Wednesday, April 23, 2008

tell me it's not so....

Pussy Willows. Skunk Cabbage. Denticulata (primrose). Chives. Red knobby heads of the Rhubarb. More daylight. Dick. Spring King. These are signs of spring in Juneau.

Did I say "spring"? Could it be? Spring? Yea!!!! Yes, I do believe spring has finally sprung in Juneau. It's been sunny AND warm the last few days. So much that I have a tan! Yes! Hard to believe, I know. But I'm back working part-time at the nursery (plant nursery) and it doesn't hurt that I get to be outside all day. This is my therapy.
When I'm not working, we're babysitting my precious little grandbaby, Hunter. He's just so cute, all you want to do is look at him. We started babysitting last week and so far, so good. We've got a nice little routine down, one that works for all of us, and we've only had one temper tantrum.... so far.... Today we're going outside to do yard work. The snow is gone and we're able to rake and do spring clean up. This is the best part of spring. Getting the yard back in shape after a long winter of snow and ice and debris that's been blown around.

Our friend, Dick, arrived last weekend. He comes every year to fish for King Salmon. He stands on the rocky shore of North Douglas, casting his line at the first crack of dawn. Waiting.... Hoping the seals won't return to take their share of the catch.... Dick arrived at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and by 8:45 a.m. on Sunday he had his first King Salmon of the season. Fish on! That's all he needs to say when he calls and we know to have the barbecue ready. I wish I could describe just how good this first King Salmon of the year is. We look forward to it for months. Our mouths watering. The fish is processed within minutes of being caught and slapped on the grill before you can blink. The key to a fabulous dinner is hot coals and Old Hickory Smoked Salt. Mike has this process down to perfection. The heat of the coals. Only minutes on the grill. Cooked just until the fish is no longer raw. The oils still oozing out of it. The best fish ever.

Yes, spring has sprung!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

life's just not fair

Yahoo! We've had several dry days. No rain. No snow. Just sunshine! I was going to report about our last snow fall, but it was just too depressing so I let it slide. But we woke up to about 8.75 inches of snow the other morning (I stuck a ruler in it to measure!) and got a couple more inches throughout the day. Wet, heavy snow. If I hadn't mentioned how depressed I was the prior day, I would have over this. But the good news is, it's melting! And very quickly! I bet by the end of today, our back yard will be a snow-free zone and our front yard close behind. Besides record snow for this time of year, our temperatures (low 20's) have also been record breaking every day.

Now it's on to gardening. Welcome to our lives: either snow/winter or gardening. But one thing I learned these past few days is Pansies will survive any weather. Our local nursery received their first shipment of the year and I asked my sweetie to get half a dozen to pretty up the back yard for Tracy's shower. But I never got them planted and I've managed to forget about them. But every morning we wake up to 20 degree weather and these poor little guys are hunched over in their pots, heads drooping, wondering what they ever did to deserve such treatment. By the end of the day, they're bright eyed and bushy tailed and you wouldn't have known they just froze. Their pots are frozen solid. They've been covered with a foot of snow. Yet, they still smile. What a happy little flower they are! So for any first time gardeners who live in the cold country--go buy pansies! You just can't abuse them enough.

We've had an interesting week. Besides the weather, we had a huge avalanche just out of town. Juneau has its own hydroelectric power station; we generate our own electricity. This avalanche took miles of transmission lines down. It'll be months before they get it fixed. And if that isn't bad enough, we are now drawing electricity from the diesel generator backup system.... It's predicted that our electric bill will go up, at a minimum, of 500% over the next few months. 500 percent! So if that turns true, we can expect an electric bill of about $740 next month. And the month after that. And the month after that. And maybe even the month after that. They can't even start fixing the problem because of the danger of more avalanche and are estimating work will commence in about a month's time. But they're predicting a three or four month situation.

So what are we doing about it? Plenty! The experts are suggesting that we return to the urban/camping life style for the next few months to lower our electrical usage. Here's what we've done:

  1. We've replaced most our regular light bulbs with fluorescent. Yes, they don't give off the brightness, but.... it's a small sacrifice to save some money. We haven't found flood lights that are inset in the ceiling yet.... so the kitchen lights are only used as absolutely necessary.

  2. We unplugged every thing that has a light or a clock and will plug it back in when we need it. I hardly use my printer, so out came the plug. The coffee pot has a clock on it. As soon as the coffee has brewed, we transfer it to a thermos and unplug it between daily uses. Spare bedrooms have been stripped of any thing using power--spare tv, vcr, lights, clock radios. I need to buy a wind up alarm clock yet so I can unplug my alarm clock. We are leaving the main tv/dvd player plugged in, for now.... Otherwise, we've unplugged most things. Even the hot tub. It's now a swimming pool! Unheated!

