Friday, December 18, 2015

Altered Book Christmas Trees

Who's ready to get their Christmas book craft on?  Now here's when you pipe in with, "I do, I do!"

This is an easy tutorial, and the end result is so cute.  I set up a display on the front desk of the library where I work with the finished trees and it looks adorable.  Bookish and festive!

I'll go through the step by step of what I did, which was based on the instructions I found here.

It's one of those projects you can work on while you're watching t.v. - You fall in to the repetition of folding the pages and before you know it, you're finished.

You'll need a few old books that you don't mind re purposing, an exacto knife, dry adhesive, and any accessories you'd like to use to decorate the trees.   I like to use books that are older and have yellowing pages because of the antique-y effect it gives to the finished tree.

Here are the steps:

Step 1
Remove the front and back covers from the book

Step 2
Count out 30 pages, and carefully slice down the binding to separate the pages from the rest of the book

Step 3
Count out another 30 pages, and slice down the binding again. 

Step 4
With the binding an the left, fold down the top right side of the page into a triangle

Step 5
Fold the page down toward the binding a second time, sort of like you're making a paper airplane

Did I mention I used a very old children's book for my trees?  Nice werewolf picture, right?

Step 6
Fold the little triangle at the bottom of the page up.

Continue folding all of the pages in this way until you've folded all of them, and you have half of a tree.

Once you've folded all of the pages in both 30 page sets, thoroughly coat the back of one of the tree halves with dry adhesive, and affix the two tree halves together.

I decorated the tree with crafting supplies I had on hand, and my final result looked like this:

Like I said earlier, I set up a cute little display for the Christmas season on the front desk at the library where I work, and I think it's too damn cute:

How fun for folks to walk in the front door and have these festive altered books greet them.

Merry Christmas, and happy book crafting if you give this one a go!

Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

12 Things I'll Miss About Living in Alaska

Granted, we don't even know where we'll be transferring to yet, but our inevitable moving date is hurling toward us, & I'm finding myself doing the predictable.  Reflecting on what I'll miss about living way up here in the 49th state.

Even though I'm enthusiastically anticipating the jump into our next chapter, wistfulness inevitably creeps in when I think about what I'll miss about living in Alaska.

As I contemplated the motley lineup of experiences that made up our life here - both the hefty, indelible experiences like bear viewing tours and tackling major mountain hikes, and the minor, everyday things like views out the living room window and scenic drives...I was a little surprised. Turns out I'll miss a lot more than I expected!

12 Things I'll Miss About Living in Alaska

1.  Those pristine, ogle worthy landscapes
First things first.  The natural environment we've been surrounded by is truly spectacular.  I've said it before, but it's like the Discovery Channel, National Geographic & the Sierra Club all wrapped up together.  The result is pure, pristine beauty.  Just a simple drive to work or the grocery store brought me past sprawling ocean and mountain vistas that I gawked at on a daily basis.  It never got old.  I know I'll pine for it when I don't get to see it everyday.

Buskin River

2.  The unbelievably clear winter night skies
I'll never forget the first time I saw a crisp, clear, Kodiak winter night sky.  To say it was astonishing about covers it.  An inky blue backdrop dotted with truly countless, brilliant stars no matter which part of the sky I gazed at...unforgettable for sure.  

3.  The northern lights
Speaking of winter night skies!  Experiencing the northern lights in person was a life list moment that I was so thankful to see.  And not just once - I admired lady aurora dancing in the sky quite a few times during our time in Alaska. It was always spectacular.

Fairbanks, AK - More difficult to capture on camera than you'd think!

4.  The hiking
Hiking was hands down my favorite outdoor activity here.  I know we'll hike again at all of our other destinations, but I don't think it'll ever quite match the Alaskan hiking we tackled over our three years in Kodiak.

