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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Knots with the Brownies

Its my second year as a girl scout leader and I'm slowly learning the girl scout promise, law and songs. Scouting is relatively new to me, as I wasn't a girl scout growing up. My Brownie troop is nearly finished with first level of a Chesapeake Bay Council Outdoor Skills patch, where the girls have learned about some basic first aid skills, dressing for different types of weather and yesterday we learned how to tie square knots.
Yesterday on our Fort Abercrombie hike, a longtime family friend, Dan O. was present with his granddaughter, Coral, who is in my troop. Dan taught us how to tie square knots and the girls had some successful knots!

I'm slighly obsessed with scouting- thinking about outdoor adventures, patches we can do, skills to learn, places to explore. But more importantly, on Saturday afternoons, I really treasure the time our troop has together. They are enthusiastic, curious and hard-core. They don't mind hiking in rain and high winds. 

Dan O. demonstrating how to tie a square knot.

Square knot success!

The girls insisted I take this picture! :)


Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This year, Thanksgiving dinner was  prepared by the men. Mike prepared the Roast Sous Vide style, Gregg baked 2 pies in his cast iron pans and Patrick cooked up garden mashed potatoes and sting beans. I feel fortunate-what amazing chefs they are!

We gave Thanks to Lisa and Gregg being part of the day, as they are typically in Anchorage at Art Shows for this holiday weekend. 

This year our new small TV was on in the kitchen on low volume with various football and basketball games playing. I like the special feel it gives to the have some sports for people to enjoy in and to see Stuey's love of watching basketball grow....

 Cranberry-orange-walnut and pumpkin pies baked in cast iron pans-by Gregg! Yum

A pre-meal game of Sorry! 

Nora wrote out the place settings and put in her seating request "To sit next to Cece and Daddy"

An Elk Roast prepared Sous Vide style. Cooked 12+ hours in a bag.  So tender. 

Cheers! Lisa's first thanksgiving in Kodiak in 25 years! She typically is in Anchorage at an art show selling her jewelry. 

Lisa cutting into the cranberry-orange pie as Gregg and I look on. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stuey's First 5K

"Was my hair blowing in the air?" Stuey asked me as we drove home after this mornings 5K Turkey Trot.

"Yes, it was."I replied.

"Like up really high?"  I smiled to myself. "Yes, up really high" I thought to myself and his self image of a being a cartoon character with hair spiking up towards the sky.


With my beet red cheeks and Stuey's short persistent strides, we made our way to the finish line. I made sure Stuey finished a few strides ahead of me.

"Go Stuey!" a few people from the crowd cheered on. Stuey was pleased to see the gatorade at the finish and helped himself to a cup before we headed to the car.

We decided to make the Turkey Trot our annual tradition...what a good way to start our Thanksgiving Thursday together.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Dip in Winter Waters

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea I"d save Tank's life.

The day was a cold frosty one, and several friends and a small pack of kids walked down to Fort Abercrombie. When we arrived at the beach, the kids were ahead of the grown ups, excitedly throwing sticks to the dogs in the calm ocean.

Within a few minutes Nora called me over and brought to my attention that she was worried about Tank. I called out to him, and he wasn't coming. He had a piece of bull kelp in his mouth and was going around in circles.

"Lets walk up the beach and pretend we're leaving" I suggested, hoping that Tank would see us leaving and come out of the water. He still didn't budge.

"I'm really worried about Tank." Nora cried, with her eyebrows furrowed and becoming even more   concerned.

"I know, Nora. Hmmm…I wonder if he is stuck on that kelp." I replied. I was worried too. At that point he had been in the water nearly 10 minutes and seemed to be tiring. 10 plus minutes in warm waters wouldn't be a big deal, but cold Alaskan waters could be a different situation.

I turned to Marias and Tasha and conferred with them.

"I have to swim in. Theres no other way." I said. My girlfriends were anxious for me, the winter cold water that I would have to face. "That water is cold, wow. I've been in it in a wetsuit and it was even super cold then" Marias reminded me.

As I looked across the way, with Tank swimming in circles, I knew I had to go in. No, it wouldn't be fun. yes, I would be cold after. Noras crying increased.

