Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quick Pickled Celery

 I like pretty much any kind of pickle and just discovered an awesome quick one that hardly takes any prep and pickles in 30 minutes! I read a recipe for egg salad on Smitten Kitchen that included instructions for the quickest pickled celery you've ever eaten. Did I mention it's easy?

All you do is dice two stalks of celery.

In a mason jar, mix 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or plain white vinegar), 1/4 cup water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Shake until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Then let it sit in the fridge for half an hour. Or as long as you want (they're pickles, they should last for a while...)

I did put them in egg salad and it was delicious. Best egg salad I've ever had. Especially with rosemary flatbread.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Evening ski in the sun

The days are getting long enough now that there is still sunshine for skiing after work.  I took this video with my phone along one of my favorite sections of trail up at the new Government Peak Recreation Area.  Its a little shaky but is gives you a nice sense of the trails and the view to the south across the Matanuska Valley.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wintery weekend at the Cross Cabin

Snowy morning

Mom and Dad taking a break on the trail

Woodshed with three feet of snow

Panorama with my IPhone inside the cabin
Hauling firewood
I have always enjoyed spending time at my parents' cabin north of Talkeetna, especially when I was a kid.  I'ts a place were we can be together as a family without the distractions of everyday life.  Sure, these days you can get 4G on your phone and update your Facebook status, but I find myself more interested in relaxing or being outside.

Now that I'm back in Alaska I hope to spend more time at the cabin. Its a chance to get away and think about what it would be like to live a simple life.  In fact knowing that the cabin is just there, waiting for us, makes me more optimistic about finding a place to live down here in "town".  I won't mind being on a relatively small lot with neighbors because If I need space there is plenty of it be had up at the cabin or just about anywhere in Alaska outside of the city.

Anyways, we had a nice weekend at the cabin.  It snowed on a off with temperatures in the mid to upper twenties.  I wandered a few miles through the woods on snowshoes and spent time cutting a hauling firewood.  The snow is deep and firm enough that you and just about go anywhere in the woods and for the next month or so it's only going to get better.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ski waxing stands

After Molly's last post this one is much more lighthearted.  Now that I have returned to Alaska I am back to nordic skiing.  I pulled out my skis that hadn't been used in five years and found them in good conditions but in need of waxing.  Unfortunately my waxing stand is down in Seattle.  Inspired by a design I spotted at REI, I decided to make a new one.  Fortunately my father has an amazing woodworking shop and an ample supply of material to work with.

The design came out really nice.  I tested them tonight and found the new stands easy to use and very sturdy.  The components are also small so they don't take up much storage space.  I'm pleased enough with the design and functionality that I might make a more elegant set and using nice hardwood.   Plus, making another set gives me reason to play in the wood shop.  In the future I may even use this same design to make a waxing stand that will fit a dynafit bindings for my backcountry skis.

The Swix design that inspired me costs $120!
The three components of my home made nordic ski waking stand.

Trying out the new waxing stand.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: The Favored Daughter

Last week Jon Stewart had Fawzia Koofi as a guest on the Daily Show (where I get my news). Koofi is a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan and has announced her intention to run for president in 2014. Her interview inspired me to download her book for Kindle on my iPhone and read it over the weekend.

Her memoir is beautifully written. It's heartbreaking, terrifying, and inspirational. Koofi grew up in the turbulent period of Afghan history that we are all familiar with - she saw her country run by an Afghani King, the Soviet's, by the Mujahideen, the Taliban, and the new government of the last few years. Her life started in a mountain village in a family with a long history of being involved in local politics, but her comfortable life (by local standards) all came to an end when her father was murdered by the Mujahideen. Assassins also came for the rest of their family and she and her mother only survived by hiding in cow dung piled around them by their neighbors in a barn. The rest of her childhood involved moving from a series of homes with different relatives. She managed to convince her mother to let her attend school (rare for a girl from a rural village). Her childhood and early adult life were also marred by periods intense fighting in Afghanistan. Periods when she risked being beaten, shot, raped, or all three just to attend school. And then when the Taliban took over, everyone stopped going to school. After she married, she spent months trying to get her husband out of prison after he was arrested for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The courage she had to have to face Taliban officials, to be traveling all over Kabul, while pregnant, begging and pleading with everyone her family might possibly have a connection with who could help get her husband out of prison - sometimes not knowing if they would be sympathetic, or if they might attack her, or imprison her as well - is unimaginable. It's the type of fortitude and courage that makes me so grateful for the comfortable life I've lived and the stable society I was born into.

