The Valley of Indecision

So I have an offer on the house…lower than I wanted, so I’ve countered. And now I wait to hear. The prospective buyers have until Wednesday at 5:00. I doubt it will take that long to hear the decision, but still, the wait is hard to endure. And will they counter again? I hate these games. I wish we could just sit down and talk to each other. But that’s not the way it’s done.

The hard thing is I’ve loved this house. It’s been a nest I would enjoy anywhere, but unfortunately I can’t barge it down to a new location in the lower 48. So part of the process of resetting life is making the choice to move. It’s the first step of many, and at that, my anxiety may be premature. I may just get a rejection and be back to square one.

What do homes say about us? What do they mean? I’ve been a life-long nester, and my home is my refuge in many ways. But I have to say, the older I get, the more I realize…the physical structure, and the furnishings, while they’re important, only go so far.

When you need a real refuge, you need heart, and soul, love and strength. You need character and integrity, loyalty and grace. And none of these things are dependent on the structure of a home, no matter how beautiful or how comfortable it may be.

I’ve faced some challenging moments in my life, and I’m sure there are more to come…life has a way of doing that, testing you, sending a lot of the same lessons over and over again. And each time I realize I learn something new…insights about what I really value, who I want to be in the good times, but more importantly, in the bad.

I’ve learned to feed myself the messages that I want to live, to project what I want to be until it becomes real. Some of the transformation has been slow, but it is happening. And selling a home is just another filter…another lens to look through, to see what I’m really made of.

There have been plenty of times I’ve been disappointed in myself…haven’t been strong enough, or brave enough, or creative enough. But one thing I do know: I have heart, and I don’t give up. So using the filter, the lens, of the success of selling the house, if it happens, I’m going to be thrilled, and celebrate, and find a way to make it positive.

And if it doesn’t happen this time, I’m still going to find a way to make it positive. That’s my life lesson, to take the experiences that seem like defeats and turn them into victories. And believe me, some of the defeats take a lot of work to reframe. Some of the defeats have nearly killed me. But I think most people have to absorb this teaching if they survive, and thrive, in spite of the darts of life.

Sounds pretty philosophical…maybe I’m taking the whole thing too seriously. But tonight, waiting on a decision that has the power to impact my life in such a big way, it doesn’t feel like I’m blowing it out of proportion.

I’m not in control of life, but I can be in control of myself. So whatever happens, I’ll find my smile, and I’ll put on my heels the next morning and go out and try again. Because anything else is the true defeat, the true loss.

The house will sell when the time is right, and I know that in my heart, even if my head has a hard time believing that.

Wish me luck!

And to my blogging friends out there…I haven’t abandoned you…just a little pre-occupied right now. But soon, I’ll be catching up, and reading about all you’ve been up to this summer.  See you soon!

My house!

~ Sheila

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Visits and birthdays, the good stuff

It’s a busy month for us. Stephanie, Riley, and Jack are up for a summer visit, so we’ve temporarily gone into kid-land. All the breakables and anything that looks likely to become a missile in the hands of 18 month old Jack have been moved to higher ground. He’s a climber, but there are still a few spaces out of his reach. Yesterday he disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When I walked in, he was sitting in the middle of the breakfast table, and as soon as he saw me walking toward him, he stood up, quite proud of himself and reaching out his little arms for a lift down. Gave me a mini heart attack, but didn’t phase him at all. He’s fearless and fast, and a boy…always a dangerous combination! But he’s so stinking cute, we forgive him all the rest and just follow him around to protect him from himself.

 

Fearless Jack!

Fearless Jack!

Riley is in one of the golden ages of childhood. Four year olds are old enough to do a lot, still young enough to be funny without knowing why (endlessly amusing to the adults :). Her speech is clear as a bell, but she has a few Riley-isms that we can’t bear to correct…she’ll grow out of them soon enough. Princess doll gloves are “glubs,” and she asks if I “memember” something that happened yesterday.  Sometimes she notices that we’re laughing at her, which we always deny immediately, but can’t help. She’s just too funny, in the sweet little-kid way of being funny-when-serious.

