Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowboarding and Skiing 2010

We have been thoroughly enjoying our season passes to Stevens Pass ski area this year. La Nina years are supposed to be great for snowfall in the Cascades. So far it has been pretty good. Yesterday was forecasted to get up to 9" overnight so everybody and their brother showed up at Stevens! There turned out only to be 3" of new snow though. The conditions were surprisingly good anyway - it was sunny and the snow was soft. We managed to avoid the crowds by staying in the trees and off the groomed runs.

I had a snowboarding "breakthrough" just in the last two weeks. All of a sudden I can snowboard black diamond runs no problem. I'm not sure why I got so much better, but it is definitely more fun! I learned how to snowboard two years ago and at the end of my six lessons I felt like I stayed at the same ability level for the next year. I had thought that I would take more lessons this year, but now I don't think I need anymore lessons. I've been able to snowboard everything Ryan has taken me down so far this year and I only had one major crash (it involved a tree and there were no serious injuries on either side).

I posted two videos, one of Ryan and one of me yesterday. I know I don't look like as much of a pro as Ryan, but you have to remember that two years ago I could barely make a turn on the bunny hill!


Monday, December 20, 2010

I have Early Kachemak Midden!

Emily digging in midden from 1000 years ago

Patrick recording the stratigraphy from midden deposits dated to about 3400 years ago

If you read our blog in August, you know that I was working with the Alutiiq Museum on their Community Archaeology Dig at Mitksqaaq Angayuk. The excavation was part of my dissertation research. Among other things, we were hoping to find preserved shell and bones from the Early Kachemak time period (4000-2000 years ago). Several people have asked me recently whether we have gotten our radiocarbon dates back. The answer is, yes, the Alutiiq Museum has gotten the dates back and they make me quite happy!

The midden from the "Trench" is definitely Early Kachemak. The radiocarbon date from a charcoal sample indicates that the top shell layer was deposited about 3400 years ago (in the second photo, that's the white layer just above Patrick's head). At the bottom of the archaeological deposits is a brown volcanic ash and below that is the old beach gravel. We know that the brown volcanic ash is 3800 years old (based on dates from other sites in Kodiak), so we now know that all those layers of shell and bone were deposited in less than 400 years, from 3400 to 3800 years ago. This is great news for me because Early Kachemak sites are rare in Kodiak. Even more rare are Early Kachemak sites with preserved shell and bone.

I am particularly interested in this time period because it represents a significant change in the economy and settlement patterns of the Alutiiq people. Before 4000 years ago, people on Kodiak lived in small groups and moved often, following seasonally-available food resources. Around 4000 years ago, at the beginning of the Early Kachemak time period, people began to build more permanent houses, mass harvest salmon in nets, and smoke/dry and store salmon and probably other food products for the winter. Many archaeologists have studied this transition, but due to the lack of sites with fauna, we don't have a very good idea of what people were eating. I am hoping that my dissertation research can help answer some questions about the economic changes that happened after 4000 years ago in Kodiak.

I was also hoping to find midden from between 800 and 200 years ago. In the top photo, you can see Emily digging in a test pit that we hoped would be from that time period. The date turned out to be about 1000 years old. While that's a little older than I had hoped, it will have to work! Now I have samples of fauna from 3400 years ago, 1000 years ago, and 150 years ago. Hopefully I will be able to say something interesting about how diets changed through time in Chiniak Bay.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Conclusion of the 2010 Canning Season

I've stayed busy canning this fall and I think I have finally put up enough pickles and jam to be satisfied for the rest of the year. I also think it's time to stop spending my weekends canning and get back to the lab to finish my analysis for my dissertation. Canning was a much-needed, and very enjoyable, break from the monotony of spending evenings and weekends at school but it is time to buckle down again. Any fun time I allow myself in the next couple of months will be taken up by snowboarding!

