking and running now! He spent Thursday evening giggling as he hurtled from one of my siblings to another. 

Don't forget that Pope Francis has asked us to make tomorrow a day of prayer and fasting for peace! I know first hand that it can be unwise, even dangerous, for pregnant and nursing moms to fast (and that's why we are explicitly excused from it), but there are still ways that we can physically fast without causing concern for the child: only eating bland foods, choosing to eat things you dislike, skipping sweets, etc.

Today, as he began Mass, Father announced that because of the Syrian situation they had been given permission to use the prayers from the Mass in Times of War. Truly unsettling. And did you hear that Putin said that if Syria is attacked, Russia will defend her? Please, Lord, do not let us begin a war! Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Today Little Bear and I spent all. day. long. in town: dropped Matt off at work at 8, got groceries, ran errands, went to Mass, went to the beginning of the school year homeschoolers' picnic at a downtown park. My napless young'un fell asleep at 3:29pm, two blocks after leaving the park, so I drove to the university and just sat in the parked car letting him sleep for an hour, until he woke up and we caught a shuttle to the library (it was raining, or I would have walked) and read stories. I love that the university library has a little children's section up on the sixth floor! 

We also got to meet the newest priest in our diocese, Father Radoslav, on loan from Poland for three years. He's only been in Alaska for four weeks so far, and I didn't get the impression he'd spent much time in English-speaking countries before this; his English isn't bad, although you have to pay careful attention to be sure of what word you're hearing through his accent. He came to the homeschoolers' picnic, and had many questions about homeschooling; it's not done in Poland, he said. He described the Catholic schools they have there, and if we had schools like that here, we would have much less reason to homeschool!

Unfortunately the kidlet is sick, still or again I'm not certain. We all got better, ish, for a while but then started getting worse again, and now this is the second night he's had such a runny nose he is having trouble sleeping. The poor little boy. So that's all I have, and I need to go to sleep so that I can wake up with him all night. Pray for us!

Have a lovely weekend!

05 September 2013

The Hunting Trip

By Matt

The hunting trip went well. We saw 4 moose and 3 caribou, but the moose were all cows (female, so we couldn't hunt them right now) and neither of us had caribou tags (so we couldn't hunt them). We also saw 5 bald eagles, 2 loons, and hundreds of salmon. There were quite a lot of bear tracks around, but luckily, we didn't come across the bear(s). Don't worry, we had 3 guns between the two of us.

Bears are not endangered in Alaska. They have hunting seasons and regulations just like moose, caribou, sheep, etc. For instance: Paxson Lake (where the cabin is) is in state game unit 13B. In addition to the moose hunt for 20 days, and the caribou hunt that is limited to people who live in that area permanently, a licensed hunter can take one brown bear (grizzly) per year, with no special tag and no closed season. In 13B, you can take 3 black bears per year, but you need to have a black bear tag, which only costs $5 for residents (probably a lot more for non-residents). There are probably hundreds of sub-zones for hunting across the state, and they all have their own rules, so you just have to look it all up before you go out to a new area. In terms of self-defense, if a bear is threatening you, or going to attack you or put you in danger, you should do what you have to do to protect yourself. Many people carry bear spray (high 'octane' pepper spray) to keep bears away. Many other people carry a high caliber handgun at all times. Many carry both. If you kill a bear in self defense (or any other animal that is putting you in danger) and you have a hunting license and the proper tags, you must skin it, process the meat, or whatever else is involved in regular hunting, depending on the animal. Then you get to keep the pelt, skull, antlers, meat, and whatever you want. If you don't have the proper paperwork, you still have to do all of the regular things, but you don't get to keep any of it. If it is meat that is good for eating, it goes to a soup kitchen, but you still have to process it all. So, as long as it is in self defense, you won't get in trouble, but you don't get to reap the benefits if you don't have the proper paperwork, to keep people from poaching and saying they were threatened. 

This year, I only have a hunting license and a moose tag, but before I go out again, I am going to get a black bear tag and caribou tag. There are no grizzly tags. That way, I can have much more flexibility wherever I go. That's not to say that I WANT to find a bear, but if I do, I'd like to be able to keep some part of it...maybe its pelt. 

It rained most of the time we were out actually hiking around the hills looking for moose, but at least it didn't rain while we were launching the boat, or going back to the truck to go home. That would have been worse. All in all, it was a fun trip, but it wasn't exactly "relaxing" so, being back at work this week, I feel a little like I missed the weekend. 

I didn't take many photos, but here are a few (I'll spare you the dead, rotting salmon on the shore):

One of the clearer bear tracks on the beach. It is most likely a grizzly, because you can see claw marks in front of the pads. Black bears don't usually have their claws out when they walk. It was about 5 inches from the back to the claws. 