Riley the First-born

Riley the First-born

She’s a talker. With her gene pool, she could hardly escape that. We have long and interesting conversations that are wide-ranging. We discuss everything from princess fashions to the dangers of zombie attack (thanks, older kid at day care, for introducing her to the concept) to playdough creations. She’s learning to write the alphabet, gearing up for pre-school in the fall. She’s also standard issue first-born, bossing Jack around and clearly expecting to be in charge of life. But the other side to her personality is sensitive and affectionate, so just when you think she’s verging on teenager, she’s a sweet little girl again, charming and disarming.

I never really stood a chance. The grands have planted their flag.

It’s also a month of birthdays. I counted up, and between immediate and extended family, we have seven people celebrating in June. Today is Alex’s birthday, number 27. We sent several gifts his way already. I wish we had the gift of his presence so we could enjoy a birthday dinner together. But not to be this year. Still, it’s a moment to mark and remember. In his honor we’ll eat some bacon (his favorite) and have a family pass-the-phone-around conversation tonight. I’m always fantasizing that we’ll spend more of our big days together, and maybe someday we’ll be able to do that again. But for today, we’ll have to content ourselves with a digital connection.

Alex, happy 27!

Alex, happy 27!

Alaska is cooperating with some beautiful weather. The water is so blue when the sun is shining on it, and such a gun-metal gray when skies are overcast. We watched cruise ships yesterday, and float planes, kayakers, small boats, and fishing vessels, all from the front windows of the house. The Tongass Narrows is bustling this time of year, and my only complaint is the float planes start buzzing waaay too early in the morning. They’re out by 5:00 am, taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight this time of year. (Sunrise today was at 4:04, sunset tonight will be 9:31, with twilight lingering a little beyond.) And while float planes are noisy any time of day, they are particularly noticeable and obnoxious before coffee. That’s really my only complaint of summer here. Well, that, and the days that are summer on the calendar and fall by thermometer. But hey, as long as my heat isn’t kicking on, that’s a good day 🙂 (Not many places that statement defines a good summer day!)

Blue water!

Blue water and Ketchikan

Pacific Airways

Pacific Airways, local transport

 

So, off to play, and rescue small people from high places, and feed, and strap into car seats, and make photos….lots of photos! We’re looking for bears, and fish, and a souvenir or two…because what kid ever visited grandparents and didn’t go home with a little something to show for it? Here’s hoping for blue water and clear skies!

 

Fresh picks

I’ve been on my own the past couple of weeks, back in Alaska to do a little work for income, and to have a little work done on the house. I’m focused on policies and grants for one clinic, and filling in for the medical staff coordinator at the local hospital. The variety keeps me on my toes, keeps me learning and productive.

On the home front, the house and deck were power washed and some of the paint was refreshed. With a house that’s almost 100 years old, there’s always some project in the works. The replacement glass for my cracked front window has arrived and I almost had that replaced yesterday. But no, the weather didn’t cooperate. We had a gale of a storm and had to postpone until June. My hedges and trees are all trimmed up, and I have a new lock on my fuel oil tank. So I’ve marked off a few of my to-dos.

But it’s not all been work. There’s been cooking too! Or at least some cooking, and some prep for future yumminess.

Last week I bought a king salmon, the first one of the season. Here’s that beauty:

Alaskan King

Alaskan King

Thank goodness it came without the head and tail and guts. I don’t need any of those, although I hear I’m really missing out by not making fish head soup. But someone else can enjoy that delicacy. I’ll just content myself with the non-head parts. I’m taking some of the fish I vacuum sealed and froze down to California for a little Memorial Day grilling. See, I know how to get ready to camp. 🙂

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at smoking some of the fresh king. I borrowed a Little Chief smoker and researched a brine recipe. Here’s my finished product:

Smoked to perfection!

