Monday, December 28, 2009

Failure pie

Between hangin' sheets of Totally Awesome Drywall (4 x 12 half-inch goodness, kids!) I managed to bake some cookies. They were terrible. Like disappointingly awful bad. It was not my fault it was Martha Stewart Baking's fault for putting together a gingerbread recipe with 1 cup of butter and 1.5 cups of sugar. All my little snowflakes gooshed into star-ish things that were paper thin. And too dang sweet.

I couldn't bring myself to actually throw the 2 pans I made away. Instead, I put them in a Tupperware thing and stuck them on a shelf. I forgot about them until I realized I had to make by brother a pumpkin pie. I didn't want to make a crust because one more bloody thing to do at the end of drywalling sounded like the utmost torture. So. Lemons, meet lemonade: I totally made a crust out of those terrible cookies. Like a graham cracker crust but gingersnappy.

It actually worked. I surprised myself when that got turned around into something edible. People, do not use that recipe in that book. Find a better gingerbread recipe. And, um, just so you know that the suggested serving size of Redi-whip lite cream (only 15 calories) is 2 tablespoons--5 g. Each can supposedly has 40 servings in the 198 gram can. Anybody who wants healthy whipped cream from a can should probably not be eating it. I was very angry at the Redi-whip people on the way home from the store. You can even ask tDF and my brother.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Over the salmon hump

After whining about my self-created, nonexistent problem, I finally did something different with all the bloody salmon in my freezer. What finally did it was a delivery of 2 beautiful Meyer lemons to my cubicle by a workmate. I don't live on mars, so we do get citrus here reliably, but it's always, um, rind-y and inconsistent. These lemons were ripe and wholly a different species than what I am used to. And thanks to Peter over at cookblog who suggested making a curry with lemon.

Well, I did that last night with a fillet of Coho/silver salmon caught in mid-August. I made an Indian style curry with onion, garlic, black mustard, cumin, coriander, and lemon peel. I roasted the spices, then ground them up an cooked them in the softened garlic and onion. I stirred in the strips of lemon peel and deglazed with the juice from the lemons and about 2T Ponzu. The salmon was cubed and seared before stirring in the spice mixture. The whole thing was finished with red sea salt. It turned out well if a bit sharp/bright and "pointy" but I think that's the Ponzu. I felt the flavors were all at the top or front or whatever foody term that indicates a lack of depth. I really liked the citrus-spicy-salty flavor with the bits of salmon.

Next time I'll use wine or some wet veggie like tomato or a cream-like substance. I didn't go for coconut milk because I wanted to try something a bit different from my usual curry. (Curries are de rigeur for halibut and rockfish around here.) This will for sure get a go sometime in the near future, with some tweaks.

Also, cubing the salmon and searing it was just different enough to make this dish more interesting. The texture was different, something I never really thought about with salmon because salmon is so very much salmon. The searing and simmering helped keep the fish from becoming tough and overcooked but still had some bits of caramelized flesh that is just so good.

This little foray also pulled me out of an I-hate-everything-drywall-ick-Christmas-is-dumb funk I've been in. I was actually feeling so much better that I cleaned up our little front room and desk area and did some housey paperwork. With the solstice behind me and enjoying salmon again it feels a lot better around here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice

Solstice didn't matter until I moved to Alaska. I grew up where soccer was a winter sport, fercrynoutloud. Now it matters oh so very much.

These are the darkest days of the year. I tried to capture the sunset at 3:30 pm yesterday, but the shivering kept making the pictures blurry. It turns today, though. Thank goodness, because I'm on full-time cranky mode. Everything feels like such a chore.

Actually the best stretch is from the spring equinox to summer solstice. Twelve hour days just getting longer.

Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway. Take the time to go out and look at the sun, knowing you'll see more of it from now on.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Alaska, for me.

I honestly didn't know what I was getting into when I moved here, in June of 2003. I knew it was a big, dang state. And there were salmon. And it was "dark" for enough of the year that people talked about it. I knew it was an adventure, or at least it would be.

The time between getting a job offer with the federal gov'ment and actually starting said job was about 2 months. Before I was offered a job as a soil scientist in Wrangell I was a recent university grad, working 2-3 jobs, with a boyfriend of 3-ish years. I stepped off the Malaspina on June 20, 2003 a married lady (yes, I am a lady) with a steady, full-time job. Between the job offer (April 1ish) and June 20, I had:
  • Romantically slammed my day planner (Franklin Covey, fo' life) down on the middle seat of my purple, rebuilt 1989 Ford Ranger, demanding that the future husband of mine to "pick a date to get married before I had to report to work on June 20."
  • May 31! Woot.
  • Crabbed that I wasn't proposed to (see above)
  • Was proposed to, in a park somewhere by Arroyo Grande
  • Attended 3 bridal showers all over the great state of California
  • Sold my beloved 1989 ranger that I rebuilt myself after totalling it on 101 in 1999.
  • Put all of my worldly possessions in a huge cargo container parked in the driveway of my future in-laws. This includes my terrible college furniture that I have to this day.
  • Got married, after having my best friend's mom safety-pin me into my grandmother's wedding dress. (A hilarious tale of broken zippers. I call it Broken Promises: Dry cleaners From Hell. look for it nowhere.)
  • Drove up to the Bay Area to watch my brother graduate from High School. Longhorns!
  • Drove to Bellingham, WA to get on the ferry. We stayed in Dunsmuir, CA; Salem, OR and Bellingham at the finest Motel 6's.
look at how young and naive we were.

Watching the tiny town of Wrangell come into view was more peaceful than I imagined. It wasn't surreal, it was too right to be surreal. I was home. The very kind folks at my new work had scrounged up an air mattress and some chairs so we would have someplace to sleep/sit. We unpacked our 1986 brown/tan suburban and went to have the most expensive pizza and pitcher imaginable. Since then, $50+ on pizza and beer has become normal.

The next day all of our stuff arrived. All the glorious garbage we convince ourselves that we need. In boxes. Everywhere. To. This. Day. My husband, the Dirty Fisherman, reminds me how he unpacked the whole house in Wrangell while I was at work. Starting a brand new job and filling out a mountain of paperwork that could only come from Uncle Sam. (Later, I learned to call him Uncle Sugar because he sure was sweet to us.) I think my 4th day I was on a helicopter on the way out to the Madan sale to look at some limestone outcrop that could have Karst features.

That was only a 4 hour excursion in the woods but it was the hardest hiking of my life. I can't begin to describe how difficult it is to move in the woods here as a newbie. It's like slipping every 1.5 steps, sliding back 2, smacking yourself in the face with a branch, wondering how to carry that goldang rifle over your shoulder, trying to understand why you are working up here, and finally seeing a cedar tree so big it would take 5 people to encircle it. That night I was knock-down, drag-out exhausted. I slept like the dead, which was a feat because it was near the solstice and light for 18 glorious hours a day. Hiking in the woods became a right of passage, a puzzle, a sense that I was someone who could move through the woods with aplomb. Every other forest is too easy now, it bears no resemblance to the complex mystery of my temperate rain forest.