North Sister Mountain

5.  Northern bird watching
I traded in the brown pelicans and white ibises of Florida for puffins and bald eagles.  And what a fun replacement!  I spent the better part of two years stalking eagles and puffins with the ultimate goal of capturing a decent close up.  After lots and lots of trial and error, I finally succeeded.  I'll miss watching the bald eagles soar, the doofy puffin zip by me in my kayak, and believe it or not, even the smart and sneaky black-billed magpies that were ubiquitous around our house.

My best northern bird close-ups
6. The vibrant green mountains of summer
They don't call Kodiak Alaska's Emerald Isle for nuthin'.  I would anticipate the gradual encroachment of green up the mountains every year in spring time.  And once June rolled!  So vibrant and beautiful.  I ran out of adjectives to describe Kodiak's flourishing, gorgeous summers a long time ago.

Indescribable Kodiak summers

7.  The most exquisite Alaskan king crab legs I've ever had
Not only were they enormous, they were every word you can think of for succulent & flavorful.  We went over the top overboard during our first winter in Kodiak and ate somewhere around 30-40 lbs of crab.  Yeah.  A little much.  Needless to say, we haven't had as much crab as we did that first year - but I'll always remember what came out of the hubby's mouth the first time we tasted it.  And I quote, "Oh sweet Jesus this is good."

8.  Ditto for the halibut & salmon
I can't say enough about how marvelous it is to have fish for dinner that was swimming that morning.  It just doesn't get any better than that.  Fresh Alaskan salmon caught & later grilled by the hubby?  You can sign me up every time.

Salmon grilled on a cedar plank & blackened Alaskan halibut in the cast iron skillet

9.  The sunrises and sunsets
I know sunrises & sunsets are a dime a dozen because they happen every morning and evening no matter where you live.  BUT.  There's something about them here.  They're spectacular.  Well, when it's not overcast and cloudy, anyway.  Which is pretty much the status quo.  But when it's clear?  Breathtaking.  Maybe it's an island thing, because they were dynamite in Key West, too.  Either way, I'll miss those gorgeous skies.

10. Kayaking -  We'll kayak at whatever our next destination is if it's feasible, but I'll miss the uniqueness of the landscape and all the incredible things there were to see out on the water here.

11.  Whale watching - Every April, gray whales migrate over 10,000 miles round-trip between Mexico's nursery lagoons and feeding grounds in the Bering Sea.  Massive pods of whales pass by Kodiak each spring, which made for excellent opportunities to whale watch.  I looked forward to it each year and had the privilege of witnessing breaches, spouts, and tons of sightings along the coast.  So fun, and so memorable.

A commanding view for whale watching at Narrow Cape

12.  Mossy forests
Because...gah!  They're stunning. The first time we ambled into one of those carpets of green was a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life.  It was like a fairy tale.  The sort of atmosphere that begs you to try and spot a fairy or an elf.  The Shire, for sure.

So, as I ponder our last three years - where we got to try on Alaskan life for a little while - I think my primary emotion is gratitude.  What a one-of-a-kind experience we dipped our toes into.

Living on Kodiak was so unique, and I can't imagine overlooking or taking for granted how special & memorable our time here has been.

And I'm sure once we step off the ferry and start our journey back to the lower forty-eight, that wistfulness will resurface and tap me on the shoulder every so often.

And looking back fondly is exactly what I'll do when Kodiak is on my mind.  How could I do anything but that?

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, November 16, 2015

High Time for a Stroll

I didn't know how much I needed a walk in the woods until I was immersed in the crisp, wintry air, peering up at the slits of blue sky through mossy, towering Sitka spruce trees.  Let's just say I was starting to grow roots out of my ass.  And they were attached to the couch.

It's not as easy to motivate for hikes when the temperatures dip below 35 or so.  At least in my case.

But, I managed to peel myself from the cozy confines of my living room and get out with the hubby and pooch to take a walk.  It was a little chilly, but once we got moving it wasn't uncomfortable.

