Tuesday, October 31, 2017


So....what is an Alaskan Fall like? This week it was foggy, frosty and snowy.  It was sort of fun to have this sort of fog on Halloween. LOL  The view from the living room was surreal. 

The fog doesn't bother Bella (18 m). She's recently taken to changing her baby's diaper. 

As for Halloween? I bought a huge bag of candy. We had three groups. That's IT. One of the groups was Cory and Arielle - snuck out their door and came around and rang our bell.

The fog lasted four or five days.  I have no idea if this is normal for the area. We'll find out.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday Visits

Poor Bella is a bit under the weather 

Josiah came out for a visit with us and Beth.

We enjoyed lazing around, eating and visiting.....Jared and Larissa came out in the evening and brought Roscoe. What a cute puppy!!!! His bread is trained to fight bears - he'll make a great hiking partner for Rissa next spring.
I was sure there would be snow on the ground for Halloween. I remember that always being the case when we were assigned up here....but no snow is in the forecast for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Beth is Here!

 This Sunday (a week ago) was unlike any other. The kids stayed home and Michael and I headed in to the Anchorage airport.  I have two sister friends from college, Beth and Julie. Beth's sweet mama joined Jesus in heaven earlier this month. I longed to see her and hug her neck. Her sweet daughter works for an airline and encouraged her to use the benefits and come see us. So Beth flew in Sunday and left Tuesday. It was a quick visit - but a great visit. It is always refreshing to touch base with Beth.  As it turned out we got bad news on Monday and it was priceless to have Beth on the ground as we sorted it all out.

But FIRST - we picked Beth up. Jared had texted and suggested we meet up. We met up with him, Larissa and Jamin in Eagle River and grabbed a quick bite and some visiting time.

Beth and I spent the rest of the morning afternoon catching up....and prepping for the family dinner.

Tonight we had a potato bar and an earthquake cake. Sounds simple... except I have a hard time doing simple. I tell myself to keep it simple.....Bre said these were the best potatoes ever. Beth and I rock.
Baby S is joining us soon....
 We had teriyaki chicken, beef and broccoli, fajita steak, pulled bbq pork,  onions, peppers and mushrooms, bacon and all the traditional toppings....and Izaak brought steak and mushrooms! YUM - it was good. It was NOT the easy dinner option I envisioned.

Our little warrior 

Jamin led our devotional tonight as we work our way through Philemon

The joy of having family near was enhanced by the joy having Beth join us too. My cup is full!

Earthquake Cake

While I've seen recipes for Earthquake Cakes all over, I found this one at South Your Mouth. You'll want to visit for photos and a traditional and haters recipe as well.  I made this for dinner tonight using a yellow cake mix and a few chocolate chips on top. I've also done with spice cake and no chips on top. 

Chocolate Works - recipe below
1 cup chopped pecans 
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 box chocolate cake mix
Eggs, oil and water for cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray. 

Scatter pecans and coconut evenly into pan.

 Prepare cake batter per box's directions and pour over pecans and coconut.

Combine melted butter and cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl,  beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat on low until smooth and creamy.

Dollop heaping tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture evenly onto cake batter. 

Sprinkle cake with chocolate chips. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until set. (Mine take longer)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sensational Saturday

I was up very early with my hands...ice, heat, naproxen....I was content to sit in the recliner...until Arielle came up the stairs with the announcement that there were THREE moose in the yard and one was a BULL.  That brings October's count to 11 in our yard.  I tried to get photos, but they were around by the brush pile by the RV. I thought I could go out and get a shot  as I always have....but the bulls are skittish. It took off when it saw me....and the females (are they called cows?) followed. They kept trying to come back, as they have before, but he wouldn't let them. Arielle got a couple of shots. She had snap chatted them to Cory (I guess - I don't know how this works) and he took screen shots and sent them back.  

Izaak got called in to work and came home with a yummy pizza. My pizza dough is still not working well - even though I activated the yeast first. I'm going to try sometime this week with grinding wheat - that's the only other difference. I used to be able to make bread in Alaska. ::snort:: 

Michael vacuumed the back of the fridge and cleaned out behind there before we got everything back into it. Now we keep our fingers crossed that the parts arrive before anything else goes on with the fridge. 

Michael found Stacia's sling....and just like that I'm a sling-wearing-Gemma....

 It was a treat to see Bella and Gideon today. I haven't seen them all week. That is sort of ridiculous as we live a mere driveway apart. LOL Our schedules haven't meshed. 

Stacia finished her Llama Pajamas - and they are great! Unfortunately, the photo I took of her wearing them has disappeared from the phone.