I learned how to be married here. That it was ok to yell (as long as the neighbors couldn't hear). That partnership means working together and explaining why you hate/like things. Understanding the difference between roommate issues like the dishes and relationship issues like feelings and family. Knowing why your in laws were laughing at you when you fight with your husband. Learning that halibut bait smells so bad it makes your eyes water but shrimp bait is way, way worse. Finding out that it was ok to be different from your spouse, as long as you talked about it.

I remember the first pile of local shrimp that made their way home. WTF heads? Watching all the others, I learned the proper picking technique. My boss took me out on the water after we had been there about 2 weeks. We could only afford 1 fishing license so tDF got to fish. Pulling the first king salmon of our lives over the rail, dragging the first little slabs of halibut, and opening the crab trap filled my hear with such glee. This was how I eat now. We eat things from the sea, that we catch ourselves. TDF was offered a deck hand position. 20% of the take of a gillnet, longline, crabber boat. We were in, we were tied to the industry. Half of us made our living on the water.

Evenings were spent drinking beer, cleaning shrimp or crab or salmon or halibut. Our freezer filled with little packages of meat. I learned how to cook. Easy dinners: Shrimp pasta in tomato-basil sauce, teriyaki salmon and peas and rice, Halibut enchiladas. More difficult failures like salmon bisque and successes like duck-au-vin. August brought berries like I had never seen. What to do? What to do? It was so new, clean, real.

My little California heart was broken. Then rebuilt. It only feels Alaska now. I am home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Did you misc me?

Of course not! The interbob is rife with other, more important dilettantes. I have lots of charming things to talk about. Very few are related.

We had our annual Christmas cruise around the sound. The Christmas party really is the best. We sit on a boat for 3 hours and look at whales and nature and mountains. (Pictures will be added later.) It was a BYOB event, we didn't B. I refuse to drink with work mates, I may say something either stupid or mean. Sometimes I may say a stupid/mean thing.

There weren't as many whales as in the past but it was a clear, cold day. Huge rafts of otters watched us motor by. My camera didn't really want to work because it was 22 degrees. A humpback was slapping the water surface, killing fishes to eat. I have never seen anything like it. Oh, and it was catered by the hospital.

Ahem, Alaska is the only place where you can have a Hospital cater your Event. I know when I'm thinking of high quality food items, I think about the hospital. No, I never think about that horrible year that my dad was in and out of the hospital and the jello that came in colors rather than flavors (red or yellow). Or the fact that everything looks steamed. It wasn't bad, but, eh. Hospital Christmas food.

On Sunday, we left for Juneau to shop. The ferry ride was uneventful except it was full of High School Basketball teams and whoa nelly, do they have some energy. They turned the lights out in the forward lounge and because I didn't want to nap at 3:30 pm, I went to the aft lounge. It was more entertaining watching the antics of 14-17 year olds than my book. I forgot what high school was like. Don't miss it.

We lodged at the luxurious Driftwood Motel in a room right next to the lobby. It was very, very loud. And the door on the bathroom hits your knees when you sit on the toilet.

Monday morning we were up at the crack of 8. We read the Juneau Empire over breakfast and howled at the Roughhouse boxing article. You need to read it because of the following quotes:

"Sheakley squeaked the win away from Lauthe despite a smoking habit."

"After trading power on the mat, Willis who said he watched a lot of MMA in preparation for the fight, got Horton, a ten-year friend, into a guillotine and it was over."

"Roberts said he was going to work out more before attempting MMA again. "

Oh gosh. It was funny. Especially since tDF is related to people who are MMA fighters. I am of the opinion that MMA is puerile silliness. We finished breakfast and began spending money.

I do like to shop, but these bursts of extreme shopping make me physically ill. Mostly because we never anticipate how long we will spend in a huge box and forget to bring water and food. We started at Costco at noon and spend a fortune on staples like black beans and butcher paper. Eating a quick hot dog at 230, we left to look at chainsaws for a bit then ended up at Home Depot at about 4. We closed the store and filled 3 shopping carts and 2 of those trolley things. Win.

We started off looking for a hot water heater. They didn't have one in stock and then had to listen to some guy who "knew his water heaters" tell us some stuff. I really hate people who try to sell me stuff without first asking me what my needs are. It's like somebody insisting that you really need this side of beef because it's grass-fed and perfect, but never bothering to find out that you are a Vegan. Same sort of loudmouth insisty crap that makes me so mad. (Oh, the other thing that I hate? When the salesguy tries to sell me some sort of flooring based on looks or the fact that it's made in Italy because I'm a female and can't possibly understand anything else about flooring.)

After we processed that we would have to order a water heater through some other source, we moved on. To ducting, toilets, and tile. We didn't buy a toilet. We spent 3 hours in the tile section. Our intent was to buy tile for a bathroom floor and tub surround. The tub surround didn't happen for 2 reasons: 1. we liked the glass tile but didn't like the $10/sf price. and 2. all the other tile was sort of ugly and boring and white. We don't want another white boring bathroom. The flooring is pretty neat, sort of a sand stone colored porcelain tile. It will look nice in the bathroom, with the white tub and sink. We hope. I don't know, by the time we finally picked out the floor all the fight had gone out of me and I was immensely agreeable to everything.

By this point we had filled up a cart and trolley with tile, grout, lights, and whatnot. We had much more shopping to do! It was a good thing we went to Costco before because I had to go get us some cliff bars and fruit leather to push us through to 9pm. Somehow we filled another cart with blades, bits, $17 sheet rock knives, a texture blower (Hi Di! Finally broke down and bought one!), and lots of painting crap. I even busted out the calculator to figure out the best deal on Killz2 primer. Turns out it was the 2-gallon size at about $12/gallon vs the 5-gallon size which was $15. An associate (or whatever) came over to tell us how to save money by buying the 5-gallon pails. Hoho! Me and my Ti-83 told him. I first told him that we would buy the 5 gallon buckets at the $12/gallon price if it would make him feel better.

I was a bit punchy by then. Especially since tDF decided to ask him how much primer we would need for our house. My patience tank was deficit by that point. Checking out was a delight. Packing in the 18 degree evening was simply a lark. BUT we got that shit done and it's here and unpacked.

Dinner was at the Breeze-in convenience store. The only thing open at 930 that wasn't the deli/grease counter at Fred Meyer. We bought more things at Fred Meyer (It's like a Target, all you without one). We bought some Brown Sauce. I have no idea what it is, but it was in a hilarious movie called Intermission with the beautiful Cillian Murphy. I hope it's no yeast based like Vegemite. Some bad coffee and a stop to fill a tire with air later we are rotting in the Alaska Marine Highway parking lot for our 2:30 am departure of the Malaspina.

The ferry shows movies about every 2 hours or so while underway. Our Movie? Snow dogs. I thought it was going to be the Paul Walker one. But it was Cuba Gooding Jr. is bad at nature in Alaska; OMG hilarious CGI winking dogs voiced by Jim Belushi. This movie was James Coburn's last, a sad fact for our man Flint. The cheeze factor was set to Velveeta and copious. (Kevin, they have it at the library here. Plan on Borbun and Snow dogs. Perhaps we'll make a themed drink?)