Lake Gertrude

It was exactly what I needed!  A couple of long deep breaths of that brisk, clear air is nothing but invigorating.  My day was just about made when we came upon this magnificence hanging out in Lake Gertrude:

If you look closely, you can see that there's a noticeable amount of blood on his right talon.  I prefer to think that he just finished a tasty snack and didn't wipe his claws, but the reality is that he was probably injured.

We saw him at the beginning of our hike, and when we looped back around about an hour and half or so later, he was still there.  Bald Eagles tend to hang out for a while once they land, but an hour and half is a little out of the ordinary for any bird to stay in one spot.  Hopefully his injury wasn't too debilitating or life-threatening.

It really did make my day to get some pictures of him.  I love that when I zoom in with my camera, it's like I'm sitting on the branch right next to him.  They're so damn regal looking.

Cheety had a good old time rampaging around, too.  I think he likes napping and hiking equally.  Not unlike his owner.

So, I guess my goal for this last Alaskan winter will be to get myself outside and hiking on the weekends more often than I find myself growing roots into the couch.  We all need goals, right?

Ta-ta for now.

His highness at his post on the couch.  I think I see a nap coming on.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Seven Deadly Sins

I decided the other day that if I had to pick which of the seven deadly sins I'm most guilty wouldn't be a difficult task.  I can narrow it down my top 2 transgressions without much thought.

That's bad, right?

I figure most of us don't have the seven deadly sins committed to memory, ready to whip out of a back pocket, so here's a refresher.  They are:  pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

For me, my number one is easy.  Gluttony.  I'm in love with food.  Deeply, unrepentantly in love with all things food.

Now the love of food alone doesn't make me a glutton.  It's the inability to be reasonable about indulgence.  And portion sizes.  I actually have to have the hubby put my plate together or else I'll pile it on like it's the last meal of the apocalypse.

Savory cheese and crackers, or warm, crusty bread dipped into bubbling marinara sauce, or the sublime combination of a vibrant Cabernet paired with a juicy, tender steak filet?  Even a simple, ripe tomato right from the garden, or a sweet, juicy slice of watermelon.  It's all absolutely irresistible. 

Or how about the crispy, golden skin that crusts up on roasted chicken or turkey that just begs to be plucked off and put in my belly?  It whispers to me. A seductive, chocolate-y voice that's almost impossible to resist. 

Slow Braised Pork Ragu.  It's heavenly. Or is it sinful?  Hmm.
I have to reel myself in.  Often.  I guess I do a pretty good job of it considering I'm not 300 lbs.  But that doesn't mean I don't indulge more often than I probably should.

I justify my gluttony by preaching to myself, "all things in moderation."  My version of moderation! 

Which includes cheese.  And bacon.  And wine, of course.  Don't even get me started on the wine.

I always loved the idea of Purgatory from that early 90's movie Defending Your Life with Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks.  The characters could eat anything they wanted, and as much as they wanted, without ever feeling full, being unhealthy, or gaining weight.  Now THAT'S heaven!

Number two on the list of seven deadly sins I'm overwhelmingly guilty of?  Two is easy also.  Sloth.

I mean come on, what trots hand in hand skipping down the street with gluttony better than sloth?  They're meant to be together.  Like peanut butter and jelly.  Or coffee and donuts.  See how I go back to food?

Cheety gets me.
What it comes down to is that if I'm left to my own devices, there's only one place you'll find me.  The couch.  In pajamas with a fuzzy blanket.  For hours.

If there isn't a compelling reason to get up, there I stay.  Sometimes wiling away on the internet.  Sometimes reading.  Sometimes writing.  Sometimes lounging through a movie.

So I guess it's not 100% sloth.  But about 99.

But gluttony?  Definitely 100%.  Did someone say bacon?

Ta-ta for now.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

I have to confess that I have a tiny tendency to over-garlic.  On occasion.  I can't help it.  I love garlic with a capital L.  Unfortunately for the hubby.  Especially when he doesn't indulge in the garlic party.