We learned why Ms. Sarah says to remove the pins before you sew over them.  Now we know how to fish twisted pins from the underside AND how to install a new needle. LOL 

There was a magic time this afternoon when life was perfect. Arielle came up and the kids were playing games.

They moved to the kitchen. I love to have people in the kitchen when I'm cooking. Christmas music played, a fire blazed in the woodstove, and I was inspired to create an instant pot 3 "cheese" broccoli chicken garlic pasta.

 All are settled into the living room reading - I'm going to go join them. Maybe they'll want to read a couple of chapters of Narnia.

Vegetarian Lentil Tortilla Soup (InstantPot + Slow Cooker)

I think this was the better of the Tortilla soups. It was FANTASTIC. I found it at Peas and Crayons. 

prep: 10 mins | cook: 15 mins | inactive: 25 mins | total: 50 mins
author: jenn laughlin - peas and crayons
yield: 6 cups
I topped with cilantro, avocado, nutritional yeast, tomatoes....

1 cup diced onion
1 tsp avocado oil or olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2.5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 can (14-15 oz) tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, extra to taste
1/2 cup salsa verde (or your favorite salsa!)
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained + rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pinto  beans, drained + rinsed
1 cup corn (fresh, canned, or frozen)
3/4 cup dried red lentils
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream* (optional - see notes)
salt and pepper to taste

For a thicker soup, feel free to add some corn tortillas (torn into pieces) to the soup or simply swirl crushed tortilla chips into the soup after serving!

Pile on the toppings! crushed tortilla chips - my favorite! shredded cheddar  or mex-blend cheese sliced or diced jalapeños chopped red onion fresh pico de gallo or salsa sliced avocado fresh cilantro sour cream or greek yogurt

Below are the electric pressure cooker and slow cooker instructions.

1. Chop your veggies and measure out the ingredients.
2. Next add everything but the heavy cream your toppings.

3. This includes bell pepper, jalapeño, corn, lentils, black beans, pinto beans, broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salsa verde, and all your herbs + spices. Toss them in and set IP to high pressure for 15 minutes. Walk away; FREEDOM!

4. Allow natural pressure release.

5. Stir in the cream, add all your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

1. First chop your veggies and measure out the ingredients. This will make everything super easy to toss together!

2. Next add everything except the heavy cream and toppings.

3. Cook on high for 5-6 hours, until dried lentils are cooked through and veggies are tender.

4. Swirl in the cream, add all your favorite toppings, and dive in!

Notes * In place of the heavy cream, feel free to use half-and-half or cream cheese. Skipping the cream? No problem! This recipe can be made without it - let your tastebuds be your guide.

Feel free to adjust the consistency of the soup to your liking. The soup can be thinned with a little broth or tomato sauce if desired or thickened with extra cream or beans/veggies! If you add a lot of extra liquid, consider amping up the spices a smidge to compensate. You can also make this as mild or as spicy as you'd like. As written it's on the medium side. The type of salsa used, jalapeños, and cayenne pepper will control the heat factor.

Want it super chunky? Feel free to add extra beans and veggies! Simply amp up the seasoning as needed depending on how much extra goodies you add to the pot.

A NOTE ON SALT AND PEPPER :: I leave salting the dish to the end to prevent over-seasoning. Depending on the brand and type of broth, tomatoes, and beans that you use, the sodium content will vary. I usually don't add any salt until the end once I am able to taste the soup.

Pressure cooker recipes always leave out the details so here's a breakdown of what you can expect time-wise: About 13 minutes to come to pressure plus 15 minutes cook time and 15 or so to release pressure. You won't need to be anywhere near your kitchen for this all to partake, the Instant Pot will handle it all and switch to warm once it's done. So fabulous right? For the slow cooker, simply set a timer and you're good to go.

Renee's Tortilla Soup (Slow or IP)

Last Sunday's Family  Dinner showcased two soups - this one and a Vegetarian one.  I had a note on this one that Michael and Jared thought it was worth repeating - so I did. I made it in the Instant Pot - directions below. 

1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
*1 14 oz can beef broth
*2 cups water
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 c chopped onion (1 med)
1 r-oz can chopped green Chile peppers, undrained
1 tsp + cumin
1 tsp + chili powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1.5 lb cooked chicken
*8 Corn tortillas, torn into 1 - 2 inch pieces
3/4 C shredded cheese
Jalapeno peppers (opt)
black beans (opt)
1/2 - 1 C corn (frozen or fresh) opt

Combine tomatoes, broth, water, tomato sauce, onion, Chile peppers, spices and Worcestershire sauce in crock pot.

Cover and cook on low for 8 - 10 hours or high for 4 - 5 hours.

