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Monday, April 30, 2012

Nettles & Ham

Today on a work related trip I got to hop a floatplane to outer Uyak Bay to help with a deer mortality study (more on this in another post).  But basically I got to check on archaeological sites and collect the first spring greens of the year.  Archaeological sites are the best place to find nettles and I collected a bunch for when I got home.  So exciting to eat the first spring greens and still in April no less!  

This is what I did for tonight's Dinner.  First step was picking the nettles.  As you can see below they are quite tender and small.  You only pick the tip of each plant.  Some people like to use gloves to prevent stings, but I find if I pick them with an upward motion and if they are small that the stings are bearable.  I pick more than i think I need because they always settle a lot in the pan when cooked.

First step back home is to heat up the frying pan and to cook some sort of ham product.  In the field I usually use SPAM, and i think that is my top choice.  But tonight I had no SPAM in the cabinet - so I used some Open Nature brand canadian bacon.  After browning the bacon I took it out of the pan and set aside.

The next step is to cook the nettles.  I added a healthy dollop of oil and then the nettles.  I stirred the nettles around on high heat until they were coated in oil and wilted slightly.  Then I added a cup of water and the resulting explosion of moisture flashed steamed the nettles.  Once all the water had steamed off I put the ham back in the pan and served the dish.  Yum.

I think it is best to use a cast iron skillet.

I think nettles are one of my favorite vegetables.  No need even for a garden - they are free for the collecting.  And best of all readily available in Alaska at the end of April!  Patrick


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Home From Australia

 I returned home from Australia after a 45+ hour journey from Tamania via Melbourne- Los Angeles- Portland-Anchorage-Kodiak. I calculated it was 24 hours total of airplane travel and nearly 24 of layover time. But hey-without kids...a cake walk.

Alisa and I took the picture above next to the "Alaska Girls Kick Ass" Bumper sticker on her car the night before I left. It was fun to see signs of Alaska on their boat as well--under Galactic reads "Kodiak Alaska" and the Alaska flag waves on the back of their boat.

 It was truly a trip of a lifetime. Alisa and I remarked to each other as we hugged goodbye that we enjoyed every second of the time together. She is a remarkable friend and person. She is always so positive, caring and energetic. We shared lots of laughs together!

The journey across the globe which she and Mike undertook is amazing and it was so fun to hear stories and she would answer my questions such as "So when you were crossing the Ocean, did you get lots of bugs on the boat? Or How did you make fresh water last so long on open ocean crossings? What do you miss most about living in a house?" Or we talked about the stars in the sky and I learned how she knew the sky well from living and Fairbanks, Alaska. She said she has to look at it "upside down form the Southern Hemisphere". I said, "wow-thats so cool that you know about the stars and planets and where they are. And you're able to flip it all upside down here in the Southern Hemisphere. I know so little about the stars." Alisa smiled as we walked and said, "its not too late, Zoya!". I just may have to start doing that..learning about where Venus is and more about the galaxies. But will have to  wait until it is dark again here in Alaska.
My last 3 days in Tasmania we went on a fabulous sail trip to the bays down the coast from Hobart. The winds were great for sailing and it was fun to see how fast and smooth the boat moves with the sails up! It was cool to watch Alisa and Mike work together to operate the boat from leaving dock, to prepping to put the raft in the water-with how they have done these procedures so many times together that there isn't a lot of questioning or discussion needed amongst the two of them. Their actions are routine with thinking about the boys and their safety and what needs to be done on the boat to make the basic operations seamless and efficient. 
 In the galley hung a blow up globe which had their across the world trip on it in marker.
 Alisa with ocean charts and Eric.
  At night I was tucked into my bunk (on the couch) and a "lee cloth" was hooked in to hold me in place. It was nice to wake up in the middle of the night and know that I couldn't roll away...
More blog posts to come about the food Alisa prepared on the boat, as well as more pics and videos of Mike and Alisa sailing the Galactic. Now off to get some much needed zzzz's....


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Picture for Mommy

Zoya is on her way back from Australia.  Door to door her trip will take 45 hours!  Right now she is boarding a plane in LA.  And she arrives in Kodiak tomorrow.  Everybody at this end is VERY excited about her return (except maybe the dogs who will be losing bed privileges).  And so we thought maybe we'd send her a picture from home for when she lands in Portland, OR.