  3. In the garage we unplugged all tools being recharged. The spare refrigerator was unplugged. It's still cold enough that the pop and beer will stay cold in the garage. We cleaned out the upright freezer, allowing room for the kids to bring over their freezer items if they want and then unplug their freezer.

  4. At night, we go to sleep in the dark. No night light. No outside light to brighten the porch and yard from thieves who want to steal our oil.

  5. We plan on doing more cooking on the outside grill.

  6. We're going to install a clothes line outside. Never mind we don't have the warm sunshine you might need, but on those rare days when it is sunny, I'll do any laundry we have and hang it out to dry. I'm also going to search on-line for a portable/folding clothes rack to put in the garage where laundry can also hang to dry.

  7. We sit in the dark pretty much at night, watching tv or reading. Keeping one light on only. Course we've never lived with all the lights on but at least now we feel like it's making a difference.

We're also taking shorter (and fewer) showers (less hair drying); using our bath towels more times between washing; letting the dishes air dry; washing clothes in cold water; use more cold or warm water rather than hot water; lower our thermostat; and use the crockpot more.

So that's just a little of what we're doing to conserve energy right now and for the next three or four months. It's scary! Our oil bill has never been higher. The economy is going all to pot. We're on a fixed income, being retired, yet the cost of living in this small town is increasing by leaps and bounds. And now this. To take this one step further, to prepare ourselves for a huge electric bill, we have to cut back in other areas besides our watt usage so we have the money to pay this additional cost. We went to Costco yesterday and instead of buying the big bag of Starbucks French Roast, we bought a different roast that cost about $10 less....

No, life is not fair! I live and love for a good cup of coffee in the morning! But we're doing what we have to do. We're cutting back wherever we can. We have to. We look at every single thing we pick up to buy and ask ourselves if it's necessary right now. Can we take Sadie for a simple ride around the block rather than a ten mile ride in order to conserve on gas? Can we eat more casseroles and one dish meals rather than all the fresh fruit and vegetables we normally do? Not only, yes, but we must. This is trying times right now. It's the worst of times and we must consider all aspects of our lives right now and its affect on our watt usage and the pending 500 percent increase. See today's article on what the city is trying to do.

City officials are trying to get federal relief for us, so it could turn out we won't have to pay much but I'm not going to sit back and expect that to happen. We all need to do our share right now. Walking into Home Depot, we noticed that a third of their over head lights were turned off. It was pretty dark. But they're doing what they have to do. Same with Fred Meyers. This disaster doesn't just involve us, in our safe little homes. It involves every business in Juneau. Every store. Every hotel. Every one. And every business in Juneau will have to pass this 500% increase on to their customers, their clients, their tourists. We not only have our own home to worry about, but higher prices at the grocery store, at the department store, every where.

So whether it's our pretty little pansy on the back porch, struggling to stay alive in winter conditions, or us, trying to stay afloat under the most extreme financial conditions.... it's all relative. We're all in this together. We all depend on each other. Yes, we could not do anything about this problem. We could go on with business as usual, living life as we know it, and our electric bill will show a 500% increase. If we do all we can to cut back and prepare ourselves for this increase, it might turn out our increase will only be 300%. And if it turns out the federal government comes in and bails us out.... then we've just put ourselves in that much better of a situation where our bill may actually be much less than normal. So for the next three months, this is what we're doing. It's actually an interesting time of our lives. An experiment. Going back in time. Learning to do with less. Or maybe it's just our future....

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the past, the present, the future

This is how I'm feeling.... wilted... defeated... droopy.... sad....

Yesterday was such a dreary day. The weather in Juneau can really get to people. It's called cabin fever. The long winters. The darkness. The rain. It doesn't normally bother me but this year I'm feelin it. Every single time I looked out the window yesterday, it was snowing. It wasn't sticking, but it was snowing. Big, wet flakes. Then in the later afternoon, it turned to big rain. All day it snowed and rained. It was a cold, damp day. And I'm tired of it....

Today is a typical day in Juneau. More drizzle.

Tomorrow.... More rain. The National Weather Service calls for more of the same for the next week. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.... rain.... But there is a silver lining for Monday: "sunny with a high of 44." Subject to change, of course....

Have a good day! Nancy

Monday, April 14, 2008


Need I say more....?

This has been the last couple days.... So I don't want to hear about your 85 degree weather!

Snow.... snow..... every day..... more snow.....