I was guilty of over garlic-ing on this latest dinner experiment, which thankfully was a solo experiment since the hubby was working late that night.  Thank God for him!

I discovered a recipe for creamy cauliflower sauce on one of the many food blogs I follow, called Pinch of Yum.

It's not too far from cauliflower mash, which I've made before and is fantastic.  This sauce is basically cauliflower mash with more liquid added, so it becomes more sauce-like.

It would have been better if I could have controlled myself with the garlic!  I made rigatoni with broccoli and tossed it with the cauliflower sauce and a healthy dose of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I used this recipe as a base with a few tweaks here and there.

It was good, but I decided what it really needed was some bacon.  Just a strip or two, crumbled up and mixed in would have put it over the top and made it memorable.

So, the next night for leftovers I cooked up some bacon, chopped it up, sliced some cherry tomatoes & tossed it all together with the cauliflower sauce & the rest of the rigatoni and a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It was definitely better.  Because bacon makes everything better.

Not a bad dinner experiment - over garlic-ed or not

So, I think the clear take away here is simple.


Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bacon Egg Cups

I get into breakfast ruts every so often.  I've been in a mini-one lately.  So, I tried a new egg recipe the other day, courtesy of a blogger/business woman I discovered named Wellness Mama.

She's a little nutty in some of what she puts out there, but her recipes are generally more mainstream than some of her more unconventional posts.  I've found plenty of her tips and tutorials invaluable, but I wouldn't jump feet first into everything she recommends!

Anyway, enough about the slightly wacky Wellness Mama.  I was intrigued by one of her egg recipes and decided to try it out a few days ago.  It helped me climb out of my breakfast rut, and it was easy & tasty.

Mostly because bacon.  It's easy to put together, and you can make a little more than what you plan to eat in one sitting to reheat during the week.

The gist is this.  Chop up some onions and peppers, (or whatever veggies you prefer) line a few sections of a muffin tin with bacon, & put the vegetables in the bottom of each muffin cup.  Beat however many eggs you're using with a little bit of milk and salt and pepper. (one egg per muffin cup - so I used four)  Last, add the egg mixture to each muffin cup.

Raw and ready for baking

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the eggs are set.  I topped ours with cheddar in the last five minutes of baking for a little cheese love.

Hot & bubbly, right out of the oven

They really puff up in the oven.  The eggs got surprisingly fluffy, sort of like a quiche.  And the bacon really makes it.

How about this love?

You might also like this baked egg recipe I wrote about not too long ago.  If you find yourself in a breakfast rut, consider one of these as a remedy - It worked for me! 

Ta-ta for now.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Classic Monster Pumpkins

I decided not to do any pumpkin carving for Halloween this year.  Instead I tackled painted pumpkins.  I went with classic monster characters for this year:  Dracula, Frankenstein, a mummy and a vampire bat.  What fun this was!

Certain parts turned out to be a little more challenging than I expected, and I wasn't really crazy about how some of the eyes turned out.  Eyes are hard! 

I used paint, felt, crafting foam, and hot glue.  I don't have much of a step-by-step for these because I just used pictures I found online for inspiration.  The rest I sort of free-styled.

I think I like the carved pumpkins I've done over the last few years better than my painted project for this year.  But out of the four from this year, my favorite is the mini-bat pumpkin.

Just too damn cute.  The hubby thinks it looks like Toothless from the movie How to Train Your Dragon.  I can see it!  So, along with the bat, as I mentioned already, I painted a Dracula...

And a mummy...

And a Frankenstein...

Those eyes!  They make him look a little...special.

My favorite part of Frankenstein is the bolts in the side of his "neck."  In this case we're working under the assumption that pumpkins do in fact have necks.  I can't help making the MREEEEEHH Frankenstein moan in my head whenever I look at him.

