Monday, but Friday’s coming!

Yes, it’s Monday. Not a bad one at that, although it’s another cool and rainy day here in SE Alaska. I’m hoping August brings some consistent summer days, because July hasn’t come through with sun or warmth.

But don’t get me started on the weather!

As my grandmother would say, I’m wishing my life away this week, mentally hurrying the days on toward Friday. And though Friday is the beginning of the weekend, it’s not the weekend I’m waiting for. This Friday I’ll head to Phoenix to reconnect with Rob, who’s been out and about visiting family in California, and is spending this week with our son in Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Next week we’ll be in Sedona, AZ, soaking up some sun, doing a little hiking and eating, and enjoying vacation mode together.

And a bonus: we get to see little Riley, have a “Riley sighting” on our way to Sedona, and another short visit on our return trip. isn’t it lucky for us that she lives in the very state we’re visiting?! Stephanie gives me updates on her “firsts:” today she tried a French fry, and watched a few minutes of “The Lion King.” She is saying a word or two, and has a favorite stuffed animal now. She brings a book to be read, and likes toys that make animal sounds. I saw her at her first birthday in April. Now, three months later, I think she’s rapidly becoming a little girl and leaving her real baby days behind.

This is the joy of summer, anticipating luxurious days of leisure and relaxing, and time to connect, and reconnect; to move slowly, to drink it all in.

Whether you’re looking forward to a long awaited destination vacation or are planning a laid-back week with kids or grand-kids, I hope you’ll tune out work and worry and invest in the moment. Invest in the people, and the joy of days without pressure, without rush; with the fun of serendipity.

I’m looking forward to long talks and good dinners with Rob; lazy mornings and quiet nights; hiking in amazing red-rock canyons; to dividing my time between my reading list on my Kindle, and the little books on Riley’s shelf. We’re going to the park, going out for a Riley picnic, and looking for a little girl “happy” that will light up the face of a 15-month-old.

I’ll be the one with the big smile. I’m connecting on Friday. It’s going to be a good week!

Peaches, taste of summer

Peaches are almost my favorite fruit. They definitely rank in the top three. The perfect mango or luscious strawberry is hard to beat, but fortunately, I don’t have to stay awake nights ranking fruit preferences. I can enjoy any and all without pressure.

Some summers are better than others for fruit, or a particular fruit. Peaches are iffy. Some years I’ve enjoyed a seemingly endless parade of peaches through my summer breakfasts and desserts, appearing every way from bare and minimal presentation to delicate pastries and hearty cobblers to jams and chutneys. Well, some years you get lucky.

This summer, so far, I’ve had a few good peaches. But I’m far from satisfied. I haven’t reached the point of feeling I could spare any fruit for stashing in the freezer. That only happens when I’ve hit the jackpot with both flavor and quantity, and the best opportunity for that is a visit to a farm stand, where you can sample the fruit and decide if you want to buy enough for a meal or two, or a more substantial amount that will translate to jams and supplies for the freezer.

Ketchikan doesn’t have farm stands, and the grocery offering is variable. Sometimes the peaches are heavenly, sometimes a waste of money and effort. But next week I’ll be in Arizona, and I’m hoping to do a little peach eating while I’m there.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself with excess peaches on your kitchen counter, here’s a little tip for having a taste of summer next winter: Peel and slice peaches, as many as you want, to fill freezer bags (whatever size works best for you, gallon or quart). Sprinkle fresh sliced peaches with lime or lemon juice to prevent peaches from browning, then fill bags with fruit, press the air out and seal, and pop in the freezer. Next winter when you want a reminder of a summer day, take out a bag of peaches and make a peach cobbler or peach crisp. Trust me, you’ll be able to close you eyes and think you’ve stepped back to July. The flavor will be summer, all over again.

Here’s a good way to use those frozen peaches:

My mother’s peach cobbler

1 gallon bag of sliced frozen peaches, partially thawed
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Mix fruit, butter and sugar, and heat to melt butter. You can microwave or do this step on the stove top. Put hot fruit mixture in a deep baking dish.

