Saturday, April 30, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

That is the name of the new baking book Molly gave me.  And yes, it really is possible to make Artisan Bread in five minutes a day (depending on how you measure the time).  The trick is to make the dough in advance and then keep it in your fridge for up to two weeks.  The basic recipe is really easy and it doesn't even require kneading.  On baking day you simply cut off a pound or so of the dough shape it, let it rise and bake.  If you don't count the rising and baking time (because presumably you are doing something else during this time) it really only takes about five minutes.  Not only is it quick, but the bread has a really great flavor.  I have made four loaves of this bread already and really love it.  To last batch of dough I added dried thyme leaves and rosemary leaves for a more flavorful herb bread.  The bread was so delicious we didn't even make sandwiches with it, we simply ate it will cheese in our lunches.
My first loaf ready to go in the oven

My second loaf was a little large and features a different "slash" pattern.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Homemade Granola Bars

Ryan and I are big snack-eaters and we go through a lot of granola bars - the problem is that I don't really like most granola bars and Ryan is bored with the selection available at grocery stores. I eat them though because they're conveniently packaged and easy to eat without making a mess (easier than say, eating an orange or banana on the bus or on a plane). So we decided it was time to try something new: make our own granola bars! I also thought we could make something healthier than what you can get at Safeway. I did some googling, and the recipe I decided to go with came from the Joyful Abode blog (check out the link to see her beautiful pictures). It seemed like a relatively simple recipe without too many ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup.

They turned out awesome! I had to restrain myself from eating them all the night we made them. They were pretty easy to make too, although I have to admit that Ryan did most of the work as I was on the phone with my cousin who just defended her master's thesis (Congrats Ann Marie!).

These are the granola bars we made, almost identical to the one's posted on Joyful Abode, but there are certainly many delicious possible variations:

Preheat oven to 400F

2 cups oats
3/4 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup crushed peanuts (unsalted)
1/2 cup crushed cashews (lightly salted)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz. craisins, dried apples, dried apricots

Mix the oats, nuts, sunflower and sesame seeds in a baking dish with sides and toast in oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Prepare a baking dish lined with waxed paper and lightly sprayed with nonstick spray.

Put the brown sugar, honey, butter, salt, and vanilla in a sauce pan and bring to simmer, stirring constantly.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, making sure the honey mixture coats everything.

Put the granola mix into the wax paper-lined baking dish and spread the mixture out. Put another piece of waxed paper over the top and press the granola down as hard as you can - you really want it packed in there so it doesn't end up crumbly. Let it sit 2-3 hours until completely cooled.

Carefully turn the baking dish over onto a cutting board so the slab of granola comes out. Peel away the waxed paper and cut the granola into bars. Wrap individually or store together in a container. Warning, they do come out a little sticky, but they are delicious!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Homemade English Muffins

I celebrated a birthday recently and was gifted a couple of excellent bread baking books.  In the book my sister gave me I came across a recipe for English muffins that caught my attention. I had never even contemplated making them from scratch.  As it turns out, its not very difficult and well worth the effort.  Besides having an excellent texture and taste, the English muffins are cooked on the stove top and leave the house with the aroma of fresh bread for days.  I felt lucking they turned out as well as they did because in the course of making the muffins I left home to respond to the "Mail Box Peak Mission"  (see the blog post from last week).  The dough had just finished rising so I asked Molly to throw it in the fridge and maybe I could salvage it tomorrow.  As it turns out, overnight refrigeration was not hindrance at all. Now I know I can mix the dough in advance and cook the muffins in the morning!

Here is the recipe:
1 and 2/3 cups milk, scalded (180 F)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1.5 tsp salt
2 Tbsp. honey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 packet (2.25 tsp.) yeast
4 cuts all purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
Cornmeal for dusting

Pour hot milk into mixing bowl.  Stir in butter, salt and honey, and mix until butter is milted.  Let cool to 105F.  Stir in egg and yeast.  Stir in both flours, and mix to form a rough ball.