Now, home. Working on our steel stair railing. We have justified the purchase of a welder. heh. My life is one, big dollarrhea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

chatham

I have typed the word Chatham at least 750 times today, if not closer to 1,000. My nimble data entry brain started thinking, "What is a Chatham?' SOOOOO

A Chatham is:

a county in North Carolina.

a scenic lighthouse on Vancouver Island.

a landmark royal dock in Maidstone, UK (in Kent?)

Some islands near New Zealand

A British Naval Vessel


And a sub area on the Tongass, where I've been entering data.

The survey brig that accompanied the HMS Discovery's voyage up the west coast of North America (captained by Vancouver). Chatham got it's name because Vancouver wanted to impress William Pitt, earl of Chatham.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Things I think about at meetings

1. Wow. I can't believe the schoolyard antics and petty nonsense from this bunch of sallies.

2. Why do we even have to watch safety videos from 1992. Also, that shot of OSHA woman in the foliage is immensely distracting.

3. How many times can I chew this piece of gum in the next minute...GO!

4. 83.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Northern Exposure Project


Northern Exposure is my favorite tv show of all time. Forever. Period. End of Story. It has been since I was a little hellion living in Sunny Temperate California. I wanted to be Maggie O'Connell when I grew up. All short-haired badass that she was. A wee part of me will admit that I moved to the Greatland because of an early 90's TV show.

I bought all 6 seasons (including the exceptionally dumb Paul Provenza Season) and watch them repeatedly. As a jaded Alaskan now (nobody prays louder than the newly converted) I scoff at parts of the show. SURE, you flew snowmobile parts from Petersburg to Yakutat, Maggie. Um, clearly this girl doing research in Metlakatla would not be on the railbelt to hang out with you, Chris-in-the-morning. Aside from the geographical/ecological stupidity that comes from filming in Washington, they got many things right. The people and the relationships mostly.

So. Because 3 minutes of googling revealed that nobody else has done this (I think) I'm going to recap all 6 glorious seasons of the best show that has ever been on TV (to me). Beginning with the Pilot.

Let's meet Joel. They have written Joel Fleischman, played by Rob Morrow, as "New York Yuppie Jew" against the entire Universe. I have very little experience with folks from the east coast, so I can't adequately judge how close to the mark they are with Joel. All he really needs to do, though, is react to everything around him. He succeeds. The first scene is one that every Alaskan knows well: inside of an airplane stuck next to that guy who just won't shut up. Joel is that guy. See, the only scholarship he could get to attend the illustrious Columbia Medical School was indentured servitude for four years in Alaska. He feels that it won't be so bad because Anchorage has 5 Chinese restaurants. Then he can go back to NYC and become a super-rich Doctor.

For whatever reason, the Anchorage Hospital that Joel was supposed to work at is full, but they are shipping him to the Alaskan Riviera instead. Note: there is no such thing as the Alaskan Riviera in real life. Joel is screaming "breach of contract" and other outraged legal stuff, but ultimately he ends up on a 12-hour bus ride north. Note: Driving that far north on a bus will not land you in a place that is lushly forested as Cicely. The bus dumps him by the side of the road. Joel, sitting dejected on his luggage/golf clubs, looks pretty bad. Since it's 1990 there are pleats on his Seinfeld slacks.

Lo, a truck (appropriately beat up and large) driven by the one and only Ed Chigliak. Ed asks Joel if he's "into Rap" (1990!) and they head off. Ed stops in the middle of the road, gets out and starts walking though the trees because he's home. It's up to Joel to drive to Maurice Minnifield's palatial Log Home Eyesore. Maurice, a former astronaut and current frillionaire, rappels down the side of the building. He is the picture of healthy virility with a checked flannel tucked into jeans belted at his ribcage.

Once cleaned up and inside the log cabin of animal heads and olde timey stuff, Maurice tries to sell Joel on the future of Alaska as a destination. And subtly tells Joel, "I was an Astronaut, son." Joel and Maurice drive into the booming metropolis of Cicely in Maurice's huge, convertible Cadillac. Maurice will not shut up about development opportunities and his media empire (a radio station and newspaper). Note: Radio is a very real part of every Alaskan's life, we live and die by our local stations. They enter Joel's new practice. It's a dilapidated building with peeling paint and animal poop on the floor.

Then we meet Marilyn Whirlwind. I love Marilyn. She nods with a neutral expression to Joel's, "There is no Job!" Oh, she's the receptionist, and always has a tray of whatever Joel needs before he asks.

Joel, now, is completely unhinged. He runs into Holling's Bar (the Brick) to call Anchorage doctor because he doesn't like it and wants to leave. He's stuck! While calling Elaine, his fiancee and legal council, to look at his contract he lets loose a vile deluge of insults about the various rednecks within earshot. Dejected, Joel bellys up to the bar for a Seltzer and an aspirin. Note: Every town in Alaska has the bar everybody goes to. There may be several in a town but there is room for only one in everyone's heart. Holling, wearing a stupid leather vest and bolo tie, gives him club soda. Also, Ed comes by to exposition Maurice and Holling's falling out. Later, an irritated Joel confuses Maggie O'Connell (his landlord) with Maggie O'Connell (a Prostitute). Maggie is a Pilot, not a whore. Like a Pilot with her own plane and everything.

Joel is now home, in a rustic cabin by the lake. And Joel and Maggie Hate Each Other. This will at least be the B-plot, when it's not the A plot, of the entire series. The next morning, Joel is treated to the amazing scenery around him and runs 7 miles into town. To work. Where he again tells Marilyn there is no job. He treats some people, including one beaver (because HAHA Alaskans would take their pet beaver to the doctor) and one couple having marital problems evidenced by stabbings. Mostly, we learn that Joel cares.

Ed wanders in to bring Joel to Maurice. Ed is Maurice's errand boy. Maurice is out on a lake, in a skiff "duck hunting." Mostly, its a clunky way for Maurice to shoot a gun over Joel "I'm a New Yorker badass" Fleischman's head.

Back in Holling's Bar, we learn the following things: Shelly, an 18-year-old beauty queen, left Maurice for 62 year old Holling; Holling and Maurice are no longer friends; and if Joel leaves, there would be a fine of $10,000 and 18 years in jail. Bad news for Joel, he is stuck. He meets this news like a Real Alaskan: by drinking heavily. Plowed, Joel compliments Maggie on her red lips and how pretty, but not great looking, she is. Pretty like Dorothy Hamill. Hungover Joel ends up sleeping at Maggie and Rick's house. Rick is also a pilot who appears without a shirt as often as the script will allow. I guess he is attractive, or at least "attractive." He looks like Gary Cole to me.

FINALLY, we're at some festival. It's realistically named Midsummer Jamboree or whatever. (This is why duck hunting was sort of stupid. Nobody duck hunts in the summer.) All the festivals and get-togethers have somewhat silly names up here, so good for the writers for figuring it out. Maurice emcee's something and shouts, "NORTH TO THE FUTURE!" Which is, sometimes, Alaska's state motto. Joel and Ed eat a Moose burger/caribou dog respectively. We get a fleeting glimpse of Chris-in-the-morning, our favorite philosophizing DJ. Holling and Maurice share a meaningful moment. Aaaand scene.