Smoked to perfection!

The smoked salmon makes a great dip. I can’t give exact amounts, but try blending smoked salmon and a block of cream cheese to a chunky paste in a food processor. Some people add onion or other seasonings, but I like just the salmon and cream cheese. Serve with water crackers or whatever dipper you like. Easy and delicious!

I made a quick pickled salad this week. You could use any firm vegetable. I used diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), diced red onion, and diced baby bell peppers. I made an oil and apple cider vinegar dressing and seasoned it with a little sugar and salt and pepper. Again, no measurements…just mix to taste. (You’ll want enough dressing to coat the veggies, but not so much that they’re swimming in it.) Chill in the fridge to give the veggies time to absorb the flavor of the dressing. It’s a cool and crunchy light lunch or dinner.

Healthy lunch!

Healthy lunch!

Beautiful and simple

Beautiful and simple

And last but not least, I harvested my rhubarb this week. Rhubarb is a late comer to my life. I discovered it about a decade ago and immediately fell in love with the tartness and the way it pairs so well with other flavors to make amazing desserts.

I started my rhubarb crop here in Ketchikan with one plant a friend gave me. This stuff is hardy. You plant it and forget about it. Two or three times each summer I have enormous leaves and stalks that demand attention. The rhubarb is planted behind the hedge in my front garden, and when I begin to see the leaves poking out above the hedge, I know it’s time to harvest. You can cut the plant down to the ground and it grows right back. Let me just say, here and now, this is my kind of gardening! Seems indestructible, impervious to weather, and I literally do nothing but cut it back a few times a year.

I should have made a photo of the plant, but I wasn’t in blog mode when I was in harvest mode, so you’ll have to google “rhubarb” if you want to see the the full glory. I’ve been told that rhubarb likes cooler climates, which is probably why I first met it in Colorado and renewed my acquaintance here in Alaska. My grandmothers, who grew most fruits and vegetables known to man, didn’t grow rhubarb, so I assume it would not do well in the heat of a Mississippi summer. Which explains why I missed out on this taste for so long.

The edible part of the plant is the stalk, which looks a lot like celery, except it is a deeper green and has shades of red and pink as well. You cut the stalks off and remove the large leaf that grows at the end of the stalk. Then you wash and dice. That’s it! You can use the fresh rhubarb to make all sorts of dishes. I see savory recipes and I’ve even tasted a couple. But I’ll admit, I just use it for desserts and sweets.

You can make rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb jam. You typically see rhubarb paired with another fruit, and the classic choice is strawberries. Yes, yes, that’s a good flavor. But do yourself a favor. If you can get your hands on rhubarb, pair it with orange. Orange zest, orange marmalade, orange juice. Nothing. like. it.

Here’s my rhubarb journey this week:

From 1 (!) plant!

From 1 (!) plant!

 

You cut the long stems off the base of the plant and have these celery-like stalks. They’re even a little stringy like celery. The only thing I do is wash and chop. You’ll have different widths but honestly I can’t detect any difference in texture or flavor once the rhubarb is cooked down, so I use the small tender stalks as well as the monster wide ones.

Chopped!

Chopped!

I used a little for a sweet treat (reward for my two weeks of work!) and popped the rest into freezer bags. It’s the easiest thing to freeze. I just chop and bag. No need to blanch or prep in any other way.

Ready to go

Ready to go

And now, just to whet your appetite!

Dessert for two: (or just me 🙂 )

Butter the bottom of a small baking dish. Spread a layer of chopped rhubarb and lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. I added a couple of teaspoons of orange marmalade, then topped the fruit with a crumb mixture. The crumb mixture is a combination of quick cook oatmeal, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Spread the crumb mixture on top of the fruit and bake at 350, about 25 minutes, or until the crumb topping is lightly browned. Voila! Dessert, or snack, or whatever you need to call it to eat it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Rhubarb and orange layer

Rhubarb and orange layer

Crumb topping

Crumb topping

All I need is ice cream!