Koofi's story is also full of optimism. She is hopeful that Afghanistan can again be the great nation it once was - that it's people can be happy, prosperous, tolerant, accepting and that they can democratically elect their leaders. The biggest testament to her belief in the future of Afghanistan is that she chose to stay; an educated woman like herself from a well-connected family could have left, but she didn't. Her book is a wonderful read.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weekend in Anchorage

I'm just heading back to Seattle after a weekend in Anchorage with Ryan. I've been lucky with the weather - it's been cold, clear, and sunny the whole time. Its been between about 10 and 20F here. It is funny how these temps sounded really cold to me after living in Seattle but in reality they are nothing compared to Fairbanks temps. Walking to class at -20 or -30F used to be no big deal to me. In fact I remember Ryan, Emily, and Adam and I walked down College Road from the dorms once when it was -38f just to have Thai food!

I was glad to see this weekend that a dry 15F doesn't actually feel all that cold (as long as it's not windy)! I didn't even wear my down jacket!

Here are some pics from walking at Earthquake Park on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Skiing at the Government Peak Recreation Area

View across the Matanuska Valley from the parking area of the Government Peak Recreation Area
Cross country skiing in the Seattle area in expensive and inconvenient so I am thrilled to be back in Alaska were I can go for a quick and free ski after work.  Today I did just that at the new Government Peak Recreation Area.  The trails are about a 20 minute drive from my office and only 10 minutes from my parent's house.  They are brand new and are located near the entrance to Hatcher's Pass near the base of Government Peak.

This was a great location to build new trails.  They are at a slightly higher elevation than the rest of the valley and are thus colder.  More importantly, this area is tucked against the base of the mountains and doesn't get the wind that all too often blows the snow off other ski trails in the central Matanuska Valley.  There are also great views of the upper cook inlet and of Government Peak.  I'm sure I'll go back and I hope to get some photos on a clearer day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Settling in and a "new" car

After just one week at my new job I'm starting to get settled in here in Palmer.  Little things such as unpacking my bags and rearranging my room has made me feel at home here with my parents.  There is no getting around that fact that moving back in with your parents a thirty is strange, but we are all making the best of it.  I certainly don't have anything to complain about with my Mom's regular home cooked meals and my Dad's help car shopping this week.

For more than five years Molly and I have been a one car family.  But in Alaska with very little public transportation that just won't work.  This week I spent a lot of time car shopping on Craigslist and ended up buying a 2001 Honda CR-V.  In reality, I have been shopping online for the last month but really had to get serious about buying this week.  On Monday, Dad and I spend the afternoon looking at cars in Anchorage. I realized there is a lot of junk out there.

Fortunately I found a Honda CR-V that is a real score.  We have friends in Seattle with an similar CR-V and we have experienced first hand that is a great car.  The 2001 I found has only 109,000 miles and is very clean.  It was driven by a grandmother in Anchorage, never been in a major accidents, and hasn't had a dog inside.  It is also the SE trim package so it has all the little improvements that make it a really sweet deal.  I'm sure that this car is going to give us many good years of service.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Smith Tower

After having lived here for six years we finally made it to one if seattle's iconic sights: the Smith Tower. It always takes having visitors to get us out to these places. This time my sister and brother-in-law were here.

Saturday was supposed to be sunny and 55 degrees, but neither the sun nor the warm temps ever materialized. Based on the forecast it seemed like a good day to go to the observation deck on the Columbia Tower (the tallest sky scraper in Seattle), but after riding the elevator all the way to 73rd floor we could see that the view was not going to be worth $9.

We instead headed up the oldest Sky Scraper in Seattle (built in 1914 and once the tallest building in the world outside of New York City) and since it is quite a bit shorter, was out of the clouds.

The Smith Tower still has the old style elevators with operators, glass doors, and everything. The observation room is very ornate and furnished with all sorts of things from China as the builder was friends with the last empress of China. She sent him all sorts of furniture and decorations when the building was completed.

There is an observation deck all around the top of the Smith Tower. Ryan and Alex spent about ten times as long outside as Kelly and I did. I seriously think it was the best day Ryan has spent in Seattle. Ever. He was obviously having a blast checking out the architecture of the building and the sights all around downtown. Even of I didn't get my $7 of entertainment out of our visit, Ryan certainly got twice that!

Ryan, Alex, and  Kelly looking out over the waterfront

View from the Smith Tower with the Space Needle in the distance

Observation room in the Smith Tower