Honestly, the Pilot is not as interesting as the rest of the series. Over time, the cast hits their stride and we meet a whole host of incredibly interesting minor characters--Adam, anybody? I love this show, especially when it gets better. Also, it realistically portrays Native Alaskan folk as just folks--no real fetishization that I notice. Maybe an Alaska Native has a different perspective? If so, I'd love to hear it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My diamond shoes are too tight

Yes. I am going to whine about a problem that is not only a pretend, made-up non-problem but one that I totally created. I have too much damn fish and deer in my freezer.

Specifically too much Salmon. Yes, poor me. We need to be eating Salmon 2-3 times per week and deer at least once, if not twice a week. I am in a food rut. Plus with it getting dark at 3pm, I just want to go to bed at 6:30 and not be finishing dinner.
The deer is less of a problem than the salmon because a deer comes with different cuts that require different cooking--stir fry/stew quality meats, roasts, braises, etc. There is a lot more I can do with deer than with fish simply because it will tolerate different types of heat. Above is the first venison roast of the season--just a paste of rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Salmon, not so much. There are a few ways to cook salmon to change it up. Slow roasting, broiling, pan frying, poaching are pretty good. Adding a sauce or making a fun salad works too. HOWEVER Salmon, no matter what you do with it, always tastes like salmon. It is delicious, don't get me wrong, but there is only so much you can do with it.

I am in a Salmon Rut. There are only so many times per month that my dear, sweet husband will tolerate the miso marinade broiled salmon that I so dearly love. I have tried almost all of my recipes for salmon/trout/steelhead in my cook books and magazines. Everything I find online is a variation on something I already know how to do or have ruled out after trying. Salmon is such a distinctive flavor that most recipes feature the taste of salmon (as they should). Thing is, I am quite tired of the bloody stuff but I still have to prepare/eat it because it is in my freezer and that's what you do up here.

Have you noticed that I am moody? I have tripped at least 3 times today and confused Apple Computers with Toyotas. (But they're kind of the same, right?) I should be baking too because starchy sugar-fat is awesome. All I really want to do is go split firewood with a heavy maul.

No salmon tonight. That will have to wait until Friday/Saturday. Tonight is pepper steak stroganoff.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Groaners on my mind

I know the house-related ravings are less popular with my 5 readers than the Alaska/food ones. But Blogs are for we narcissistic delusionals who think someone cares about what we think. Lately, I've been thinking about toilets. Or Groaners, which some neighbor/friend calls them. No, I haven't been spending an exceptional amount of time on/in front of them. I just have to buy two in the near future and I want to make a good choice.

Our current toilet sweats like Whitney Houston due to the glacial meltwater that is our residential water source and the fact that we actually heat our house. We laughed, LAUGHED at the people who suggested getting an insulated tank to prevent a toilet from soaking the floor and walls. Now, we are stuck with a sweaty toilet that cost too much due to a reduced rough-in. (Standard toilet rough-in distance is 12 inches. The more you know.)

Also, we will not buy a super-cheap toilet because those do not have glazed traps. You know what you get with an unglazed trap? Way, way more clogs. That is not a pleasant situation. So, here we are. In need of two toilets that will flush the unpleasantness away and will stay cool as a southern belle. Not a tall order.

Except. Did you know toilets can have style? I did not know they could. And they can be even described as cute.
Ok, that is a freaking cute toilet. It's a Toto Aquia Dual Flush with DualMAX(tm) flushing technology. (The only thing stranger than toilet techno-terms are tooth brush ones.) Toto toilets have some of the best flushing per gallon of water used around. Plus you can make all sorts of Wizard of Oz jokes. Unfortunately, this toilet costs like $340 in America so it would cost us at least $450 here in super-remote America.

You can have a sleek, modern, Stark terlet too:
This guy designed our bathtub. I can't get behind (her her) a wall-hung toilet. Too many potential problems. BUT you could clean your bathroom with a fire hose if you install one and none of that weird toilet-ick that tends to accumulate around the base of one.

You can buy a groaner with classical details. This is the Devonshire comfort height toilet by Kohler.Look, it's practically a Doric Column. You just need a life size statuette of David and some brass trim and you have a class-ay bathroom. Also, I really don't want anything in my house in the "Comfort Height" category. Blah Blah easy to sit on for olds. Comfort is one of those words that people use instead of better words. Plus "rest stops" are sometimes called "Comfort Areas" when it's a bunch of crappers for people and a horrible dirt patch that functions as a crapper for dogs.

Oh, and the only ONLY choice for bathroom fixtures like tubs or toilets is white. None of that crazy pink or tourqoise. No. It is ugly and we will all make fun of you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Magnificent Seven

In honor of the TV show that we never knew existed staring, among other people, Ron Pearlman as a gunslinging preacherman here are 7 things I did recently:

  1. Cut one of my fingers wide open when carving the turkey on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, my blood didn't overwhelm the delicious briney goodness of our Turkey.
  2. Bought a new washer and dryer for the apartment. I guess Black Friday deals also work over the interweb at Home Depot. WHOO BETTER WASHING MACHINE THAT DOESN'T WIGGLE THE ENTIRE BUILDING.
  3. Read books at the library about how people "manage" to live in houses that are less than 3,000 sf. Oh, and all the cute design-y elements that help them live in said confinement.
  4. Found tile I really like: (it's 12 in x 24 in porcelain tile) below.
  5. Emptied my dehumidifier daily. It fills up every day, to its 6 gallon capacity. I am amazed at the moisture up here, still.
  6. Paid our really huge electric bill. Our all-electronic radiant heat has been on for only about 1 month and it is sucking the juice. We like to go outside and watch the little meter spin. It's like throwing money down a toilet and watching the coins swirl. WHEE.
  7. Moved 20 5-gallon buckets of drywall mud we had delivered. Each bucket weighs 62 pounds so I managed to move 1,240 pounds of mud. This is about 9.5 times my body weight. In doing this I pulled my right bicep. Oh, and as an added bonus they almost had to use the child's blood pressure cuff on my at the doctor today because the adult one seemed a bit too big. (I didn't tell them about my awesome mud-bucket work, though.)

Isn't that tile neat? I want to get it for my house. love love love.

Oh, and the magnificent seven was sort of awesome/terrible. All the tired western drivel, but some key actors from Northern Exposure were there. I don't care what they do, Maurice will always be Maurice (even on One Tree Hill or whatever) and Holling will forever be Holling (Heard he started working on stage again? Maybe?).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crank and File

At work today, I wondered how many people were between me and the President, authority-wise?

President/Vice President (Since I'm not sure of direct lines of supervision)
Secretary of Agriculture
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment
Forest Service Chief
Regional Forester
Forest Supervisor
Watershed Staff Officer
Forest Soil Scientist
ME!

So, what did I learn here? Not much but I was entertained for about 3 minutes.

t'anksgiving

It's hard to believe that another year has gone by and it's holiday time again. Thanksgiving is on Thursday and I am not so ready for it. I came up with a plan: make pie crusts tonight, let turkey thaw until Wednesday when it goes into its brine, make pie and cranberry sauce on Wednesday, Turkey and potatoes and gravy on Thursday, then eat until I burst on Thursday.

