I’m home!

Ah, the pleasures of coming home! After a week away, working, it is good to be in my kitchen again. Rob says I’m a nester…he says even when we were doing an extensive RV road trip a few years ago, I was gathering twigs for my nest at every stop. Well, not exactly true! But there’s probably some reality there.

The only negative thing about coming home today is that I came home by myself. Rob is working an extra day, so he’ll be here tomorrow afternoon. That’s nothing, really. We’ve spent lots of time apart at various stages of our lives. But we’ve been mostly joined at the hip for a while now, so a night alone seems a little quiet.

Still, it gives me a chance to catch up. Catch up on some reading, catch up on my blog, catch up with blogging friends whose posts this past week I’ve mostly saved to read later. It’s become a regular pattern for me. In my “normal” routine, I read a bit every day, and can even find time to write a bit most weeks. But when I’m out and about, traveling and working, I fall out of my rhythm. But I’m coming to terms with this. It’s the best I can do.

This past week I was working in Metlakatla, Alaska. There’s a beautiful health clinic there that is operated with funding from IHS (Indian Health Service). Rob worked there for a time when we first lived in Ketchikan, but now he just does an occasional week or so. I’ve picked up some projects that I’m assisting with (always in a non-clinical role, thank you very much!), so we spent the week together at a little apartment that the organization keeps for visiting providers. The small community is on an island about 15 miles from Ketchikan, but there is no road, no bridge, so you have to ferry over, or fly over. I took the car and ferried since I was spending the week.

The island is very small. Less than 2,000 people…I think it’s more in the range of 1400…live there. There are a couple of very small mom and pop restaurants, a convenience store that sells burgers and chicken strips…that kind of thing. There is a basic grocery store. That’s pretty much it. Locals come over to Ketchikan to go to Wal-Mart or some of the other retailers here. To people who live on other small islands in this area, Ketchikan is “town.” This is where you come for any kind of health care that requires more than a clinic or urgent care visit. This is where you come to give birth. This is where you come to connect to Alaska Airlines, to see a movie, to go to McDonald’s. And yet, in so many ways, Ketchikan itself is just a small outpost. Well, it’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. After being on a really small island for a week, Ketchikan looked pretty big and busy this afternoon.

Well, I did bring something else home with me. Guess what’s for dinner this weekend?

Alaskan King salmon, caught this morning, in my fridge tonight!

I mentioned to the Director of Nurses at the clinic that I was hoping to get some fish while I was on the island. Just before I left this afternoon, I got these beautiful steaks. And about 15 more to go with them. I love shopping on the docks! Well, actually, these came to me in a cooler, I just paid for them at the front door of the clinic and did a quick transfer to my car. Most of this bounty is going into the freezer. But I’ve picked a couple of these to eat this weekend. You can’t freeze it all…you have to enjoy it when it is fresh!

So, home again, routine again, and fresh fish. Nice nesting!

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Little #2

So this week I get to be the proud mom in my blog posts: yesterday with a birthday wish to my son, and today, an announcement from my daughter:

Baby #2 is joining the family. Riley will be a big sister in January, and Stephanie and Matt will be in the thick of parenting with a not-quite-three year old and a newborn. The lucky guys! Lots of work, but wonderful, meaningful…the best stuff of life.

Watching this unfold is fun, almost as much as when I was in a leading role. It’s a lot more restful, from this vantage point! I can’t wait until Riley understands her new position. She’s already quite the little firstborn. I recognize the type you know, since I am one, I’m married to one, and I gave birth to one. Firstborns are a little bossy. We just can’t help ourselves. We like to make sure things are done. And Stephanie and Matt have exactly the same mix in family order that Rob and I had. Two firstborns married, had their firstborn, and now will add a baby to the mix.

I always say that any family dysfunction we had was the result of our mix of three first-borns and a baby, in birth order. Three of us always wanted to direct, and the youngest one marched to his own drummer. Well, maybe that was his best option, with three of us leading the way all the time.

Anyway, exciting, happy news! I got it as a mother’s day present, but it wasn’t my secret to share, until today. Today the little ultrasound image is up on Stephanie’s Facebook page. I’m a believer in letting the one with the big news share the big news. So now that’s done, and I can share it too.

Can’t wait for January and a new little to cuddle!

Happy 25th!

Today my son is 25. Alex is twenty-five! My baby, so grown up and definitely, not a baby anymore. That’s been true for a long time. But there’s something about the number that catches me, pulls a bit.

Maybe it’s the “quarter of a century” thing, or the fact that 25 year olds are considered by car insurance companies to be a lower risk to insure…or some other vague and hard-to-pinpoint marker of this year. Regardless of the reason, this seems like more than the ordinary birthday. It feels like a milestone.

We talk two or three times a week, and he sends me funny texts…usually something to do with bacon, or a YouTube link that will make me laugh. I send him books, sometimes by favorite authors we both enjoy, sometimes by someone I want him to come to know.
He tells me how his latest kitchen experiment turned out and sometimes asks for a recipe of a childhood treat.
He brags on his workouts, and gives me updates on his gaming status. I never can follow the video game storyline, but he shares it anyway.

