Sunday, July 27, 2008

July 28--Happy Birthday, Sarah!

I hope you have a wonderful day. I love you very much and am so happy and proud to be your mom! Here's a little trip down memory lane. I think Elle looks like you in some of these baby photos!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Our planter box flowers are finally blooming


Look what came in the mail! A big ole torn up box o'bargain books from Barnes and Noble! When I lived in Abilene, the public library's annual used book sale was one of my favorite things EVER. How exciting to wander row after row of tables stacked high with every sort of book, and even better, I always wanted the ones that most other people did not. Political stuff, social sciences, biographies of weird people, nonfiction, nonfiction, nonfiction. I would leave the Civic Center with bags and bags of books, all of which were purchased for a dollar or two each. I was in heaven! I also love digging through the bargain bin at any bookstore. There is something very satisfying about buying a book for a couple of bucks when it was originally sold for $25 or more. I'm talking about nice hard-cover books, people! And not even used, though I don't mind used either. So now that I live in Unalaska, the closest I can come to this little thrill is e-digging through the bargain bin at I rec'd an email awhile back advertising a major sale and I ended up ordering something like 29 books, most of which were anywhere from $1.99 to $3.98 each. Barnes and Noble is one of the few online stores that ships to AK free (if you spend $25, which is not hard to do). I will digress briefly into a rant about how SO many vendors charge an arm and a leg to ship to AK. You know all those advertisements about free shipping?? Well, not if you read the fine print that says, "within the 48 contiguous states." I will even get ads for free shipping and go all the way to the check out screen, only to be told that shipping is free but there's a $12 surcharge for sending my merchandise to AK. What the heck?? I don't know how many times I have cancelled the whole order out of frustration. The worst is when the shipping costs more than the stuff I am ordering. I REFUSE!! Many thanks to for feeling my pain and allowing me to feed my fix for bargain books for free. :) The box arrived yesterday, torn up but with all the merchandise intact. Now my only dilemma is where to begin! Here's a sampling of my new books:

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet (Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant)

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood (founding Room to Read)

Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig (scenes from an obsessive girlhood)

Here, There and Everywhere by Geoff Emerick (recording the music of the Beatles)

Yes, You can Still Retire Comfortably by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth

Eating My Words by Mimi Sheraton (memoir of a food critic)

My Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Juan Williams (voices of the civil rights movement)

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman (tales of growing up groovy and clueless)

I will spare you the whole list, but you get the idea. I am going to post a couple of photos, close my eyes and randomly choose my first read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summer Fog & Pizza Amarillo

Rich here. Well the fog has set in and around the town and mountains as it is wont to do when the wind lets up and summer is here and the temperature rises to a balmy 53 or so. The waters are still and the land and structures are reflected in the open bays around our town and the only motion is an occasional eagle or long-line fishing boat heading for home. A perfect day for pizza.
Kyle gave me some fresh pizza dough that he made with roasted garlic and fresh herbs worked into it and a homemade tomato sauce. I topped it with fontina cheese, yellow pear tomatoes, summer squash, diced Dixie Gold tomato, Sicilian olives and a little parmigiano reggiano and slid it onto the stone in the oven for ten minutes and finished it with leaves of fried sage. Because of its yellow look, I call it Pizza Amarillo. Mmmmm....

Monday, July 21, 2008

Oh, no, another volcano is acting up!

Cleveland Volcano erupts in Alaska's Aleutian Islands

Published Monday, July 21, 2008

ANCHORAGE -- There are now two active volcanoes in Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reports Cleveland Volcano erupted Monday, sending ash up to 17,000 feet in the air. Geophysicist Rick Wessels says pilots are reporting surface ash extending up to 50 miles southeast of the volcano.

Cleveland is about 90 miles west of the Okmok Volcano, which continues to erupt. Okmok's ash plume on Monday was nearly 20,000 feet, down significantly from the 30,000-foot level plumes reached this weekend.

