Friday, July 31, 2009

Average Joe (or only Jane?) spends half an hour a day preparing food (and four minutes cleaning up)...

From this NY Times Magazine article:
Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that’s less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia arrived on our television screens. It’s also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of “Top Chef” or “Chopped” or “The Next Food Network Star.” What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves — an increasingly archaic activity they will tell you they no longer have the time for.

Well, in our house we are over those numbers. Actually, if I take it that we have 2 adults in our house, about an hour is spent on food prep... that might be reasonable. So perhaps we are just average. However, the cleanup... even if I combine that twice 4 minutes, we take way longer than 8 minutes to clean up from the cooking. Perhaps we do need a dishwasher... Or a TV show that shows how to do it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Googlecars have been making their way through town, according to Dermot Cole of the Newsminer. Saturday, we saw this one above (the one in the distance) after we left our friends' house. Monday, I saw two of them by the airport.

Once google uploads the data onto their maps, I will have to go surfing around. They did not cover this above road in their first street-view of Fairbanks, and neither did they cover our road. For now, I will keep an eye out for them, and wave to the camera if I do see one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ash leaf


is the ash remains of a birch leaf that got singed in this fire:

twenty or thirty miles out of town and blown to town, fallen down from the sky and deposited gently on a horsetail.

Amazing that this fragile ash-leaf survived in one piece, starting with getting burned without falling apart, to the entire journey in the air, and fall.

And, to practice my czech:
Vitr z lesnich pozaru tricet az padesat kilometru od mesta privanul tento spaleny brezovy list a usadil ho na preslicku. Je neuveritelne ze se ten list nerozpadnul ani kdyz shorel, ani pri ceste k nam, ani kdyz padal dolu k zemi.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A short trip up north to Toolik

Last Sunday, Martin came back from Yakutat, and I promptly left a day later for a short work trip up to Toolik Field Station. With Naomi, we flew into Deadhorse, the airport for Prudhoe Bay, where they take the oil out of the ground and which is where the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline starts. Prudhoe bay is an ugly... can't really call it town, since there are no normal houses - all the oil workers come for two weeks on (the job), two weeks off (back home) perhaps I should call it an ugly place. The weather did not help. We did see some geese and this swan on the tundra in the development (map).

Then we picked up the car, and drove about three hours south to Toolik. Along the way, we had nice view of the Sag river (?) rounding a bend around a hill (map)

A bit further, a caribou grazed on the tundra.

A bit further south, the foothills of the Brooks Range.

And, finally, we made it to Toolik. Some people sleep in these weatherports. In the background, the mountains are rising out of the rolling plain.

A long tailed jaeger in the air.

Rock ptarmigan on the tundra.

Two helicopter pilots in the evening: Ryan and Jonas, by another building where people can sleep.

View of Toolik from a nearby hill.

Lots of research happening at Toolik... so they build lots of boardwalks so that people can get around easily, and don't damage the fragile tundra.

To study the effect of warming on the ecosystem, the researchers have put up a bunch of greenhouses.

Two days later, we left back up north to drive to Prudhoe Bay. Saw a herd of muscox, then an hour later this lone one. There is a pingo visible on the horizon on the right side.

Prudhoe Bay was even grayer than when we came through the first time. We made it on our flight, flew to Barrow, took a five hour layever there instead of flying via Anchorage. After a dinner, we walked down the beach in Barrow to the airport. Unlike Prudhoe Bay, people live in Barrow, not just work. There are houses. And since there are no trees or fences to hide anything, Barrow can look a bit bleak too. But it is great to see things, like this upside-down whale-hunting boat stored in the front yard.

This house has hides drying on the sides of the house, and a sled on the porch. It sits right on the beach, and to protect it and other houses from storms, there is a big line of sand bags lining the beach.

Back on the plane, for a short bit, we had a break in the clouds and saw the landscape below. Those rivers seem to have a lot of sand on their shores. (map of location)

The kids and Martin seemed to survive fine the three days that I was gone, which was good. Still, I got n enthusiastic "Mama!" from Emilie early next morning when she woke up, for which I was also grateful. My first trip away from Emilie for more than a few hours.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Porch Punk

An unidentified visitor to our house, our porch, this evening. Seriously hairy. Yellow in color, both the general hairs and the hair sticking up in the punk spikes, though that's not visible on top of the yellow kid's chair. A thanks to Saphira for pointing out our visitor.

Strawberries (again)

mmmmmm gooood

We ate dinner at the garden [our plot at the community garden] - brought home made pizza, the kids were eating, I was picking, then they washed the dishes with garden hose, all the while eating strawberries, and afterwards we went to splash in the Chena. They would have loved to play in the river all night long. What a fun evening.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fireweed by our house

I pulled out most of the fireweed around our house in the last however many years. Still, some remains. It is actually a wonderful, beautiful flower, enormous from Emilie's perspective, but it is definitely a weed if unchecked.