I have been very happy with all of the pickles and jam I've made. I think my favorites have been peach jam, dilly zucchini, and peach salsa. I'm a bit lazy when it comes to peeling and cutting a bunch of fruit or vegetables so I was thrilled to find peeled and sliced frozen local peaches at the grocery store. If only I could buy everything else already chopped and peeled. If you'd like any of the recipes I've tried, just let me know!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Escape from Penguq Video

Patrick and Zoya have made a wonderful video of our dig on the Alaska last summer (check out the link below to watch it). They did a great job with the video and I think it very clearly portrays the two most important aspects of our project: 1) the mosquitos were awful and 2) we had a lot of fun anyway. We really did have a great group of people who love archaeology, love Alaska, and didn't let a constant swarm of insects detract from a very cool experience and some exciting archaeology.

There are some great shots of us trying to "escape from Penguq." You'll see us walking through thick brush, standing water on the tundra, and even paddling across the river in Patrick's inflatable canoe. My favorite scene in the video is when Ryan turns to the camera with a huge grin on his face and gives a thumbs up - only the type of enthusiasm a real outdoors-man could have after hiking all day with no headnet! I'll let him explain the nude hiking scenes (all shots are, however, censored by backpacks or vegetation)...

You will also notice that it was rarely sunny at Penguq. While the vegetation seemed to green-up over the month that we were there, it paled in comparison to the lush greenery we saw when we arrived back in Kodiak. The day we left Penguq it was gray and as you will see, Kodiak was beautiful and sunny. We were reminded how nice it is to be home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crafty Things

The original photo of flowers on the Alaska Peninsula
The print on canvas

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about wildflowers on the Alaska Peninsula and posted some photos I had taken this summer. I am particularly proud of a few of these photos and have been trying to decide for months which ones I should print to hang in our house. We finally picked the one above and had it printed on canvass for our dining room. I am in love with it. I can't wait to get back to Alaska to take more photos - there is really  no place like home!

Ryan putting faces and buttons on the snowmen

One angry cookie.
I have also put my cake decorating skills to work on Christmas cookies. I think I have finally perfected the snowmen on my third attempt (the first two attempts were last year). Mostly I had a lot of trial and error trying to make the top hat look good. The color scheme was also a bit tricky, but I am very happy with the black, blue, and brown combo this time around. Ryan even helped put the faces and buttons on the last batch of snowmen. At the end we ran out of white frosting, the poor snowman on the bottom didn't get any and he also got eaten first. Maybe now I can move on to other shapes!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jet Lag 2010

This has year has, by far, been the busiest flying year that I have ever experienced.  While international business travelers rack up over one hundred thousand miles per year, I was very pleased to reach 25K with Alaska Airline partners and get MVP status.  When I was in graduate school at UAF I reached the MVP status with Alaska Airlines by flying enough segments while working in rural Alaska and by making a few trips to visit Molly in Seattle.  Back then I think they let you check an extra bag for free as an MVP.  Now I am not sure that I will see much benefit from my status other than selecting exit row seats online.

My Flight Map for 2010.  Many of the paths were flown more that once.
I realized that my most recent trip to Washington DC marked by eighth trip across the country this year.  When I returned from DC it was December and looking back it appears that I have flown at least once in every month of this year!  This might sound like a lot of bragging, but that is really not the point.  Almost all of my travel has been for work.  I would love to have some local work, perhaps right here in Puget Sound.  Instead, of the four jobs I worked on this year, three were on the east coast and one was on Lake Michigan.  I also attended two conferences for work, one in Florida and the most recently one in Washington DC.  Molly traveled a lot this summer as well and worked for over three months in Alaska.  This summer when I was not traveling for work I was often in Alaska to visit Molly and our families.  So far I have made four trips to Alaska (April, July, August, and September).  I have just one scheduled flight remaining this year.