We can't wait for her to get back!

Patrick, Nora and Stuey

Update:  I read this aloud to Nora and she added, 'I think you are tired of cleaning throw up on the weekends, crazy Stuart, and cooking and doing laundry'.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Some more beach and barbecue

Jake cools off in the surf

Stuey and Nora compare beach glass

Roxy digests something nasty that she found on the beach

This is a random picture of the beach sand that shows just how much glass there is at the beach.  At the end of WWII the Navy dumped all their trash and stuff they wanted to dispose of over the cliff at this spot.  At low tide you can see all sorts of spoons, metal, old ammo cartridges etc all welded together into a sort of conglomerate. Every few years someone finds a live grenade and they have to call in the bomb squad from Anchorage. But all the glass has been tumbled into little gems.

Nora enjoys watching Rachel create the banana boats.  I wonder if we now ever again be allowed to have a barbecue without a few of these at the end.

Stuey created this sculpture all on his own.  I was wondering what he was doing over in the trees and when I investigated I found he had created this sculpture.  He calls it 'Mr. Eric'.  Mr Eric is one of Stuey's teachers at preschool.

 Sophie and Nora enjoy their banana boats.  I was horrified with the amount of sugar the crew ingested (we also had marshmellows on sticks).  I imagined a hellacious scene of hyper-activity at bed time.  But all went well and the kids actually went to bed quite easily.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beach and Firepit

Today Nora had 'early release' which to me sounds like she's getting out on parole but which really means that she got out of school at noon.  So Daddy daycare started early.  And what a day for it - it got up to 58 degrees and there was not a cloud in the sky.  A little later we picked up Stuey and went to  'jewel' beach near Boy Scout Lake.  The 'jewel' refers to the beachglass at the beach - it is made up of practically pure peas of well rounded beach glass in all colors.  Getting down to the beach is a half mile walk or so and I was shocked at how deep the snow still is in the woods.  It was 3 feet deep in places and came up knee high on our boots a lot of the way in.

Weirdly enough we saw a little brown bat that flitted about in the spruce trees on the way down.  I've never seen a bat out and about in broad daylight on Kodiak before.  Brown bats with ground squirrels, brown bears, ermine, land otters, red-backed voles, and foxes are one of the few land mammals indigenous to kodiak - and probably the one that is seen the least.

The beach was heaven; we could see Kodiak in the distance and the kids filled their little baggies with beach glass while the dogs swam in the surf and cruised the shoreline looking for really nasty dead stuff to eat (the doggies breath was awful on the car ride home). I just sat on a rock and watched the kids while listening to the surf.  The great thing about beach glass picking is that I do not have to do a lick of entertaining.

Back home we lit the backyard firepit and it ended up as an impromptu barbecue party.  Rachel and Matt dropped in - as did Sophie and Mike.  Rachel was wearing the new boots that she got for her birthday.  As Rachel pointed out it was a 'bach barbecue' - no side dishes to speak of, cutlery or plates, - just lots and lots of meat, a sharp knife and a cutting board.  Rachel did bring over some peppers for the grill, but her best received contribution was the 'banana boats'. In the bottom photo you can see her filling bananas still in their peels with chocolate.  These were then wrapped in tinfoil and placed in the fire.  They were a HUGE hit.

It looks like it is fire pit season on Kodiak!  Patrick

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trails Summit Tonight

Tonight at 7 PM in the High School Commons is the Kodiak Island Borough's Trails Summit.  The summit is an offshoot of the KIB Trails Plan.  Basically the trails summit will be a bi-annual forum where the community can identify and resolve trails and land use issues.  At the meeting the Borough Parks and Recreation Committee and Borough Staff will be introducing the Trails Plan and then seeking comments on road system trails issues.  The second half of the meeting will focus on comments regarding Russian Ridge.  This is the first area where the Parks and Recreation Committee will try and come up with a plan to resolve the many trails and land use issues associated with the area.  The committee will present all the current issues, laws, zoning codes, and current plans pertaining to the area and will then seek input from the public.  This is the first step in the process and after the meeting the Parks and Recreation Committee will continue meet (meetings open to the public) on the subject and will come up with a plan (or TMO - Trails Management Objective) to best resolve the issues in the area.  This plan would then move on to Planning and Zoning and the Borough Assembly for approval.

