Monday, September 29, 2008

Chocolate Monster

I love chocolate, and in Switzerland, did eat quite a bit of it. On average during some weeks may be a bar of chocolate a day, on some other weeks somewhat less. Not the two bars of chocolate that Martin claims.

I guess some of that chocolate taste went through the breast milk to Emilie. Emilie loves chocolate too. She knows in which drawer it is here in our house. If she sees me open that drawer, or hears it getting open, she goes to me and makes sure that I know she wants some too. (Unlike Sonja, who says she does not like chocolate.) She even stopped crying today (after I forget what happened) when I told her to come and get some chocolate.

After coming back from Switzerland, I decided to do a taste test of some of the darker chocolates. I tried the Hersheys Cacao Reserve, Ghirardelli Intense Dark, and several Lindt Excellence chocolates. I learned that I am dark-chocolate, but not intense-dark-chocolate type person. So I liked generally the 60-something percent chocolates. The higher percentages were just too dark for my taste buds right now. The Hersheys bar was too sweet. By far, my all time favorite of the ones I tried was the Lindt Madagascar. The Lindt Madagascar was mmmm mmmm gooood. Too bad that Fred Meyer's ran out of it when I checked last time. I may also have to try the Lindt Peru, which I noticed on their web site. The Lindt Ecuador was too dark for me.

Overall, the chocolate situation is definitely not as good as in Switzerland, but it is not bad.

Ouch! I just saw on the Lindt website that the Lindt Madagascar is $3.99/bar. I will have to wait for another 2/$5 sale at Fred's!

Playing in first snow (movie)

Yesterday morning Martin, Sonja and Saphira went to play in the snow that had fallen overnight (and stuck around, unlike Martin's predictions). The movie is about a minute long. Good thing the last Farmer's Market of the season was the day before, at least it still felt like fall and not winter.

At lunchtime, Martin picked up Tolly from the airport. And in the evening we had a gathering, for Tolly. A lot of people managed to get here despite the slick conditions. Dorte was laughing that the parking pullouts further up the road (for those that did not dare to go down the steep part of our road followed by the steep uphill of our driveway) were chock full of subarus. It is a favorite car around here. The food was excellent, even if some of it disappeared off the grill before it made it indoors (Martin and Chris, those shrimp were good, weren't they?? :) Just kidding, by that time, most people were already stuffed.). The company was excellent too, and we got to see several more people that we didn't meet yet in the month we've been back. And, as far as I know, no car in the ditch? Or at least if there were any cars, they managed to get out by themselves without coming back to the house for help.

Hot women and hot chocolate

From the collection of hot chocolates in our house (some form us, some from our housesitters), look at these cuties:

I will try to pay attention in the grocery stores in the future, if I see a box of hot chocolate that depicts a man somewhere, be it grandpa, or a hot dude...

Saturday, September 27, 2008


This morning we saw a few flakes on the ground here and there, nothing much. I did some final raking of leaves to throw over bulbs I planted (hoping that they will flower in the spring, we have to see about that) in order to insulate them better. Just in time. Somewhere between 9:30pm and 11pm tonight, the ground went from being mainly dark to being mainly white:

Who knows whether the snow will stick, but today might have been the last day to do fall type things around the house. Time to do winter type things...?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Raspberry monster

We had still gone on Sunday to get some raspberries at the Pearl Creek Farm off Ballaine Road. Martin made a dessert for us that evening of raspberries with sugar and ice cream, really excellent. But since then, the leftovers have sat in the fridge, since I never remembered them when we wanted fruit (plenty of fruits on our counters), or even after the kids had gone to bed. Until today. I thought I would take some for me, and the rest make into a small batch of raspberry-cranberry jam, as we also had some cranberries sitting on the counter. No sooner is the small portion of raspberries for eating in the bowl than I hear over the baby phone "wahh wahhh waaaaahhhh". The little one woke up. Just in time for raspberries. I had to share that small bowl of raspberries with her. There was no way around it. Raspberry monster. I am just glad Sonja did not wake up too :)

After five minutes of boiling, I turned the rasp-cran jam off. We will finish the jam tomorrow. Preliminary taste test shows it is a good choice, as people said it is.

And may be tomorrow we might still find a couple raspberries that did not get knocked down by the several freezing nights we've had. To satisfy all the raspberry monsters around.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Equinox is here - equal day and night. Now it's just downhill from here on. I hope that we will get enough snow to enjoy the winter. It sounds like the last winter (and summer) were both pretty bad.