Okmok, which in 852 miles from Anchorage and began erupting July 12, became more active on Saturday. That prompted the Alaska Volcano Observatory to issue a warning to pilots to be wary.

Photos of Okmok and Cleveland volcanos from the Alaska Volcano Observatory site:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Hike of 16 Water Crossings

Last year, we decided to take a hike past the dam and into the hills and valleys near Pyramid Peak. What we did not know was that there was a fast rushing stream along the path and that we would have to cross it eight times out and eight times back! Rich didn't mind walking through the water in his shoes and socks and squishing his way along for hours but I, being much more wimpy and particular about the state of my little tootsies, was not willing to do so. Therefore, when we hiked it last year, he graciously offered to carry me on his back over each of the crossings. What a guy! It was pretty scary, let me tell you, but he kept his balance and we made it just fine. Today, I was better prepared and wore my tall yellow bee boots to keep my feet dry and to save his back. We think the water was a little higher this year and there were a few times when I really thought I might be going down because the current was strong, trying to push me where I didn't want to go. Luckily, we had no mishaps, though the stream was deep enough to top my boots in several locations and I ended up with very wet pants and a slow, steady dripping down into my socks. Not terrible, though, so I will not whine. We hiked all the way out to a little lake and were going eat our lunch there, but suddenly thousands of gnats were right on top of us, disturbing our little picnic. We couldn't take it, so packed up our food and made our way past the lake and across a big valley until we topped the hills and looked down on the edge of Beaver Inlet on the Pacific side. Another gorgeous view of the hills and the ocean, a lone pine tree (how did that get there?) and a big river flowing through. On the way back, we suddenly noticed many, many little sundews close to the ground throughout the valley. We have only seen them on the Ugadaga Trail before this and were just amazed that they seemed to be everywhere here! Just as we were beginning to feel somewhat dry, we had to start crossing the stream again. Here are a couple of funny photos; Rich managed to set the timer on the camera and catch us as we made our way across.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Beware of Teenaged Eagles!

This morning, I got out of the shower and walked into the bedroom to get dressed. Staring straight at me, perched on the rail of our deck, was a HUGE, very mean looking juvenile bald eagle. He was not the least bit scared of me and I think I was the one who blinked first. haha Through the open window, I asked him what he thought he was doing on my deck, thinking the sound of my voice would shoo him away, but he just kept staring me down. Then one of his buddies came and joined him on the rail, both of them giving me the eye. I looked onto the floor of the deck to see our cat Ajax hiding under one of the chairs. Ajax is a grown cat, but he looked tiny compared to those eagles! When I yelled at Ajax to get in the house, the birds started chomping their beaks as if they were eating! I ran to the front door and opened it just a little bit, calling for Ajax and Kali to come in. I was afraid if I opened it too far, one of the eagles might have tried to come inside, too! The cats sprinted inside while the eagles continued to sit right on our porch. The stray cat, Chuckie, sat in his favorite spot on the bbq pit, so I yelled at him to get out of there, which he did. Smart boy! One of the big birds moved himself down the railing till he was right in front of the door and sat there till I left for work (the other one did fly off after the cats came in). I was kinda scared to walk outside because I thought he might attack me (which they are known to sometimes do). I hollered at him and he flew off as I left the house. I have never seen an eagle sit there for so long, unafraid and almost taunting me. LOL I would have taken a photo but I was already running late so didn't take the time. But the eagle in these photos looks very similar to the ones who terrorized us today!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm Dreaming of Fresh Organic Produce

When Rich and I travel, we love to shop at farmers' markets anywhere we happen to go, from the amazing Pike's Place Market in Seattle to the little local market we found in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia last summer. What an adventure and a treat to find freshly harvested fruits and veggies, homemade jams, jellies and honey, bread, pies, cheeses, and great surprises like the beautiful carved wood Lazy Susans we purchased in Nova Scotia. Living here, there's no good way to raise our own (other than the lettuce I mentioned in an earlier post!) and the grocery stores' produce is a bit lacking. Imagine my delight the other day when I received an email from a local person looking for at least 15 of us who were interested in receiving regular shipments of fresh produce from an organic farm in Washington! We immediately signed up and I was happy to hear today that we have more than enough interested folks. The costs and procedures are being discussed and we are hoping to soon be the regular recipients of a box of goodies. I'm crossing my fingers that the cost of shipping will not be prohibitive!

