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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wishes Come True

Do you remember how much you looked forward to birthdays as a kid? 

Only a few birthday celebrations stand out  in my mind. Vivid party memories  involve sleep overs and sneaking out in the woods at night with girlfriends. We'd tiptoe down two flights of stairs trying to not giggle then ease our way outside and make our way through the trees on the small trails. We truly believed our parents were sound asleep and wouldn't hear our footsteps on the stairs. 

As a younger child, I remember a birthday celebration with small group of friends on a sunny day down by the large pond near our house.  Running through  the salmonberry busy trails, swinging on the bouy swing with friends and thinking of jumping into the cold pond below, but never doing it.  

And when blowing out birthday candles, I always wished for an Atari video game set. Over and over and over. Until it finally arrived. Then I think my wishes revolved more about wanting attention of boys. Sigh. 

Now as my daughter  pauses and grins at the cake  before she blows out her 9 candles, I wonder what her wishes are and if her dreams will come true. Is she dreaming of events she wants to have happen or something more material, like a doll.  

Several weeks before the party Nora asked me, "Mom, can you be in the pool with me?". 

"Yeah, I can do that. Do you want me in there even if daddy's going to be in there?" I asked her, trying to slyly get out of it. 

"Yeah. I really want you in there, mom. " she replied. 

"Ok. Hmmm. But  I'll need to get the party set up somehow.  Maybe me being in the pool wouldn't work." 

Nora said, "Oh, you can just get out a little early to get things set up."

Alrighty. It was a deal, I would be in the pool. As I thought about it more, this could be one of the last few birthdays where I would get an invite to be IN the pool with my daughter. 

While I treaded water and sat on the side in the deep end, the kids did jumps and flips off the board and took lots of tries at touching the bottom of the deep end. Patrick took underwater posed pictures and there was a shared love for the water with all the kids. The next day, Nora told me, "Mom, thank you for going in the pool with me".

At the end of the day, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else…so close to the action and smiles.  Zoya

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy in Waves

On the eve of Nora's 9th, I plugged in the Happy Birthday Lights in the living room-a family ritual. This assured that when Nora rose in the early morning light she would be greeted with the light of the circular letters hanging in the living room.


"Mom, I'm having so much fun!" Nora said so frequently today as we shared the time together with her friends. The later summer sun was kind to us today with temperatures in the 60's on our nearby Mill Bay Beach.   With 1 boogie board and 1 kick board shared between 4 kids, they shared chances to briefly ride the gentle waves which rolled up on shore. (The word "crashed" onshore would be an overstatement.) Squeals of delight came from all four kids as they took turns riding the tail end of the waves onto the beach.

I, meanwhile, sat on the beach blanket on the sand and watched Nora innocently run around in such birthday glory. Thinking of how to help her keep her enthusiastic, curious spirit. And how to release expectations for who I think she should be or do and just enjoy every moment of her.

In those tough parenting moments so many of us can relate to, it can be hard to remember to release expectations. But in the glory of the warm sun on the beach, I am reminded how much Nora is loving life and enjoying every chance she has to run in the ocean waves.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Making Small Batches of Red Currant Jelly

Lately after work I've been making small batches of red currant jelly with the kids.  This summer the red currant bushes in our yard outdid themselves in the berry production department, and the kids have been picking loads of berries.  They store them on a tray in the freezer and then when I get home we have been making small batches of jelly.

The first couple of times we only made three half pint jars, and last night we made 5 jars.  So it is a small batch operation.  Since they made it the kids feel ownership and love to give the jelly away and eat it.  Jelly on toast has never tasted so good.  They've also labelled the jars and made cards for the various people they plan on giving jelly.

Jelly is incredibly simple to make - all you need are jars and lids, berries, sugar, pectin, and cheese clothe.  I generally follow the directions that come with the pectin box.  The most difficult part is that the directions generally assume that you are buying berries and making big batches - they call for exact amounts of berries to which you add so much sugar etc.

Since I never know how many berries we have or how much juice we'll create, I do it a little differently.  I put all the berries in a sauce pan and put in some water - maybe fill up a third of the way through the berries. I turn the heat on and Nora or Stuey mashes all the berries in the pan and stir, stir, stir until the mixture boils.  We then pour the mash into cheese clothe set in a bowl and strain out all the seeds, stems and pulp.

Next we measure and pour the juice back into the saucepan.  This is when we add the pectin - we generally have to guess the amount based on directions on the packet.  And since I am using red currants that have natural pectin I generally go a little on the light side.  We then return the mixture with pectin added to a rolling boil.  Sometimes I add a splash of lemon juice.

After it reaches a rolling boil we add the sugar.  I like to add a little less than an equal amount to the quantity of juice used.  Hence if we had 2 1/2 cups of juice I'll add a little over 2 cups of sugar.  In general the directions call for the same amount of sugar as juice, but this seems excessive to me - and our jelly seems to taste just fine without the extra sugar!

