Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Good eats

Common wisdom says that no one wants to see your unprofessional food photos, but my mother and sister inform me that my niece loves my food photos! Hah!

We picked up our annual share of 20 pounds of salmon from the Alaska Marine Conservation Council:

They are reds, from Bristol Bay:

They seem smaller this year, but that means more fillets!

Huevos rancheros, our favorite Saturday breakfast of late:

Partially homemade pizza (using Boboli crust), with Minestra di Zucchine con Cacio Uove and salad:

A beautiful stand at the Farmer's Market:

Last weekend, our research director decided that what we all needed to do before starting classes for the fall is have an interdepartmental wiffle ball tournament and a pig roast. Here is the roaster:

Mmm, mmm, roast piggie!

Piggie came from a local meat processor. We have no concentrated feed lots in Alaska, so the piggies, cows, and goats are all free-range, and in this case organic, to boot!

MC Bill makes the first slices:

Fixin's for Singapore noodles:

Said Singapore noodles:

A beautiful fractal broccoli:

How long is the coast of Britain?

Best. Enchiladas. Ever. Made with leftover roast pork:

Served with fractal broccoli, corn, and fresh local tomatoes:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Our windowsill guests

On warm days, our south-facing windowsill is used by sweet fuzzybees and assholewasps alike, for dancing and buzzing and vibrating to warm up in the sunshine.

Fuzzy bumblebee!

Nasty white-faced hornet:

Sharp eyes will notice that I went outside to photograph the bumblebee, but photographed the hornet through the glass!

All under the watchful eye of WiSpi, who left us yesterday morning after a whole summer of impressing us with her web construction skills:

I hope she completed her mission before she passed on!

Here is a photo of us snuggling!

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Human Brain is a Delicate Thing

In 1999, I was living in an apartment complex in Mountain View, California. My neighbors across the hall were a single father with three little girls. I'd estimate the ages at 4, 8, and 10. The two older girls would argue violently, shouting vicious things at each other.

"I HATE you!! I hope you DIE!"

"I never want to see you AGAIN!"

"I wish you had never been BORN!"

I was shocked! I wanted to go over there and knock on their door and explain, "It feels like you hate your sister when you're angry with her, but that's just the anger talking. You really love your sister!"

My words--though true--would have fallen on deaf ears. I know this because my sister and I used the same language when we fought as children! And the adults present had tried the exact same worthless corrective statements on us! "You don't hate your sister! You love your sister!" HAH! In that moment of pure rage, actually, we did hate each other, and you would not have talked us out of it! But that didn't mean we were budding psychopaths! That meant we were children! That vicious language--so terrible on adult ears--is only a moment of anger to a child. Children grow out of that amount of rage as they mature and get a grip on their emotions. In their tiny worlds, only that horrible language will do justice to the outsize amount of rage they feel. But as adults, we have a better sense of proportion, and know that sometimes our loved ones can anger us, and that's okay! We can be vulnerable and say, "I'm angry, you hurt me" instead of shouting terrible words of blind rage.

I was reminded of this today. Starbuck-A-Roo and I were visiting her Friends at the Denali Center. We generally make a clockwise circuit around the single-story building, stopping at any room whose doors and curtain are open, indicating that visitors are welcome. Some have an icon of a dog on the door, indicating that they like dogs. But we also have our established Friends, whom we deliberately seek out to visit. One, we have never seen in his room. He sits in an easy chair in one of the common area lounges, and Roo goes up to his chair and sits in front of him while he pets her. "You are a beauty!" he tells her. "Such a beauty you are! Such a nice dog!"

Sunday, as we approached his chair, he scowled. "Everyone is terrible! People are terrible! Do you know what they do to me? All of you people! So horrible!"

I knelt down and made eye contact. "Some people are terrible, but dogs are never terrible. They love us no matter what. Would you like to pet Starbuck?"

He scowled. "Why don't you put her out on a busy street? Let her get hit by a car!"

I was a bit startled, but recalled somewhere in the recesses of my mind that people suffering from dementia often become inexplicably mean at times. While their attacks are often cruelly well-aimed, they reflect more frustration at their own conditions than their feelings for or about the target.

I looked at him gently, but directly. "Well, if you aren't in the mood for a visit, we'll be going now. But know that Starbuck loves you no matter what, and there are some people you can't trust, but you can always trust dogs, and they'll always love you the same, even when you are grumpy." I paused, then stood up. "We'll see you next time. I hope you're feeling better then!" then walked away.

He then called out, and I turned around to face him. "Be safe out there!" he said. And I smiled and said, "Yes, we will be."

My former (and in my heart current, since I am in denial about his retirement) Pastor, Father S., had watched both of his parents decline with dementia, and offered advice. "Think 2 year old. It's just the parts of the brain undeveloping, not the person. For that, learn to seek and watch spirit... Trust the puppies."