*If using low setting, turn high. Stir in chicken. Cover and cook for 15 min more. Stir in tortillas and serve immediately. Garnish with cheese.

* I always use 32 oz of broth instead of water
*Chips can be used at table in place of Corn Tortillas
* I added chicken in the a.m. and it was just fine.

Instant Pot directions
1. Put everything in the instant pot.

2. We guessed and put 4 or 5 frozen chicken breasts in too.

3. Seal, click manual and then 25 min. 

4. Open pot and shred chicken. 

5. Can eat now or put on slow cooker or keep warm until you are ready

Sour Cream
Chips or corn tortillas

Friday, October 27, 2017

#WYFF - Busy Feet

The end of a school week. We've given it our all. 
Yuuki's feet are "busy" with school 
 I wrote about how our fridge started making LOUD noises on Saturday. Today, the repair company was sending someone out. He heard it on Monday when he was fixing our stove....but couldn't work on it as there was no work order from the warranty company yet. They all said it was a simple matter of replacing an "evaporator fan."  All week we've dealt with crazy noise. About 30 min before Steve was due, all went quiet and the fridge had a new code.

You guessed it - now it needs many more things repaired. They don't keep the part in stock. It will be "a week -2 years" before the parts arrive....I wasn't very amused and so he said it will be 7-10 days.  

We unplugged it and moved it out. The idea is it will drain all the ice and such that has frozen around it as the fan went out....and then it should run again until they get here to fix it in a couple of weeks. 
Busy Feet repairing Fridge

 Arielle is 36 1/2 weeks pregnant. I suggested she take someone with her when she walks...just in case she were to lose her balance on the hill or something. It's fun to watch her and Nolan head out.
Busy with a fall walk

Stacia and I ran the to bank, the post office and the library. The library was closed.

 We managed to get our pizza's in the oven, our food stored in the garage, deck and CoRielle's fridge....watched a gorgeous sunset....

We ended the day crowded around our bed, streaming a Marvel movie. I suspect Saturday will get a lazy start. It's been a full and challenging week.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Slow Days are Made for Projects

The weather warmed up to 40* today. It's windy - but it's nice enough to finish a couple of outside projects after school. 

Michal and the boys cleaned up all the chips, bark and debris from the summer of splitting wood. 

When the road crew cleaned up the brush in front, they left the corner. Alex took care of that today.

Michael put time in sanding the workbench he is making.

Stacia baked blondies.

I took pictures? I can't remember what else I did. Wednesday is such a rush-rush-rush day, that we seemed to all move at the pace of molasses today. LOL

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We Crushed It!

When did Wednesdays become so FRANTIC?  I need to remember they were busy at Beale too...PWOC and then a bit of school, followed by Bible Study/Youth Group. LOL

I felt hopeful this morning. By 0830 the kids had enjoyed a sit down breakfast, two instant pots were going - one with a roast (for BBQ sandwiches @ dinner) and one with yogurt, the fridge had been cleaned out, an appointment made for it to be fixed on Friday, I had two nice conversations with out of state friends,  and the kids were doing school.
Note this photo was taken at 0900 and it's just lighting up outside 

 At 1000 the kids begin Japanese lessons. 2 1/2 hours later they are finished and Stacia and I head across town for sewing club. It takes about 25-30 minutes to get there.

The elastic is in! 
Home Ec 

We have one more week of club. That sure went fast! I could have sworn we had a few more weeks left.  The leader won't be doing another sewing club - BUT she is getting a business license and will be doing private classes and lessons. I think we'll continue as it's something Stacia really wants to learn and I'm learning alongside her. In other words, I can't teach her these skills at all. LOL

Stacia and I were able to steam some broccoli, bake some fries, make some BBQ sauce, shred the beef and make sandwiches all by 5:00 p.m.

We were out the door for Life Group (Michael and I) and Youth Group (kids) by 6:15 p.m.  I was careful to note the ten names of those in the group.  We visited a bit with Pastor and a few others while we waited for the kids. It was invigorating to meet some new folks and start to sense the glimmerings of community at a new church body.

Wednesdays are doable with a bit of planning.....we can do it.

Best of all - it's the time of year when we can turn on our lights at night and in the morning. I know this as neighbors have theirs on.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Serene and The Clamorous

It has been a new experience for us to watch leaves falling with the snow.....I tried to get a photo.

The appliance repairman came out and we finally have four burners and an oven that works!!!!! It only took five weeks and four visits. I feel like Steve, the repairman, is our first friend in the Valley. ::snort:: 

All is not quiet and serene at our home. This has been going on since Saturday....yes, we've called the home warranty....and it turns out the same company will be fixing our fridge....ON FRIDAY.