Happy Equinox, everyone, owls and woodpeckers and dogs in the neighborhood too!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Our time back in Fairbanks is delineated by Fridays.

Three weeks ago Friday we arrived, one day later than scheduled.

Two weeks ago Friday, Sonja was crying in daycare during naptime, and I went to pick her up after the teacher said she just couldn't comfort her. (Sonja was actually asleep by the time I arrived.)

One week ago I got a phone call again from the daycare, saying that Sonja was crying that her mouth was hurting, and that they discovered a new tooth was making its way out. I went to get some pain medicine and stopped by the daycare and gave some to Sonja, and she was fine for the rest of the day.

And this past Friday, I got a phone call again. This time it was that she was scratching her head, and they discovered she has some nits. As in, head lice / nits. So Home she came with me, after the teacher showed me how they looked. I did have lice in first grade, but obviously didn't get to see them on my own head back then. We will see how long it takes us to get rid of this problem. We did the shampoo thing, followed by careful combing with the lice (very fine toothed) brush, and changed all the sheets and bedding... now are in the process of washing everything.

I wonder what next Friday will bring. Actually, I know - it will bring Martin, who's heading out towards the mid-country early Monday Morning.

In the meanwhile, hope that everyone has a happy Sunday! We will head to Lulu's again, for our weekly weekend breakfast there.

As a PS, we did watch some of the finishers of the Equinox Marathon today, congratulations to all participants. Sonja did her own version of the marathon today, when she walked with Martin and Saphira from our house to the finish line all by herself except for perhaps two minutes when Martin apparently carried her. It took them two hours to do. Way to go, Sonja! That was the longest you have walked! Yay! About 3 miles / 5 km. Cool!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Various recipes

Some recipes we followed in the last week or so...

Raspberry Liquor
Excellent to pour over ice cream in the middle of winter, this is something that we make every year, and hope that we make enough to last until the next year's batch is finished. Right now the raspberries are luckily still going pretty strong at the Ballaine hill farm (or rather, Pearl Creek farm), so may be I will make more batches than just the first one of the season that I am making right now. From the great book The Harvest Pantry by Barbara Beckett, which also has a recipe for Gravlaks (salt-cured salmon) that we enjoy, as well as many other recipes.
1 lb raspberries
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
4 c flavorless vodka
Boil the sugar and water together for five minutes, let cool. (I am waiting for it to cool...) Crush the raspberries and put into a large jar, then pour the sugar solution over them, as well as the vodka. Wait for two looooooong months (at least two, but obviously this liquor keeps), then strain. (I never strain it, I like the meat of the raspberries too over the ice cream, which is pretty much the only way we eat/drink this raspberry liquor.) Apparently strawberry liquor can be made exactly the same way.

Slow-cooked beef with juniper berries
This is a really great recipe for taking a low-cost cut of meat and making it into an excellent dish. We collect juniper berries for this sole purpose. The book it comes from is Every Night Italian, by Giuliano Hazan. We like this book too, though one major gripe is that it has nowhere a list of the dishes that are actually in the book - in the back, there is an alphabetical index, but to check the veggie recipes in this book, you pretty much have to flip page by page to see what's there. But, there are multiple recipes we use from this book, so the above point is my main gripe. This recipe takes some time (2 hrs), but requires almost nothing to be actually done during that time.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 c yellow onions (I use at least double the amount)
2 lbs beef chuck
1 tsp juniper berries
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
Put the olive oil into a pot, together with the onions, put the meat on top, then add lightly crushed juniper berries and the vinegar and salt and pepper. Wrap the lid with a wet cloth towel. Bring to a boil, then once you hear the contents bubbling, adjust to a very low simmer. Simmer until the meat is extremely tender, about two hours. If all liquid evaporates, add more liquid. We serve this with rice, and it is really excellent.