Knead for five minutes or so until smooth.  Place dough in bowl, cover, let rise one hour until doubled.

Roll out dough 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out 3" circles.  Place circles on a baking sheet with cornmeal.  Spring more cornmeal on the top sides.  Let circles rest for 20 min.  Heat skillet over medium heat.  Cook muffins 6-8 min, turn over and cook another 6-8 min.  Monitor carefully to make sure they are browning but not burning. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is it spring yet?

Miles and Ryan working in the yard

Miles exploring our back yard
It definitely LOOKS like spring in Seattle - everything is in bloom and our lawn needs to be mowed every week. It has yet to really feel warm though. Apparently I'm not imaging that it is colder than normal, according to Cliff Mass this IS the coldest spring on record for Seattle. But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining (too much). I am, after all, from Alaska. The short, mild winters of the Pacific Northwest have definitely grown on me though.

Tomorrow it is supposed to reach the mid-60's and I am excited! We haven't had a single 60-degree day yet in April, which is very unusual. Tomorrow is it though, after that it's supposed to be back to the 50's and rainy. I will most definitely be riding my bike to campus tomorrow, shorts and all. I break out the shorts a little too early every spring, but I just keep hoping if I dress for summer bike riding, it will be summer. That's how it works, right?

Last weekend our friend Kayla and her son Miles came over to hang out. It was beautiful and sunny and now that Miles knows how to open doors, we couldn't keep him inside. It was fun to play with him outside now that he can walk and run around like a busy bee, but you can see from the sweatshirts that it was still a little chilly.

Monday, April 18, 2011

First Search and Rescue Mission

At around noon on Sunday my phone starting buzzing with messages about an injured hiker on Mailbox Peak. The county was requesting assistance from all the search and rescue groups including Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR). I have been receiving messages from SMR for a few weeks now but have been unable to respond to missions because the county had not yet issued my Department of Emergency Management (DEM) number. I was a little bummed I could not help out because I didn't have any other plans and it wasn't a bad day to be in the mountains.

Amazingly later that afternoon I got an email from one of our chairmen with my DEM number. At that point they were no longer requesting more people although the rescue was still ongoing. At 7 pm with the sun setting and a few thousand more feet of elevation to go down, additional people were requested to assist with the rescue. I rushed out the door and was at the trail head within an hour of the request. I met up with other responders and we headed up the trail.

Mailbox peak is a notoriously steep and treacherous trail. Rescues on this trail are correspondingly grueling. Despite the full moon, the thick forest was compeetly devoid of light. We used out headlamps to follow the narrow trail through the woods. Soon we could hear the rescue party above and before long we could see dozens of headlamps as rescuers guided the subject in the litter down the trail.

It takes an amazing number of people to get one person out of the mountains safely. The litter rides along on a single bicycle wheel while four people guide it and ropes are used to slowly lower the litter down the steep sections of the trail. It is tiring work and with all the trees and rough terrain many people are needed to pass the litter along and keep things moving. It is a constant game of leap frog. It might seem chaotic if it wasn't for the fact that it works. I have to say that this was an excellent first rescue mission for me. It was very satisfying to see the ambulance leave the trailhead with the victim knowing that it if wasn't for the dozens of search and rescue volunteers things could have turned out very differently.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One Last Chance (sort of)

Ryan's birthday cake

Ryan, Richard, and Megan

In the Pacific Northwest we have had an amazing amount of late snow this year so I was tempted to get out climbing and skiing this weekend. Unfortunately, because of all the snowfall, access to the mountains is still pretty much limited to the major mountain passes. To further put a damper on our plans, the avalanche conditions have been pretty bad the last few weeks with heavy wet snow slides occurring on many slopes. This all amounted two options: either we would stay out of the mountains or head to a ski resort.

Amazingly the ski resorts are still open and there is fresh snow. Richard and I went to Alpental yesterday morning for some spring skiing. There was indeed fresh snow. With temperatures in the mid 30's, it was like skiing in mashed potatoes. It was fun but the thick and sticky snow keep us working hard.