He is a blend of Rob and me. I see pieces of us in him, apparent in his talents and his tastes. And his faults. I’m a loving mother, but I’m not blind.

But I think I see an amazing man emerging, leaving behind the last traces of boyhood. Five years in the army, right out of high school, and a young marriage that has already weathered significant separation by deployment, have fostered maturity. He bought a house, has purchased vehicles, navigated his way in, through, and out of the military, all with little to no help from us. He informs us, he asks our advice. But he has been largely independent. Like we raised him to be.

He’s strongly opinionated, and right or wrong, he has the courage of his convictions. A Gemini, he has the characteristic twin personality, and can move with lightening speed from joking and humor to the other half of himself, the old soul that has been part of his makeup since birth. He’s a tough, motorcycle-riding, battle-hardened veteran who loves dogs and can discuss CS Lewis and mythology with ease. He has soft spots in unexpected places. He has an old-fashioned sense of honor and a kid’s appreciation of animation and game-playing. He’s a clean cut guy who doesn’t look his age, but when I listen to him, I think he’s already older than twenty-five.

Sometimes I am exasperated. He can be stubborn, and sometimes his honesty could use a wee bit of diplomacy mixed in. He’s smart, but not a conventional student, and I worry that unless he decides for himself that there’s value in more education, his options will reflect the lack of higher degrees.

But I’m also proud. This boy has grown up to find his own way, and to stand on his own. He’s loyal to his friends and commitments. He keeps the family ties that bind. He keeps his truth, and his faith. He thinks for himself, like we raised him to do.

Happy birthday, Alex! Happy 25th!

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Walkabout in my mind

So I was laying in bed last night, trying not to drown…I’ll spare the details, but let’s just say my wad of tissues never left my hand for the six hours I lay there. I began to think, God bless the person who invented Kleenex. Because the worst thing to use to blow your nose is toilet paper. You know, you just can’t make it work. It’s too flimsy, even the good brands. It disintegrates too easily. And you can’t carry it around with you…no neat little packs of toilet tissue to slip into your purse or pocket.

Then my mind wandered to all the things on my list today. Meetings, scheduling, call calendars to populate, emails to return, an evening open house to learn about the road construction heading my neighborhood’s way…my blog that has been dormant for a couple of weeks now…the trip planning we have to complete…on and on and on. When this happens in conversation, it’s called “hot-wiring.” You know, the not uncommon habit of leaping from one subject to another…seemingly random, but really with connectedness that makes sense from inside my head.

I lay in bed, rehearsing all my to-dos, registering a hundred details flying through my brain. I used to write letters in my head at night, or talk out arguments. So many times I’ve thought everything out, gotten just the right wording. And then I fall asleep. By morning I can barely remember any of it…the careful wording, the perfect answer that I crafted at 3:30.

This morning, I was flying. Made muffins to deliver to friends, made breakfast, made lunch to take to work, put dinner in the slow cooker, ironed, showered, collected myself and got out the door. I dropped Rob off at the clinic (we only have one vehicle here in Ketchikan) and got to the office for a day of busyness and mild chaos.

This evening, we went to a meeting hosted by the city engineering department. We went to learn how the bridge we live on will be replaced, a section at a time, and how this will impact us for months. The project is scheduled to begin in a year or two. They’re in the very early design phase, the time when they invite the homeowners to view the plans, ask questions, and be alarmed or reassured, depending on your point of view.

I’m reassured. The bridge has homes constructed on both sides of the street, and it only has a few more years…maybe a decade…of usable life. So replacing it is not an option, it is a necessity. It will be a good thing in the end. The utility poles and wiring will disappear below the surface of the new bridge (we were assured), dramatically improving our view.

I’m alarmed. Rob thinks we won’t be able to sell the house until after this process is completed…he thinks no one would want to buy it now with a lengthy and inconvenient construction project looming. (Did I mention there will be a stretch of a “few” months that we will not be able to park at the house? We’ll have to park somewhere waaay down the street, beyond the construction zone, and walk, in the rain, (13 feet of rain a year here) with groceries or whatever we’re wagging.)

I’m pooped. We listed this house last year, without one offer materializing. My husband says we’re at a point in life when we can’t afford to take a big loss. It’s a great house, but a lousy market. He says I’ll have this house till I die. I tell him that’s not true, unless I’m hit by a bus. But it’s hard to transition when the biggest thing in the way is not moving. Literally, we are not moving. We are thinking about moving, but we’re not doing it. At least not now. Maybe not for the foreseeable future. I have to think about this for a while. And I’m tired of thinking about it.

Going to be a long night. Well, the sun rises about 3:30 anyway.

Cookie Butter, yum!

Well, well, well…I made a discovery last week, thanks to my sister-in-law, and being the public-spirited person I am, I’m passing this little jewel on. As usual, I’m not sure if I’m cutting edge, or the last to know. Just in case anyone out there hasn’t heard of Cookie Butter…well, you might want to start dieting right now to accommodate the cravings.