Yesterday I purchased my ticket to fly one way from Seattle to Anchorage.  From there I will be helping my Dad drive his truck and trailer down to Seattle for Christmas.  After that he will be driving the rest of the way across the country to Florida.  All this adds up to a whole lot of money spent and fuel burned.  I hope that I might travel to less distant places for work next year, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  Until then I will continue to rack up the airline miles and enjoy the modern marvel that flying is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel is a tradition in Victoria - and one that we partook in while we were there. Afternoon tea begins with fruit and is followed by tea and a selection of adorable and delicious tiny sandwiches and deserts. Because each piece is so small, it didn't look like a lot of food, but 5 mini-sandwiches later I was sure I wouldn't be able to finish my half. I was, however, determined to at least try everything because it all just looked so good! What I was left with was a plate full of half-eaten, not-so-cute-anymore deserts. I felt a little weird about leaving my plate like that, but I paid for it and I wanted to have a taste of everything.

They tea they served at the Empress is a blend of black teas from around the world. The sent us home with two boxes so I look forward to enjoying it for the rest of the winter. Afternoon tea was a good activity for a rainy, slushy, winter vacation!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving in Victoria, BC

In front of the Parliament building in Victoria
Ryan and I avoided the the American tradition of eating too much pie and flying on the busiest days of the year by taking the ferry to Victoria, BC for the Thanksgiving holiday. When we stepped off the boat in Victoria, the 3" of snow looked exactly like Seattle, minus the terrible traffic and holiday madness. Victoria is a lovely town and a perfect place for a weekend vacation without having to go far. Our first sight-seeing stop was the Royal BC Museum - WOW. The cultural and natural history displays were probably the best I have ever seen. If you have any desire to go to Victoria, the museum is well-worth a visit. We loved the reconstruction of the "old town" of Victoria, the mine, and the cannery. They were all so real - even the fish guts and blood looked fresh! The totem pole room was also quite impressive. On the natural history section, the forest displays were beautiful and the beach panorama actually had real fish and sea anemonies in the tide pool.

Replica of Old Town Victoria in the Royal BC Museum

Replica of a cannery scene in the museum

Craigdarroch Castle
On our last day we toured Craigdarroch Castle (not so much a castle as a grand house). The castle was built buy a wealthy businessman in 1887-1890, who unfortunately died just months before it was completed. He left his $20 million fortune (made in mining and the railroad) to his wife, much to the chagrine of his two adult sons, starting a family feud. Today it has mostly been restored to the state it was in when the widow lived there in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and some restoration is ongoing. Amazingly, the historical society has been able to track down and recover many of the pieces of furniture and artwork that were auctioned off after her death in 1908. Being a history nerd, I love old restored houses. This one is particularly impressive and it was especially cool to get a bit of a glimpse into the life of the wealthy at the turn of the century.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow in Seattle!!


While it is 13 degrees in Seattle, it is in the 30's in Fairbanks and Anchorage and 40's in Kodiak. Snow is serious business in Seattle: it doesn't  happen often, and when it does, all chaos breaks loose. The same is true when it rains in the winter in Fairbanks: the streets turn into ice skating rinks, quite literally. It sounds like the weather in Fairbanks right now is similar to February 2003 when it rained in Fairbanks and the icy roads were covered in water. I remember that you could barely walk around campus without falling.

It started snowing in Seattle on Monday and I opted not to go to school based on my previous experiences trying to get to and from campus in the snow. I usually ride the bus or bike and neither is a very good idea in these conditions. Buses often get stuck, run extremely late or never, and if they do run, they sometimes run alternate routes. I've spent my fair share of time waiting for buses in the snow and if I can avoid it, I won't do it again. After hearing about the horror stories of people stuck on I-5 for 11 hours in the middle of the night trying to get home, I'm very grateful that both Ryan and I had the flexibility to not go to work!

Today it was beautiful and clear with a good 3" of snow on the ground at our house. UW closed the campus today and I think a lot of people stayed home if they could. Being snowed in is a good excuse to walk around our neighborhood. Yesterday we walked to the grocery store and today we walked to a restaurant to meet some friends who were just passing through Seattle for the day. It makes me think that we really should be walking more, but alas, hopping in my car and being at the grocery store in 2 minutes is just so convenient - and so American.