Stirring constantly we bring the syrup back to a rolling boil.  And then we let it boil all foamy, and stirring CONSTANTLY for one minute.  Turn the heat off and pour into the jars leaving a little space at the top of each jar (maybe 1/4 inch).  In the old days I used to boil the mixture until I could get it to 'double drip' off of a spoon.  But the pectin these days seems to set just fine without candy thermometers, double drips etc.

Then following the directions off the packet I put the lids on the jars and put them into a water bath.  I boil them under the water for 10 minutes - and then take them out with tongs.  And viola - the jars seal. The kids listen for the jar to 'pop' indicating that they have sealed.

Pretty easy and the whole process takes way less than an hour total (not including berry picking).


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

School excitement

Nora anticipated the post office arrival of her new school back pack, asking me every day if we could go to check the mail, and tried hard to keep her chin up  the yellow slip item waiting for us wasn't her back-pack. When the box finally arrived, she excitedly ripped open the secure paper taped packaging in the back of the car and she squealed with excitement as she she set her eyes on her new book bag.

The  pack was covered in bright cheerful, comic like birds and it was exactly what she had imagined.  Nora adjusted the shoulder straps on her own and walked around confidently with the empty bag on her bag. Later that evening, she proceeded to put her school supplies into it.

"Where should I put these?" Nora asked as she held up several plastic folders.

"In the big, back section they'd fit well." I guided.

Methodically, Nora filled up her bag with her back to school goodies. Small items in the front, larger items in the back.   She left the boring items for me to bring in on the first day- the bulky kleenex, paper towels and disinfectant wipes. Stuey asked if I could carry in his bulk items as well.

"Mom, you'll come in with us on the first day, right?" Nora asks.

"Yes! Of course! I love the first day!" I respond, knowing in my heart that these years and moments are limited-when I'm invited in and welcomed on her first day of school. Whats not to love about the first day of school energy; all the new possibilities of the year to come. Seating assignments, new crayons, new faces at school. The excitement is contagious.

Nora counts the days until Thursday the 21st of August with as much enthusiasm as waiting for Christmas.

Nora  proclaims, "If I had to pick either first day or school or Christmas, I'd pick first day of school!"

I think Stuey said he'd opt for Christmas.


A Stuey et al selfie :

Sheba! We think she may have some greyhound in her. Such long legs and runs like a greyhound. 

Kids lovin' on Sheba. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

20th Year Surprises

The dark grey motorcycle helmet sat on our entry way table as the reunion party was underway.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out who it belonged to and was quite curious. I went into a crowd of possibilities and asked, "Who drove a motorcycle here?" A long pause ensued from the group and then Carl nodded and smiled.  It was him.

I didn't know Carl well in high school. He was in my periphery…a kind spirit, caring eyes and quieter than many. When he first arrived at our 20th reunion several classmates and myself didn't recognize him and we didn't know he lived right here in town. For a few seconds, I felt sad about this-that there were people right within a few miles who I hadn't acknowledged or seen over the years. But then it just made me more grateful for this 20th gathering of class of '94.

As the DJ started the music up and the disco lights started shining on the wood ceilings,  a small group of us took to floor dancing to 90's tunes. The music brought our spirits back 20 years and I cared less about talking, reconnecting then I did about just being with my classmates. Dancing. Laughing. Being.

Half way through the evening  a song played in honor of my classmate, Tambi Fields, who passed away here in Kodiak several years ago. River of Dreams was one of her favorite songs and as the DJ played it,  we held hands, smiled, cried. Outside on the porch in the misty night, the guys and gals of our class raised their glass in a toast to Tambi.

River of Dreams-Billy Joel

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To the river so deep

I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it's too hard to cross

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I've been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep

And I've been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

I don't know why I go walking at night
But now I'm tired and I don't want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn't take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I've been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep

I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind

In the middle of the night
I'm not sure about a life after this
God knows I've never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep

We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We're all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

 Billy Joel - River Of Dreams Lyrics | MetroLyrics 


Some things will never, ever change…Boys+fire=happy!

good times reconnecting

mother daughter dancing at its BEST

Friday night group shot at Powerhouse Dinner

Cheers to class of '94

Olympus TG3 Focus Stacking

Yesterday I got a new point and shoot waterproof camera , and today I ran it though its paces.  It did great!

It's an Olympus Stylus TG3 and it is actually the third Olympus 'tough' camera that I have owned.  I also had the TG1 and TG2.  Both of those cameras now belong to our kids Nora and Stuey, and both are still going strong.

As an archaeologist I take a lot of close up photographs of artifacts, and I think the 'tough series' in general and the TG3 in particular are very good at close up macro pictures. In fact, year in and year out they have done a much better job than my big SLR and its dedicated close up macro lens.  

