30 January 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Today our hostess, Kelly, of This Ain't the Lyceum, devoted her SQT to introducing herself, her family and her blog. Which is a great idea, and it's been a long time since I've done something similar, so when I saw it last night I made myself a note to do that this week, too... And now I can't think of anything to say. But since Little Bear was so considerate as to fall asleep right around the projected end of quiet time today, I'll see what I can do here. 

So, hello! Welcome. I'm Rosalie Shiffler. My husband, Matt, and I met at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2007, and moved to Alaska in March 2011—I grew up here, and he had, not exactly a job offer at that point, but a strong likelihood of a job offer in the near future. He did wind up getting the job, and we were married that August. We have three kids: Little Bear (2.5) joined the family shortly before our first anniversary; Alex, our little saint, was miscarried in April 2014, and baby Kit is due this coming June. I stay home with Little Bear and do some freelance writing on the side, and Matt works in video conferencing (which is huge here, since there are more towns in Alaska without road access than with it.)

"But why Alaska?" We hear this a lot, especially when the thermometers seem to get stuck around -40 for a week or two. Well, for one thing it's beautiful. Even at -40. Cold weather means cloudless skies—clouds trap warm air closer to the ground—so cold nights are your best bet for seeing a spectacular aurora borealis. There's also an effect throughout our valley called the "inversion," where once it gets cold enough, the coldest air settles down low and the hills surrounding town can be 20 degrees warmer than town itself. Now that we live in the hills, we're huge fans of the inversion. Today it's pretty chilly in town, and not quite -20 F here. And who could complain about -20 when it looks like this?

(Everyone's windows get pretty ice borders in the wintertime, right?)

This past summer we moved from an apartment in town to a duplex out in the woods, and we're so glad we did; Matt had been on the fence about liking Alaska enough for the winters to be worth it, but give him an ax and wood to split to heat our house through the winter, and he's sold. And also a garage. Not having to plug the car in overnight and start it 15 minutes before you want to leave has made a huge difference in how pleasant we've found this winter. When it's above 0 we typically light one fire in the morning and one in the evening, and the house stays plenty warm, but when it's cold I've been lighting a fire first thing in the mornings and keeping it going until bedtime so the bedrooms will still be warm-ish come morning. Between heating mainly with a fireplace, hauling our own drinking water, and being far enough out that we can't reeeeally see our neighbors, it's a much different life than we'd had in the suburbs, and we love it.

I made a couple of halfhearted attempts at blogging during college, then started a new blog shortly after our wedding... and neglected it badly enough that I gave up just a few months in. Sed Noli Modo began in June 2012, as I counted down weeks and days to Little Bear's birth. Clearly I needed something to keep me busy; by early June I was so tired of being pregnant, I started reading straight through the 1972 encyclopedia britannica. There were some interesting ancient Persian rulers in the A's... I've always enjoyed writing, and although I sometimes feel like I shouldn't "waste time" blogging, I can tell—probably the whole family can—when I've let too much time slip by without writing, because I become too tightly wound without that creative release.

One of my favorite things to do is spend time in the kitchen. Matt is also a good cook, and we're both happy to see that it seems to have been passed down:

I wish I could figure out how to share the video, but Little Bear is singing and dancing while he beats together the egg, milk and oil for some muffins he helped me make this afternoon. I used to think that I preferred baking to cooking, but I've come to realize that it's not a question of cooking v. baking, but of whether I have to strictly follow a recipe. Anything that I'm comfortable enough with to modify (or totally disregard) the recipe for is fun; anything "fussy" or different enough that I don't feel I can take liberties with is just work. A lot of the meals and baked goods I enjoy and make frequently, I don't even look at a recipe anymore; in some cases, I don't have it written down at all. This does drive Matt crazy when he offers to help make supper and the best I can tell him is "you just put in the right amount of everything and cook it together until it's done!"

Growing and gathering our own food really appeals to me: hunting, berry picking, gardening, etc. Some day when we have our own place, I'm definitely planning to put in a garden! Now that we're renting a place with a sunny south-facing deck, though, I'm hoping to line up a couple of big planters this summer and grow some of our own produce: lettuce, carrots, garlic, herbs, maybe broccoli. We are just minutes from decent blueberry-picking country, and Matt has been getting more into hunting with my father and brothers. Since I'm due in June and it's a generally recognized fact here that you're taking your chances by putting anything in the ground before June 1, we'll see if I can actually talk myself into gardening this year, but I hope it works out!

Have a good weekend! 


  1. You'll have to tell me how you do lettuce!! I tried and tried one year with lettuce seeds, and only ended up with young sprouts that died very quickly.

    1. I've been trying to remember how my mom grows lettuce, and I keep forgetting to ask her... I think she just puts the seeds directly in the ground, but most of the local greenhouses sell lettuce starts in 6pks, too, which at about $2 for 6 plants is still a lot cheaper than buying heads of lettuce at the store! Whenever I manage to ask her, I'll pass along what I learn.

  2. I've always wanted to live in Alaska! It sounds and looks magical!