Green Beans with Garlic and Almonds (Laura M)

This is my friend Laura's recipe as found on Life at Willis Creek Ranch blog. They were yummy!

1 T Olive Oil
5 or 6 cloves of Garlic, minced
1/3 C sliced Almonds
1 pound fresh green beans
salt, pepper and onion powder (optional)

Heave the oil, add garlic.
 Add almonds when garlic is about 1/2 way browned.  Allow to brown well.
Add green beans.
Add seasonings.
Cover and cook on med to med high  - stirring periodically. It takes 8 - 10 min.
Add a dollop of butter for flavor as needed.

My Notes: 
I added sliced mushrooms to the garlic and proceeded to saute. 

I had trouble with sticking and added about 1/4 C of water to steam them through - "crisply steamed." 

I used our house seasoning in place of seasonings....

These were yummy - Stacia commented a bit of soy sauce would add a zing to them. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Snowy Sunday - Church, Bazaar, Family Dinner, Family Devo/Prayer

Our house has beautiful windows - everywhere. This fact led a few decorating woes...but WOW....it paid off this morning. Look at the views...and I deleted the ones from the nook as they looked blueish. I love all the windows - they make it seem as if you are very close to nature - from the warmth of the house. ::snort::  Even Michael has agreed curtains would block the views - and so we continue - as the previous two owners were - curtain less. We have blinds in the bedrooms and they had some on a few of the living room windows - I think due to their TV. 

Living Room Windows

Kitchen Window

Dining Room Windows
1.5 inches over night....not a lot but a respectable start 

There is nothing as exciting, peaceful and serene as an early morning covered in snow....or a late evening's  snowfall.  Here are some shots from the yard.
Side yard

back yard

Looking towards the back woods 

Guessing we won't be cooking out much longer
Along the road 
I deliberately did NOT take photos of the RV....but it seems my flash was noticed.....Izaak wondered what sort of odd lightening storm they were getting. Ah, just the mother in law outside in slippers and pj's taking photos.

"Our" mountain finally has some snow on it's face....we suspect it will never be completely covered in snow because of it's sheer face. It will be fun to watch and see. 

Snow covered range behind just starting to peek through

A funny thing happened at church. My parents were being honored for 50 years of ministry at their church. My sweet Sister in law, Sherri, texted some photos. I always turn my phone down. I have a really loud, long harmonica text notification sound as I kept ignoring texts. She sent about 7 photos. I was nonchalantly moving my foot to cover the purse where the phone was....as it repeatedly went off. Michael was having none of it. He leaned over and said, "De'Etta - that's YOUR phone."  We were in one of the front rows. Good times. I'll share the photos in a new post.
Very thankful for my fur line Crocs
 Our church fauxpas couldn't have been too terrible. We were asked for info for the church directory and they took our photo. I think our church hunt is pretty much over. It was HARD to find a church which felt like home to all of us - but in the end, the majority of us feel at home in this church and all of us find things we love here.  We love the worship, the size, the community outreach, Pastor Shannon's sermons, the kids like the youth group....there is no women's ministry.

We met up back at the house after church (everyone goes to different churches). After I got soups going, we left Michael and the boys cleaning and we finally stole away for a GIRLS DAY OUT. I've been sorely missing outing with friends, coffee dates with friends, having people over to the house....and so has Bre. We hit a holiday bazaar at the Fairgrounds. Alaska has to have the prettiest state fairgrounds in the nation. ::wink:: Note Stacia and  my thrift finds - we look like marshmallows - but we're WARM marshmallows.
Gideon, Bre, Me, Stacia
As we walked through the exhibit, someone called out, "Hey, Bre."  WHUT? We know someone! And that's why we love living on base or in a small town.  It was her MOPS leader.

Larissa was sick and didn't come out. The youth at their church were on a camping trip (hope it was in cabins with heat) and so Jared was able to join us for dinner. Jamin, CoRielle and BreZaak were here too. Josiah is putting in lots of hours as he works up to leaving Walmart for his new job.  It is always nice to have a chance to get us all together. We're all busy during the week and can go days and weeks without seeing each other if we aren't intentional  - which is certainly better than months - but you know.

Gideon is a charmer @ 5 months

Bre "brought the Word" this evening. We continue to work through Philemon. The takeaway - "Let love speak loudest." It is a good seed to let germinate this week.
Izaak, Bella, Bre, Gideon 
Arielle is 36 weeks pregnant. She says she's had a long talk with Baby S and he's agreed to come on time. Gideon decided to come five weeks early....we will soon welcome our first Alaskan born Gherkin here in the valley - and life will change again. YeHaw!

Krista let us know this week she will be home after Christmas. 
This is a great perk on snowy days - an even 70*