Anyway, if you care about Kodiak's trails it is a very important meeting.  As I see it, it is where the wheels of the newly adopted Trails Plan meet the road.  I hope to see you there.  More details below.  Patrick

Monday, April 23, 2012

Visiting Bruny Island with Alisa and Eric

 Yesterday Alisa, Eric and myself took a trip to Bruny Island. To get there, we drove around 1/2 hour from Hobart then took a 20 minute ferry with the car on it. Bruny island is home to a winery, cheesery, beautiful lighthouse and beaches. We had a picnic on an overlook next to an old lighthouse (it was decommissioned in 1996). Alisa makes awesome picnic lunches-yesterday we had crunchy tasmanian apples, olive and rosemary bread with cheese and hummus.

There was almost no breeze at the overlook and a beautiful view with which to enjoy the picnic! And no one else was there! Alisa and I have had so many of these lovely sites all to ourselves. It is so peaceful and quiet.
 Then we drove for a a bit to a beautiful beach. First a hike to the top of a HUGE staircase to a beautiful overlook. Lovely view from the top! And then fun time on the beach. I sat on the beach by myself for a bit just listening to the ocean and watching the waves. We only saw one other person on the beach. And the beach was so clean and well taken care of. Alisa says that most beaches (and parks) in Australia are very well maintained.

 And our last stop on Bruny Island was the Bruny Island Cheeese Company. You can see the cheese room below where they had all the beautiful wheels of cheeses stored.
 Alisa and I shared in a sampler plate of some delicious cheeses and bread that was cooked in an outdoor brick oven. YUM!
 And this is a random picture of my breakfast every morning when I'm here. They have boxed ice coffee which I love. And these "pies" which have either meat in them, or steak or mushrooms or bacon and eggs..I get the bacon and egg one. There aren't any hormones used in the meats here, so they don't even have to say "organic" because its a non-issue. Alisa told me she discovered that when she moved here and was asking about organic brands. Everything made with local dairy, meat is hormone free.
The crust on this pie is so flakey and delicious!
It has been a dream vacation to Australia. Alisa is so fun to hang out with and she is an incredible host with showing me so many beautiful places and delicious food. Today we go swimming in the morning and this afternoon we'll start getting the sailboat ready for a several day sail. I'm really looking forward to being out on the water with Mike, Alisa and their boys!


Sick House

The Problem - wow that glare is bright!

The Solution - now that's better!

Daddy and mommy's sunglasses

Looking for glass

Mill Bay beach at low tide

It's funny looking at these pictures from Saturday because it seems so long ago.  Saturday was an event-filled, fun day.  We beachcombed for glass in the morning and went sledding in the afternoon.  And then came Saturday night and both kids got sick.  Nora brought new meaning to the term 'Mak and Yak' - our nickname for macaroni and cheese. 

Sunday was the polar opposite of Saturday - dreary and gray outside and no energy inside.  Stuey only got sick saturday night but Nora (and me) stayed sick all day Sunday.  Of course the not sick anymore Stuey was energized and hyper while Nora and I couldn't be bothered.  This created an another sort of problem - entertaining Stuey.

I spent the day cleaning up sheets from the night before and folding laundry.  The laundry machine and dryer were going ALL day and into to last night.  Nora lay on the couch and slept.

However, today is a new day.  Both kids were up and charging about by 6 AM.  The birds are singing outside - Nora has noticed the birds and tells me that it means, 'It's spring'.  Both kids are chatty and all is well. We are now a healthy house once again.  Patrick

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hiking, Museum and Movie

 Yesterday the weather was sunny, so Alisa Eric and myself went for a hike on Mt. Wellington, which sits right behind Hobart. There were 360 deg. spectacular views from the top. The trail was in wonderful shape and after an hour plus hiking, we enjoyed a picnic lunch of cheese, fruit, crackers that Alisa had prepared.
 Since it started raining in the early afternoon, we decided to check out the Museum of Old and New Art. This museum is very new to Hobart and was funded by a gentleman who made lots of money off of gambling. It is only over a year old. It is built UNDERGROUND-3 stories. The rock you see in the picture below is bedrock underground. I was in awe-it is a very modern museum with lots of bizarre but incredible exhibits.