Interestengly, in czech, my dad said its name is Vrbovka Uzkolista, or willow-like narrow-leafed plant, nothing in the name implying weed-like properties. But the leaves are willow-like. And that property apparently made it into english also, based on this page, which lists synonyms as Willow herb, or great willow herb, in addition to translations in a bunch of languages including greenlandic. I may have to ask in Barrow next week if they have the same name for it.

Here is the fireweed by our house:

Sonja was patient with me trying to take a picture. I asked her to grab the plant (thinking she will reach up to show how tall it is), but instead, she grabbed it and yanked it down to her level...and made a nice mask out of it.

Emilie, picking our first raspberries, was dwarfed by the fireweed behind her in our driveway.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Portraits by Sonja

At Sonja's preschool, they have a lot of cool things. Like little stickers in the shape of eyes. This afternoon as we got there to pick her up, Sonja showed me a drawing of rainbow/different colors she did, and wanted Emilie to draw something too, at the small table that is set up outside in the play area so that kids can draw even during the times when they are outside. So we went there. Sonja started putting on the eye stickers. Four eyes stared at me from the paper. I asked her whether that was me and Emilie, and she said yes, then she proceeded to draw me around those eyes, and also Emilie (though she did not finish her body on that one). I had on a grey sweater over a pink dress, so that's what I am wearing in that picture. The only pink that remains visible is in perhaps the hip area on the right side.

And then she drew Emilie again. We're officially now in the era of stick figures. It's cool!

Yesterday's drawing. I forgot to ask her whether that's trees. And of course more eyes.

And, the drawing by Emilie while Sonja was busy drawing me and her:

The hot and smoky weather ended. First the hot weather, after last night the temperatures did not rise as they had done for the past week or so, and then even the stinky smelly smoke went away when it rained and the wind shifted to come form the north. Hurray!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dog at midnight

Cooper at midnight:

I can't believe we're halfway through the "summer" (which here counts as June 1 - August 31, the period when on average we don't have frost at night). It is starting to get darker at midnight.

My attempt at creativity

At the last moment, I signed up for a four-day class at UAF summer sessions - a four day landscape painting class taught by David Mollett. I really like his art. The class has ben fun. I am a complete novice. Oh well. I have enjoyed it, so that's what counts. (Even if I get a D since I realized the class is actually graded... not just pass/fail. :)

(my attempt)

(closeup of the scene, the fast way)

It has been great to see how others do it, apparently so effortlessly, mixing the colors, arranging the pieces - like this japanese student whose name I won't try to spell. It just amazes me how all of the elements in his picture look exactly like what he is painting.

It has also been wonderful to watch David Mollett paint.

The only bad part is that while I love oil paints because they don't dry out (so if I mix a color one day, I can still use it the next), our car now has some colorful smudges exactly because the painting does not dry in a timeframe that I am used to. (So, Martin, be prepared for some extra color in the car :)... just an advance warning so you're not too shocked when you come back from Yakutat.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mom, you know what I like more than salami?

Mom, you know what I like more than salami?

No, what?

Lena and Kasper!

That was after we spend the evening with Kasper and his mom and their friends, completely by chance - we went to the Tanana river to eat dinner on the beach, and there they were. The days have been hot and smoky. All the kids loved the water.

(Lena is Sonja's friend in Switzerland, with whom we spend many fun moments last year in Switzerland, as well as several days during our trip to Europe two weeks ago.)

Sonja with Kasper

Emilie with Cooper

Monday, July 6, 2009


The smoke came on the 4th of July. Surprised me - we have had some good rain in the last two weeks, and I thought things (forests) were sufficiently damp to not burn (much). I sure hope that the summer of 2004 won't repeat itself - we had some bad smoke then, for days on end.

(view this afternoon of the Tanana River some 3 miles away, from Friar's Way)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fun on the porch

Beautiful and hot day yesterday, beautiful though somewhat smoky today. We ate dinner on the porch both days. Kids loved it. Especially the little plastic pool with water. And the bubbles. The joys of summer.

What pool? The one that Emilie has a stroller in... next to the doors that used to be our front door and the back door until last December - we'll have to move them out but they are heavy. For now, they make a nice background to the pool and all the other junk on our porch.

The last couple days have been wonderful!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Swiss airplane

With Emilie we got back to Alaska two weeks ago. It was obvious that we flew from Switzerland - the plane featured beautiful goats and boys in the mountains:

Martin and Sonja should be arriving tomorrow. We can't wait! I will have to ask them whether they saw that plane in Frankfurt also... even though they themselves are not flying swiss airlines.