The resort skiing might be coming to an end, but the ski season is certainly not over. Earlier this season I lost a ski while skiing some difficult terrain at Stevens Pass. The snow pack up there will last for a few more months, but once it is gone I intend to return to look for my ski.


I was in Kodiak last week for Ryan's birthday, but I finally got to make him a cake this weekend and we had Richard and Megan over after the boys got back from skiing. I've been wanting to try more recipes from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes", so I let Ryan pick one out. He chose an angel food cake with dark chocolate. It is made just like a regular angel food cake, but you add little bits of grated dark chocolate after you've folded in the flour. It was yummy!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kodiak Marine Science Symposium & Summer Plans

The archaeologists from the Kodiak Marine Science Symposium: Mike, Catherine (both UW alumni!), me, and Patrick

Mike and Catherine having lunch at the Power House
Patrick and Mom at the Power House
My friend Katelyn and I at Ft. Abercrombie
I am on my way home from Kodiak with a renewed sense of purpose and contentment with my dissertation. I have been reminded why I love science, why other people are interested in science, and why I chose to return to Kodiak for my own research. Kodiak really is a special place, culturally and ecologically. This conference was exactly what I needed to break out of the winter/5th year of grad school slump I’ve been in for the last couple of months. I’m feeling that the next few weeks are going to be productive.

Most of my fieldwork is set for the summer now and since people have been asking where I’ll be, I thought I’d share. I’ll be working for the Alutiiq Museum on a survey of the Karluk River on the south end of Kodiak Island from May 23-June 6. That will just be a quick trip though, afterward I’ll have to return to Seattle to finish up the school-year. From the middle of June to the middle of July I have a summer research fellowship at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington  where I will conduct some of the faunal analysis for my dissertation (yes, I will actually be spending a portion of my summer HOME, at my own house, in Seattle, hopefully with Ryan!!). During that time we will be making a quick jaunt up to Anchorage to our friends Travis and Megan’s wedding in Girdwood, and to celebrate Ryan’s mom’s birthday and our nephew’s second birthday. I guess if anyone wants to come visit us this summer, a good time would be between about June 27 and July 15 – a rare chance to catch us in Seattle in the summer, well, me anyway. I suppose I can’t speak for Ryan’s work schedule.

I will be in Kodiak again from about July 20-August 20 working on the Alutiiq Museum’s Community Archaeology dig near Salonie Creek. The rest of my summer is still up in the air, but chances are I’ll find work somewhere else in Alaska – maybe Fairbanks again. Ryan’s fieldwork schedule still isn’t set yet either, but I’m hoping he’ll be able to visit me in Alaska like he did last summer.

So here’s a recap for those of you who might like to mark your calendars (mom?):
May 22-June 7: Kodiak for Karluk River Survey
June 7-July 20ish: Seattle (finish the school year, work at the Burke Museum for my fellowship)
Around June 25: short visit to Anchorage
July 20ish – August 20: Kodiak for Community Archaeology
After August 20: To be determined

Friday, April 8, 2011

Off to Kodiak - hopefully without allergies!

Cherry blossoms on the UW campus
When we came home from Iceland, spring was in full swing in Seattle. The cherry trees on campus are blooming, as is, accordingly to my allergies, everything else. I never had seasonal allergies - or really any allergies besides cats - until I moved to Washington. They've gotten progressively worse every year since I moved too. First it was just itchy eyes, then it was a slightly runny nose, and now it's an obnoxious combination of the two. I am not quite sure if it's just that I happened to develop allergies around the time I moved to Washington (I had only become allergic to cats 2 or 3 years before I moved), or that there are just so many more types of plants down here that I had never been exposed to in Alaska. In any case, according to the report of a nasty storm in Alaska, it is definitely still winter there and I am hoping that my sinuses will have a much-needed break while I'm  in Kodiak for the next few days.