In addition to the snow, it has been a bit blustery here too. It started on Saturday and shortly thereafter one of our lovely neighbors came over to tell us that part of our (new) roof was coming off. Ryan was on it immediately and it looks like he did a great job gluing/nailing it back down because it's held ever since. Ryan and his dad with the help of some of our friends re-roofed the back portion of our house about a year ago. Seattle is not normally very windy and I think the winds we had this weekend were the strongest our new roof has ever seen. Last night it blew about 20 mph with gusts up to 35. I read that there were widespread power outages and I am so glad we haven't lost power. We have electric heat (no woodstove or fireplace) and I would hate to find out how well (or not well) insulated our house is on the coldest day I have ever experienced in Seattle.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Go Huskies

Huskies playing the Bruins on Thursday night
Huskies score!

We are not big sports followers but attending a Huskies' football game was something I had been thinking about since we moved to Seattle.   On Thursday night the University of Washington was playing UCLA for a prime time game.  This was a big game for the Huskies and was broadcast on ESPN.  Of coarse 62,000 people gathering in one location is bound to be a traffic disaster let alone at 5 pm on a weeknight in Seattle.  To avoid this Molly and I rode our bikes to campus, locked them in her lab, and then walked down to the stadium.  Husky stadium is quite impressive, it is the largest in the northwest and can hold over 72,000 people.  Husky stadium is also know for being the loudest in the nation  The stadium is also impressive in that it overlooks Lake Washington and has views of the Cascades and even Mt. Rainier.  It was dark so we didn't really get to enjoy the views but I was thoroughly impressed by the engineering of the stadium.  Anyways, it was a good game, I would say more but if are really a fan you would have already read about it in the news.  Most importantly the Husky's beat UCLA!        WOOF     WOOF

UW agreed to host a weekday game last year, and it became very clear this fall that the UW administration had no idea that there would be a serious backlash of angry UW employees and students who were inconvenienced due to the game...because this game was on a weekday at 5pm, it created a lot more havoc than a regular weekend game does (and if you live near the U District, you know that a weekend game creates plenty of chaos already). What ended up happening is that many classes were canceled and employees and students were encouraged to work from home or leave early if at all possible. Those that couldn't work from home were encouraged to walk, bike, or ride public transportation rather than drive. Ryan and I chose to ride bikes because I had the feeling that about 10,000 other people would be trying to board the 65 bus at the same time as us.

Not only was there a fair amount of backlash over the inconvenience of hosting a weekday game, but Thursday was also coincidentally the day the Board of Regents voted to approve a $250 million remodel of Husky Stadium. While we all know the role that athletics play in public universities in America, in a climate where academic programs are being cut and tuition is drastically rising, you could imagine how some students feel about UW borrowing $250 million internally to remodel a stadium that doesn't seem to have anything wrong with it. Apparently the remodel will all be paid for by private donations, but that is once they raise the money. In the meantime they will borrow it from a pot of internal money for renovations. After the renovation, the student section will be moved from the 50 yard line where it is now, to the west end of the stadium and student tickets will almost triple in price. I find that a bit sad, but I know people love football and I'm sure soon enough there will be a whole new set of college students who won't remember when season tickets were $125 and were at the 50 yard line. Go huskies.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Learning about Aleut Kayaks

Painting of an Aleut man cod fishing on Unalaska Island in 1872
Last week, while at the Arctic Conference, I had the opportunity to view collections of artifacts and ethnographic objects collected in Alaska during the first half of the 20th century.  These artifact are now located at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. The items were collected by Anthropologist Frederica de Laguna who was a professor at Bryn Mawr. Frederica de Laguna was one of the first (or maybe THE first) female anthropologist to work in the Northern parts of North America, including Greenland and Alaska beginning in 1930. She was trained as an anthropologist at a time when everyone not only learned, but practiced a four-field approach to anthropology (cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology). To southcentral Alaskan archaeologists she is well-known for defining the "Kachemak Tradition," or middle prehistoric period on Kodiak and surrounding areas of the mainland dating to about 4000-1000 years ago. She also worked extensively on ethnographies with the Tlingit in Alaska.

