Monday, December 20, 2010


The last day of school before break is upon us. The past few days have been full of practicing and planning for the Christmas program. We're a small enough school that we can get away with having a non-secular pageant in the school. So we had the manger scene, and songs like silent night, and a play built around understanding the nativity.

After the performance, Santa arrived to pass out presents! Dave played the role of Santa, assisted by a down coat for the necessary jolly body fat. He did a wonderful job, but Julia wasn't very pleased to be sitting on his lap.

She was pleased with her presents though!

Whitney and Leanne taught us how to make Agutuk, a native Alaskan dessert. To make it, you take maybe 3 cups Crisco, put it in a large bowl, and whip it with your hand. After it begins to smooth out, you start adding sugar by the quarter cup and splashes of water. Keep on whipping, and it will start to get fluffy, like whipped cream. Ideally you keep whipping until the sugar dissolves, but that is a feat of endurance. How much total sugar to add is a matter of opinion, as some prefer sweet Agutuk, and some prefer it without sugar. After it is as sweet as you desire, you add cooked, flaked white fish, about 4 cups worth. You work this in, ideally until it is so soft and fluffy that you can't identify the fish by texture. The final step is to fold in about 6 cups tiny tart frozen cranberries or blueberries. These should be folded in so gently that the Agutuk remains white, and doesn't turn purple with berry juice. And there you go, a truly Alaskan confection.

Whitney and Leanne were living here with Taylor and Angela because their village was too small to have a school. Their mom recently decided to move to another village called Tuntutuliak, and so she has taken the girls with her. They flew away this morning. It is terrible for us to see them go. They were wonderful to Julia and a delight to have in the school. We will miss them very much.

It is 10:45 pm, and we just came inside from a cold but perfectly clear view of the eclipse. It is our 2nd wedding anniversary today, and the coinciding of the solstice and a total lunar eclipse seems to be a fine celebration indeed. I also saw a shooting star fly just under the moon and over Orion's belt. We are excited that the shortest day of the year has arrived, and we can now look forward to incrementally longer days. This is good news, as today our sunrise was at 10:48 am, and our sunset was at 4:04 pm, giving us a day length of 5 hours and 16 minutes.

December 20th, 2008

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The river has finally frozen over, but I'm not brave enough to go out on it. You can see snowmachine tracks across, but a fast-moving snowmachine can get across some pretty thin ice. It has been pretty nippy around here though, so I imagine it won't be long until the ice is four feet thick.

 On Monday, the kids went out on skis to go get a tree for the school. Blaze and Royal, Angela's dogs were excellent sled dogs, pulling the tree back. Everyone was in high spirits. Getting such a huge tree in through the door was quite the event too! Tuesday we spent the afternoon making decorations. I got each kid a plain glass bulb and they swirled paint around inside to make lovely ornaments. Construction paper, paint and glitter covered everything and everyone.

We are fast approaching the longest night of the year.  This is the last full week of school before Christmas break. The school's christmas assembly for the community is on Monday, and then we are off on our trip south! We're going to Dave's folks first, then to my folks, then Dave heads back up here and I go on to Minnesota for a week with my mom, my brother Olaf and Julia. Then I'll do some more visiting of friends and relations through most of January before heading back up north.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Full Steam December

We got our tree and I've been busy decorating. For some crazy reason I didn't pack any christmas ornaments, so I've had to make them. Good thing we got a small tree!

Gingerbread Ornaments

A seed pod from a bush outside my house made a nice ornament 
a bit o bunny for your tree?