Unbelievably, I must admit, Nutella has a serious rival in my heart. I found a new love. Not chocolate, surprisingly, but delicious and just sweet enough to satisfy…grab a spoon and have taste of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. (If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, you can order this through Amazon.) Pricey, but available. http://www.amazon.com/Trader-Joes-Speculoos-Cookie-Butter/dp/B006KK4GUO/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pdT11_S_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=2856YU88S9KGM&coliid=I3JCU8WTM6SPHK It looks like peanut butter, but tastes a little like a smooth and creamy gingerbread cookie dough. You can spread it on anything: bread, fruit, waffles, spouse, pancakes, your fingers or a spoon…I bought one jar, and now that I’m far away from a Trader Joe’s store, I see my mistake. Should have bought a case. And so I can fit into my clothes, after this little discovery, I’m walking just a wee bit more these days.

If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can make your own version. I haven’t tried this myself, (haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure I’ll be whipping this up soonwe’ll see how long my one jar supply lasts) but it looks about right, based on the list of ingredients on the label.

Speculoos Cookie Butter Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 sleeve Biscoff cookies (about 24 cookies)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon skim milk

Directions:

Grind the cookies into a fine meal using a food processor. Melt the coconut fat and let cool down until luke warm. Add coconut oil to the cookie meal and process until combined. Then add sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, canola oil and milk. Process until combined, scraping the sides as needed. This could take up to 5 minutes, but stop whenever you reach your desired consistency. Play around with the oil or milk amounts if you still want it creamier.

This spread will harden in the fridge and it is best to let it stand 30 min at room temperature when serving.

Enjoy!

Summer day, summer planning

It’s almost 8:00 pm, but the sun is still bright. Here in Alaska, the summer sky stays light later and later, until you only have a brief time of true darkness. The summer evenings are long…really the afternoon is just elongated until 9:00, 10:00 at night, when twilight falls. Mornings begin about 4:00, with the light peaking in the bedroom windows, waking us up, causing us to turn into the pillows, burrow under the cover, block out the too-early dawn.

This is the season of activity, or increased activity, here in Ketchikan. The big cruise ships are once again in town on a daily basis, the seasonal businesses are open, and the fishing tourists are here in force. Not for nothing is Ketchikan the salmon capital of the world. And the fish know it. Soon I’ll be freezing salmon and halibut, vacuum sealing the fish I buy from local vendors, putting a little of this Alaska treasure away for coming months.

I look out and see the rain falling through the sun, a rainbow is on the distant horizon, and the sun and shadows fall mixed across my living room floor, even as I listen to the sound of the rain pouring out of the gutters. This is the season when the rain doesn’t feel too cold, and the showers are more gentle than the downpours we get in the fall.

My little front garden…my secret garden, I call it, because the small space in front of the house is enclosed with a shaped hedge…has blossomed with the warmer weather, and now looks a little overgrown and in need of a trimming. My rhubarb, tucked away in a corner of the little square, has flourished, and I’ve already cut it twice. There are small blue flowers growing, and the lilac has leafed out, getting so bushy it has hidden the street number mounted on the house. I’ll have to cut the lilac back if I want FedEx to find me with future deliveries. The clematis vines I planted (to replace the one that died from January’s week of single digit temperatures) are growing and already climbing the trellis.

I have painters coming this month to repaint the garage door, sand and paint the front step bannister, and touch up any exterior walls that are showing signs of wear. This is an old home, “historic,” built in 1920, and although it has been remodeled periodically, the exterior is still a wood siding. That translates to a lot of painting, over the years, and though we can get by this summer, maybe even another year, with touch ups, our turn is coming. Yes, we’ll get to paint, or pay to have someone paint, all three stories of this fine old place. Can’t wait for that one!

We now have two sump pumps and a dam in the back corner of the basement. I cautiously believe the episodic appearance of a lake down there has ended. We won’t know for sure until the fall rains, but we sustained some pretty wet weather this spring. The concrete dam joins the other great oddity of the basement, the huge granite boulder that the house sits on, jutting out into the unfinished portion of the bottom floor, reminding me that this island is indeed a rocky place, and some of the rock was too large for early builders to remove. So they built around it, and over it.

I make my list of chores to complete in the next few weeks. It’s June already, and summer is here. We leave to go “down” for a summer ramble (read rv road trip) July 14. We’ll be back mid-September. We’re hunting for “next,” doing some casual but focused exploring during the time we’re away. But first, my lists have to be made, checked off as I work through them. I’m working for income the next several weeks, storing up like a squirrel saving nuts for winter. But there’s more too. I have indoor and outdoor to-dos; weeding and writing; sorting, cleaning, thinning, organizing. I love this time of renewal, preparation, expectation. I’m not just cleaning out my fridge or trimming my hedge, or writing a blog post: I’m ordering myself, preparing for “next.” When I do the physical chores, or have a burst of creativity that allows me to write, I’m clearing my thoughts, centering myself. I’m rising, like the Alaska sun in the early morning, eager to begin my parade of adventures, wherever they take me.