The collections we looked at in the U Penn Museum were from all over Alaska and included many amazing bone and wood artifacts not preserved in most archaeological sites. Because I have never worked at a site with wood preservation, most of the wooden artifacts were completely foreign to me. At one point I picked up a long, cylindrical object and asked what it was. Someone explained that it was a kayak bailer. I had never seen anything like it before. This turned out to be a bit of a coincidence...

Back in Seattle, Ryan has been reading Ivan Veniaminov's book "Notes on the Islands of the Unalaska District" which is an ethnography of the Aleut of the Eastern Aleutians written in the 19th century by a Russian Orthodox Priest. Ryan has been continually amazed (as have I) at the ingenuity of the Aleuts - at how they were masters of a very harsh environment. This weekend when I got home he was telling me that he had been reading about Aleut kayaks. He went on to explain that he had read about kayak bailers, their shape and how they were used, at which point I exclaimed that I had just seen one at the U Penn Museum and knew exactly what he was talking about! Veniaminov explained them perfectly in his book:

"It is nothing other than a cylindrical tube about a half arshin long, a little thicker in the middle than an arm, but tapering gradually toward the ends, so that the end itself can be taken into the mouth."

Not only did Aleuts have kayak bailers, but they also had paddle floats - used in exactly the same way we use paddle floats. The only difference is that an Aleut kayaker was more likely to exit his kayak on purpose to perform repairs to the skin of his kayak, than to capsize on accident. Imagine just hopping out of your kayak in the middle of the freezing cold North Pacific to sew up a rip in your boat! In calm weather, the sea mammal bladder would be used as a kayak float to get back in. In rough weather the bladder would go inside the kayak to keep it from sinking, even if it was swamped. Veniaminov reported that these bladders became obsolete during the Russian time period because kayakers never had occasion to venture out alone, as they had prior to Russian occupation.

Throughout the book, Veniaminov states that the Aleut are superior to the people from Ka'diak in many ways, from kayak construction to warfare. His comments always make me chuckle and wonder if he would have thought the same if he had lived in Kodiak instead of Dutch Harbor. I'll end with this quote where he talks about Aleut kayaks:

"One has only to look at the baidarkas of the Kad'iak people, the Aglemiuts (people from the Alaska Peninsula) and other northern inhabitants...and at the first glance, the advantages of the local baidarka over them all are apparent."


Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Wedding Cake

The newlyweds, Kelly and Alex

Last weekend my sister and Alex tied the knot in Missoula, Montana. My parents were there for the ceremony on Friday and Ryan and I were there to celebrate with them for the weekend. I had been looking forward to making a wedding cake for them ever since they got engaged last year. Cake decorating is one of the hobbies I picked up post-comps and after I was (mostly) done taking classes. I had so little time for fun activities in my first two years of grad school that what kept me going was vowing that I would learn to do all the things I had been missing out on.
The first new thing I did was take snowboarding lessons - and I am SO glad I did! After that, my friend Megan taught me everything she knows about cake decorating. I've always fancied myself a little bit artistic, but between all the school work, field work, and travel over the years, I haven't had much time to explore that side of my interests since high school.
For Kelly and Alex's wedding I wanted to make something simple and elegant. The basic design for this cake is featured on the cover the first Wilton cake decorating book. I adapted it to be a two-tiered cake and added the decorations around the edges. What I learned from Megan and the Wilton books is that there are a few very simple steps to decorating a simple cake with buttercream frosting. The first is to use the Wilton buttercream frosting recipe (basically crisco and powdered sugar). The second is to use the Wilton decorating spatulas and dip them in hot water after each time you spread frosting - this step makes a big difference! That is how the frosting looks smooth. The roses take a big of skill - mostly in getting the frosting to the right consistency - but they are well-worth it. I am also a big fan of using dots to decorate, they are simple and they can add a lot to a cake.
Ryan also has a bit of an artistic side when it comes to woodworking, which he clearly gets from his dad who made nearly all of our furniture. Ryan has made a few signs with names on them as gifts when people get married. We pick a font we like, print the letters out really big, and then Ryan routers them onto a piece of wood, then paints and/or stains it. We got the idea from my mom, who has made a lot of signs like this over the years. Ryan gave this one to Kelly and Alex last weekend.
I'm happy for Alex and Kelly and so glad we were able to be there to celebrate with them last weekend!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dishwasher! (and I don't meen my wife)