I had several layers of shirts on so I peeled off an outer sweater, took off my shoes and socks and walked into the ocean. Boy it was frigid. Very quickly the bottom gave away and I breast stroked out to Tank.

The head of the bull kelp came right out of his mouth and he took off to shore very quickly and I swam behind him. WIth haste, I took off my wet shirt, put on my reserve dry one on and wore two jackets back to the house (mine and Marias'). My jeans were soaked and legs felt cold, but I knew that a warm bath would be available within 30 minutes.

And it was. And I warmed up. Very slowly throughout the day. I'm still not completely warm. Another bath before bed will hopefully help.

Tonight I'm especially I"m thankful for  sweet Tank. And thankful that I didn't hurt myself saving him.


Desperation sledding

Over breakfast this morning I casually mentioned that after work I could take Nora for a hike up Pyramid Mountain.  The kids are on Holiday and Stuey had a horseback riding lesson planned for the afternoon.  So I thought maybe a hike up Pyramid was in order for Nora and I.  And Nora was excited at the prospect.  Still I did not really expect that we would actually go up the mountain.

But when I got home from work Nora was all packed and 'rarin' to go.  And she announced that she wanted to bring along a sled and go sledding once we got to the top. At first I was a bit skeptical, and I did tell her that there was very little snow, but she was adamant. And so off we went.

We carried the sled 1300 feet up from the parking lot to the snow.  Nora got in a few runs, and we even did one run together.  As you can see from the photos it was sort of desperation snow, but hey it was snow on the ground.  And the sledding was fast.  Patrick

Monday, November 24, 2014


Add caption

Emotions run very high during recent Monopoly games here in  the Saltonstall living room.

I dare say, I've never seen Patrick quite so competitive as when he plays Monopoly. He starts sweating and there is an intensity to his voice when making trades and taking turns. He is notably serious.

Patrick says he took Monopoly very intently as a kid and he can't help but play it hard core version. The kids love it. Stuey gets mighty competitive and at times during the game, he has to step away from the game with tears in his eyes.

They do it all with buying, selling, trading, and mortgaging. Stuey has the prices on the properties and rents memorized.

It wouldn't surprise me if Stuey was dreaming of Monopoly.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Skinned knees

In my Brownie scouting group, we're working towards their Outdoor Skills patch-level 1. 

Yesterday morning it was raining hard but right as our meeting began at the public library, the skies parted. We hiked over to the far nooks of Near Island and found a soft mossy spot with lots of cozy tree roots to snuggle into. After each girl had a handful of almonds and blueberries, we worked on outdoor skills.

First the girls practiced basic knife handling skills-How to hold and pass a knife. I showed them some real camping knives, but we practiced with a plastic butter knife. Then the girls had a chance to show their medical selfs, as they took care of eachothers skinned knees. They role played the steps of how to treat skinned knees and (as you can see from the pictures below) there was lots of laughter and role playing involved! 

As the sun was dipping behind the mountains, we walked back along the bridge. Girls naturally paired up and talked as we hiked back. I can see new friendships forming over the course of the past 2 months. Girls from different schools, grades, experiences. 

As the girls left with their families, several said some sincere "Thank you for taking us hiking Ms. Zoya". They had such an appreciative sparkle in their eyes. 


You Know the Skiing is bad when . . . ...

Year-in-year-out on my annual round of activities, hunting season generally ends around Halloween and ski season begins soon after sometime in November.  And this year for a while there it was looking good for an early ski season.  I did go skiing for 7 of the first 8 days of November, and then, soon after I posted on the blog about my 'Daily fix of Vitamin D' (click here for post), it started to rain - And Rain, and Rain, and Rain.  And there went my 'daily fix of vitamin D'.

To keep in shape I have been climbing Pyramid in the rain.  And yesterday with Gregg I went bow hunting for mountain goats.  Bow-hunting is sort of like playing with your food - you almost never actually harvest a goat.  But at this time of year close to home it is the only way you are allowed to hunt for goats.

When we left in the morning Zoya asked me about our chances of success and I replied, 'pretty close to nil'.  But the funny thing is that once Gregg and I got up in the mountains we both went into hunting mode.  Suddenly it seemed our odds of finding a goat were very high - we got hopeful.