In the last year, I have read several books about eating locally, eating organic foods, eating foods in season, and so on. There's just not much we can grow here in our small duplex or rocky yard and we have talked about eventually living somewhere that allows us to have a good selection of local produce, and/or the capability of growing some of our own. I didn't have any IDEA that we could actually team up with a farm in Washington! How great is that??!

The farm we are hoping to use is called Full Circle Organic Farm. Check out their website at They are part of a Community Supported Agriculture Program, or CSA. Here's some info about CSAs from the USDA's website.

"Since our existence is primarily dependent on farming, we cannot entrust this essential activity solely to the farming population--just 2% of Americans. As farming becomes more and more remote from the life of the average person, it becomes less and less able to provide us with clean, healthy, lifegiving food or a clean, healthy, lifegiving environment. A small minority of farmers, laden with debt and overburdened with responsibility, cannot possibly meet the needs of all the people. More and more people are coming to recognize this, and they are becoming ready to share agricultural responsibilities with the active farmers." (1)

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a new idea in farming, one that has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. The CSA concept originated in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan, where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops joined together in economic partnerships. Today, CSA farms in the U.S., known as CSAs, currently number more than 400. Most are located near urban centers in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Great Lakes region, with growing numbers in other areas, including the West Coast.

In basic terms, CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

(1) 1) Trauger M. Groh and Steven S.H. McFadden, Farms of Tomorrow. Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities. Kimberton, PA: Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1990. p. 6

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Hike and the Eruption

Saturday we headed over to the Ugadaga Bay Trail, our favorite hike. It was another sunny day and not windy at all! The Ugadaga was used by the Native Unangan people for hundreds of years and was still in use up through the 1950's by people living in more remote villages as they walked into Unalaska to trade. It's 2.2 miles each way, considered "moderately difficult," and we are told to be careful of a "steep ravine" along the way. Leaving the trailhead, we walked past a little lake and set out on the narrow, rocky path overlooking the green valley below. The trail winds mostly downhill on the way out (you know what that means for the return trip!), and we soon found ourselves surrounded by an array of curly fiddlehead ferns, the first signs of salmonberries, and many gorgeous wildflowers: chocolate lilies, purple irises, pale yellow bog orchids, cute little buttercups, the strange carnivorous sundew, and too many of my favorite ladyslippers to count! I have never seen so many ladyslippers! Making our way across a small stream, we climbed to the top of the hill where we watched the crashing waterfall on the other side. We had never seen snow still covering part of the bottom of the waterfall like we did this year. Onward to the "steep ravine," which is the most exciting part of the hike as we have to walk a tiny narrow path looking down onto rocks and dirt and water about 125 feet below. We always laugh kinda nervously about how it would NOT feel good to fall off that cliff! We happened to rustle up a ptarmigan from the bushes as we passed by and Rich managed to get a couple of photos of it before it flew off, probably relieved that these big predators did not bring it any harm. The rest of the hike was pretty easy, through more meadows of flowers and low bushes till we arrived on the rocky beach of the Pacific Island side of the island. After eating our lunch, we noticed that it had become cooler and it looked like some weather was coming our way. On our way back, it became more foggy, with a fine mist overhead. After the leisurely hike down, the return contains several steep climbs and I never remember just how much they seem to wear me out! At some point, I noticed that my lips seemed gritty and we both realized that there seemed to be a lot of dust or dirt in the air. Rich took photos of some flowers that he thought had little black dots on them and later realized the spots were specks of dirt. We still didn't really think much of it, figuring that there was just a lot of dust in the air for some reason. We finished the hike, pretty tired after doing our 4.4 miles for the first time this summer, but happy that we did it!