One of the few things that we missed from our old apartment was the dishwasher.  The house didn't have one in fact it did not even have a spot for one, but I didn't let that stop me.  The following photos show the sequence of taking out a cabinet and installing the dishwasher.  We have used it just two times now and are very pleased.  The first load of dishes included a muffin tin, which is perhaps our least favorite thing to wash.  We were impressed that it came out completely clean.  We went with a dishwasher that is quiet (50 dB) so it won't be annoying when we sitting in the living room after dinner.

My favorite tool saves the day again (the sawsall)
Now just add plumbing and insert dishwasher!

First load of dishes

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Spider Year

The spider and web in front of our kitchen window

A spider outside our bedroom window, about to get the broom.
When I came back from Alaska in September I found spiders all over the outside of our house. There were four of them every morning between the two bushes right in front of our kitchen window, they were on the bushes next to our front door, they were outside all our windows, and they were on the car. One morning I opened the front door to leave and there were two hanging right in the middle of our walkway. I just closed the door and went out the garage, it was too early in the morning to deal with spiders! We don't have screens on our windows (the house didn't come with any and we just haven't gotten around to buying them yet) so I was reluctant to open the windows on warm days and let the spiders crawl right in. I even had a dream one night that the spiders were waiting right outside the front door waiting to come in. Amazingly we've only had one IN the house so far - perhaps evidence that our house is well-sealed? I grew up with A LOT of spiders because our house in Chiniak had rough-cut wood on the inside, no sheetrock. It is a relief not to be squishing or capturing spiders all the time. A bunch of other people have told us they have lots of spiders this year too. I guess it's just a good year to be a spider in the Northwest.

Ryan finally went on a rampage with the broom and I haven't seen as many of them since. I know my mom is going to cringe when she sees these photos, but the webs really were beautiful in the morning with the sun shining on them, especially after it had rained. I thought they were worthy of a few photos. That said, I hope we don't have another bad spider year for a long time!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Sunshine State

The Renaissance Vinoy Resort

Fort De Soto Beach: "America's #1 beach"
Downtown St Pete

Ryan and I are in St Petersburg, FL and I am finally getting to see 80 degrees this year! Ryan has a conference here and this is also where his grandmother lives, so I came along to visit. I am very happy to have some summer weather, even if it is October. I managed to miss the hot weather almost everywhere I went this year. I was in Seattle until June 20, but this was the coldest June ever recorded in Seattle. It was the first time on record that it didn't hit 80 degrees in June. I proceeded to spend a month on the Alaska Peninsula in what was an unusually cold July. On Kodiak I did luck out with 6 days of sunny weather for our dig, but the warmest it got was 64 degrees - not exactly hot. After I left Kodiak I spent 3 weeks in Fairbanks where it was unseasonably chilly. Amazingly it was 91 in Fairbanks just a week before I got there. My hopes were high for warm summer weather, but it didn't happen. As I was preparing to leave Fairbanks for Seattle, I kept checking the weather in Seattle. There were several 80 degree days just before I got home, but once I got there it cooled off to the 60's and now it's in the 50's. So, I am happy to at least be able to wear my shorts and sandals once this year!

Ryan's conference is in downtown St Pete at the Vinoy Resort - a totally swank hotel resort with a golf course. We've heard from a few different people that the hotel was run down and abandoned for a long time before it was bought and turned into the Vinoy Resort. It is amazing that a place that fancy used to have homeless people living in it. St Pete has a very nice downtown area with lots of green space. It's hard to imagine what it was like with an abandoned building right on the waterfront.