And the TG3 takes it one step further by taking multiple pictures at different focal lengths and then stitching them together into one photo that keeps it as sharp as it can be throughout the whole photo.  It's called 'focus stacking', and it's something Ansel Adams could never have imagined in his wildest dreams - perfect focus throughout the entire image and no need for a tripod or for a way closed down aperture (and correspondingly super slow shutter speed).

When the camera does a 'focus stacking' stitch the first photo is also saved unadulterated.  So for the images below the first image is without 'focus stacking' and the second is after the camera took 10 separate pictures at varying focal lengths and then stitched them together into one image.

What's really impressive is that you don't really need a tripod to get good results.  I took the 2 images below during a walk in the park and I did not use a tripod for either photo.  Click on the photos and see - it is sort of amazing how sharp the 'focus stacked' images came out as compared to the 'normal' images.  It solves the problem of the 'slightly out-of-focus' close up - the picture that was almost, but not quite perfect.  There is nothing quite  like the wrong stuff out of focus to ruin a picture (like the closest parts of the raspberry in the top photo).

And finally it is sort of amazing and scary how close the camera can take an excellent close up in 'microscope' mode.  You can literally stick the camera to within a 1/2 centimeter of the object to be photographed, AND then ZOOM IN further with the camera controls.  And then everything is in focus too.  Absolutely amazing.


Saturday, August 09, 2014


It looks like we'll need to change the banner on the blog~ Welcome, Sheba!

Our long-legged, black lab addition to the family is a hit. She likes to  chill on the couch, fetch/drop a ball and has a lightness to her step as she explores the house.

We found Sheba a week ago on the Kodiak animal shelter  Facebook Page.  From our first glance at her description and photo, we were sold. She knew commands, was good with kids and other dogs and her only downfall was "not good on a leash". Since we don't use leashes for our dog walks anyhow, we knew this wouldn't be a problem. Sheba was left at the shelter because her family was moving and couldn't take her with them.

Stuey calls her "Sheva"...and Nora is working on the "sh" part of it-the name sometimes comes out as "seba". I think in a week or so we'll all have Sheba's name mastered.

So many family and friends ask, "Why would you want another dog?" and we just respond with a question, "Why wouldn't we want another dog?" Back to being a pack of labs.

Sheba's a keeper.


Potatoes and beets

Guess what's for dinner.

One of my favorite things about August is eating new potatoes, and this year I seem to have a HUGE crop of potatoes.  I just boil them for 15 minutes or so and then add parsley and butter - lots of butter.

In years past my beets never seem to do all that well.  They always bolt before they get big.  But this year I planted them further apart and only a few bolted.  For beets I like to roast them with cumin seeds and oil and then add in the greens for the last 5 minutes or so.  Othertimes I boil them and then add the greens at the last minute and then butter and salt.  I'm not sure how I'll cook them tonight.


Friday, August 08, 2014

All done but for the profiles and backfilling . .. .

Field crew from the morning of the last day of excavation - Later on Rome and Marnie joined us for the afternoon 

This year we did not miss a single day of digging on the Community Archaeology excavation to rain.  That said, on wednesday we barely finished the final photos of the profiles and main excavation block before it started to RAIN.  Yesterday, rather than backfill and draw profiles in the rain, we worked in the lab.  And today it is raining again.  It is beginning to look like we will be backfilling next week - who wants to backfill in the rain when they can wait for a sunny day?  And the lab work has to get done too.

Of more immediate concern I have to draw the profiles.  Drawing profiles is one of the most important tasks of the excavation, and I have this naggling sense of worry hanging over me until it is accomplished.  Drawing profiles is when I draw the sides of the excavation units (see bottom photo for an example of what I need to draw).  It is very difficult to see all the layers we excavated in profile and to map out their relationship to each other.  For instance, do some layers truncate other layers or do they simply lie on top of each other?

Drawing profiles takes a lot of mental concentration and then there is all the measuring and math to get the layer boundaries in the right places.  It is no fun to do it in the rain!  But today I think I will give it a try.  I'll try and get at least one of them done so I can relax for the weekend.

Also if you look closely at the bottom right of the profile shown below you can see a house cut and floor in profile.  It looks like the house had roof sods and it probably dated to a little over 6000 years ago.  I suspect this age because we did find a whetstone on the floor which indicates they were grinding slate.  We also found a chipped stone bipoint (see Jill's point below) and an ochre grinder.  The assemblage and floor resembles one we excavated last summer at old harbor (click here) that dated to about 6300 BP.


Hard at work on the last day of excavation

That's a BIG pile of dirt that needs to go back in the hole - somewhere on the order of 50 cubic meters!

Rome supplies the screen with more buckets of dirt

From my screening 'perch' I can see what is happening everywhere on the excavation

That's me hamming it up while Leslie and Jesse clean up the main excavation block for profile photos

Jessica with a chipped stone knife she found

Jill and a nice OBI bi point

Our North wall profile - I have to draw 3 of these walls before we can backfill