And so we crept about in the rain and snow and peeked into various bowls and ravines looking for goats.  And each time we peaked we had high hopes of finding a goat.

But of course we did not find any goats.  And back at the car we laughed that we were ever even hopeful.

Still we did get in a great hike and we both admitted that we probably would not have done that hike if we did not have the excuse of 'going hunting'.


Monday, November 17, 2014

A Scouting Outing

Last Saturday, the winds were blowing 30 with gust projected up to 60mph. When I looked out the window here at Mill Bay, there was spray hitting it and the waves were rolling in one after another.

The question I asked myself, "Should I still have my Brownie Troop meeting outside?" The plan was to meet on Near Island to hike, make a snack and work on our Chesapeake Bay Council outdoor Skills patch.

Patrick's answer was vehemently "YES! You'll be sheltered in the trees" he re-assured me.

He knows how I am slightly obsessed with keeping the OUTING IN SCOUTING.

My worst fear? That no one would show up, or very few. That I would get e-mails from families saying how they didn't want their brownies out in such conditions.

3 pm arrived, the weather had worsened. It already felt slightly dark, very stormy and drizzly.  I pulled into the Near Island parking lot-and sure enough--the girls were ready and geared up. 9 out of 10 of them!

The girls raced ahead on the Near Island Trails talking of how spooky it was with the afternoon darkness and winds ripping through the tress. Not one brownie said they were cold.

We stopped mid way and they made Ants on a log. We talked about proteins, carbs and sugars and how they fuel us. We learned about hypothermia, dressing in layers, and why its important to stay dry.  They girls drank hot cocoa from the cups they brought and we cleaned up and hiked back.

My troop loves being outside. On the return hike they asked me if we could build a lean-to, if we could do a salmon patch..their outdoor questions were endless. I was in heaven.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stuey learns about ice

Stuey near the top of Pyramid last Saturday
Last weekend Stuey and I took the dogs up Pyramid.  It had rained hard on Friday night, but I was hopeful that there still might be some snow to ski on.  And there was - barely.  Since then it has been rainy and warm every day, and it looks like the warm weather will continue.  Yesterday we received 2 1/2 inches of rain and the temperature was in the high 40s with heavy wind.  Same weather today, and tomorrow, and the next day . ... A real Pineapple Express - Straight from Hawaii to Alaska.  I doubt there is any snow left on Pyramid.

But on Saturday there was just enough snow left that Stuey got to learn about ice.  I taught him that when it is icy you walk beside the trail to avoid the packed down snow that turns to ice.  Stuey could not seem to understand this and once, after a cry for help, I looked back and saw that he had slid off the trail and almost down into a creek.  But after a few more slips he did learn, and he also learned the difference in appearance between crusty snow (not slippery) and glazed snow (very slippery).

Once at the top I managed to get in a ski.  I learned that Sheba is NOT a ski dog.  She wanted to bark at my heels and I had to go full speed ahead just to keep in front of her.  Stuey took pictures of me at the end of the run where I missed the final turn and wiped out.

Back home both dogs and Stuey went to bed early.  Patrick

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Starter Spurs

Yesterday afternoon,  I told my last client I was excited because on Friday's I end my day with my weekly horseback riding lesson at the Fairgrounds.

"Today I'll be wearing my cowgirl boots. They're new. My first pair of cowgirl boots."

"You mean riding boots?" my client asked.

I paused. Unsure at first what he was asking.

" No... cowgirl boots. The Western kind" I stated.

 "So you don't mean those riding boots that come up to the knee and are fashionable nowadays for women?"

I thought about my tall dark, brown leather boots, with patterned marking across the top. And how I can't wait until they are worn in and softer. And weathered looking. I know it will take years.

"No, this is Western riding. I'm really taking about cowgirl boots." I said.

He explained that his parents owned a Western Wear store and how they were always trying to get him to wear riding boots, which he just couldn't get excited about. The heels bothered him.  I could understand that.
My teacher, Becca saw the boots and said it was time for me to wear a pair of starter spurs. With a leather strap across the top of my boot, the attachable spurs fit like a charm and Pony the horse listened to me a little better with the spurs on.