I'm going to be attending the Marine Science Symposium. This event is going to bring together people who have been doing marine-related research in the Kodiak area over the last couple of decades. I'm excited to participate in the conference and present some preliminary results of my dissertation research. If you're in Kodiak too, come check it out!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When am I going to be done with grad school?

The archaeology graduate student lab where I spend most of my time.
I think it's time for another grad school-related post. Along with being asked why grad school takes so long, I often also get asked when I'm going to be finished. After 4 1/2 years in graduate school, it's kind of a natural question. To be honest, I ask myself all the time too! The short answer is that I don't know. PhD programs generally don't have a set time schedule, they take as long as they take. The first couple of years are usually much more structured with classes and exams than the later years. In my program, during the first 2 1/2 years you take classes full-time and then take an exam to get your master's degree. After that, there are only suggestions, no hard deadlines, for when you should meet different program requirements. Because research for a doctorate is original, and one often has to learn a new set of skills to do the research, there is no easy way to tell how long it is going to take.

Anthropology, or the social sciences in general, have notoriously long doctorate programs. The natural sciences are generally faster. I think that is because those fields have more funding opportunities. The average time to attain an MA and PhD in my program is about 10 years (and I believe that is faster than many other anthropology programs across the country). I know you're all gasping, but let's just break that down. In my program, that is 2 1/2 years for the master's degree and 7 1/2 years for the PhD. While a little slow, I think that's actually not completely unreasonable. In the natural sciences, I think 6 years is pretty normal for a PhD, and 7 is certainly not unheard of. In many of those programs, you often don't have to get a master's degree, you can just skip to the PhD which is not an option in the social sciences.

So, when am I going to be done? I still don't know, but of course the closer I get the easier it is to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's funny though, some of the hardest work comes at the end of the program: the actual analysis and writing the dissertation. So, the closer I get the more difficult the work becomes and it is still not easy to estimate how much longer I will be here. But, to ease your minds that I will not be spending a decade in graduate school, I'll give you my best estimate: I think I have about two years left, give or take, but please don't hold me to that!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Iceland and Renewable Energy

There are many things that make Iceland unique, but for me it all starts with the geology. As some of you might already know, Iceland is located on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, the boundary between to tectonic plates that are slowly separating at a rate of about 2cm per year. At a spreading center such as the one beneath Iceland, the hot material in the earth's mantel rises up like water in center of a boiling pot. This convection in the mantel results in an extraordinary amount of heat near the surface, hence all the geothermal and volcanic features. For decades Icelanders have been taking advantage of all this heat. They use the hot ground water for cooking, heating and of course for swimming pools. With modern technology geothermal power plants now take super heated water from thousands of feet below ground and release it as steam and use it to spin turbines and generate electricity. The hot water is also pumped into the urban regions for heating homes and businesses.

Nearly all of Iceland's energy consumption comes from renewable resources (hydroelectric and geothermal). This sounds impressive at first but then again there are only 300,000 people in Iceland. Washington State also have nearly 100% renewable electricity generation and our population is almost 7 million.

Because Iceland is made almost entirely of volcanic rock it has no oil reserves of its own. Like almost everything in Iceland, the fuel for cars and other machinery is imported. What happens when you have a relatively small group of people living in a first world nation on a remote Island in the Atlantic where everything must be imported and the only thing they have to export is fish? It's expensive! Just to give an example, fuel was about 230 Icelandic Krona per liter. That translates to nearly $8/gallon! Yikes. It makes you think about what it would take to change your diving habits. Would you drive less? Or would you do what we all have been doing for years, pay more and more without changing your habits?

I just find it interesting to think about where our energy comes from and how we use it. Very few of us are fortunate-enough to live on top of a rising mantel plume, but renewable energy can be generated in many different ways. So now I will get on my soap box and make just one statement I feel strongly about: vote for renewable energy projects, not just because "it's good for the environment," but because it will be economically good for America.

Below are videos of fumaroles and other geothermal features in northern Iceland and a geyser in southern Iceland.