So, here are all of my monster pumpkins out on our table in the front.

These were fun to do, but like I said earlier, I think I'll go back to carving next year.  They're cute, but I think last year's zombies and the year before's vampires came out better.  19 more days till Halloween!

Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Another Roll of the Dice

Lots o' options!
A question I'm asked often is some version of, "How do you know where you'll go next?"  Or, "Do you get to pick where you go, or does the Coast Guard just send you where they want?"

Unlike the title of this post, it's a little more strategic than just rolling the dice.  The gist of it is this.

We're in the very early stages of PCS, (Permanent Change of Station) so we just received the official "shopping list" for our next tour.  Which basically means what positions and locations will be available to transfer to in the summer of 2016.

Availability is based on the hubby's rank and position, and more importantly the needs of the almighty Coast Guard.  Because home is where the Coast Guard sends us.  Which is kind of part of the fun.

The potential billets totaled 8 different locations and ranged from Washington D.C., to another tour in a different part of Alaska, to Puerto Rico, among others.  The next step after learning what our options were was to submit our "dream sheet" based on the available slots.  Essentially what our picks are for the next four years.

We ended up submitting for 6 locations - from California, to Oregon, to North Carolina and a few others.  What's nice is that because we've spent the last 3 years outside the continental U.S, we'll have precedence for the next set of orders.  So the chances of us getting our first pick are good.  Our first pick is Sacramento, California.

I've been prematurely researching all the different potential locations, well because it's kind of fun to play the what if game.  Honestly, I just want to get back to civilization again.  I was so excited to see all of the restaurants, pubs, and live music venues in a bunch of the locations we could end up at.

Civilization and the prospect of more than 132 average days of sunshine per year is...more than alluring!   Our time in Kodiak has been unbelievable, and I'm so thankful we had the opportunity to experience living here.  I've had the privilege of immersing myself in a completely different culture through my work experiences here, met some wonderful people, and I've seen some of the most stunning natural beauty I've ever laid my eyes on.  It's been unforgettable and I know we'll remember this tour fondly for the rest of our lives.

But on the other hand, I'm also ready to move on.  The challenge now is to tame the restlessness that's inevitable when we're right on the edge of transition.  I'm doing my best to live in the moment and not spend too much time focusing on what's to come.  Because as we all know, tomorrow isn't promised.  Okay, no more Deepak Chopra for you.

We'll find out what the next set of orders will be sometime around Christmas/New Years.  I think of it as our Christmas present.  I already know that the next roll of the dice will be another excellent new place to call home.  Because I refuse to accept anything else!  Take a look at this & you'll understand what I mean.  Stay tuned!

Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Something to be Said

You know, I've loved summer in Kodiak for as long as we've been here, and always thought it was the best season here.  But I have to say, there's something to be said for fall. 

It's a definite contender for summer.  I was driving into town the other day at just the right time, and the sun was creating this fabulous orange glow on the mountains. - Just highlighting the absolute best of the auburn and golden colors that are the essence of fall.

Moments like that make me appreciate that slow slide into winter.  Maybe that's why it's called fall - because we're falling into the winter.  There's something about it that borders on magical.  I know - heavy handed.  But it's wrapped up in the crisp air, and the golden light, and the slow crunching of the grasses, and the shifting of vibrant greens to gradual ambers...and so much more that's hard to capture.

And the sunrises and sunsets this time of year?  Gawd.  Just gorgeous.  I don't know what it is about this season that makes the sun come alive when it wakes up and goes to bed, but it's hard to ignore.  

October 2014 sunrise

It's like the sky kicks it up a few notches once autumn rolls around.  It's stunning.

Lenticular clouds at sunset, USCG Base Kodiak - Autumn, 2014

Kodiak sunset - Autumn, 2014

Don't you think I'm on to something here?  I'm sad to say goodbye to Kodiak summer, but there's clearly something to be said for fall!

Ta-ta for now.