I made a huge mistake, according to my dear husband, I invited 2 people over to eat with us. He's upset that he may have to share a 12 lb turkey with anybody else. We are pretty lonely folks up here and he's used to my cooking for 8 on holidays for just the 2 of us. The man likes his food.

My trouble is in the vegetable realm of the menu. I can't get excited about any of them. And I don't want to spend a lot of time on prep/cooking. Oh, and tDF thinks orange food = the devil so no sweet potatoes, yams, squash, cooked carrots or anything else orange. He wants steamed broccoli with cheese sauce like his mom makes. I asked what's in the cheese sauce and he thinks it's velveeta. I tried not to hork.

In the middle of all of this food angst we're trying to get the vapor barrier up in the house so we can begin drywall. This laborious process included squeezing black goo from a broken caulk gun into every crack and taping the edge of plastic with really expensive tape. I am so glad to go to work on Monday because I won't be covered with black stickiness and fiberglass.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Spicy Italian Sausage

I tackled sausage this year. This was not my first time at this particular rodeo. A few years ago I made a batch of exceptionally bland deer sausage that languished in the freezer until I finally tossed the little chubs out. Now, armed with my fantastic Charcuterie cookbook, I made a pretty fair batch of Spicy Italian deer sausage. (seriously, if you like salty dried meat as much as I do you should totally at least look at this cookbook at the library/bookstore. It's amazing.)

Our biggest hurdle in the sausage game is the fat we need to add. Deer is exceptionally lean and you need to add a huge (up 30%) amount of fat to make a decent sausage. Up here, we can really only buy feed-lot pork that totally takes away from the clean, wild game we're eating. It would be like washing your face and then smearing dirt all over it. I solved this problem by buying extremely expensive uncured bacon. I need a slab of nice, farm-raised pork back fat. Yes. Merry Christmas to me (HINT).

Anyway, so I trudged home from work (in the snow because it finally snowed) thinking about what type of sausage I would make. My first thought was to make 2 different types but then laziness overtook me and I settled on the spicy sausage.
This is 3.8 pounds of deer scraps as measured on my new Ikea $11 scale! I seriously love having a scale. It will make baking so much more interesting. (I am a boring.) Since the recipe calls for 4.5 pounds of meat I had to have the calculator out to make sure everything was proportional. Sausage making seems a bit like chemistry to me, it's important to get the right ratios.

I measured out all the relevant spices. This recipe calls for toasted fennel and coriander and fresh basil and oregano. I had no idea what 24 grams of fresh basil looks like. It's a frickin' pile of basil.
I tossed the diced meat, bacon, and spices together before letting the meat chill. In the past, I've always spiced the ground meat rather than grinding the spices with the meat. It's a technique that seems to distribute the flavors much better.
More tossing. I just wanted you to see how much basil this actually was. I've only added about half of it at this point. My poor basil plant looks shorn. (Also, these picture commemorate the first time my husband took pictures of me cooking VOLUNTARILY. He makes fun of me for blogging about the nonsense in my life. This is a step forward. Progress.)

The whole mixture was cooled in the freezer for about 20 minutes so the fat would grind easily.
We then ground the meat through the grinder attachment for my kitchen aid. I used the small die to get a really fine grained sausage. TDF really got into pushing the plunger "into the meathole." He wouldn't let me grind meat anymore because it was "[his] meathole." Sigh, we live a very isolated, strange life.
Finished sausage. Deer meat is naturally very red and all the paprika, cayenne, and red pepper flakes helped make the meat an especially brightly ruby color. Overall, the sausage was a bit salty--because I used the called for amount of salt plus I used bacon for the fat. It wasn't too bad after the sausage had mellowed overnight.

I didn't stuff the sausage into casings because I don't have a stuffer. Thus, I froze the sausage into logs for slicing or crumbling. We had it for breakfast yesterday and tDF made a burger with it for lunch. It was, he noted, a bit too spicy for a burger but was good all the same.

Now, I want to make more! MORE!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Processing a deer

When I got my first job in Wrangell, the district office there send my a packet about what it's like to live in Wrangell. The first item on the list of recreational activities was berry picking. My future in-laws (mostly the Dirty Fisherman's brothers) hooted wildly at that one. Just how fun could berry picking be? Turns out a lot. What began with berry picking and fishing has grown into a deep need to catch/shoot/grow/gather as much as our food as possible. The most recent addition is deer.

We are meat hunters, exclusively. I know that there are many people out there that can't abide shooting any animal, and I understand that. This is our choice, and we understand it's not for everybody. So, please, if you don't want to see raw meat, click somewhere else.

Garrison Keillor quipped that Alaska has the only state where democrats hunt. I'm sure that's not true, but everyone I know up here at least hunts for deer. (I tend toward the liberal myself, so hunting does not have to equal redneck.) If I may soapbox for a moment: I believe that having more liberal/lefty people hunt will liberalize the hunting world, rather than conservatize those who participate. /end soapbox.

Ahem. So...processing a deer. It thrills me to no end when tDF rolls up the hill with a deer in his pack. It means red meat through the winter--stir frys, stews, roasts, and sausage. Recently I've begun making demi-glace from the bones (more later, have 2 deers worth of bones to turn into meat jelly).


This is how the deer comes home--Field Dressed. Mostly, the tenderloins, backstrap, 2 shoulders, 2 legs (hams), and any organ meats we eat are skinned, placed in a pillowcase and packed out of the woods. We are really careful to keep the meat away from any organs/misc gross gut material. The skin and guts stay in the woods where they are consumed by the ravens and bugs.

The meat is then placed in the fridge for a few days to age. Some people haul their whole deer back and let it hang. We don't have a place cold enough (35 degrees) for me to feel safe about hanging. That's two deer in our fridge, each in their own pan.

After about 2 days, we take the meat out and butcher it. It takes about 2 hours to move a deer from this to little butcher paper-wrapped nuggets. We separate Stew/stir fry meat from anything good enough to roast or pan fry.

Here, tDF is cleaning up a fillet from the shoulder (the chuck). The meat is separated from the bone and all the pellicle is removed. The meat from the shoulder tends to be tougher than some of the leg cuts. I prefer to use it is stir fry or in braises.

My job is to package all the cuts and to clean the bones for burger/sausage and turning into broth. This is the shoulder shank that I'm pulling meat off of. All the meat scraps are placed in a bowl for later grinding and spicing.

This is a backstrap which is the same cut as a tenderloin in beef or pork. I think it looks like one of those critters from the movie "Slither." (Note: I have not seen that movie but the cover fascinates me at the video store.) This is larger-than-average backstrap from a very fatty doe. Can't wait to turn it into medallions later. (Please excuse my Alaska-white arm. That is not an overexposure, that's really my arm color.)

All cuts (This is a leg roast, most similar to a round roast) are covered with plastic wrap then butcher paper, labeled and frozen. It takes a long-ass time to wrap everything up but the meat keeps surprisingly well for about a year to 18 months.

Cute little package, all ready for the freezer. I date them because we usually get a few deer a year and we try to eat the oldest first.