All I need is ice cream!

If you want to mix in other goodness, add nuts or raisins. You can also do this with strawberries or apples instead of the marmalade. I just happen to like the orange, so that’s always my first choice to pair with rhubarb.

Happy start to the summer! And happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the people who’ve given so much to freedom and our way of life. Remember them while you’re enjoying family and friends this weekend, and find a man or woman wearing the uniform to thank.

 

To market, to market…

Back in July I posted some photos of black bears that were fishing in one of the coves south of Ketchikan. That location is about seven miles out of town, and those bears were behaving just as bears should. But they do wander into Ketchikan, too, and when that happens, you may see something a bit out of the ordinary.

Check out this little guy:

Don’t worry, he was released after his venture into the produce aisle!

Alaska hummingbirds

This video features some hungry hummingbirds at a local lodge near Ketchikan. Fun to watch the birds, and keep watching the clip after for some scenes of this area. It is beautiful, even if the rainfall is epic!

Enjoy!

Summer? Did I miss it?

Well, well, August 19th, and another cool rainy weekend in the forecast. I’ve definitely had the “summer was on a Tuesday” experience this year. I remember one of the summers we lived in Michigan was like that. You kept telling yourself, believing, that any day now, the full force of sun and warmth would arrive and the glorious summer weather would bring all things good…outdoor cookouts, trips to the park, bike riding, ball games. But no, nothing, it just fizzled before it ever got off the ground. Like this one.

Oh sure, you try to keep up appearances. Can’t tell you how many days in the past few months I’ve worn something more suited to Arizona, complete with a sweater or windbreaker or jean jacket…whatever COAT was best paired with my summer garb. I couldn’t face going through the summer months wearing turtlenecks. But with only a few exceptions, I could have done it and been very comfortable during June, July, and now August. I’m hoping for a bit of an Indian summer season in September. But who am I kidding? I might as well be unpacking my corduroys and wool right now.

20110819-062943.jpg With the exception of a few days spent in California and Arizona (alright, that was a bit warm, even for me), we’ve sailed right past spring and into October. Honestly, some of the rains we’ve had have been wicked! Thank goodness my leak in the bathroom appears to be fixed. (You know the repair has been successful when you forget to check each time it rains.) Many days the temps hover in the 50s. Twice in the next week we’re supposed to hit 60! And this is August!

Raspberries have been impacted by all the wet, or cool, or something. All I know is that the other summers we’ve lived here we’ve had lots of berries on the vines behind the house. This year, there was a dismal, one-cup crop. Yesterday I noticed a few leaves already turning.

Ok, I know for anyone outside Alaska reading this, it sounds petty. I’ve seen the news about the heat wave and the dry spell much of the lower 48 has been living through, and I know my frustration must seem un-imaginable to many. But trust me, if you heard your heat kick on in August, or decided to put your electric blanket back on the bed before Labor Day, you’d be complaining too.

Most days this cruise season, I’ve felt sorry for the poor tourists, trying to have a good time in a downpour. I’ve hardly had a chance to run the AC in my car. I have brats in the fridge. But I need the right atmosphere. I can’t enjoy grilling out when all I want to do is go inside to warm up.

So that’s my lament for late August. What happened to summer? If you find it, please send it my way. It’s not too late.

When you live on an island in Alaska

If you’ve ever lived on a small island, (and particularly, a place with a challenging climate…can you say rainforest?…you’ll understand, and if not, you’ll have to take my word for this…

~Every trip out is exciting!
~The Seattle airport seems like home.
~There’s so much traffic, so many people in the lower 48…
~The stores are huge!
~Groceries are CHEAP!
~I fill my gas tank about once a month in Ketchikan; we’ll be at the gas station a little more often this week.
~Aahhh…dinner options…where to eat?! Choice is a bit limited in Ketchikan.
~Time to go shopping in person instead of on line.
~Sunshine returns to summer!
~Rob can golf while we’re “south”
~We can drive from anywhere to anywhere.