Simple / Classic Potato Salad
The czech way of making potato salad involves a treasure trove of other ingredients - ideally some ham, cooked eggs, chopped pickles, cooked peas and carrots, onions, mustard, all sorts of things. The other day I was looking for a simpler salad as we did not have all of these ingredients on hand, and came across this NYTimes recipe. It was nice and simple and tasty. And with fewer ingredients, it takes less time to chop things up, which is a definite plus these days. I will definitely be making this classic potato salad again. Here is the link to the article that has the recipe, called Potato Salad Always Welcome, Indoors and Out.
3 pounds potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.
Boil potatoes, add gently solid ingredients, then fold in the mayo and mustard, and season to taste.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Home made bread

Friday a week ago, when we first got to town, we hit Lulu's bread and bagels for a lunch. It was their last day in the old location, and over the long weekend they had moved to a new location across the road. We plan on going there to eat breakfast each weekend we're in town, like before, as well as bread. But due to their closure over the long weekend, we ran out of bread. I used the opportunity to try the bread recipe for the no-knead beautiful-crust bread published by NYTimes' The Minimalist. It came out great. Good bread, though I will have figure out better recipe than half-white half-whole wheat that I used. May be include sunflower seeds like the Hearthside bakery used to do. Overall, the bread came out excellent. Minimum work required, best crust I have ever managed at home. The original recipe is described in this article, the recipe itself is here, and a video showing how it's done is here.

In short: make a regular bread dough with 3 cups of flour, using perhaps half the yeast you would normally, and increasing the water to make for a dough that is more liquidy than normal. Let it rise for half a day or a day, then fold it on itself and let it rise a couple more hours. Preheat oven, with a lidded dutch oven inside it, to 500 degrees. When the dutch oven is hot, slide the bread dough into it, close the lid, bake for half an hour, then uncover the lid and bake 15 minutes more.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The move

Well, The Move is accomplished, but it sure was not a too joyful process. We gave away some stuff. We tossed some stuff. All of the equipment from the apartment remained there. And yet we still had problems fitting everything into our bags. Ryan had already a month earlier brought over 40 kg of our stuff to Fairbanks. (Thanks, Ryan!) We packed one banana box full of books and shipped that via post office, 23 kg for SFr 130 (about $130). What remained were 6 suitcases/dufflebags, most filled to the limit of 23 kg, one ski bag with all of our skis, two car seats, one stroller (gatechecked), one baby carrier (the type that's more like a backpack, also gatechecked) - altogether we maxed out with the pieces of luggage with the 7 pieces (Emilie, being a 'lap child', could only bring one piece of luggage), yet altogether we had eleven things checked. And then another four pieces as carryons: Martin's black backpack with our computers, his red backpack with all leftover things, my ARM bag with documents, diapers, and change of clothes (the important stuff), and Sonja's backpack with toys. And two kids to keep track of. Not a pretty sight, all of that stuff on one heap.

Yet somehow it all fit into Martin's colleague's car. Funk picked us up at 3:15 am to drive us the one hour to Basel, so that we would be there in time for the 6 am flight. Luckily the counter only opened at 4:30am, so we did not try to be there two hours ahead. As we were checking in, the lady said that our second flight, out of Frankfurt direct to Fairbanks, with a stopover in Whitehorse, showed a delayed departure. She was not sure what the '7' meant though: the flight was supposed to leave at 11 am. Did the 7 indicate a 7pm departure? A 7 hour delay? She checked us in and told us, and several other people that were also connecting to that flight, to check with the airline itself once we got to Frankfurt.

In Frankfurt, we learned that the 7 meant a 7am departure the following day. The company put us up in a hotel, gave free food for lunch, snack, dinner, and breakfast the following day. Overall, condor had made it so that we could not really complain about the situation. Apparently 2 of their 9 airplanes had major mechanical problems that they were fixing, and as a result, their entire schedule suffered. They only fly to most of their destinations once or twice a week, and so could not leave a flight out. Overall, they had excellent customer service from our perspective. But it did mean that the next day, we were getting up at 3:45 am, in order to catch the shuttle bus to the airport at 4:30am.

With some delays, the next morning, we boarded the plane, and took off at 8am instead of 7 am, after the crew had to find bags of two people who had bags checked in but did not show up. The flight to Whitehorse went fine, the kids slept for 4 out of the 9 hours, probably thanks to the two early mornings in a row. In Whitehorse, we had to deplane, since each plane is checked in the last port before entering the US. The deplaning woke up Emilie, who only fell asleep as we were landing. The 1.5 hours from Whitehorse to Fairbanks was quite a bit rougher than the previous 9 hours. Every was tired.

But, at the end we made it, and so did all of our bags. Amazing. We all fitted into Keith's car and Will and Ann's car and van, and made it to our house. It was quiet. No dogs there yet. But most other things were very familiar. Home.