This is the result of 2+ hours of work: about a grocery bag full of meat. A deer can yield about 20-45 pounds of meat. We have been able to stretch 1 dear over a year and one year we ate 5 deer. This year we have 3 in the freezer and that should do us really well for the year.

Whew, so whatchu think?

Friday, November 13, 2009

lub-dub

Organ meats. How does a person begin a blog about eating viscera? By telling a story! Out hiking/working with my friend we were discussing the best recipes for deer, butchering strategies, and whatever. He asked what I did with the liver and heart. Nothing! The ravens got that icky part. Stricken, he wondered why I would throw out the best part of the deer. (I then remembered about our work trip to Portland where he spent most of the time looking for sweetbreads.)

This conversation then devolved into Why-women-hate-organ-meat-and-men-love-it. You know, typically field work talk. I salted this away until Tuesday when my old man and I were looking at my new cookbook, I Know How to Cook, he began talking about venison heart and liver (He'd just shot a really big deer with an appropriately large heart). Why not? We decided. Life's to short to leave perfectly good meat in the woods.

Wednesday I went into work and he went out hunting in a "new" spot. I left work early, and was hunkering down with a sammich and beer when I heard our exhaust-leaking car scream up our hill. Sure enough, he was home with a pack fulla deer. Complete with heart. No liver because, "It looked gross."

Our first heart. Couldn't this be a valentine?

The heart was cleaned and placed in a bowl with 1 tsp of salt overnight. It really looked like a meat if you got past the part where it had valves and chambers. OVERSHARE ALERT: in 7th grade my friend, Merissa, were chosen to dissect sheep/lamb hearts for a science project. This little foray into eating one reminded me of our heart-on-a-stick dance from those heady times.

Cleaning the heart (mostly scraping the fat and pericardium off)

X-section of a deer heart

Thursday, we ate heart. Now, I fully admit to kind of ruining it by cooking it a bit wrong. In my defense it was my first heart and all the recipes said to braise it for a long time with wine or broth. I will do it better next time.
Browning the heart with shallots

Braising Heart

I sliced the heart into about 1/2 inch strips, browned them in a pan with shallots and garlic, added about 1 cup of red wine and a sprig of rosemary and let it cook for about 30 minutes. I think the rosemary was a bit much and the red wine turned the meat into an unfortunate color (tDF called it coyote scat). BUT, it was nice. Way nicer than eating a critical organ should be.
tDF saying something saucy, to be sure.

Cooked meat. Looking less than yummy.

When cut open, isn't it better?

Next time I'll use a light broth or white wine for the braising liquid, no rosemary and dredge the slices in flour before browing.

Calling my brother to brag about my gateway organ meat, he reminded me that I have eaten heart before. In France. They were duck hearts stuffed with Foie Gras. Also, I ate an astronomical amount of foie gras that trip (also an organ meat). Dang it. I guess this is my first organ meat I've prepared.

Anybody got any good recipes for heart? I'm all ears.

ETA: when I hit publish for this, a little google ad came up for deer butchering DVDs and a Cabela's camo plug. Am I on a redneck list now? Frack.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Science!

Just so you all know, the Canadians will save us all. Actually they're from Quebec (so they're SUPER Canadians). They just had their piece published in Forest Ecology and Management Volume 258, Issue 12. ahem.

"Modelling the effect of climate on maple syrup production in Quebec, Canada"

Hey other scientists, get on your modeling of climate change on other important food products to me:

Brie
Bacon
Cherries

If you can't tell me that a warming planet will do to my favorite food products, better go research chemoautotrophs at the edge of deep sea thermal vents.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where I'm from


We all come from somewhere. If we're lucky, it's somewhere really cool. I would really like to be from an Xtreme place like, I don't know, Newfoundland. Unfortunately, I'm from a little known place in California called the Bay Area. At one point, there were actual towns separated by actual green space. Now, it's a jumble of highways and ugly strip malls. The weather remains fantastic if a teensy little bit smog filled.

San Jose (my illustrious home town) used to be a major agricultural powerhouse and home to many, many orchards. Over the past 40 years of Silicon Valley Fever, these beautiful stone fruit trees have been dozed into glass-fronted monstrosities ringed with parking lots. The last orchard by my house was plowed into highway 85 in about 1993. Sadness. Progress.

One little hold out remains. My mom's friend found this place, buried in the middle of stucco behemoths and 85. It is Santa Clara County's last working orchard. An oasis in the desert of consumerist expectations and raped prime agricultural soil. Much of it was destroyed via eminent domain, but it stands defiantly selling produce on the honor system.
The stand
The honor system of payment

The list of produce through the season (April through November) is impressive. What this valley could produce due to exceptional soils and good climate is nothing short of an Eden. Berries, 4 types of peaches, olives, apples, guavas, pomegranates, persimmons, grapes. You name it, they grow it.
The lovely, pointed note.

The pomegranates and olives were just coming in. It smelled alive there. This field is owned by the Cosentino family. They also own my very favorite grocery store (of the same name). I went there and just had to pet all the produce that was not only varied, abundant, and fresh but reasonably priced. I also had to buy very expensive cheese (REAL English Stilton, Humboldt Creamery blue goat cheese, and Imported Pecorino) and charcuterie (Prosciutto, Coppa, and Landjaeger).

Pomegranate tree. Don't they look like jewels?
Olive tree, heavy and fragrant.

Sorry to crab about soil related destruction. Between a movie about the 3 gorges dam and spending my childhood wildlands turned into infrastructure I'm feeling a bit adrift in the world. It breaks my heart to see food-producing areas turned into a parking lot. There's only so many years we can shoot ourselves in the foot before we lose our ability to walk.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shopping for pants

I am currently in the Fabulous Bay area visiting my family. Whee. Today my mom and I went to Ikea, to the mall, and ate some Cambodian food. (OMG I DREAM ABOUT THIS PLACE WHEN STUCK IN MY TINY ALASKAN ISLAND TOWN. Chez Sovan is the best place EVER.) If you do go to Chez Sovan, order the watercress salad. It is amazing.

The foray to the mall was to buy actual clothes from an actual store for me. I have not bought new clothing from a store that didn't also sell camo or lumber for a few years. This is a relatively foreign experience. Mom got me a gift certificate to the Gap for my 30th birthday. I was pretty excited but I have no idea what size I am in the real world. I can tell you what size slicks I wear (small) and the size of Carhartt pants (30x30) but nothing else.

Turns out I'm a 4. This is nearly meaningless because clothing sizes are not standard among manufactures. This is endlessly frustrating for someone who needs to shop online if they want to stay even remotely in fashion. (not that I do, but there are only so many more years I can coast on the thriftstore chic.)

Also, wtf jeans makers. Why is there spandex in all of your already-too-thin denim? Also, why are they all super tight through the thighs and loose around the butt? And, why do they need to be pre-distressed? I can distress them by actually wearing them. I am a cranky old coot from Alaska.

I didn't end up with any jeans because they were kind of meh. Most of them had those weird wear marks around the hips/crotch area that feel like they're shouting, "HEY! look at my cooter! Did I zip my fly?!" Not a fan.