Even the ducks are tired of it. This cute couple shows up every year for a slice of bread.
This year they showed up on April 13.

Last year they made their appearance on April 26.

Since I can't work outside yet, the only thing left to do was clean out the freezer from last year's rhubarb and bake bake bake. Two strawberry/rhubarb pies and rhubarb bars.

There is sign of growth outside with the rhubarb's tiny red knobby heads sticking through the ground. It's an ugly sight; spring. But soon things will look better once I can get outside and clean up from the long winter.

Have a great day! Nancy

Thursday, April 10, 2008

the cake

I had a vision for this baby shower that included a cake that looked like something out of a magazine. I had the vision! I knew what I wanted! And when I asked my son's siginificant other if she was up to the challenge, she said she was! And she far exceeded my expectations!

Isn't this a gorgeous cake?

It's exactly what I had envisioned. You would never ever have found one in town. Michelle is not a professional baker. She just loves to bake and is so good at it. When she came running into the house, just moments before the shower started, yes, running.... with the cake in her arms...... I thought for sure she was going to trip and drop it.... I quickly took it from her with anticipation in the air. What would it look like???? I swear this cake weighed 10 pounds and was told it took 32 eggs and 16 cubes (yes CUBES, or 4 pounds) of butter. No wonder it tastes so yummy! The house was decorated beautifully, but it was the cake that added that final touch to make it perfect.

The whole dessert table turned out wonderful. The sweet sign was created by Jeanetta at Splendid Designs. And it is sweet!

All the tables had the same centerpiece. The creation of Jerusalem. Cute tower candles with lots of glitter and sparkle; darling little nests; old sheet music and a mirror for a layering look; and a tall baby food jar filled with flowers.

The table cloths were all finished with the corners gathered and tied with a bow. Jerusalem brought a vintage chenile bedspread with her from Arkansas which made a perfect covering for the dessert table. The edges were lined with little pom poms. Can you see them? Very cute.

This is where the guest of honor sat. Presents piled high around her.

And gift opening. Some adorable little boots for all our sloshy weather.

And for me this was the best present of all..... a little, pink tutu! Little Ellis is going to wear it to her first fairy tea party with Grandma!

Okay, so I could go on and on with pictures and stories, but tomorrow's another day. Not another spring day.... but another day. We're still getting snow. But the squirrels are mating so that must mean spring is close by! All our company has returned home....which is a miracle in its own what with all the flight cancellations going on.... and our lives are back to normal. Our phone rang at 6:55 AM this morning and my first thought was BABY!!!! But it was just a friend. All we can do now is sit and wait until Little Ellis decides to make an appearance.

Have a sunshiny day! Nancy

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

the food

It seems I've been planning this party for months..... well, it seems that way because I have been! I can be such a fanatic when it comes to planning events. It consumes me. But I feel justified since we live in a town that is secluded (no roads in or out) and either we subject ourselves to what's available in Juneau (which isn't much), or we buy on-line or travel down south. So I did a lot of on-line shopping for this baby shower. Or I had my personal shopper pick things up in Arkansas.

Today--the food! This is my specialty. I love to cook. I love to cook BIG! I love to have plenty on hand for family and guests to enjoy. Heaven forbid that anyone should go hungry or we ran out! For this party, I didn't want "the usual" family favorites so focused on new ideas. I think it was a perfect blend of food items, color, and presentation.

I knew I wanted some kind of sandwich and kept going back to the idea of mini cocktail croissants. Except, I couldn't find any in town.... or when I did, they turned out to be horrid little things that I wouldn't serve to the homeless. Again, Safeway to the rescue! I just happened to stop in at the bakery one day and asked if they had any and was told they would be happy to order me some. Which they did. And baked them the night before I picked them up. They were THE BEST little croissants I've ever had.

Here they are, filled with a chicken salad mixture of mayo, diced celery, chopped green grapes, and a dash of tarragon. These were better than I had imagined and I think were the hit of the party. My sister spent most of her time in the kitchen, refilling platters and plates and kept everything looking picture perfect. My mouth is salivating just looking at them! They were THAT good!

I searched through one of my tea time books and found this yummy tomato salad recipe. It was so simple with tomato wedges, lots of torn basil, mini mozzarella balls, salt and pepper with an olive oil dressing. Such a simple, but gorgeous dish.

I tried something different with my fruit this time. I typically would carve a watermelon out or make a yummy fruit salad, but found some candy apple skewers and decided on fruit kabobs with a mini watermelon base to hold them. The pasta salad was also very simple--corkscrew pasta, garbanzo beans, and roasted red peppers with an olive oil, lemon, white wine, garlic, and mint dressing. Yes, the dressing was an odd mixture of ingredients, but it really worked.