I've also been making some ornaments out of bits of rabbit fur. That's a sign of getting used to a different culture. I've never ever worked with or worn fur before now, but the school has a ton of fur waiting to be used by the kids in a native cultures project. the hard part is finding someone to teach a native cultures project, so in the meantime, I used some sealskin and bead earrings that were given to me by friends in Anchorage as a model for rabbit skin and bead earrings. I decided that they also make good christmas ornaments. I got the 6th and 7th graders making earrings and ornaments, and they did well, though one of them said "oh, that stuff stuck to the fur is skin?? I just thought it was something they glued on to hold the fur together"     sigh....
Julia supervising

Whitney's earrings

Miguel's ornament
Julia has come down with athlete's foot. I couldn't believe it, having never heard of a baby getting athlete's foot, but I took her around to all the moms here in the village and that was the consensus. I got ahold of a doctor who recommended an antifungal cream for a week, so we are working on that process.  She's also got the signs of more teeth coming in, general fussiness, an increase in drool, a rash on her chin from said drool, but I can't feel any more teeth yet. I'll keep you posted. Her new trick is sticking her tongue out at us.
Julia's wearing a sweater knit by her dad's grandmother
Julia's favorite place, hanging onto my leg

In the kitchen part of life, I've made my first successful batch of sourdough bread. You can find Oregon Trail Sourdough, at It's an old strain of sourdough, and they will mail you enough to get started if you send them a self addressed stamped envelope. I did so, and activated it in water and flour, fed it a few times, then I followed these directions:
and made my first ever sourdough!

I'm also going to give out Bambi's Carrot Pie recipe. We had this at thanksgiving, and she created the recipe because her store received a shipment of carrots that got frozen. Trying to salvage them, she pureed them up and substituted them for pumpkin in a pie. It was actually quite good.
Here's my favorite pumpkin pie recipe, from Joy of Cooking
2 c pumpkin, pureed
1 1/2 cups cream or evaporated milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
2 beaten eggs
Mix it all up, I like to do so in the blender. Pour into a prepared pie shell and bake 15 minutes at 425 and then 45 minutes at 350.

To make it carrot pie, substitute the pumpkin for pureed carrots.
happy baking.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pomegranate season

Well, the goings on since thanksgiving:

We had thanksgiving # 2 at the school on friday. It was a community-wide potluck, or "feed"as they call it around here. Dave roasted a turkey and made mashed potatoes and gravy and everyone else brought something to share. It was a nice event, and Julia was happy to have another turkey leg to gnaw on.

We had a couple days of rain, which turned all the snow into 6 inches of slush. That was kind of gross, but it did crazy things to the ice on the river. It wasn't yet formed all the way across, and somehow the thick slabs of ice that were there got shoved up on the shore. so now the river is back to small ice flows floating down. Today it's a little below 0, so maybe it will freeze up quicker. Lots of people wait impatiently for the freeze. Several families and individuals live across the river, and principal Susan's husband Doug is upriver at his lodge, waiting for the ice to freeze so he can come back on his snowmobile.
this used to be walkable shore
We've got some fresh snow too, which is really good as the roads were solid sheets of ice. Now there's some traction. This weekend Dave and Julia and I went and cut ourselves a little christmas tree. Since we got married, we've lived in tiny little apartments, so we have to have tiny little trees. In some fit of madness, I didn't pack any christmas ornaments, so I'm making the decorations this year. I'll post more photos of the tree as I get it a little more decorated.

I found a recipe for White Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies on the blog Two Peas and Their Pod
I've never before seen a baking recipe that involves pomegranate seeds (or arils, is what they are really called. ) and I love an unusual recipe...
here you go:
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup pomegranate arils
Cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Seperately stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the flour mixture and the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and chocolate. either gently stir in the pomegranate or roll tablespoon sized balls and gently press about 10 arils in to each cookie. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, until edges are brown and centers look barely done.
Next I'll be trying them with regular chocolate instead of white chocolate. And maybe some cocoa in the cookie too.

Over at the school, the kids are all in excitement because the salmon eggs have arrived! they are now resting happily in the fish tank and are due to hatch any day. You can see the little salmon eye and tail sliding around inside each pink egg.

and I am typing away here on my brand spankin new Macbook Pro laptop! sweet technology!