Better luck next time (in another 3 years).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Because I am a lamecake, I didn't buy tickets to the local adult Halloween party (the Stardust Ball). I made up for it by dressing up at work. I am a sparkly fairy princess with Tinfoil wings!

And shoes I bought in Nice a lifetime ago. Oh, and a duct tape wand. Yay! recent picture of me that's not in the field covered with durt (dirt).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Octobers

I know I've crabbed about how slow and dumb people (me) get in the winter. What you may not know is the stupidity gets turned on October 26. Like a lightswitch. Monday was officially the first day of winter for me. I got a reasonable amount of sleep the night before, but I just couldn't drag my rear out of bed before 7:30. The absence of morning light just encourages hibernation.

No matter how much sleep I get or how early I go to bed, I don't wanna get up. It is just so hard (*sob*). It is not seasonal affective disorder (SAD), because I'm not depressed. Or maybe it is because all I want to do is stay in bed and watch Monarch of the Glen. Who knows. These brain cobwebs make me say and write incredibly stoopid things. At home, it's not a big deal. At work, it's slightly a bigger deal. If I didn't have to function at work, I would just go with it and really revel in the strange mind space. Unfortunately, the good people who employ me actually expect me to function for at least the time they pay me for (minus breaks).

I hear exercise helps. I guess it's time to start running again. Maybe I need a happy light. or some Dawn Therapy. Perhaps just a strict bacon diet.

Totally off subject: Ever been confronted with the 4 Generations In The Workplace talk? Here at my Congressionally-mandated PC workplace we had a training on this very subject. It sort of turns out that I am everyone's example of Generation-Y. (I did not attend the training, I had actual work to do.) Strange things afoot here in this office. We are all intergenerationally sensitive now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rhubarb cake

Talking to my mom one day (Hi, Mom) we started in on all the stuff I grew this past year. She began reminiscing about some sort of rhubarb cake her grandma used to make. A thin, moist cake studded with diced rhubarb. I decided I needed the recipe because, hey, I grew an absolute crap-load of rhubarb this year. And, my great-grandma was awesome.

Not that I remember her, I visited back in '82 when I was a three-year-old curly haired thing. What I have are all the stories my mom tells about Grandma Viola. Gosh, she was a salty no-BS woman. I think I would have adored her.

This cake, it turns out, it terrific! It is a really simple brown sugar cake made from both shortening and butter. (The recipe says 1/2 cup shortening, part butter). I think they used a lot of shortening in rural Wisconsin back in the day. I prefer buttery butter, but I'm willing to cede to my elders. It also only contains 1 egg, in typical frugal midwestern manner. (Also, I've been sort of fascinated with Vegan baking and think I could successfully convert this recipe, maybe.) The rhubarb is folded in at the very end. A topping of white sugar and cinnamon was sprinkled over the top.

It was very nice. I'm making it again tonight with come cod thingy. Photo!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Someone at JoE is getting cute

Ok, so JoE is The Journal of Ecology. As a nerd (and certified scientist) I read a lot of journals. I would list them all but I don't want you to nod off before I get to the punchline. Two articles in Vol 97 Issue 6 are:

"Socialism in soil? The importance of mycorrhizal fungal networks for facilitation in natural ecosystems"

"Parasite-grass-forb interactions and rock-paper-scissor dynamics: predicting the effects of the parasitic plant Rhinathus minor on host plant communities"

Right? Crazy! This is what passes for comedy in my dork-sphere. But honestly, have we really evaluated the political structure in the complex microbial relationships in the soil? Do we really understand school-yard hierarchy of the grass-forb communities?

Oh my gosh I missed one:

"Parasitic plants as facilitators: more Dryad than Dracula?"

Who are these people?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chez money pit

It has been an amazingly beautiful fall. Clear, cool days in September and October are the rarest of gems here. Typical fall weather is continuous rain under overcast skies that effectively shorten the day by 2 hours. Saturday we couldn't resist cleaning up the yard and putting the garden to bed instead of insulating the house. (I sort of am hating fiberglass.)

Yes, insulating. It is a step that means we have installed all the plumbing, heating, venting, electrical, and av systems. It means we can close up the walls and being to heat the place. The house part of our building has been an unheated since it was erected in 2006. I am excited.

The above picture is one of the 2 manifold banks for our supply plumbing. We're using pex in a home run configuration. It saves on copper soldering and there are no fitting that can break in the walls (we hope). Soon this will all disappear behind insulation and drywall. Soon there won't be exposed studs, just nice clean walls.

soon.

Until then, we'll continue to hemorrhage money at the local hardware store. Actually, we'll be bleeding into them much after drywall. IT NEVER ENDS. Gah. until there's drywall we have to spend glorious days like this past weekend inside rather than camping in the alpine in our new tent. Boo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Demi Glace

I am, how you say, French. Well, half french. And that half likes to make unnecessarily complicated french food. It's the best kind of french food. I have a huge Larousse Gastronomique that I read most Saturday mornings over coffee. Aren't the photos of the British, French, and American cow dissections neat? Love.

As a french, I look at all the typical Alaskan bounty (Salmon, Halibut, Venison, Berries) and try and frenchify it. Talking roast venison a la bonne femme. Or Salmon amandine. Easy peasy. Next on my list is making Demi Glace out of the long deer bones (legs).

Demi Glace is a thick reduction of meat broth typically made with beef or veal. Like meat jello/jelly. It used to be thickened with roux but nouvelle cuisine reduces the broth to a syrupy glaze. I made my first stab at broth over the weekend not wanting to do up Demi Glace because it needs to simmer for 12-24 hours. Had to get the broth right first. (Also, wild game has a tendency to go gamy and really stink up the whole house. Gotta prevent that)

So, early Sunday morning me and the husband tried to saw apart the two leg bones with: a pruning saw, a pixie knife, and finally the saw attachment on a leatherman. Guess who's getting a bone saw soon! With the bones all cut up, they and some carrots, an onion, bay leaf, parsley, and some thyme went in the crock pot to simmer away. (Next batch will use a leek and the bouquet garni will include leek greens. No leeks in Sitka last weekend.) It happily simmered while I unhappily insulated the ceiling next door. Also, I merrily skimmed the globules of fat. urk.

About half way through the simmering, I added a small can of tomato paste. Supposedly this "intensifies the flavors and color." I'm not 100% on the paste. The house smelled heavenly, like hearty broth and not nasty roadkill (as some wild game stews I've been exposed to). I guess I could have strained and reduced the broth right then, but I really wanted to eat it. Eating things are the real test of their goodness.

Next morning I threw some beans and diced venison shanks in the broth and let it cook all day. (Yes, crock pots feel as silly as hot dish but I don't really want to burn down my incomplete house yet.) After adding a little salt, this stew/soup was amazing. Way more complex than the usual crock pottery we eat. The soup was hearty without feeling like a slug of food was sitting in your gullet. No one flavor overpowered any other flavor, they were all pretty nicely balanced.

Now we just have to get another deer so I can make real Demi Glace.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Claudes: Norse discover America

Let it be known to all that we don't have cable, so all knowledge of movie comes from 1) me reading the Internet or 2) previews on movies we rent or netflix. The previews from Big Man Japan (not as awesome as a movie about an expanding superhero battling monsters with combovers should have been) we saw the preview for Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America. The preview was a series of shaky action shots interspersed with a long-haired Blond dude chopping down a tree. In the old Norse way.