And lots of vegies and dip.

And what party would be complete without chocolate covered strawberries?

I guess I didn't quite get to the dessert table yet.... or the actual party..... Again, I'm sorry for all the pictures, but this party has consumed so much of my life these past couple months, that I just feel compelled to share!

Have a great day! Nancy

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

baby shower details

I'm just so excited to show off some of the pictures of my daughter's baby shower. But there's so many.... Hope you don't mind.... I'm trying to break them up in a couple posts.... I bet you can't tell what the sex of the baby is going to be!

This is the dining light over the table. The dining table was to be the showcase for desserts with my original thought to tie ribbons and let them flow gently down towards the desserts. Jerusalem took it one step further and tied these cute little home made nests on to them! It's really hard to tell how cute it really was.

Another sweet product from Storia Home. A home made banner that sparkles and glitters and brightens any room. This picture simply does not do it justice.

The display on the coffee table was very simple: pink tulips in a white pitcher. It laid on a pretty little piece of pink and white gingham material. Beautiful!

These were our paper plates and napkins. They're sitting inside a basket we've lined with a pink and brown tag blankie. Look at the cute little flower designs. I love them!

And, of course, we needed 20 pounds of pink and white animal crackers! Isn't this decanter gorgeous?

This corner table was also so lovely, eventually overflowing with gifts.

These precious little presents were the prizes. Tracy ended up with soooooooooooooo many guests AND presents that we decided not to play games otherwise the shower would have turned in to a sleepover! But that's okay. Everyone was having a good time visiting. We did manage to give the prizes away though.... to the first guest that arrived, to any lady wearing pink or had pink toenail polish on. We also gave gifts for the person who lived on an island and other fun criteria. Or at least, I hope it was fun! All my gifts were from "no animal testing" products (except for a couple candles).

This is the favor buffet. For guest favors we had chocolate dipped pretzels, decorated sugar cookies, and home made truffles that Tanya's mom made. Oh, so yummy! Luckily we had a few left over :)

I think that's all I'm going to share today. Tomorrow..... the piece de resistance--the cake.... The food..... The party!

Monday, April 7, 2008

busy bees

Yes, we've been busy here in Juneau. My sister arrived a week ago. My daughter's best friends came to town for her baby shower. We had a baby shower and a family gathering. It's been busy! Here's the week in pictures.

Preparations for the baby shower were many. It's all about the details with me.... much to the chagrin of others, especially when it involves them! Here we are dipping pretzel rods in chocolate. Okay, now let me say, it's not as easy as you would think! I found plenty of "how to" recipes on-line and not one of them mentioned that this was not a job for two senior ladies. Not one recipe mentioned that your kitchen would be covered with chocolate--the microwave, the cupboard doors, the refrigerator handle, inside the freezer..... Or that you would have chocolate all over you.... I don't know exactly what we were doing wrong.... but whatever we were doing was not right. Seriously, it took us hours and hours to try to get a couple dozen pretzels dipped in chocolate. We couldn't get the chocolate melted to a thin enough consistency. The white chocolate wouldn't melt at all. Serious. This was the worst of times. I could fill this entire blog today with just the trials and tribulations of dipping pretzel rods, but I'll save you. Despite all the problems we had, they did turn out lovely looking. We rolled them in nuts and sprinkles and tucked them inside a cellophane bag, tied with a little pink ribbon. Too cute. These were favors for the guests.

Here we are decorating sugar cookies.

Jerusalem arrived on Wednesday and the crafting and glittering began! She's too cute. This is Tracy's bestest friend from Arkansas.

"Sweet Baby Girl" banner. Way too cute! Way cuter in person! And the darling little nests....

Safeway saved the day for us. A new shipment of flowers arrived on Wednesday and they were gracious enough to store the flowers in their refrigerator unit until Friday evening. Isn't this a beautiful combination of colors?

At the time we bought them, it didn't seem like so many.... but once we brought them home, it seemed like we would never use all of them! But we got creative, like with this cute cup and saucer idea I found at The ParTea Planner web site.
And we decorated the front porch and the back deck with flowers.

It was a great day and we had so much fun planning and decorating. The amazing part of this whole event was that it wasn't just my shower. Tracy's best friends wanted to help and they did! We had four ladies from four different states with different decorating ideas and yet we pulled it off. It was a beautiful setting for a beautiful day. I'll share more pictures tomorrow!

Have a great day! Nancy