Ah! In all of my reading I had not encountered that brilliant emotional device! I know how cruel kids can be without meaning to be, just because their emotions are so big and so raw, and they are not in control of them. I suppose in dementia patients, it is a very similar manifestation, although in adults, it is even more hurtful, because the cruelty of their comments has the added capacity and specificity of adult understanding and insight. Especially toward caregivers, who are often very close to the patient--as spouses, children, other close family members. They know how to twist that knife, but without the controls of a healthy person to rein it in.

Maybe a bigger lesson can be learned from this; some people's cruelty isn't meant as such. It's a reaction to their own suffering, and they don't need to be dementia patients to exhibit this same response. Maybe a bit more compassion is in order for all people who seem thoughtlessly cruel. It's precisely that--thoughtless.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

First whiffs of Fall are in the air

The fireweed has bloomed to the top, and the bottoms have gone to cotton seeds:

That means it's four weeks until the first frost!

Our weekend walks are much more peaceful now--no mosquitoes, Starbuck has more energy, and I am not all sweaty. The neighborhood trail definitely looks like fall:

Across the road from the trailhead, a giant water tank waits to be buried. Since we have no water lines to our neighborhood, the fire station has to haul water to fight fires. How much more convenient and safer it will be when we have a local water tank for them!

Red dwarf dogwood berries add to the rich colors:

Shoe dye applicator plants!

Giant mooseyprint:

Look what DL spotted! A wood frog!

I had heard about them, but never seen one! Apparently, their habitat spans from the northern half of the Lower 48, through Canada, to north of the Brooks Range, and they freeze solid in wintertime and come back to life in the spring. They have glucose in their bloodstream, which prevents the ice crystals from forming needles, which would burst their cells.


It's a tiny thing! Supposedly, they don't need to live in water, but he was sure happy to be swimmin' down a rain-filled tire track!

Alaskan wildflowers are deceptively delicate-looking, yet somehow hardy enough to survive each winter:

Rooooooo looking pretty in the grass:

Friday, August 17, 2018

Food photos

This is butter halibut. Like butter chicken, only with halibut instead of chicken:

Moose soup!

This is super tasty--both light and flavorful, with the broth somehow both clear and rich-tasting at the same time. Super easy, too!
1) Brown ground moose.
2) Add some olive oil if the moose was lean; add chopped onions, then carrots, potatoes, and kale. Tomatoes optional; the acid cuts some of the sweetness of the carrots. Sauté until the kale is wilted.
3) Pour in cheap beer (I like PBR). This will be your broth base, so add plenty.
4) Simmer until potatoes are done. If you cut the carrots and potatoes small enough, this tasty soup can be yours in under 30 minutes!

Mmmmm sammiches! Just think! If we were vegan and there were no meat and cheese, these sammiches would be... wholly guacamole! :~D


(Them! Them like cheese!)

Cal schwag!

I'm no sure how or why I got this, but it's awesome schwag! The T-shirt and hoody are my size, too, so... whoever sent it must know me, but no one will take credit! This is a great duffel; it's going to be my new overnight bag. BTW, I'm amazed at how many "Go Bears!" shouts I get when I wear this T-shirt. The Cal alums are everywhere, and they are loud!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Photos from The Bs' Garden

DB told me to quit going to the farmer's market already! She had plenty of greens to share, and to come over at any time! So I did.

It is beautiful, is it not? The ladies and I actually run past it every day, but I don't run with scissors or bags! Alaskan veggies tend to be huge, due to the endless sunlight. And there are very few insect pests. But they need an electric or very sturdy fence to keep out meese! And veggies tend to bolt, because of the aforementioned sun.

For some reason, the cabbages didn't form heads this year, but they are still cabbages!

Look how she labelled these collards? Awwww! <3

And she plants these pretty flowers!

Look! Fractal broccoli!

And cauliflower!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Blueberry picking photos!

Blueberry picking is my favorite Alaskan "chore". Blueberries ripen at the most beautiful time of year--late summer, when the weather has cooled, the mosquitoes have mostly died out, and the sun is warm, the air is cool, the air smells like labrador tea, and the breeze is crisp. Fall is around the corner, and summer is just behind, and you can enjoy both!

DL and I went out to our most accessible berry patch yesterday:

The views from up there are beautiful!

There were still quite a few berries, although they were low to the ground and awkward to get to. i think of it as a special form of yoga.


After I had filled my two buckets, DL was still working on his second, so I put more into my hat!

The ladies faithfully followed me around and stayed near me. They bark at anyone approaching!

DL took a photo of us 3 women:

As we were packing up to leave, a pair of two women and a dog showed up to "their" favorite "little-known" berry patch. Good thing there is enough for all! I snapped this photo of them as we walked away:

Dessert was a blueberry, raspberry, and rhubarb crumble. The fruit was really pretty!

Thanks, Alaska, for a stupendously lovely day!