Saturday, December 28, 2013

Morrisville and Maple Syrup

Christmas day we left Anchorage at 5:30am for a series of long flights to New York.  Despite the wintery weather here in upstate New York it feels warm and bright compared to home.  As usual we have been busy catching up with family and friends.  Molly brought some canned goods to give away which has made room in our bags for maple syrup.  My grandma's neighbor operates a sugar shack with over 1000 taps.  Yesterday he gave us a tour of the sugar shack showing us how the sap is converted to syrup through reverse osmosis and evaporation.  The process is far more precise that I would have guessed.  Now we are stocked up on maple syrup.
Morrisville State College, where my grandfather taught 
The evaporator in the sugar shack
Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Jelly Photos and Cold Temps

The photo above was taken with my iPhone after about 45 minutes of trying to mess with the settings on my DSLR. I know I have fooled some of you into thinking I actually know something about photography. Thanks to my mom and my one semester of high school photography I do know a few things about composing a decent photo. However, I have managed to forget every single thing I ever learned about manual settings (except how to focus but that's pretty hard to screw up unless you have bad vision). For the last, oh about six years, I've been telling myself I need to read the manual for my DSLR to remedy the fact that I cannot take a photo in less-than-broad daylight lighting conditions to save my life (it doesn't help that the flash is broken on our camera).

Last week I finally decided it was the time to break it out (I swear I'm working on my dissertation). After some frantic flipping, I found the section on ISO (okay, so I remembered enough to know ISO is important for lighting conditions). I changed it the way it said to for bright light conditions (now I don't remember which way that was. clearly I was paying a lot of attention). Anyway, it totally didn't change anything. All my photos were over exposed. After taking exactly one million photos, I gave up and snapped one with my iPhone. I have no idea what I should have done to let less light in. Suggestions welcome.

Maybe I'll open the manual again. In six years.

This was the best of the DSLR bunch
In weather news it is cold here again (I know, I know, newsflash, this is Alaska). But, it's not Fairbanks so I've decided that if it is below -17 degrees F, it is too cold for me to leave the house for non-necessary things (I'm working on my dissertation from home these days). When I went to leave for the gym tonight it was -18. Darn. (I know all the Fairbanks people are guffawing at this, but I put in my time walking around campus at 40 below and I'll be a soft Seattle-pansy if I want to).

We did get fresh snow recently and it is bright outside, even if we won't be getting direct sunlight for 5 1/2 more weeks. This my view at high noon (or should we call it low noon?).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Exploring Eagle River

Winter is often the easiest time of year to travel, especially over rivers.  Today Adam and I explored a bit of Eagle River by heading out directly from my front door.  If fact we put our skis on in the driveway.   Skiing on the river was peaceful.  We saw no snowmachines in fact there were no other people at all.  Eagle River if buffered by Chugach State Park and you can't see any houses from the River upriver of our Condo.  There was a bit of overflow on the river and not much open water. The traveling seemed quite safe but we used caution and carried ice picks and a little bit of rescue gear.

It has been snowing steadily all day with very light fluffy snow.  What a beautiful place to live!

Adam ready to get started

Touring along the river

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Tablet

I used black Friday as an excuse to buy myself an early Christmas present - a Microsoft Surface. I've been eyeing tablets ever since they became the biggest new thing, but could never bring myself to pay too much for something in between a smartphone and a laptop that isn't a phone or capable of running the Microsoft programs I use on a regular basis.

The main reason I wanted a tablet is for travel. Because I can surf the web just fine on my iPhone while on the go, that wasn't one of my main concerns. What I did want is a device that I could download and edit photos on while traveling. Having Windows is a bonus as I can continue the same organizational system I use on my laptop. And I wanted to be able to post blog posts from the tablet while traveling (that is possible on the iPhone, but the photos end up very small) . Having a tablet with a USB port was important (for downloading photos). I also wanted to be able to run Microsoft programs so I could work on documents while traveling or at conferences.

I did a bit of research recently and decided a Microsoft Surface would work for me. They just came out with the Surface 2 but those are a little spendy for my taste. I figured they would be getting rid of the old ones pretty cheap so I checked Black Friday deals and there they were for less than half the price of the newer ones. I also bought the hard keyboard so I can use it as a laptop (unfortunately almost as expensive as the tablet itself).

So far I'm still getting comfortable with it since its so different from the iPhone operating system that I'm used to but I think its exactly what I need. It doesn't have all the apps that apple does, but you can pin web sites to the homepage which is handy. The keyboard hasn't come in the mail yet so I can't say anything about that (only that typing on the screen is really annoying).

I will warn anyone who is thinking about getting this tablet that it does not have the fastest processor out there, but for the price I paid (and knowing it's the old model) it's about what I expected. And it will do the job I need it to.

 Look for more blog posts while we're traveling from now on!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cold Temps and More Jelly

We're in another cold snap and I finally broke down and decided to get a gym membership. Yesterday morning it was -18F at our house and today it never got above -8. I did get outside for a little walk on the Lower Eagle River Trail with a friend today. Even though there is no direct sunlight in the bottom of the valley, it's still nice to be out during the day. I think soon I may also have to break down and learn how to cross country ski.

I also made more high bush cranberry jelly this weekend and actually used my store-bought strainer stand thingy. It worked fine but it makes me a little nervous because the slightest bump could tip it over (remember, this is the product that claims to be both adjustable and sturdy - ha!). It is definitely not adjustable - it fits on one size bowl and that's all. Anyway, it's alright, but I'll probably stick with tying the bag around a cabinet knob next time.

I also actually measured the ingredients on my jelly this time. I don't often measure ingredients when I'm making jam or jelly, which normally goes just fine...until I want to replicate the product. Then I realize I have no idea how much of what I put in the last time. So, this time I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of high bush cranberry juice (which came from about 2/3 gallon of frozen cranberries), and I added 4 cups apple juice, and 2 1/2 cups sugar. That made about 2 1/2 pints. After I put it in jars, boiled them in a hot water bath, and let them cool and seal, I put them in the fridge to help them set. That was a few hours ago and they look like they've now set!