This morning Rich went into work for awhile and called me to say "there was a volcano eruption yesterday at noon, the same time we were starting our hike!" That explains the grit and dirt! Apparently, a volcano about 75 miles away erupted, sending volcanic ash toward our island. We were under an ash advisory through noon today. Hopefully our lungs will survive yesterday's adventure.

Check out the info on the volcano and enjoy some more scenery from our hike.


Great column by Nicholas Kristof in this morning's New York Times. If you have never read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen, I highly recommend it!

Op-Ed Columnist

It Takes a School, Not Missiles

Published: July 13, 2008

Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Courtesy Central Asia Institute

Greg Mortenson with Sitara “Star” schoolchildren.

Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

Mr. Mortenson, a frumpy, genial man from Montana, takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools.

Mr. Mortenson has become a legend in the region, his picture sometimes dangling like a talisman from rearview mirrors, and his work has struck a chord in America as well. His superb book about his schools, “Three Cups of Tea,” came out in 2006 and initially wasn’t reviewed by most major newspapers. Yet propelled by word of mouth, the book became a publishing sensation: it has spent the last 74 weeks on the paperback best-seller list, regularly in the No. 1 spot.

Now Mr. Mortenson is fending off several dozen film offers. “My concern is that a movie might endanger the well-being of our students,” he explains.

Mr. Mortenson found his calling in 1993 after he failed in an attempt to climb K2, a Himalayan peak, and stumbled weakly into a poor Muslim village. The peasants nursed him back to health, and he promised to repay them by building the village a school.

Scrounging the money was a nightmare — his 580 fund-raising letters to prominent people generated one check, from Tom Brokaw — and Mr. Mortenson ended up selling his beloved climbing equipment and car. But when the school was built, he kept going. Now his aid group, the Central Asia Institute, has 74 schools in operation. His focus is educating girls.

To get a school, villagers must provide the land and the labor to assure a local “buy-in,” and so far the Taliban have not bothered his schools. One anti-American mob rampaged through Baharak, Afghanistan, attacking aid groups — but stopped at the school that local people had just built with Mr. Mortenson. “This is our school,” the mob leaders decided, and they left it intact.

Mr. Mortenson has had setbacks, including being kidnapped for eight days in Pakistan’s wild Waziristan region. It would be na├»ve to think that a few dozen schools will turn the tide in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Still, he notes that the Taliban recruits the poor and illiterate, and he also argues that when women are educated they are more likely to restrain their sons. Five of his teachers are former Taliban, and he says it was their mothers who persuaded them to leave the Taliban; that is one reason he is passionate about educating girls.

So I have this fantasy: Suppose that the United States focused less on blowing things up in Pakistan’s tribal areas and more on working through local aid groups to build schools, simultaneously cutting tariffs on Pakistani and Afghan manufactured exports. There would be no immediate payback, but a better-educated and more economically vibrant Pakistan would probably be more resistant to extremism.

“Schools are a much more effective bang for the buck than missiles or chasing some Taliban around the country,” says Mr. Mortenson, who is an Army veteran.

Each Tomahawk missile that the United States fires in Afghanistan costs at least $500,000. That’s enough for local aid groups to build more than 20 schools, and in the long run those schools probably do more to destroy the Taliban.

The Pentagon, which has a much better appreciation for the limits of military power than the Bush administration as a whole, placed large orders for “Three Cups of Tea” and invited Mr. Mortenson to speak.

“I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. ... The thirst for education here is palpable.”

Military force is essential in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban. But over time, in Pakistan and Afghanistan alike, the best tonic against militant fundamentalism will be education and economic opportunity.

So a lone Montanan staying at the cheapest guest houses has done more to advance U.S. interests in the region than the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of the Bush administration.

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