My husband immediately demanded I netflix it. Ever the submissive wife, I did his bidding.

It was not good. Like really, really not good. Like strangling a chicken and watching a dude take a dump in the woods not good. Also, not making any of that up. I never thought a movie featuring Vikings could be so boring. It was yawningly boring.

The story, if you could call it that, follows 2 Norse warrior men in "Vineland" (the land of wine and natives we now call Vermont) left behind after a battle. These men, Blond and Dark, have some sort of Norse names but we never hear them so they will be Blond and Dark. The movie is broken up into chapters, because we the viewers are too stupid to understand how movies work. One title card is on the screen for a minute and a half and features Blond headbanging--in the old Norse way of course.

Blond, being awesomely viking

Blond and Dark set to making a camp and fixing their situation. They whack at trees for like 10 minutes, through a nauseating NYPD blue herky-jerk "Gritty" filter. It's like they shot this thing with the video option on a digital camera. Like a 2.5 mega pixel one. BAD.

Blond carves a spear (out of a 4 inch diameter tree) to stab fish. We wondered how big the fish were if they needed a spear that beefy. Pretty big, actually. Blond gets a salmon. They roast it over a fire, eating the fatty meat with all the grooming you might expect of the Norse: Open mouth chewing, food falling out of said mouth, face smeared with grease. We're treated to the old Norse for "that fish is killer" and "Don't eat it all, I killed the f*cking fish." Plus the old Norse is dubbed with completely wrong sounding voices, and it's hard to understand. Think the Wah-wah of the adults in every Charlie Brown cartoon but deeper, and with menace. Then record that on a tape player hidden in your pocket. And digitize that recording to replay over the shaky screen.

SHELTER, CAMP

The other gritty survival activity we are treated to is the writer/director/star takes a wicked crap right on screen for us. They even manged to set the digital camera on a tripod to lovingly record this feat. No shaky cam for the gritty reality of poopin' in the woods.

Now, Blond and Dark have very different personalities. Dark's sister wanted to be a Christian and had a Christan boyfriend that made her a little straw cross necklace. Dark's on the Odin train so he killed the sister's beau. Sister stares at him then jumps off a cliff to her death. Poor, Dark. Such Baggage. also, FORESHADOWING

The Norse duo decide to walk north, back to their people. So they go on a 2-dude pillage streak up the coast of Vermont. They cut down a lot of trees, so enamored were the film makers with axes and trees. Eventually they stumble on a monastery and 2 runaway monks. What are benedictine monks doing in Vermont in 1100? They were slaves of the Norse and now they are on the run. How's that for an answer! Blond hates the monks. So he takes off after the younger monk (called monk #2 in imdb) and Dark takes after slightly fatter, older monk. Blond kills his monk and returns to eat all the eggs and kill a chicken, graphically. Dark can't bring himself to kill his old monk (because of his sister...BACKSTORY). He lets the monk go.

CHURCH

Dark then kills a chicken too, not killing builds an appetite. Burning of the "church" and chopping down the cross complete this chapter about pillaging (Chapter 4).

Off on more of their glorious nature walk through a lovely Vermont, er Vineland, country side. Dark stops at a stream to get a drink and wash his memories of the horrible monk trauma. Who's that staring at Dark? Why, it's old monk! Stupidly following the vikings on their journey. Monk thinks that not killing him=friendship.

Now is when I dozed off for a bit. The description talks about a seduction of some sort. So I'll assume a unicorn seduced a parrot into speaking old Norse in a RenoSmokerVoice. And there was someone that looked Vaguely Native doing some Vaguely Native things. I'm guessing one of them chopped a tree down too.

I awoke to find that Dark and oldMonk became friends! Their star-crossed friendship was cut short by Blond killing the oldMonk, you know, for Odin. Blond and Dark are still friends, of a sort. They sit together and grunt.

Finally, sad, sad Dark wanders into an opening where a Native (complete with feather) shoots him with an arrow. Blond builds him a raft, sets said raft on fire and pushes him out to see, like any good viking. Blond continues to hike north, eventually falling over in the snow and dying.

I'm left with a lingering question (yes, just one): did the vikings have arrows or spears? How did the natives kick their butts so soundly? All other accounts have the vikings as fierce warrior crazy killers, but here they just couldn't hack it? Was it all the trees (because the Norse were used to tundra)? Superior numbers on the Native side?

I encourage you to google Severed Ways and read the reviews. They are more interesting than this movie.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Soo-shee

I haven't quite disappeared, though sometimes I feel like I would melt in the rain (since I'm made of sugar and other melty things). Considering the amount of time I spent in the subterranean world under our house I should have been absorbed into the gravel. But, I digress. What I really wanted to talk about is Sushi. We made some!

Granted, it's not the prettiest sushi at the prom, and the sashimi is admittedly chunky. But we made it with Local Wild Alaskan Salmon. The rolls are made with Sockeye and the sashimi is Coho. They both were very nice and clean tasting. I hope we don't end up with worms as a result. (Everything has been frozen for at least 3 weeks prior to this adventure so don't worry, Mom!) This, however, will be our only foray into salmon sushi this year. It remains "fresh" in the freezer for only about a month and skunky sushi is not something I want to try.

I think there is some skill to making nice rolls, skills I don't really have yet. The flavors were correct but the presentation needs work. I do declare a special workshop for me and my sushi needs. It will have to be with pickled veggies and cooked fish. Maybe some miso-broiled rock fish?

Further successes were found in my miso soup with home made Dashi and a sesame-miso dressing for our salad. The terikayi chicken was meh, but I learned that the broiler on my new oven is the suck. The evening was rounded out with a viewing of Big Man Japan--a movie about a Japanese superhero/monster battler. It wasn't that good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

End of field season

It's not raining. It's raining. (All southeast people nod in agreement). We passed the equinox. Things be dying (or turning colors for those of you with color-turning vegetation). I went on my last field trip of the season. It was on Prince of Wales. Oh, holy heck did it rain.

This trip was not only a field trip but a "field trip" where all of the bureaucratic importants (I am not one of them) stand around and talk in torrential downpours. These are not for the faint of heart. Picture 3 days of corralling 25 people in 6 vehicles, changing in and out of waders, standing on slipper logs, talking about holistic synergy (not a joke or something I made up), and getting back in the trucks and going somewhere else. All punctuated by evening of heavy, expensive drinking at the bar. So days 2 and 3 begin hungover. Fun!

Actually, they are nerdily interesting but it's very important to dress warmly--for all the standing around and to bring lots of snacks. You could call these forays junkets just like all of us bureaucrats.

What does fall mean to all of you? I've got a winter of database management fun.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taters

When we got a few truckloads of soil from a local pack rat, they came with some hidden treasures: Potatoes! I haven't ever grown the little buggers but what the hey. They require virtually no work once planted and I like starch.

There they are! Obviously, the fingerling/yellow ones did much better than the red or purple varieties.

So far these have become: Mashed, fried in Bacon, and roasted with seasonings. Soon will be: curry.