The boat on the shore opposite the cabin. This was where the bear tracks were. There was also evidence that someone had camped here this summer. 

The view to the north. You can't see much of the mountains because of the clouds, but they are there. 

The view across the lake from the boat in picture 2. You can see a few cabins dotting the hill. Those are a few miles north of Rosalie's family's cabin. To give you some idea about the shape of the lake, it is about 1 mile wide (west to east) and about 10 miles long (north to south). The inlet is in the north, and the outlet is in the south. Many of the cabins are accessible by road, but her family's is only accessible by boat in the summer, or snow machine (snow mobile) in the winter. I suppose you could hike the 1/4 mile through the woods and tussocks, but there is no trail at all. Tussocks are small grassy/mossy humps on the ground. They are hard to walk over, because its like going up and down steps all the time. They are often found in low, marshy areas too. This makes stepping on them feel like sponges. In my experience, if you don't have rubber boots, you have to hop on top of these in low areas to keep out of the water, but even in those areas, you still sink into each tussock about 8 inches. Its hard to explain. I'll take a picture next time I come across some. 

In the winter, the lake will be frozen. It has taken me a long time to get comfortable with this idea, but the ice will hold much more than a snow machine. People drive 3/4 ton trucks across rivers and lakes, because there is 3 feet of solid ice on top of them. So it is always easier to travel across a lake or river on a snow machine than anywhere else. It is perfectly flat too. 

A low bush blueberry plant! These are toward the end of their season, but are still good to eat. They are all over the lake. Even as we were hiking around tracking moose, we could just bend down and swipe some and pop them in your mouth. They are much more tart that your average blueberry in the lower 48. They are very good for baking. The red berries in the top left corner are (I think) low bush cranberries. I didn't eat any of them, because I don't love cranberries. (Also, I wouldn't eat them unless I was sure what they are). There aren't many berries in Alaska that are poisonous, but there are many that taste really bitter. 

04 September 2013

Making it Up As I Go

I don't know how it works in your family, but at the Shifflerhaus, my habit of not exactly following recipes tends to generate a fair bit of good-natured eye rolling. "I prefer to be inspired by the recipes, not shackled to them!" I insist. "Mmhm," Matt replies, raising an eyebrow skeptically at the mess on the stove.

Sometimes it works spectacularly, like with the other week's yet-to-be-replicated wonderfully soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes, not so much, like the mess of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and string beans Little Bear and I had for dinner while Matt was out hunting. Well, Little Bear liked it, but it definitely wasn't grown-up food. Most of the time it turns out just fine. Nothing to write home about, but no cause to worry about food poisoning. We're hoping tonight's dinner falls into this category.

Why not aim for spectacular? Because I do know my own limits, and dredging frozen steak in seasoned flour and tossing it in the crockpot with dry minced onions, vegetable broth, and worcestershire sauce at 9 am will most likely give us a decent supper but definitely won't work miracles. 

The fly-by-night approach won't work forever, as Little Bear gets older and maybe acquires siblings, and other things start competing for places in our schedule. I'll have less time to cook, most likely less meal budget flexibility, and will be more tied down to set time frames and recipes than I am now. And I know it, and I know that I should be cultivating better habits now so that it's not as difficult an adjustment later. I do plan a menu every week, shocking as that may be; I just don't necessarily stick to it, or at least I rearrange meals at the last minute.

My biggest problem seems to be making sure the meat is thawed in enough time to make whatever I wrote on the menu. Meat is crazy expensive here, so I try to only buy it on the rare times when it is on a good sale, putting extra in the freezer. We also hunt and fish to provide a good deal of the meat we eat, again storing the wild game in the freezer until the day I plan to cook it. Which means that, if I am busy or distracted in the morning and forget to pull out the meat for that night's meal, there is no meat in the refrigerator when I go to start cooking... which is when I start shuffling things around on my carefully planned menu, or just making things up on the spur of the moment.

This week's menu, as written Saturday:
Sunday: quesadillas
Monday: burgers all the way
Tuesday: Norwegian pot roast
Wednesday: chicken pot pie
Thursday: (dinner with my family)
Friday: islander salmon
Saturday: moose steak stirfry w/rice

This week's menu, as amended so far:
Sunday: scrambled eggs, cheese, beans
Monday: burgers
Tuesday: chicken stirfry w/rice
Wednesday: crockpot moose steak
Thursday: (dinner with my family)
Friday: salmon pirozhki
Saturday: leftovers/fast day

Not a huge difference in main ingredients, but quite a few changes overall.

When you need to pull something out the night before or first thing in the morning, what helps you remember? I would love to get a good pattern established, so that we could actually stick to the menu plan all week!