Perspective: This week, it’s all a matter of place!

~The food court at the Seattle airport…

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Life on the wild side

I had a week of training last week for a new position at work. It was intense, lots of information to absorb. But the good part of working for a hospital that’s part of a larger system is that another region has done the hard work, and all we have to do is follow their processes to be successful. At least I hope it’s that simple.

But the point of all this is that the woman who was here for the week to help with our process launch wanted to see a bit of Ketchikan, when work would allow. Fortunately we’re in the season of long evenings, so after work last Thursday, I took her to a spot south of town, Herring Cove, where salmon go to spawn and humans go to fish, and to watch black bears and eagles, who also go there to fish. I’d say the number of people fishing and those positioned with cameras are roughly equal. Some days you’re rewarded if you’re fishing, or out bear watching. Others, less so. You never know if you’ll be lucky or not. Last Thursday we were lucky, and this is what we saw:

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Thank you to Terry, for sharing her photos of mama and baby.

Community at The Point

There’s a little art gallery/beading store/restaurant that I love here in Ketchikan. It’s called The Point, Ketchikan’s only “waterfront art cafe,”

The Point

and it is housed in a building that overlooks the water. You can have lunch and watch float planes landing, or see the big ships docked down the way. On a nice day, the water looks so blue it’s amazing.

The food is just the simple fare of lunch: soup, sandwiches, quiche, cookies. They serve artisan freshly baked bread with their soups, and the cookies are baked in house as well. In fact, from what I can tell, everything is done in house. Which is amazing, when you realize that it is more an arts business than a food business. Or at least that’s the way it began. Not sure these days that the restaurant side of the business isn’t taking top billing.

You can eat at The Point, or if you have a work meeting and want to order, they’ll deliver their full menu for the day to your office. Simple as a phone call and a credit card. And the food is so good, if you let staff know where you’re ordering lunch, they’ll show up with appetites.

But the best thing about this restaurant is that it’s local. Owned and operated by people who have been here for a long time, it reflects the personality of the place. Local artists are prominently featured in the gallery displays. Classes are held there, and at lunch you see a mix of people from town, from all ages and walks of life.

I think the success of the restaurant side of the business is a bit of a surprise to the owners. They seem to be growing in popularity and in menu offerings. I and others have asked if they plan to publish their recipes. I have a sense that they’re on to their own little “overnight” success story. And it’s refreshing to see a small town enterprise doing well…not a chain, another fast food place, not linked to national advertising: just a local effort that is paying off and is the result of hard work and risk taking.

Good for the entrepreneurs! And good for me at lunch!

They’re back

MS Volendam docked in Ketchikan, Alaska, Unite...

Summer begins in Ketchikan

I saw the first cruise ship of the season Sunday. I looked out my front windows and saw a huge boat slowly and surely making its way toward the downtown docking berths of Ketchikan. The morning was sunny, inviting, fortunate. Booking a cruise to Alaska in the shoulder season (first or last of the cruise season months) can be risky. Passengers may experience the beauty of May or the chill of a late spring storm. Raincoats and jackets are sure to be required before the trip is done.

But that’s all from the passenger’s point of view. I’m a local, at least for a while longer. Until the house sells, I have a place in this community. Passengers can look into my front room windows with binoculars…the view is that good, that close, as the ships move slowly, majestically, toward the docks.

The ships bring tourists, tourists bring money, money brings jobs, jobs bring a bounce to the local economy. It’s heartening to see the downtown come back to life. Many of the businesses shut down in the winter months, only a few locally owned stores stay open through the off season. But everywhere in the past few weeks, I’ve seen fresh paint, new flowers, construction, the signs of rejuvenation.

Come up and visit if you’re looking for a little easy adventure. The Inside Passage is beautiful, the communities along the route are eager to entertain guests, and the weather is turning. The welcome signs are out and we’re ready for business.