The picture above was these screens of people all singing to the same song, but individually. Hard to explain, but Alisa was quite fascinated with the TV screen art displays. Eric liked them as well. So much to watch!

The one below was the coolest...water droplets from the ceiling formed words as they fell through the air! The words rotated. They were just random words. I did a video of it and fortunately the camera saves the first frame of footage as a still so I was able to capture a 'droplet' word falling through the air.
 Last night Alisa and I went to a movie "First Love, Goodbye" at a local theater. Yes, that is the room where we watched the movie below. On leather couches with wine! It was such a fun venue! The movie was a french love story with subtitles, so it was the PERFECT movie for me to watch here with Alisa. Patrick would have thoroughly rebelled. She and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great story, acting and french scenery.
 And picture below is us with our wine before going into theater...
I am loving every minute in Tasmania. And every minute with Alisa. It is so fun to catch up on life, to talk about kids, travel, etc with no rush at all to our conversations.

Tasmania 22 years ago

Mrs McIvor's sheep at her ranch near Camperdown (not Tasmania)

Wineglass Bay - I tried bodysurfing here in July!

Old prison cells at Port Arthur. This is where they put the baddest of the bad - transported convicts who got in trouble AGAIN.

Another view of Port Arthur - a really beautiful place

Kangaroo?  I only put the question mark because I sort of remember that it was not actually a kangaroo but a wombat or some other sort of marsupial.

Zoya's visit to Tasmania has got me rummaging through my old slides and thinking about when I was out and about traveling the world in the early 1990s.  I went to Australia directly after working for DeBeers in the diamond mines in South Africa. After working in the mines I cashed in my pension (I also got a huge tax refund for some reason), sold my Toyota Corolla and took off for parts unknown with a healthy grubstake.  Since I was an 'Apartheid bad boy' I was not allowed to fly directly to Australia and I consequently spent a while in French speaking Mauritius first.  Due to an Apartheid embargo airlines were not allowed to fly direct from South Africa to Australia, and I remember I had my choice of stopovers with Harare in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, or Mauritius.  

Once in Australia I stayed with a childhood neighbor outside of Melbourne. Mrs McIvor had a sheep farm near the town of Camperdown.  I remember that she picked me up from the train station in an old Holden Commodore (sort of a Ford Pinto equivalent only bigger). In the old Holden she drove me site seeing all over SE Australia.  I also took trains to Adelaide, Alice Springs and Perth, and a ferry to Tasmania (more on this later).  I got to see a lot of Australia.

Coming from South Africa I was struck by the ethnic and cultural homogeneity of Australia. I'd come from a country populated by Dutchmen, English, Indians, Jews, Sothos, Zulus, Xhosa, Vendans, and Cape 'Colored' - just to name a few.  And it was weird to come to a country where everyone was white and spoke Australian English with the same accent.  I remember that everyone even watched the same soap operas on the television, and told the same jokes.  It was like returning to a stereotype of Eisenhower America from the 1950s.

Anyway, I think my favorite part of Australia was Tasmania.  With the sea and rugged coastline, it was weirdly like returning home to Maine or even Kodiak.  While I was there it even snowed and I got to go skiing!  It's also very illuminating to hear and see from Zoya how much Tasmania has changed.  I remember that Australian food was sort of 'English' - like what you'd get in London. And there were certainly no organic farmer markets. That certainly seems to have changed for the better!   I wonder if you are still not supposed to tip at Australian restaurants? 

On a side note - in 1990 it was hard to find a good beer or meal in America too.  Remember that this was before micro brews changed the whole scene and the best beer that you could buy was imported (think Heineken).  Maybe even London has good food these days.

It's so cool that Zoya gets to visit a country I saw almost a quarter century ago.  I can't wait to hear and see what else has changed or stayed the same!