03 September 2013

Pope Francis: Fast and Pray for Peace this Saturday

This news seems to be spreading slowly, so please pass along word to others! At the Angelus on September 2, Pope Francis proclaimed Saturday, September 7, 2013 to be a day set aside for prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and the Middle East:

"… All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!"

Summer's Dying Gasps...

Taking advantage of having Monday off, Matt and my father ran down to Paxson Sunday morning for the first two days of moose season. They didn't get anything, but saw a good deal of wildlife (a flock of swans, pairs of loons, three caribou swimming across the lake, several cow moose with calves...) and got a break from the crazy day-to-day at home.

I'm glad Matt went. Getting out of town and taking a break is so important, especially when you spend nine hours every day in a stressful work environment. It was good for him, and I was happy to be able to give him that time.

It's hard being the one to stay behind, though, with the sad toddler who doesn't understand why he can't find Daddy when he wants his hug goodnight, who says "again!" after hearing the same story over and over, who cries and cries and can't nurse because he's teething and his mouth hurts too much. We got through it, of course, and everything was fine; it's just sad to go so long without my husband. I'm so blessed that he's stopped doing much traveling for work anymore, and I forget to be grateful until we go a night without him.

Holding down the home front, Little Bear and I had a fairly quiet two days; we spent an hour or two with my mom and siblings after the men left Sunday, then brought Little Bear home for a nap. We read stories and played together all afternoon and evening until he was too tired to keep his eyes open, and after a bit of "Daddy is missing" trauma, he went to sleep well. It was odd to be lying in bed next to the snoring child and remember pre-baby trips when Matt would be gone as many as ten days at a time, and I would stay up late alone watching movies or baking or mending... and now I go to bed early with the little one and just lie awake thinking for hours.

Monday morning we woke up to rain, scrubbing our tentative picnic plans. After a morning nap we ran out to meet my mom and siblings for noon Mass, but somehow, between Labor Day and moose season, no priest showed up. A deacon who was there agreed to do a communion service, but I opted not to stay; Little Bear was being loud and wild, and I didn't need to put myself through trying to control him for not-Mass. One of my sisters came with me to entertain him in the car, and we headed for the thrift store's 50% off sale.

Poor Little Bear and my youngest brother sulked together over being dragged slowly through the thrift shop by a bunch of girls (the rest of them joined us shortly after we got there, since we got tangled up in the labor unions' parade that someone somehow thought was a good idea to schedule on one of the busiest streets in town over the noon hour.) Despite it being a crazy sale day, the dressing room line was moving quickly and we all got out of the store in not too much over an hour with some treasures. I'm particularly happy with the silk-cashmere blend sweater I found for $2.50!

Little Bear was so happy to see his daddy that evening, Matt could not get him to let go of him so that he could clean his gear... so there's a hunting rifle sitting on our kitchen table, waiting for him to take care of when he gets home tonight! Not quite as exciting as my mother's story of finding a moose hindquarter in the shower as a newlywed, but still an unexpected surprise this morning. Little Bear even spent most of the night curled up over next to Matt instead of me; Matt says he was just stealing his pillow, but we know he was really making sure his daddy didn't disappear again.

It is good to have them back safely, even without meat. I'm sure they will be going out again the next chance they get, though, because both families' freezers are getting pretty low and fall is the season to stock up for winter--I'm hoping to get out soon and do my part, picking lingonberries (low-bush cranberries) to freeze so that we'll have fruit for jam and baking come midwinter.

So long, long weekend... thanks for the reminder that summer is officially behind us. Winter, here we come.

01 September 2013


Maybe you've seen challenges like this before? I know several gals who participated in "Dressember" last December, and it sounded fun, but midwinter is just too plumb cold in Alaska for me to commit to wearing skirts every day, so I was glad to see this one pop up for September!

The Rules (from Scattered Seashells)
1.  Try to wear a skirt or a dress as many days in September as you can.
2.  Mix and match.  Get creative!  If you wear skirts often, re-mix what you have.  If you never wear skirts, maybe check out a summer clearance sale and try a few out. When you have to think outside the box, you’d be surprised at what you come up with!
4.  This is not meant to be an “all or nothing” challenge.  It’s a challenge to try something new and different.  Forget to wear a skirt one day?  Don’t worry about it!
5.  We’ll host a link-up every Monday during September where you can showcase your skirts and dresses from the week before.
6.  Link up, share the button, spread the word!

I'm usually a skirts-more-often-than-not gal, but over the past few weeks I've really fallen into a jeans rut. I'm looking forward to having this incentive to take a good hard look at some of the skirts that have sat untouched in my closet for far too long and find new ways to bring them back into rotation. It's absurdly cold here already (not even 30F this morning!), so that will add to the challenge for me. You're certainly invited to join in; it should be a fun month!