Sunday, October 10, 2010


Spicy pickled carrots and zuccini

Pickled chili peppers and bread and butter pickles

After being inspired by making spicy pickled carrots with my friend Ginny in Fairbanks this summer, I started canning at home. It's a fun, edible hobby and it's a great way to procrastinate about grad school. So far I've made my own spicy pickled carrots and zuccinis, pickled chili peppers, bread and butter pickles, dilly beans, and blueberry/crowberry jam. We opened the first of the carrots, chilis, and bread and butter pickles last night. They all turned out delicious! Ryan isn't normally a big pickle fan, but he does like spicy pickled things. We chopped the chili peppers up really small and used them on our pizza last night. They were perfect when chopped up. I ate one straight out of the jar just to see how they turned out and I think my mouth was burning for an hour!

I've been very happy that canning has turned out to not be nearly as daunting as I thought it would be. I got some great advice from my friend Ginny as well as a recommendation for the book "Put 'em up!" by Sherri Brooks Vinton. All the pickling recipes I've tried so far have come from that book. My mom is a master jam/jelly maker, as many of you know. I had to call her three times in one afternoon when I made my first batch of jam!

I wish I was making jam from berries I picked myself, but unfortunately this year I didn't have much of a chance. It was a poor salmonberry year in Kodiak and I left before the blueberries or cranberries were ripe. When Ryan and I were in Palmer briefly we did go up to Hatcher's Pass with his mom and we picked a few quarts of blueberries and crowberries from which I made jam last weekend. I was counting on picking huckleberries in Seattle, but that was almost a complete bust. It's a good thing I stocked up on store-bought strawberries and raspberries when they were on sale a few weeks ago, at least I will have something to make into jam!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our Apple Tree

Small apples from our tree

10 lbs of apples!

When we bought our house last April we suspected that one of the trees in our backyard was an apple tree. Unfortunately it didn't have any fruit on it last summer, so we stopped paying much attention to it. This spring I was surprised to see white blossoms all over it. I just assumed that the year before we must have moved in after it bloomed. Right before I left for Alaska in June I happened to notice while I was mowing the lawn that there were tiny green apples all over the tree! Since I was gone all summer, I was very happy to see the nearly-ripe apples when I got home in September. You can't really grow fruit trees in Alaska, so it is very exciting for us to have our own apple tree. We also have an italian plum tree which was covered in plums last year. This year it didn't have any. The hot and dry weather last year must be good for the plums and the cool wet weather good for the apple tree.

Tonight we picked all the apples. Some of them were really small, but most of them were good. Ryan cut up about 3 lbs of them and we boiled them down with some honeycrisp apple cider from our local farmer's market to make applesauce. We are VERY happy with how it turned out and can't wait to eat some for desert tonight. I found some good tips for making applesauce from this blog: and of course from my mom!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Boating and House Projects

Chris and I on the north end of Lake Washington

The Sammamish River

Loading the boat at Magnusson Park

Once Around the Lake

We didn’t actually make it all the way around Lake Washington but we did have a nice trip up the north end of the lake and up the Sammamish River all the way to Bothell.  I had intended to borrow a skiff from work for some time now and figured I had better do it this weekend while the weather was still nice and Molly and I were both home.  While it was mostly cloudy it was reasonably warm and not threatening to rain.  We launched the 16ft skiff at Magnusson Park just a few miles from our house and toured along the shores gawking at the many nice lake-front houses.  Our friend Chris (and my co-worker) joined us and enjoyed driving the skiff as much as I did.  The 40 Hp motor was more than enough to send us skimming across the lake a good clip.  Not much for wildlife on a trip in Lake Washington but we did see a few harons and some jumping fish.  Hoping next time to head south and check out that end of the lake.  The rumor is Bill Gates lives somewhere on the lake down there.

Kitchen Color

Our most recent house project was to liven up the kitchen a little by adding chair molding and some blue paint to the lower section of two of the walls in the Kitchen.  As our dinning area is in the Kitchen this really helped break up the area and brighten it up. We are very happy with the color and the trim. The next kitchen project will be a dishwasher.

Dining area BEFORE (please ignore the banana place settings)