In a separate bowl, mix:

1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
Milk (use anything from fat-free to whole milk, your choice) to make a pancake-batter thickness (should be a pourable consistency, but not too thin)

Pour the batter over the hot fruit mixture and bake at 375 degrees, until the batter mixture has bubbled up and browned. (My mom’s recipe doesn’t have a baking time listed; you just “keep an eye” on the oven.) Serve warm with ice cream and prepare for a little heaven on earth.
Reheats nicely too!


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:







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

First days of summer

It’s almost July, and I still hear the heat kick on some nights. I still wear a light sweater or windbreaker jacket every morning. But real summer heat is on the horizon. The summer season here is July and August. If we’re really lucky it might stretch into September.

This is the brief season when I wear summer sandals, strappy little heels, tank tops, sleeveless dresses, when my hairstyle becomes a ponytail and my house heats up with the afternoon sun. This is the time of year when I remember that my car has air conditioning, and I wish my house did. This is when I make up reasons to go to Wal-Mart to enjoy the cool indoor climate. This is the full-price season for cruises in Alaska, because you’re more likely to have a postcard day for your stay in port than a rainy day.

I think about summer traditions in other places I’ve lived: Rockies baseball games, summer gardening season when the earth produces home grown tomatoes that are warm from the sun when you pick them; farmers’ markets; rambling drives “in the country” just because; kids playing in the sprinkler, and trips to summer camp. I think about road trips and vacations to the beach.

Hhmmm. Alaska is more about coastline than beach, although there are a few beachy areas here in Ketchikan, and you can get in the water…probably not for too long. But summer fishing is always popular, and there are great hikes around Ketchikan. You can camp in backcountry Forest Service cabins, and if you’re lucky you might see black bear. Summer is the season when it rains less, and people whose homes are on a rain collection system for water may have to have their tanks filled by truck. Seems hard to believe, but you can actually run out of water here, in the rain forest.

Summer is the season the ferries are full, and if you plan to take a vehicle on a ferry, and haven’t reserved space for your car, it’s probably already too late. Walk-on passengers usually don’t have space issues, but vehicles are another matter in summertime.

Summer is about the commercial fishing industry, and the addition of crews who come up to man the boats and to work in the processing plants. (Workers who clean the fish and remove the un-edible parts work on the “slime line” and all wear the iconic footwear of Southeast Alaska, Extra-Tuff boots.)

Summer is about tourists. And in Ketchikan that means the jewelry stores open downtown…don’t ask my why cruises and jewelry stores are such a popular combination. It means the return of summer workers to support the tourism industry, the influx of summer construction crews, road crews, shipyard crews. Even the Forest Service brings in summer workers. That’s when they are busy out in the field monitoring wildlife and forest and water conditions. Alaska Airlines adds flights to the daily schedule. Even the hospital sees an uptick in volume (never thought about it, but quite regularly, cruise passengers who come through are admitted for all sorts of illnesses that occur after boarding, and Ketchikan is the first port on the way up the Inside Passage).

Summer is the season you’re more likely to have visitors. It’s the time for town activities like the Fourth of July parade, the Blueberry Festival, the Salmon and Halibut Fishing Derbies. Summer brings the looong days and short nights. On Wednesday evenings sailboats dot the waters I see from my windows.

There’s a quote I like from Henry James:

Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.

We’re not quite there yet, but soon…soon, the magic of the summer will be here again.

photo from here

Key Lime Pie

Summer is officially here, and even in Ketchikan the weather is warming up. The afternoons are bright with the peculiar late day sun that is characteristic of Alaska. The best part of the day is late afternoon, and it stays light far into the evening, elongating the period between getting home from work and dinner: almost like a second afternoon to enjoy and linger in.

One of our favorite summer treats is Key Lime Pie. Couldn’t be easier to make, and you can prep the day before you plan to serve, so it’s a great option for entertaining.

This is the recipe for a classic version of the traditional Southern favorite:

Key Lime Pie

For crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie: Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping: Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.