We carried on a trot together for several loops around the rink without much prodding from me. Becca noticed my smile and how Pony and I really started finding a rhythm. He took me in small circles a few times, resisting staying on the rail. But I persisted with my spurs and by the end we had a better understanding of each other.


Friday, November 07, 2014

Daily Fix of Vitamin D

Winter time in Kodiak can be pretty dark - especially with the short days that often result in people going and coming home from work in the dark.  Sunlight on the skin is a major source of vitamin D, and so the lack of light can lead to a serious deficiency of this important nutrient. For this very reason I know a lot of people who take vitamin D supplements during winter.

But not me!  I try to get out into the sunlight and get my vitamin D the old fashioned way.  Earlier in the week when I was skiing every day the sun on the snow was so bright that my face got sunburned.  Snow does a great job of intensifying sunlight, and, as long as it is not so cold that you're forced to hide all skin under layers of clothes and scarfs, you are getting your vitamin D fix.  It's the gloomy, rainy winters without snow that create a problem.


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Hunter's Pie

Basically this is my recipe for 'Shepherds Pie,' but when I researched the topic I learned that this sort of pie when made with ground ('minced' if you're from the Commonwealth) beef is called 'cottage pie' and when made with ground lamb is called 'Shepherds Pie'.  So what's it called when you make it with ground elk or deer?  I decided to call it 'Hunter's Pie', and I'll expound on the definition to include mountain goat, moose or caribou, or really any ground game meat that you hunted yourself.

I will add that in terms of comfort food this is right up there with home-made macaroni and cheese, or scalloped potatoes.  One of the Holy Trinity of comfort foods.

The recipe consists of a base of meat and vegetables topped with mash potatoes.  I give their ingredients separately.

Ingredients needed

For ground meat and vegetables portion:

2 pounds of ground ('minced') wild animal
1 or 2 onions
1 bag of frozen peas
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 'Safeway-sized' box of mushrooms
2 1/2 Tbs of butter
2 handfulls of flour
1 cup of beef broth
1/2 cup of chopped celery
2 Tbs of canola oil (or peanut, avocado, corn whatever as long as it can withstand high heat - ie not olive oil)
a couple dashes of salt and pepper
a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

For mash Potatoes topping: (I generally make more mash potatoes than I need and fry up the extra as mash potato pancakes for breakfast)

4-5 to large, 'soft-ball' sized potatoes (I mix Yukon Gold with Red potatoes)
Garlic paste
Half and Half whipping cream
8 Tbs of butter (Yes you read right - a whole stick of butter and I usually add more!)
Salt and pepper to taste


I like to make the mash potatoes first and so the first thing I do is get a big pot of water boiling and then add the potatoes (at this point I start the meat and veggie process outlined below).
After dumping the cooked potatoes in a colander I add a stick (8 tbs) of butter to the pot and a good squirt of garlic paste.  I let the garlic cook a bit and the butter to melt before I put the potatoes back in the pot. Then I add a cup or so of half and half cream and mash the potatoes with a masher.  I add salt and pepper (and more butter and cream) to taste.

For the meat:
I first heat up beef broth in a small pot and add celery - let it steep away on low heat
I then add 2 Tbs of oil to frying pan and cook the onions and carrots until the onions turn clear
Then I add finely cut mushrooms and let them 'sweat away' (cooking slowly and stirring occasionally)
In another frying pan add 2 1/2 Tbs of butter and the 2 hand fulls of flour and create roux
To the roux add a little more oil (if needed) and the 2 lbs of ground game
Cook ground meat until cooked through and add to vegetables (I mix up the 2 frying pans)

Put the frozen peas into a colander in the sink and run hot tap water over them until they are unfrozen

In an 18 by 12 inch dish around 3 inches deep add the meat and vegetable mixed and stir in the thawed peas
Add broth and celery, Worcestershire Sauce and stir together
Top with mashed potatoes and use fork to create pattern on top that can brown in oven
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so and then turn to broil to brown top.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes or so and then serve - Enjoy!

And looking back at the recipe it seems a bit overly complicated. It's not.  Basically cook up meat and veggies and top with mash potatoes and bake in the oven.  That's a hunter's pie.


Boiling the potatoes and cooking the onions and carrots

Mashed Potatoes all ready to top the ground meat (I used too much broth on this try)

Ready to eat!